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It doesn’t take long to realize that the beach is life in Rio de Janeiro and that the best time to enjoy it is first thing in the morning. To act like a local, set your alarm for dawn and start the day with a pão na chapa (toasted French bread with butter) and a strong coffee with a splash of milk and a load of sugar. Keep your look casual with a simple vest top, shorts, flip flops and swimwear underneath – it’s beach time.
The morning has the best waves so head over to Arpoador for crystal-clear waters and smooth waves. Get your surf on by renting out a surf board from one of the surf schools or be truly Carioca and bring your own surfboard to the beach. If surfing doesn’t tickle your fancy, try stand-up surf paddling which is much easier, or simply take a swim in the cool water before the beach fills up with the day’s crowds.
It’s mid-morning now so time for the rest of breakfast – surfing is hard and hungry work! Head to a traditional Brazilian padaria (bakery) or a juice bar such as Big Nectar to have an acai with granola, strawberry or banana for a nutritious and refreshing snack.
Most Cariocas will spend the afternoon defining their tan lines on the beach. Head to Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon. The beaches are divided into postos (lifeguard stations) and each section caters for a different crowd and offers different activities. For a game of footvolley, futsal or beach volleyball, head over to posto 2 where local sport enthusiasts will be playing intense games. To paddle out to sea and enjoy the sun whilst gliding over the ocean, go over to posto 5 and hire a stand-up surf paddle board for a pleasant, lazy hour on the water. Or head over to posto 8 in Ipanema for caipirinhas, glorious views and to work on your tan. To be a true Carioca, eat Globo biscoitos (a type of biscuits made from cassava flour) and wash it down with a chilled mate (pronounced ma-tchee), a typical tea that is popular in Brazil.
Some Cariocas will head to Rio’s natural areas and do hikes on a sunny day, a favorite pastime in Rio. The most popular hikes are Dois Irmãos, Pedra Bonita, Morro da Urca or Pedra da Gavea. Fill your backpack with food and plenty of water, and head to one of the many incredible hikes in the city for an afternoon in true Carioca style.
On a sunny day, there are too many exciting outdoor things to be done to lose time in a restaurant. The most popular eating spots are the per-kilo options where you pay for the weight of your plate. The food is generally of high quality with plenty of options and it’s quick to eat and get back outside again to enjoy the day. A popular per-kilo restaurant in Ipanema is Frontera that gets crowded at lunch time and offers a wonderful selection of pasta, salads, meats, fish, and Brazilian barbecues.
Go to Arpoador Rock to watch the sun go down – the sunset is stunning. Clap along with all the other Cariocas when the last slither of sun dips behind the ocean. Now it’s time to enjoy another favorite Brazilian pastime – socializing and drinking. For a post-beach drink, go to the Skol 360 kiosk in Copacabana, one of the liveliest and most crowded kiosks along the beach with live music and a happy hour. Or, go to one of Rio’s trendiest botecos, Belmonte in Ipanema, for an extra cold beer and one of their delicious and famous pies.
The sun has gone down and now the night scene begins to stir. Many Cariocas will stay in botecos until the early hours, chatting with friends over several cold beers and plenty of Brazilian snacks. Some of the best botecos are Jobi in Leblon, Belmonte in Ipanema or Pavão Azul in Copacabana; the latter fills up quickly so make sure to arrive early to get a table.
Most Cariocas love samba and seem born with a natural rhythm for dancing. On Mondays, the most popular samba place is Pedra do Sal in Centro which enjoys live samba bands and large crowds filling up the outdoor venue. On the weekends, some Cariocas may head to the samba schools such as Mangueira Samba School in the north zone to enjoy live samba music and mesmerizing dancing. One of Rio’s hottest places for traditional Brazilian music that spans all genres is Rio Scenarium in Lapa. This multi-floored venue plays everything from bossa nova and samba to Brazilian pop music and chorinho. It is a great place to party until dawn, dance like no-one is watching and have an unforgettable Carioca night.