Insider's Rio de Janeiro Beach Tips

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Our insider's Rio de Janeiro beach tips section will give you the low-down on the sand and surf scene, and you'll know just what to bring along and what to leave in your room.

The beaches in Rio de Janeiro are socially open and very relaxed, but are a bit different from the beaches in North America and Europe.

Contrary to popular belief, Brazilian girls do not go topless on the beaches in Rio (sorry guys), but the bikinis are often so skimpy they're referred to as "Fio Dental" (dental get the idea).

Brazilian guys wear "sungas" (think speedo..), or longer surfer shorts. They are available at the surf shops and clothing stores along Rua Visconde de Piraja in Ipanema Beach, or just about anywhere in Copacabana Beach.

Rio is known for its cutting edge beach fashion, so you might want check out some of the boutiques and buy that perfect swimsuit after you arrive.

Havaianas store - Brazilian flip flops

Another one of our Rio de Janeiro beach tips , is that everyone wears Havaianas, which are the Brazilian version of flip flops. Havaiana, the Portuguese word for Hawaiian, is the most famous brand and has become the generic name for all of these sandals. A few billion have been sold by now, and in addition to being an essential item for all tourists, they're also great cheap gifts to take back home. You can get a basic pair for around R$15, and there's a wide variety styles Many are tagged with the Brazilian flag. Women's models can get pretty fancy, including some with high heels which are acceptable to wear out to clubs at night. Super model Giselle Bundchen has her own line of Ipanema brand flip flips.

A pair of Brazilian Havaianas

Insider's Rio de Janeiro Beach Tips - leave your beach shoes at home and buy a pair of Havaianas after you arrive. It's cheaper to buy them in a department store such as Lojas Americanas, versus a boutique or off a rack on the sidewalk outside of a convenience store. Wear them to and from the beach and back in your hotel room or apartment.

Ipanema Beach Sarong Vendor

Beach Towels? - not in Rio! Towels are heavy and bulky to pack, and Brazilian hoteliers don't want you to take theirs to the beach. Everyone uses the Brazilian Sarong or "Kanga" , which is made of a lightweight material, is easy to wash in the sink, and dries quickly. It also doubles as a cover-up for the girls when walking to and from the beach. Both guys and girls use them to lie on the sand.

Insider's Rio de Janeiro Beach Tip - You can buy sarongs anywhere along the beach from one of the many vendors for about R$15. Buy two and ask for a small discount. They have many designs and colors. Favorites include the Brazilian flag and ones that mimic the Copacabana and Ipanema wavy sidewalks. It's a great souvenir!


As well as using a sarong instead of a beach towel, you can wear it around your waist, wear it around your back to keep you warm, or even use it as a scarf while in the mountains. If you can't visit Rio de Janeiro at this time and want a Brazilian sarong, visit to browse and purchase the genuine article on line. In addition to the traditional Brazilian Flag sarong, they carry a wide variety of Tropical styles and one-of-a-kind designs and prints.

Petty Beach Crime - unfortunately it does happen on the beaches in Rio de Janeiro. Kids from the favelas cruise the sand looking for easy marks. Keep your things in a bag and close at had. Leave expensive items in your room. When you head to the ocean for a swim, ask another nearby tourist to watch your bag. See our tips further below for what not to take to the beach.

If you are just going to walk around for the day, up and down the beach sidewalks, it's OK to take a small camera with you (in a zippered pocket is best). Have a friend "watch your back" when stopping to take a photo, and always use common sense.

Insider's Rio de Janeiro Beach Tips

Here's what you'll need at the beach!

  • A cheap bag to carry your stuff. A strong plastic shopping bag works the best.
  • Sunscreen - SPF 30 or higher!. Apply it before your leave the room and frequently at the beach. Rio is on the Tropic of Capricorn and the sun is blistering hot. Don't ruin your vacation by baking red as a lobster. For the Girls with sensitive skin we recommend Cotz SPF 58- expensive but your skin is worth it! Or for the guys or girls - go for the SPF 30 Blue Lizard!
  • A Sarong (Kanga) - as we described above. Buy one at the beach on your first day.
  • A ball cap - especially if you are a bald dude!
  • Money - bring a small amount enough to buy snacks, drinks, and to rent a beach umbrella. Small denomination bills and $R 1 coins are best. For some unknown reason, Brazilian vendors are never able to change larger bills.
  • Beach umbrella - if you are going to lie out in the sun for more than an hour, rent an umbrella from a beach vendor. Use it to stake out your territory.
  • Bottled water - buy some at a store or at the beach. Hydrate often.
  • A Beach Vendor! Sounds crazy? Once you find your place in the sand, one or two regular vendors will continuously make the rounds, offering snacks and beverages. These guys are great.
  • Insider's Rio de Janeiro Beach Tip - try a "Mate" (pronounced Ma-chee), a cold Brazilian drink made of half iced tea and half lemonade, poured straight from 2 small kegs carried by the vendor. It's excellent!

  • Sunglasses - take a cheap pair in case you lose them. The mirrored aviators are great for discrete people watching...
  • Tee shirt - a lot of Cariocas go shirtless to the beach, but smart gringoes bring a shirt to put on when they've had enough sun. It's also a good idea to bring a shirt in case you want to stop at a restaurant or bar on the way back to the hotel, hostel, or apartment.

  • ...and here is what you should leave in your room...

    It's time to hit the beach!

  • Always keep it low key when going to the beach in Rio. Leave your expensive items in the safe in your room.

  • Another one of our Rio de Janeiro Beach tips - NEVER wear any expensive jewelry or watches at the beach, or really anywhere out in Rio. It's a big city and you'll stand out as a tourist. Keep it real - show off your body and not your bling! Buy some cool cheap jewelry from a beach vendor or at the Hippie Fair on Sunday.

  • Credit Cards or large amounts of cash - no way! Leave them in the safe.

  • Camera and video recorders - if you are going to take a camera, make it a small one and keep it in your pocket (preferably a zippered pocket). If you are going to lay out and swim, keep an eye on your camera, as these are a favorite item for the kids to steal. A disposable camera is a great option.

  • Cell phone - OK if you are just walking around, but best to leave it behind if you plan on swimming.

  • a Watch - who cares what time it is when you're on vacation in Rio de Janeiro? You can tell when the sun is setting! If you are a control freak and absolutely need a watch - make it a cheap one. (Time & Temperature signs are all along the beach)

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