Rio’s rebels and intellectuals, Ipanema today is the playground of the young, tan and beautiful. Even in your skimpiest bikini or board shorts you’ll feel overdressed among the thongs and G-strings. The body is celebrated here and the beach scene laps up onto the city sidewalks, where you’re just as likely to encounter sarongs and sandals as you are suits and ties.
There’s a stronger concentration of beach vendors here in Ipanema. They weave among the sunbathers and pickup games of futevôlei, volleyball played with the feet instead of the hands, and frescobal, the Brazilian answer to paddle ball. We order another beer and watch a pickup futbol game.

Surfers and Sunsets

The sun is lower in the sky as we cut into the city to walk to Copacabana, perhaps the most famous of Rio’s beaches. The vibe here is more touristy, more ritzy. When the Copacabana Palace Hotel opened its doors in the 1920s, the rich and famous flocked to Copacabana to see and be seen. It put Rio on the map of Hollywood’s A-list, and even today the penthouses and high-rise hotels go for more than twice what we paid for our Leblon apartment.

We turn around and walk back to the Forte de Copacabana, once the city’s main line of defense against invaders. Today it’s a cultural center commemorating the country’s most famous battles.

After exploring the artillery, we lay our sarong on the rocky crags that line the water. Arpoador beach has some of the best swells of Rio’s city beaches. Below us surfers ride waves that look almost silver in the fading afternoon light.

We had read Arpoador beach is the best place in Rio to catch the sunset. We flag down a vendor, order another beer and watch as the sun sinks behind the DoisIrmaos.

In summer, crowds gather to applaud the sunset. But tonight, on this chunk of rock, it’s just us and a family speaking a language we don’t understand.

The sun disappears and we climb back to the street level, eager to get back to Leblon before dark. Source


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