Sunday, November 6, 2011

How To Beach Like a Carioca

My Little Carioca cooling off with an ice cream

Summer is approaching here in Rio de Janeiro and I am going to tell all you non-Cariocas how to do the Rio de Janeiro beach the right way. Don't worry, follow my 10 easy steps and you'll blend right in... kind of.

1. Be Non-Committal when initially approached by the guys working at the barracas (tents) on the beach. Play it cool. Find where you want to sit and then get your chair. That will save you the unwanted drama of territories and tents. Trust me, even I fall into this one occasionally.

2. No Towels! Actually this should be no towels and buy at least one Brazilian canga BEFORE getting to the beach. You can buy this sheet like items all over the place. That way you don't scream "I'm a Gringo with hotel towels please overcharge me." Of course they are going to overcharge you anyway but at least it will be reasonably. Also the cangas do not collect sand like towels. Trust me.

3. SUNSCREEN! Cariocas use sunscreen, at least some degree of it. I was taught by Mr. Rants family to put sunscreen on before I left the apartment. Of course they all put it on there but let's just say that my skin is a tad bit more likely to burn...

4. Early Morning or Late afternoon. If you are not a seasoned beach goer with a strong tan and religious sunscreen use, do not try to sit in the sun at noon during Rio de Janeiro's summer. It's not going to turn out well. If you are there take advantage of the cheap sun umbrellas rented by the barracas. Hide out until the peak passes. My Mother-in-law used to send me under the umbrella around 1130am, kind of like a sun time out. I will thank her for it when I don't get skin cancer.

5. Remember Raccoon Eyes. We all look good in sunglasses but not when it still looks like we are wearing them when we take them off. Sunscreen, hat, and remove them at some point to even out your tan.

6. Beach food: Don't eat the shrimp. They look pretty but they have been cruising around in the sun for hours. Go for something a little safer like an esfiha, biscuito globos, or a hot dog.

7. Pick up your trash! It's our beach so please take care of it. There are trash cans by the guys renting chairs. There's no reason why everyone can't put their trash in a baggie and throw it away in a trash can on their way out. While you are at it please tell a Carioca. They are horrible at keeping their own beaches clean!

8. Buy a bikini in Rio de Janeiro. I don't care about your size or shape, you will only stick out if you wear one of those saggie butt British or American bikinis. Do yourself a favor and suck up your pride. Buy the bikini! Trust me, the moment you get to the beach you will realize you actually blend in more and your butt looks 300 times better! And you curvy girls please remember that Brazilian LOVE that! Show it off!

9. Be careful going into the ocean. Cariocas make swimming in the rough Rio de Janeiro waters look easy. It isn't. This goes double when you are kind of drunk off of Brazilian beer and have to pee. Don't let the urgency make you do something stupid. Nobody wants to be that guy that has to be rescued by the helicopter with ocean basket.

10. Have fun! Cariocas have a saying: There's nothing a good day at the beach can't cure. It's true! They know how to do the beach in Rio de Janeiro and if you have a chance to go with some natives please do! 


  1. You should set up an export biz of cangas to us beach goers here. As the family Sherpa, the less towels I have to carry, the better!

  2. Top tips! My Carioca wife says another big gringo give-away is trainers/sneakers/tênis at the beach. Just don't! Also, really good point about the sea - the currents can be really strong in places and I have seen a guy go out to rescue someone and end up needing rescuing himself!

  3. Regarding item 3 -Sunscreen-, a consumer advocacy magazine called Proteste ( tested 10 brands and found only two to be acceptable: Cenoura & Bronze and L"Oréal's Solar Expertise. Below an article about said study which appeared in "O Globo".

    I started using L"Oréal Solar Expertise after reading the study ( I subscribe to Proteste but can't link the content) and it really is quite an improvement from the stuff I previously put on my skin (Sundown, and Nivea).

  4. put sunscreen on 30 minutes before you leave your home and re apply every 2-3 hours.

  5. I agree with the apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to exposure rule but if you use crappy sunscreen then it will have to be re-applied during much shorter intervals than 2-3 hours. This is what happened to me before switching to the L'Oreal brand. The previous ones just wouldn't last as long nor would adhere well enough to survive a dip in the water.
    By the way sunscreen should be used on a daily basis whenever there is exposure, not only when going to the beach.

  6. Rachel,

    Your Brazilian family def know what they are talking about. The apply sunscreen at home rule is well known in Brazil. It is mainly to allow the sunscreen to be well applied while your skin is still dry, before you start sweating, which always happens when you are on the beach.
    The point is, more important than 30 minutes or two hours, make sure your skin is dry and you are not sweating at the moment you apply sunscreen.
    Good tips!


  7. Ack! I never thought about that towel rule, except now that I do think about it...I don't think I've seen anyone else with towels. :x Quick! To the muanga carts!

    About that sunblock, I'm grateful for the information, though I brought back like 5 2-dollar bottles of Banana Boat from the US the last time I was here. Might as well use them up by reapplying every hour before shelling out like, 80 reais for sunblock. :(

  8. #3 - Really? I learned the apply-sunscreen-beforehand rule in the States.

    #6 - Only things I'll eat on the beach are queijo assado, acaraje, and picole.

    Here's a question - do Rio's beaches have the guys walking around with watering cans, who come around and rinse off your sandy feet? The first time that happened to me in Salvador, I yanked my feet away and said "NAO!!!" because I thought he was going to try to charge me for the service!

  9. I learned to do the sunscreen thing at home too but never listened. It didn't seem to matter. Here I'm strict about it, especially with my boys

  10. I will always scream gringa on the beach. I burn so bad with no matter what sun block replied no matter how many times. Where I need to go to the hospital or experience bleeding and severe burns. a swim suit is not an options. I need sleeves and shorts, sunglasses and a hat.

    I am stuck. Unless I go south in the spring or fall. But rio is forever.

  11. Tom's point about the strong ocean currents is a good one, I saw my first helicopter rescue yesterday in Leme. The pilot was amazing, he plucked the rescue victim out with the basket (a net actually) but then went back for the crew member by setting the helicopter down virtually on the water. Amazing, and a great sand blasting for the folks on the beach.

    My Brasilian wife uses the La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL 50+ sun screen. Expensive stuff, but once I left my Haviana's on and forgot the tops of my feet. Now I consider it a bargain. The list of chemicals on the back is frigntning. And she darkens while you watch. Brasilin skin, amazing.

    I NEVER go in the water here. Not just the ugly foam/black mess Saturday to be afraid of, but the rip tides are like strong rivers and will take you out and well down the beach if you are caught in one. If you are, don't fight it, you will not end up in Africa - just 100m down the beach! And, someone will probably call in the helicopter.

  12. I don't enter the water because I am afrad of sharks. I know the Brazilian coastline isn't really prone to the dangerous shark groups but still, you never know. One may get lost and end up near your beach.
    It would be nice if they built huge cages in the ocean for safe swimming. Perhaps the surface of abandoned oil platforms could be used as a support so they could then extend wide and down to the ocean floor. Wouldn't that be cool? Plus you could take shelter under the platform when the sun is too strong and/or you don't have clinically tested super duper sun protection, like I do.

  13. Rachel
    Thanks for this post! I visited Rio last year for the first time, loved it, and am excited to return again this year to celebrate the New Year (already looking for something white to wear!). I had a good Brazilian friend who shared many of these tips with me and THANK GOD I went for the Brazilian bikini!...and we all know by "suck up your pride", what you really mean is "suck up your gut!" lol. both good pieces of advice!

    Please be sure to share any other tips so us "gringas" don't stick out to much!

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