Editor’s note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the U.S. State Department is encouraging potential visitors to reconsider all travel abroad. Read more here for updates on the situation and information on when it might be safe to travel again to destinations like the ones below.
No trip to Brazil is complete without a trip to at least one of its beautiful beaches, but with over 7,000 miles of coastline, you’ll need to find the beach that’s right for you. Some people like to swim in the waves, others want to stay as still as humanly possible as they get their tan on, and many of us fall somewhere in between. Here are the best beaches in Brazil for every type of personality.
Rio de Janeiro: The Olympian
Rio de Janeiro was host to the summer 2016 Olympics, but even when the city is not in an Olympic year, Rio de Janeiro is all about movement. If you want to jog along the Atlantic or maybe find a pick-up game of volleyball or futebol on the sand, Rio is the place to be. And as you explore the city along the shore, you’ll find outdoor gymnasiums where you can tone your muscles while you tan.
Even if you’re not the type of person who packs their running shoes on every vacation, you’ll still want to stay close to the beach to appreciate the beauty of the city and, maybe, be lucky enough to witness some prime Olympic eye-candy in training.
Grumari: The Day-Tripper
Only an hour from the crowds of Copacabana in Rio, the beach town of Grumari has less than 200 inhabitants. The Atlantic forests and its mountains meet the sea, making the neighborhood a panorama like no other, making it the perfect day trip from Rio. How to get there? A tour company, like SouthAmerica.travel, will bring travelers to Grumari’s off-the-beaten-path beaches inaccessible by car—including Praia do Perigoso, Praia do Fundo, Praia do Inferno and Praia do Meio. On the way back to Rio, guests stop at a traditional seafood restaurant for famous dishes like Moquca de peixe (a Brazilian saltwater fish stew) and pastel de camarão (shrimp pastry).
São Sebastião: The Adventurer
If you’re looking for nature in Brazil, São Sebastião is renowned not only for its tranquil and clean beaches like Juquei and Camburi but also for its thick jungles and trails. Take the ferry across the channel to explore the island of Ilhabela. Once you’re there, it’s best to sign on for a jeep tour in order to ride the one road that will take you through the mountains to the other side of the island, where you’ll find the beautiful and remote Bonete Beach. Nearby hiking trails lead to stunning waterfalls like Cachoiera do Gato pictured above.
Guaruja: The Beach Bum
Among the most popular beaches for native Brazilians, Guaruja and the nearby city of Santos are great spots for travelers who want to sit back, beer in hand, and enjoy the ocean. With plenty of bars and snack-shops right on the sand—with vendors plying—you’ll never need to stray far from your towel. Because in Guaruja, everything comes to you. This beach-shopping culture is common throughout Brazil, and here you’ll see it in full effect as people stroll by selling everything from peanuts by the handful to horse rides. Praia de Enseada is the city’s main stretch, but if you’re looking for something different, the smaller and little-known Eden Beach is a little less crowded, as it takes a short drive through the forest and a steep hike down a staircase to get there. Despite this, when you arrive you’ll find all your needs met with a restaurant and full bar.
Ubatuba: The Surfer
Known as the surfing capital of Brazil, Ubatuba hosts more than ten important surf competitions every year, and it’s not hard to see why. Just down the coast from São Sebastião, Ubatuba offers beaches perfect for surfers of any level, though some, like Brava Da Almada, can only be accessed by hiking paths. If you’re looking to stay in touch, Felix Beach is located in a lively neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and bars to visit after a long day in the ocean. With plenty of beaches to choose from, you can always find the right one to suit your mood.
Praia do Rosa: Sophisticated Surfing
Revered as the ultimate beach town escape from the bustling Brazilian cities of Curitiba and Florianopolis, Praia do Rosa’s verdant Atlantic forest, white-sandy dunes, and picturesque beaches have brought photographers and models here for photoshoots throughout the years. The area is also known for its cobblestone streets as well as cultured, eco-conscious residents, who contribute to its reputation as a “sophisticated surf village.”
Traveler Tip: Peak migratory season for the endangered Southern Right Whales is from July to November.
Natal: The Resort Lover
The city called Christmas, or Natal in Portuguese, is a gift to beach-goers. Its proximity to the equator combines with a constant breeze to make this city the perfect resort town for stress-free vacation seekers. But Natal doesn’t only have beaches—visitors can also visit the world’s largest cashew tree or tour the epic sand dunes via dune buggy.
Salvador: The Historian
Salvador, aka “the capital of happiness,” is well known for its Afro-Brazilian history and is the perfect city for blending cultural immersion with your beach vacation. As the first colonial capital of Brazil, the city began as a main port for the slave trade, and no city has preserved the unique and colorful culture of Afro-Brazilians like Salvador. In the streets of the Pelourinho, the historic center of the old city, you’ll find musicians playing everything from samba to reggae and street performers practicing capoeira, the Brazilian fight-dance martial art that was invented by African slaves. Throughout the city, you’ll find museums, monuments, and some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in all of Brazil. Best of all for beach-seekers, Salvador is located on a peninsula, which means there’s plenty of coastline.
Beaches close to the city center are not known for being very clean, so it’s best to follow the locals and head to beaches in the city’s smaller neighborhoods like Farol da Barra Beach, Itapo, and Flamengo.
Ilha Grande: The Naturalist/The Adventurer
Blessed with white-sandy beaches, crystal-blue water, forested rolling hills and crisscrossing trails, Ilha Grande is an island paradise and small detour between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The area’s unruffled environment boasts 93 miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, tranquil villages, and secluded beaches—the island does not allow cars, which makes it even more quiet and reposeful. If you’re looking to book a tour, SouthAmerica.travel brings you to stunning beaches, like Lopes Mendes Beach, which includes a boat ride and a hike through the forest to get there. There is also Ilha Comprida, which is home to Lagoa Azul—known as the “Blue Lagoon”—a crystal-clear lagoon with calm waters and perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Tipping in Brazil: The Brazil Tipping Guide
- What to Expect On a Brazilian Beach
- What Americans Need to Do in Brazil, According to Sao Paulo’s Celebrity Chefs
What to Wear in Brazil:
Beachwear for Men
Beachwear for Women
Men’s Beachy Island Outfit for Bali
Women’s Beachy Island Outfit for Bali
What to Pack on Your Nude Beach Vacation
Stylish Beach Bags
Beach Vacation Dressy Outfit for Women
Jamie Ditaranto identifies most with “the adventurer,” but also has “beach bum” tendencies whenever her book is good enough. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. This article has been updated since the date of its publication with the input of SouthAmerica.travel.
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