It is quite easy to see why sitting on the beach in Rio is a compelling way to pass the day. Both the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches were bustling on the Saturday I visited, filled with locals and tourists alike. My day started, as I like to do in any destination, with a local malted beverage and pastry. In my case a reasonably light beer and cheesy-bread (pao do quiejo) fortified me for the bus ride in to town and my morning of beach time.
The bus from the airport into town takes 30-40 minutes and pulls up right on the beaches, providing easy access to living the local dream. Before long I was wandering on the sand, occasionally dipping my toes in the Atlantic Ocean and watching families and friends enjoy the sun.
I’ve spent a decent amount of time on beaches filled with hawkers. I cannot ever remember enjoying the experience. Both Ipanema and Copacabana had hawkers everywhere. Everything from snacks to drinks to a new bikini (and, yes, even those guys were actually selling their wares) was on offer and there was a decent amount of action for the vendors. Maybe because they were generally doing OK without harassing people things seemed easier. Or maybe because I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese I just didn’t notice the annoyances. Either way, watching the waves roll in and out as hawkers and pretty people strolled by was a great way to spend a few hours.
Ask anyone who has spent time in Rio which beach they prefer and you’ll most certainly get an answer. It is not a question about which many folks are indifferent. I spent about 2 hours on each beach. For my time and money, Copacabana is the place to be. I’m not entirely sure why I feel that way – both were fine – but Ipanema felt a bit more hectic and active to me, I think, and I generally want my beach time to be down time. Even within Copacabana the eastern end (closer to Ipanema) is more active, but by the middle of the beach things thin out pretty quickly, making it really easy to relax.
When the time comes to sit down and relax on the beach there are plenty of vendors with chairs and umbrellas available. Just a couple bucks for the day and way better than dealing with schlepping your own gear out to the beach. Most also offer bar and snack service, though that is also quite easily secured from the hawkers.
Of course, it is also important to partake of the local goods while enjoying the beach time. In addition to the hawkers selling bikinis on the beach there are plenty of options for buying gear, including a nearly endless variety of flip flops, surf boards and other goodies.
Oh, and local beverages, too. Walking the promenade, coconut in hand, is a an awesome way to cool off in the sun. Reasonably priced, too, around $1.50 each. The view alone is probably worth that, not to mention the cool sweet nectar.
And, as the afternoon rolls on and the happy hour spirit kicks in to gear there is arguably nothing better than an ice-cold caipirinha served up on the beach. I certainly had my share.
I also had lunch just off the beach at Devassa. It is both a brewery and a restaurant, with the different beers named for the women the represent – blondes, brunettes & redheads – and they were quite delicious. The food was decent, too. It is definitely a touristy place to eat, but the beers made it worth a visit for me.
Not a bad way to pass a few hours, soaking up rays. And this was only part of the day. With about 3 hours left before I had to head to the airport I shifted elevations, up into the sky to see more of the city.
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