Copacabana Beach: Rio De Janeiro’s “Hollywood”
Copacabana Beach in Rio De Janeiro is where to go if you are looking for night clubs, bars, restaurants and the best place to people watch, you will find it here on this 4 km stretch of sand between lifeguard towers two and six. Copacabana is more famous than it’s nicer southern sister Ipanema as the different areas in Rio De Janeiro are a similar to Los Angeles.
Ipanema is more like Beverly Hills with Rodeo Drive boutiques and patrons where as Copacabana reminds me more of the gritty Hollywood in California, all the fame and not as much glamour.
While visiting Brazil in 2010 I found the vibrancy of this culture unmatched by any other city I have experienced in both North and South America. It is easy to get caught up in the eclectic nightlife scene and lazy recovery days on the beach. The people of the city are warm and welcome but please be sure to use your best judgment as petty crime does happen often, especially when letting people in your personal space.
Boasting over 50 hotels and a dozen hostels this the prime attraction for tourist to Rio, the most visited city in the southern hemisphere. With average temps of 75-95 during the summer season this is the perfect getaway to get a natural bronze during the winters north of the equator.
Expect the weekends to be crowded with thousands of people along this stretch of land seeking shade under their umbrellas or tanning their nearly bare butts, as it is the place to be seen on a sunny afternoon.
Don’t be surprised to find beach goers in a little less clothing than you may be used to, this is after all the city where bikinis were born. While nude beaches are common in Europe the culture of Rio is a bit more modest so to keep up with the fashion the fabric became smaller and smaller, hence the famed “G-String” from thoughtful pioneers, we are grateful!
Portuguese pavement creates the world famous wave design found along the beach of Copacabana. Early mornings find the sidewalk busy with the elderly going for a walk before the madness of the day begins. This stretch is a must do for runners and you will find Sunday traffic shut down to expand the useable space for fitness enthusiast and shoppers as the beach crowds increase before heading back to work on Monday.
Tips for visiting Copacabana Beach: Don’t wear velcro sandals, the locals will laugh at you as will I. Grab a pair of Havaianas to better blend in. Leave everything unessential in your room so as not to get it nicked when you go for a swim.
If you don’t have a group to watch your stuff a trick I use is to bury my important things inside a ziploc bag while no one is looking and covering it with a blanket. Speaking of blanket, bring a sheet or buy a sarong. Towels are not functional and a sure give away you are a gringo.
Copacabana is safe during the day but it is not advisable to sneak away with that special someone you met out drinking for a late night dip as the environment changes when the sun drops and dodgey characters may target stray tourists.
The city has 6 million inhabitants and there is a big disparity in the distribution of wealth, something little you may want to show off could mean something big for someone without much. Keep it casual in Rio, this is a beach city after all, and only stay in populated areas after dark.
You will find everything you need to rent along the beach of Copacabana, just don’t forget the sunscreen as it will be worth every penny, nothing beats catching a burn at the beginning of your holiday.
If you take a break from your rented umbrella and chairs (be sure to haggle a bit for a better price) to cool off with a beverage don’t pass on the fresh cut coconut offered along the boardwalk or the national drink of Brazil the caipirinha.
Shore break can be tricky here as the steep slope up to the white sandy beach creates intense but short-lived waves. Great for catching a dip and cooling off or a bit of body surfing, if you bail on the wave before being implanted into the sand, you will notice the water isn’t as clean as Ipanema.
Surfing is just south of here at the point of land between Rio’s two landmark beaches called Arpoador, also one of the best places for sunsets. Once again, I recommend walking out to the rock as a group and don’t linger once the sun goes down.