A Surf Lover’s Guide to Rio De Janeiro

Joatinga | © vitormarigo/Shutterstock
Sarah Brown

Surfing is a way of life in Rio de Janeiro, and although it may not compare to the likes of Hawaii and Australia, it is one of the most popular practice spots for surfing in Brazil. From surfing schools for beginners to sightings of famous Brazilian surfers such as Gabriel Medina and Carlos Burle catching Rio’s waves, it’s evident that Rio has waves for all surfing levels. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.


One of the best surfing spots in Rio, the waves at Arpoador are neatly formed in crystal clear waters against a stunning backdrop. The rolling waves break near the rocks and the strong currents make for a quick re-entry into the surf. Arpoador is small by surfing standards, demanding surfers to be vigilant of both the waves and fellow surfers who all scramble to catch the same wave. One wonderful advantage point of Arpoador is the well-lit area allows for night surfing. Many schools use the early hours of Saturday morning to teach beginners the basics of surfing.


A long sweeping beach in Niteroi, Itacoatiara has waves for all levels across its long shores. For the more advanced surfer, the roaring sea produces exhilarating halfpipes and long, curling waves to glide down and pick up speed and distance. The currents at Itacoatiara are dangerously powerful at times which can be challenging for even the strongest swimmer. Check with the lifeguards if you have any doubts. Attracted by these ideal waves, Itacoatiara hosts some of Rio’s most exciting surf championships, such as RioSurf that tests the agility and skills of some of the best local surfers.


Prainha, one of Rio’s top surfing spots

Known among surfers in Rio for having the most consistent and easiest waves to catch in the city, Prainha is a local surfing hotspot. It is ideal for those with a bit more experience as the waves are constantly rising and breaking which is tricky for a beginner to catch. Its remote location also means there are no lifeguards on the beach’s white, sandy shores so it is only advisable to try surfing there in a group and as a strong, capable swimmer. The beach itself is captivating with a wall of rainforest behind it and a quiet environment creating a natural escape.

Barra da Tijuca

The beach in Barra da Tijuca (often shortened to just Barra) throws out some large, dangerous waves for the amateur surfer, yet is exhilarating for the more experienced. Barra is the host beach for many national and international surf championships, thanks to its reliability of producing some of the city’s best waves. The beach is huge and stretches for kilometers, with some parts ideal for bodyboarding too. At the far end of Barra beach is Postinho where big, high halfpipes are formed, perfect for those more radical maneuvers.



Its exclusive air and remote location outside the usual tourist spots create a popular space for those looking for an escape from the crowds and its not unusual to see celebrities here. Despite the high-level clientele, the beach has an unpretentious charm and relaxed atmosphere. It’s a popular haunt for surfers as the area has great wave potential for the more experienced surfer, with large rounded waves and clean waters. To the far right of the beach, the swell is ideal for those seeking a spot for bodyboarding.


Located inside a State conservation park, Grumari beach and its surrounding forests is under strict environmental protection that prevents man-made development. It has waves of all sizes making it a versatile beach for beginners and advanced surfers. The renowned surfer Carlos Burle, famous for surfing what’s thought to be the largest wave in the world in Portugal, has said in interviews that this is one of his favorite spots in Rio for surfing, adding to this wonderful beach’s surfing credibility.

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