When you think of Brazil, one image that may come to mind is bronzed bodies lying on some of the world’s most stunning sandy beaches. Such a portrayal is synonymous with famed pieces of shoreline like Copacabana or Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro – but with over 4,500 miles of coastline, Brazil boasts plenty more beautiful beaches to explore all over the country. From one beach ringed by gorgeous sand dunes to another one tucked deep in the jungle, here are 13 of the top strips of sand in Brazil.
Praia de Copacabana (Copacabana Beach): Rio de Janeiro
As the big kahuna of Brazilian beaches (along with neighboring Ipanema Beach), this Rio de Janeiro beach is renowned worldwide, having been name-checked in an iconic Barry Manilow song and playing host to more than 2 million people for its New Year’s Eve celebrations. Copacabana Beach stretches for 2.5 miles along the southeast edge of Rio, lined by tall hotels with landmarks like Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer looming overhead a few miles away. The beach is a veritable hive of activity, so you’ll likely see locals playing beach soccer and volleyball or lifting weights; there are also plenty of vendors around the beach and the adjacent promenade, selling everything from caipirinha cocktails to empanadas and grilled shrimp, as well as all manner of souvenirs. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available to rent at Copacabana.
Given its international fame, Copacabana tends to get rather crowded. While the beach’s lively nature can make for great people-watching, you’re advised to keep a close eye on your possessions, and ideally keep valuables on your person (or even better, leave them at your accommodation). Visitors thinking of going for a swim should be careful – lifeguards are present, but the sea at Copacabana can be quite rough.
Praia de Ipanema (Ipanema Beach): Rio de Janeiro
Located practically around the corner from Copacabana, Ipanema Beach is Rio’s other world-famous seaside hangout, also known for inspiring a hit song: Brazilian bossa nova track “The Girl from Ipanema.” Ipanema boasts a little less than 2 miles of white sandy beach as well as formidable views of the Dois Irmãos mountains, and is often regarded as the more upscale option of Rio’s two big-name beaches. A section called Ipanema Farme is considered one of the city’s gay beaches, although the stretch of coast draws all kinds of people, so anyone is welcome.
The amenities at Ipanema are similar to those at Copacabana: Numerous vendors trek up and down the beach renting umbrellas and beach chairs, and there’s no shortage of folks selling beer, cocktails and snacks. One uniquely Brazilian option is barbecued cheese – queijo coalho – sold by vendors carrying portable grills. As with Copacabana, the seas can be at times dangerous to swim in, so although there are lifeguards you’ll probably want to stay out of the water unless you’re a strong swimmer. Take care to secure your valuables, and note that in Brazil’s peak season – December to March – you may have difficulty snagging a spot on the sand because of Ipanema’s popularity.
Tucked into the east end of Ipanema, you’ll find another beach and its namesake rock formation, both known as Arpoador. This small stretch of sand – a popular spot for surfers, where you can rent a long board or take a surfing lesson – separates Ipanema and Copacabana. Head to the far east end of this beach late in the day to admire its rocky peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, making Arpoador one of Rio’s most picturesque spots to watch the sun set.
Praia dos Carneiros (Carneiros Beach): Tamandaré
For a classic slice of tropical beauty, consider Praia dos Carneiros in Brazil’s northeast. With azure waters, white sand and a grove of coconut trees lining the beach, Carneiros makes an idyllic spot to relax. The mostly undeveloped beach is far enough away from the big city so as not to be jam-packed, but it still has some tourist infrastructure. You can even stay right by the beach at hotels like Pontal dos Carneiros Bungalows, choosing from an array of airy huts among the coconut trees. A range of waterfront bars and restaurants in the area often serve fresh seafood and other refreshments. As for activities, beachgoers can snorkel in natural pools during low tide, and a gorgeous colonial-era beachfront chapel called Capela de São Benedito is also worth a peek.
Set in the coastal town of Tamandaré in Brazil’s Pernambuco state, Carneiros Beach is a little more than 60 miles from the nearest city, Recife. The easiest way to get there is by car or via a transfer booked through a travel agency; a bus journey is also possible but would be much slower.
Praia da Lagoinha do Leste (Lagoinha do Leste Beach): Santa Catarina Island
There’s no shortage of sand on Santa Catarina Island, a popular nature destination about midway between the cities of São Paulo and Porto Alegre. With dozens of beaches, this island is a hotspot for surfing and other outdoor activities. Arguably the most stunning of them is Lagoinha do Leste Beach on Santa Catarina’s southern end (not to be confused with Lagoinha da Ponta das Canas, a beach at the north tip of the island). You’ll have to work a little for this one: The beach is about a one-hour hike each way from the town of Pantano do Sul, or a longer trek from Praia do Matadeiro. The first hiking option is only about 1.5 miles but can be moderately strenuous because of the elevation, so be sure to bring proper shoes. It’s also possible to take a boat ride from Pantano do Sul to whisk you to the beach.
After hiking through the forest, you’ll emerge onto a white strip of sand facing the turquoise waters of the Atlantic. Visitors can swim in the ocean, or in a nearby lagoon if the sea is too rough. If you’re not too tired from the walk, consider hiking up to a nearby viewpoint on a hill for panoramic views. Otherwise, just take in the tranquility and wilderness. The beach is isolated and doesn’t have many amenities beyond a small number of bars, which tend to charge high prices, so you may want to bring your own refreshments. There’s limited accommodation in Pantano do Sul, so you might consider the city of Florianópolis, about 15 miles away, for more lodging options.
Praia do Espelho (Espelho Beach): Porto Seguro
This hidden gem of a beach is a short hop away from Porto Seguro – if you’re not into the bars and nightlife this popular resort town offers, Praia do Espelho is a great alternative. Its name means “mirror” in Portuguese; fittingly, the beach’s crystal-clear water reflects light from the sun and moon, particularly during low tide. If you’re only making a brief visit, you might want to time it correctly with the help of tide charts so you can fully experience this phenomenon. Espelho is ideal for travelers seeking some serious relaxation amid a setting of palm trees and white sand. A small number of restaurants and bars dot the beach, and you’ll find accommodation options both on the beach and set back in surrounding streets. Visitors can reach Espelho by driving along the coastline from the trendy beach town of Trancoso, a district of Porto Seguro, in the state of Bahia.
Prainha: Rio de Janeiro
Those looking to catch some waves should consider this small crescent-shaped beach, an easy daytrip from Rio. Prainha, popular among surfers, is a gorgeous slice of nature. Surrounded by hills, the beach sits in an environmentally protected area, making both the sand and water much cleaner than the bustling beaches back in the city. If you want to catch some rays, don’t show up too late, as the sun dips behind the hills in the afternoon. The beach has a few kiosks on site, selling a standard selection of Brazilian beach snacks and drinks.
Prainha simply means “tiny beach” in Portuguese, so other Brazil beaches may have similar names. This particular beach is about a 30 mile drive west from central Rio de Janeiro, situated between the Recreio and Grumari districts. Prainha is primarily accessible by car, so you’ll likely want to rent a vehicle or hire a taxi. Another option is the “Surf Bus” (geared toward surfers, naturally), which runs along the coast between Prainha and various Rio beaches like Copacabana.
Praia de Taipu de Fora (Taipu de Fora Beach): Maraú
There should be no need to fight for space at this tropical utopia, which stretches 4 miles along the south coast of Brazil’s Bahia state. Taipu de Fora is known for its natural rock pools, formed between reefs just offshore when the tide is low, making for excellent snorkeling. Although Taipu de Fora is often considered the most beautiful beach in the area, plenty of other wonderful beaches also await you on the Maraú Peninsula, along with tranquil fishing villages like Taipu de Dentro – a fantastic spot to watch the sunset.
When visiting Taipu de Fora you can stay right alongside the beach: One intimate option is Dreamland Bungalows, which has just 12 units and a beachfront bar. Previous guests note that the hospitality at Dreamland is particularly warm. While there are other hotels as well as restaurants and bars in the area, for a wider selection consider staying a couple of miles north in the town of Barra Grande.
Praia do Aventureiro (Aventureiro Beach): Ilha Grande
For a taste of tranquil and tropical beach life within reach of major tourist destinations like Rio and São Paulo, Ilha Grande’s coastline is a strong contender. This island is a popular hiking destination, home to wildlife ranging from howler monkeys to exotic birds. You can get there by taking a bus to either Conceição de Jacareí, Mangaratiba or Angra dos Reis and, from there, going by boat to Ilha Grande. Once you’re on the island, there are numerous beaches to choose from, and Aventureiro comes highly recommended. Except for a small pier for boats, the beach – with its white sand and clean water – is pretty much untouched. Aventureiro is also known for a distinctive L-shaped palm tree that appears in many photos of the beach.
Keep in mind that the number of people allowed onto the beach per day is limited. It’s thus advisable to register with the tourism authority in Angra dos Reis before heading to Aventureiro, especially in the summer high season from December through March, or if you’re planning to camp or stay in one of the rustic lodges by the beach. In addition, getting to this remote beach can be challenging: Ilha Grande does not allow cars, so your journey to Aventureiro will have to take the form of either a long hike on the T9 trail or a boat trip. If seas are too rough, boats may not run, so plan accordingly – but know that the pristine beach is worth the hassle.
Jericoacoara: Jijoca de Jericoacoara
The sand doesn’t stop at the edge of the beach in this idyllic fishing village on Brazil’s northeast coast: Surrounded by mountainous dunes, the whole place is built on sand. Sometimes known as Jeri, Jericoacoara isn’t as sleepy as it used to be, as word of its stunning beauty has traveled and made it somewhat of a destination. The main Jericoacoara beach starts in the town and stretches west, with blue seas and plenty of space. The towering Sunset Dune on the edge of town is a favorite spot for people to watch the sun go down. The town has amenities like restaurants, bars and hotels, although prices may be more expensive than those in outside towns and cities, and you may have difficulty acquiring some everyday items like sunscreen, so be sure to bring what you’ll need.
The journey to Jericoacoara can get a little complicated. From the city of Fortaleza in the Brazilian state of Ceará, you can drive or take a bus about 180 miles west to either Préa or Jijoca, where you’ll need to switch to a 4×4 vehicle or dune buggy to make the hop to Jericoacoara. Some companies offer transportation options to take you the whole way in one booking.
Baía do Sancho (Sancho Bay): Fernando de Noronha
The remote Fernando de Noronha archipelago, located about 215 miles off Brazil’s coast and part of the Pernambuco state, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its remoteness, endemic species and sheer beauty. Out of the main island’s various beaches, Baía do Sancho is often named the best – in fact, it’s often considered among the very best in the entire world. Access to the beach is only by boat or via a pair of vertical ladders that take you from the top of a cliff 230 feet down to the sand. You’ll want to come prepared with water and decent shoes for the climb down. The crescent-shaped beach offers golden sands, turquoise waters, and plenty of peace and quiet.
Because a limited number of visitors are allowed here (only around 500 per day for the whole Fernando de Noronha Marine National Park), the Sancho beach generally won’t be crowded at all, but you will have to pay a fee to access areas in the national park. The tight restrictions on tourism also mean that getting to the islands – and Baía do Sancho – requires advance planning: Flights are limited, and it’s generally a much more expensive place to visit than the rest of Brazil.
Ilha do Amor (Love Island): Alter do Chão
For an out-of-the-box beach adventure, head inland to the northern city of Santarém, at the confluence of the Tapajós and Amazon rivers. Then drive or catch a bus a little more than 20 miles west to Alter do Chao. This town in Brazil’s Pará state has a few beaches, but the top destination is Ilha do Amor, or Love Island: a thin, 6-mile strip of sand just offshore from the town. You can pay a small fee to be whisked over by rowboat – or, at low tide, even wade there yourself. Once you’re on Ilha do Amor, vendors offer beach umbrellas and chairs, and there’s various restaurants selling seafood, cocktails and more. It’s safe to swim in the crystal-clear river waters, but Ilha do Amor can get pretty busy on weekends.
If you want to hang out on this freshwater beach, it’s best to visit Alter do Chao in the dry season (roughly July to December); during the rest of the year, Ilha do Amor and nearby beaches shrink or vanish as the river rises for the wet season. Also keep in mind that other Brazil beaches may share the name Ilha do Amor, so make sure to plan your visit to the correct destination.
Praia da Pipa (Pipa Beach): Pipa
A little bit hippie and a little bit fancy, the northeastern town of Pipa has evolved from a fishing village to quite the trendy tourist destination. A big reason why is Pipa’s namesake beach: Expect white sand, striking red-orange cliffs and azure waters that hover around 80 degrees. This surfing beach can have big waves and strong currents, so swim safely if you brave the water. Pipa and other nearby beaches are a great place to relax, and plenty of outdoorsy activities abound. Book a dune buggy tour or try out sandboarding before you hit up sleek boutiques and spas in the town center. Vendors offer drinks and snacks when you’re on the beach, or you can stop by the many restaurants and bars in the town center, just a short walk from the beach.
The closest city to Pipa is Natal – about 50 miles north – which is the capital of the Rio Grande do Norte state. Van transfers can take you from the Natal airport to Pipa, as can regular buses between the two. The larger city of Recife is about 155 miles south; this trip requires a car rental, or a bus to Goianinha followed by a van transfer.
Praia do Toque (Toque Beach): São Miguel dos Milagres
Astonishingly beautiful and yet still relatively untouched by mass tourism, Praia do Toque in Brazil’s northeastern Alagoas state is a well-kept secret. Visitors can enjoy fine white sand and gentle seas; at low tide, the ocean retreats, leaving natural saltwater pools that are great for snorkeling if you bring your mask. Toque Beach – not to be confused with similarly named beaches further south in São Sebastião – is not directly accessible by car, making the setting all the more peaceful, but it’ll still be only a short walk away. The beach has a smattering of vendors on hand, but for more choice when it comes to food and drink, you’ll want to head to the towns Toque sits between: São Miguel dos Milagres or Porto da Rua, each a little more than a mile away.
To get here from Recife, the nearest city, driving is the best option. There are buses to towns in the area like Japaratinga or Maragogi, but you’ll need to find a cab or other ride for the final stretch.