The most iconic beach in Rio de Janeiro is also one of the most popular places for stand-up paddle (or ‘sup’ as it’s locally referred to). There are several points between posto 5 and posto 6 (the lifeguard towers) that are easily distinguished by their colorful tents and rows of sup boards wedged into the sand. You can hire a board there from about 7am every morning and an hour costs R$60. The best days to go are when the water is calm, as strong waves can keep you at the shoreline, no matter how hard you paddle. During the summer, keep an eye out for shy turtles that often swim next to the Copacabana Fort wall.
One of Rio’s smallest beaches, Praia Vermelha is contained in a natural bay with surrounding rocky hills and a frame of tropical vegetation. The red-yellow sand and deep-green waters create a striking setting to practice stand-up paddle. This is one of the best spots for beginners as the water rarely has waves, creating a smooth, calm surface to find your balance and pick up paddling speed. Near the edges of the surrounding rocky slopes are caves and shallow rockeries, ideal for exploring and trying to spot fish. The more advanced and experience stand-up paddlers can paddle out from Praia Vermelha across the bay to Copacabana.
With the Dois Irmaos hills in the background and the hotspot for Rio’s beach-chic crowd, Ipanema offers unrivaled sunbathing, partying and stand-up paddling spots. On a calm summer’s day, there are few places better than Arpoador at the end of Ipanema beach where the water is warm and crystal clear. More experienced stand-up paddle surfers can head to posto 10 and attempt to catch a few of the larger waves there. From Ipanema, there is also the chance to do a ‘travessia‘ – a longer stand-up paddle session where you paddle to a different beach or island. The routes leave from Ipanema and go to various places including Praia de São Conrado, Praia Vermelha, Leme Fort and the Cagarras islands.
This hidden beach is next to the Sheraton hotel and in front of the Vidigal community. The typical beach choice of Vidigal’s residents, its sweeping ocean views and clear waters create a striking scene for practicing stand-up paddle. Paddle surfers can either gently traverse the bay while taking in the stunning surroundings or paddle from Vidigal beach to Ipanema for a more challenging route. Be sure to do this on a calm day, as the larger waves outside of the bay will prevent you from going much further.
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas – often referred to as simply ‘Lagoa’ – is a pleasant natural lake in the south zone of the city renowned for its striking natural surroundings and tranquil environment. For those looking to explore Lagoa from a different viewpoint than the cycle path encircling the lake, stand-up paddle is a serene way to enjoy the peace and quiet of the lake’s still waters. You can rent a board in front of the bar Palaphita Kitch and the rental cost is cheaper than doing stand-up paddle on the beach. Boards get rented quickly on the weekends and holidays, so it’s good to arrive early.
Between the São Conrado beach and the Barra da Tijuca beach is the archipelago of Tijucas, just four kilometers off the Rio coastline. The archipelago is made up of three islands: island do Meio closest to São Conrado, the island of Pontuda and the island of Alfavaca, which is a great diving spot. You can hire a board from the Barra da Tijuca beach and paddle out to the islands, although this depends on weather conditions as the wind picks up between the coast and the islands. There is even the opportunity to rent out a super board that can carry up to 10 people, ideal for making the crossing to the island with a group of friends.
Way on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro is Barra de Guaratiba, a neighborhood that borders Recreio. Known for its untouched beaches, protected nature reserves and distinct lack of tourists, Barra de Guaratiba is a side of Rio that is rarely explored yet immensely rewarding for those venturing there. Go stand-up paddling from the Barra de Guaratiba bay and paddle over to the mangroves that are flanked either side by mountains covered in the dense Atlantic forest. After a day of exploring, head to any one of the local restaurants that serve up some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in Rio.