Millions of beachgoers head to the famous shores of Ipanema and Copacabana every year. Tall apartment buildings and hotels rise above the sand at these iconic urban beaches, and tourists and locals alike fill up the shores daily. But it's worth it to explore other parts of Rio's expansive coastline, which include long white-sand beaches, fantastic views and nature reserves which make you feel as if you're anywhere but a bustling urban metropolis. Experience the city's lesser-known slices of paradise at these six Rio beaches.
Green jungle and white sand at Grumari Beach
Located on a nature reserve in far-western Rio, Grumari Beach is one of the city's most beautiful beaches. Grumari has several kilometers of white sand and is surrounded by rising hills with thick jungle -- making it hard to believe you're still within Rio city limits! Grumari is a popular local surf spot, depending on conditions. Be sure to drive up to the viewpoint on the southwest end of the beach to get the perfect view of the beach and surrounding area.
Grumari is only accessible by car on a two-lane road and has limited parking. On the weekends, it's best to arrive before 9 a.m. to get a parking spot and avoid the traffic jam which usually builds up on the small road. If you don't have a car, you can explore Grumari on a Rio beaches and landscapes tour.
Located just before Grumari, on the same two-lane road, is a small, idyllic cove called Prainha, which translates to "little beach." Prainha is also surrounded by pristine jungle and is a local favorite for a day-trip escape from the city.
Prainha is also only accessible by car and has even less parking than Grumari does, so it's best to get there as early as possible. Or get on a photography tour of Prainha and Grumari to take in the area's best viewpoints and snap some incredible photos.
Recreio and Macumba
Recreio Beach and Pontal Rock
Before the coastal road winds around the cliffs to Prainha and Grumari, you'll find Recreio and Macumba beaches. Macumba is the end of a 12-mile (20-kilometer) stretch of uninterrupted white sand, but since this beach is so huge and stretches across neighborhoods, it has different names in different places. There's a large granite rock that meets the shoreline, creating the barrier between Recreio Beach (on the north end) and Macumba Beach (on the south end).
These two beaches are generally less crowded and are frequented by locals of Rio's West Zone. Recreio and Macumba are among the best beaches in Rio for beginner surfers, and lessons and boards are available. This area is accessible by a long bus ride from the South Zone, or by car.
Reserva Beach is another nature reserve, allowing you to feel like you've left the city behind you. It lies on a narrow strip of land between the ocean and Marapendi Lagoon (also part of the nature reserve). Adjacent to Recreio Beach, Reserva stretches for miles and is generally light on crowds, but only accessible by car.
Stunning views and calm waters at Praia Vermelha
Want to go beyond Ipanema and Copacabana, but don't want to make a long trek? Praia Vermelha is a beautiful, frequently overlooked beach located at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. Wedged between two massive granite rocks, the beach is only a few hundred meters long and offers an incredible visual of the Sugarloaf and some of the small islands in the bay.
Praia Vermelha is well-protected from the rough currents of the Atlantic Ocean, so it's a great place to take a dip for those not accustomed to large waves.
Praia do Flamengo
While Praia do Flamengo's waters are not suitable for swimming, the beach's incredible view of the Sugarloaf, Guanabara Bay, Niterói (the city across the bay) and even Christ the Redeemer in the distance makes it a great place to spend an afternoon. The Flamengo Beach is located within the Flamengo Park, one of Rio's most beloved open spaces, with swaying palm trees, shaded grass and winding running paths. The beach and park are local favorites for sports like beach volleyball, soccer, tennis, basketball, jogging, cycling and more.
Visit the beaches of Grumari, Prainha, Macumba, Recreio and more on a Secret Beaches of Rio de Janeiro day trip.
-- Anna Jean Kaiser for Viator