Brazil is a lot more than the famous iconic beaches of Rio and it will be well worth your while to venture out beyond them to explore and you will be pleasantly surprised, but having said that, we will start out with the most well-known area of Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro state
When most people think of Brazil, what comes to mind are the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, and rightly so, with very scenic and picturesque strips of beaches with the famous black and white tiled boardwalk, blue water, islands off in the distance, and mountains in the background. On these beaches you can count on seeing lively beach sports and activities that are riveting to watch, having all the amenities and beach vendors, very good people watching, and a bit of a party vibe- always with the option of sipping on a fruit caipirinha freshly made at one of the beach kiosks. But it would be very much worth your while if you have time to venture outside the big city to discover pure natural beauty in our top two picks:
Prainha beach, a half-moon shaped little gem, is surrounded by rocky hills and cliffs, and is located in an environmentally protected area, making it much cleaner and nature-oriented than the inner city beaches. It is a bit more secluded, making its natural setting the focus, although it does have some beach kiosks and some vendors, and a cute little restaurant at the end of the beach serving fresh seafood. And for those looking to catch some waves, Prainha is the place to go.
Praia do Forno, Arraial do Cabo
The region of Arraial do Cabo, next to the popular tourist destination of Buzios, is considered to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And Praia do Forno is accessible from Buzios by a trail (or boat), where you will arrive to the stunning views down to this beach cove surrounded by large cliffs and rocky outcropping in the sea creating a perfect spot for sea life and snorkeling. It is popular with families who come to see the colorful fish and coral, and the Arraial do Cabo area is one of the top scuba diving destinations in all of Brazil. And although Praia do Forno is quite secluded you will still find some facilities like kiosks serving food and drinks, as well as a floating restaurant for fresh seafood.
Ilha Grande, a short road trip from Rio, is a popular weekend destination for a quick escape from the big city to a tropical car-free retreat with minimal development to preserve its natural setting so the focus is on its white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Activities include island-hopping via boats from the main island to the smaller surrounding islands, snorkeling or scuba diving, and exploring some trails including the popular hike over the small mountain to descend upon the paradise that is Praia Lopes Mendes (which also can be accessed by boat).
This lovely 2-mile stretch of beach, trimmed with almond and palm trees and tucked under two mountains, is a must-see when you visit Ilha Grande. Popular for its surf, but also its pristine natural scenery and clean water that is ideal for swimmers and surfers alike. This is a beautifully undeveloped area so come with what you need for the day and just enjoy its pure serene beauty.
This state in the south of Brazil features incredible beaches with something for everybody- from calm secluded beaches, to party beaches, to beaches with great surf or wind and endless activities and water sports. This is also a great spot for those looking to explore the jungles as it has countless hiking trails, including beach trails through the jungle, with the most beautiful beaches being in protected nature preserves. And Florianopolis is yet another Brazilian city covered with endless beaches, with half of the city on the mainland and the other half on the island of Santa Catarina. Below are our favorite beaches on the island:
Ilha do Campeche
Located on the island of Santa Catarina is Praia Ilha do Campeche, a small island off Campeche beach, is one of the best beaches in Santa Catarina. Reached by a 10 minute boat ride from Praia Campeche, this mostly deserted beach with limited infrastructure may remind you of the Caribbean, with crystal clear turquoise water and white sand, and with huge rock boulders dotting the edges of the ocean- it is a beautiful scene to behold. Around the boulders are the best places to snorkel, and if you want more you can take a boat out to even more amazing spots. The island is also a location of 10 archaeological sites so only 800 visitors are allowed to visit the island each day, adding to its attraction.
Lagoinha do Leste
For those up for hiking an hour or so to discover one of the most beautiful and remote beaches then a trek to this beach will be well worth the effort, although it can be accessed by boat as well. But the view from the viewpoint at the top will make the hike all worthwhile. This breathtaking refuge is surrounded by mountains and forest, is within a preserved area, with blue-green water and a freshwater underwater river. There is good surf here, but for calm swimming for children it may not be the best spot, although there is a freshwater lagoon right next to the beach.
Bahia is one of the main stops for tourists who come to see the highlights of Brazil, with around 1,000km of tropical beaches to explore, and being the cultural center of Brazil’s African heritage, with it being the place where most African slaves were brought over, as well as the first place the Portuguese landed in Brazil in the early 1500s. Visitors will not want to miss the center of it all- Salvador, a fascinating colonial city with historic buildings, cobblestone roads, endless cultural festivals in the streets with the traditional African-influenced music and drumbeats you will never forget. This is also the birthplace of capoeira, a combination of martial arts, dance, acrobatics, along with drums and singing.
Once you have had time to explore Salvador, head over to experience the stunning beaches of the area. Beautiful Espelho Beach is the place to go near the newly popular beach town hotspot Trancoso, featuring aquamarine water that forms stunning natural pools at low tide. It was named after the word for "mirror" because during low tide the crystal clear water reflects the light of the sun or moon. This exclusive spot may be the go-to for the jet-setters, with its high-end boutique pousadas and charming cafes, bars and restaurants, but the main attraction is the spectacular scenery. With white sand beaches and crystal clear blue water, trimmed by coconut palm trees and cliffs, and with convenient beach accommodations including beach kiosks, lounge chairs, mats and tents, this spot is a dream for those who are willing to treat themselves to this remote gem.
Praia do Forte
In this magical setting of white sandy beaches, clear turquoise water, picturesque views, abundant sea life and tidal pools to explore, Praia do Forte is a beach worthy of being on the list of the best destinations in Brazil. Also home to a turtle sanctuary and rehabilitation facility for rescued turtles- great for families and to learn more about the ecology of this region and turtle conservation. Also this beach is one of the best places to spot the breathtaking humpback whales that pass by during the season, ideally by boat but they can also be seen at times from the shore.
Morro de São Paulo
Morro de São Paulo, a small beach town on an island off the coast of Bahia, is car-free, with no paved streets, but with plenty of infrastructure including numerous hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, and beach activities to fully enjoy its soft golden sand and clear blue water. The most well-known beach is Quarta Praia, or fourth beach, with the majority of pousadas and restaurants, and with its expanse of sandbars and palm tree-lined edges, and plenty of beach stands renting surfboards, paddleboards, and snorkel gear. This is also a great spot for scuba diving and the island has dive shops to schedule a dive with, or scuba instruction. Boat trips around the island are offered, to get a chance to see other beaches like the beautiful neighboring island of Boipeba. And if you are lucky enough to visit during whale watching season, Tinhare Island is one of the few places in Brazil you will have the chance to see right whales and humpback whales and sometimes with their young. And the island has one activity that it is the most well-known, its famous zipline from the lighthouse at the top of the morro (small mountain) into the ocean. It is a bit of a strenuous hike of steps to the top but it is well worth it for the views, the sunsets, and the ride for those who dare. And cool down afterwards with some nice cocktails in the evening- Morro de Sao Paulo is known for its lively nightlife.
Considered by many as the most beautiful island in Brazil, rivaling Fernando de Noronha, Ilha Boipeba is part of the Tinhare archipelago of 26 islands, which include Tinhare Island where you will find Morro de São Paulo. Here you will find soft white sand and a stunning sea of warm, pristine clear water displaying large coral reef pools just inviting you to explore them, and the calm waters due to sheltering by the reefs are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and taking boat excursions around the island, stopping at the endless spectacular beaches like Bainema, Morere, and Castelhanos. And beyond the beautiful beaches, this island has a very diverse ecosystem to tour with its salt marshes and extensive mangrove systems that are interesting to explore, as on the opposite side of the ocean the island is bordered by a river estuary, and a local canoe trip is the perfect way to see it and its distinct ecosystem. This island is protected to sustain its pristine natural environment, and no cars are permitted on the island- all transport is on foot or by tractor. It is the perfect place for those looking to disconnect in a tranquil environment as it has only a simple infrastructure, and the main village of Velha Boipeba, formed by Portuguese Jesuits in 1537, is very charming with its cobblestone roads, colorful houses, and its church built in 1610. And on the second of February it would be worth timing your trip right to see the colorful spiritual tradition of giving offerings to the sea goddess Lemanjá, which is performed via a maritime procession of fishing boats and speedboats, showering the goddess with flowers.