Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rio de Janeiro's beaches, samba and culture a bargain for travelers

Praia Vermelha at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful urban beaches in the world. But if you want something a little more secluded, there are lovely, less-crowded beaches just a short drive from the city.

Associated Press

Praia Vermelha at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful urban beaches in the world. But if you want something a little more secluded, there are lovely, less-crowded beaches just a short drive from the city.


After years of steady economic growth in Brazil, the dream of an on-the-cheap exotic vacation in Rio de Janeiro has melted faster than a Popsicle in tropical sunshine.

Now, sipping something fancy in boutique bars dotting bourgeois neighborhoods like Ipanema and Leblon will run you a tab to rival any in New York, London or Paris. Even down-home finger-food and a cold beer at a corner bar come at eye-popping prices.

But cariocas, as Rio residents are known, don't call their hometown the "marvelous city," or cidade maravilhosa, because of chi-chi eateries or faddish clubs. It's the stunning natural setting, the easy charm of locals and the culture that give the city its flair. And those can all be had for nada at the following spots:

Beach, beach, beach

Rio boasts some of the world's most stunning urban beaches and they're worth several visits. Go to Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon or Praia Vermelha, at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain, if you want to stay in the city. Head to beaches in the western suburbs of Barra da Tijuca and Recreio for a quieter experience. Prainha, farther out, makes for great surfing. Keep going west and you'll hit Grumari, the most remote beach, a jewel of a spot surrounded by a nature preserve.

Parque Lage and the famous statue

About a half-mile away from the also-gorgeous but not free Jardim Botanico, or Botanical Gardens, Parque Lage has as much charm as its better-known neighbor. This park is a vast green space at the base of the Corcovado mountain, on which Rio's famous Christ the Redeemer statue is perched. Getting close to the statue itself costs money, but hikers can take in the views from the platform below.

Historic Rio

Rio was once the seat of an empire, and then the capital of newly independent Brazil. Aspects of this history can be seen in a winding walk through the cobblestoned streets that remain downtown. Within a few blocks, you can see the Paco Imperial, or Royal Palace, where the Portuguese royal family settled when they fled Europe just ahead of Napoleon's troops, and the Biblioteca Nacional, or National Library, with a collection that has been growing since 1810. Nearby is the neoclassical Teatro Municipal, the Municipal Theater. It's all granite, marble and bronze, modeled after the Paris Opera. Two cobblestone streets in the area, Rua do Ouvidor and Rua do Rosario, are among the best-preserved examples of Portuguese colonial architecture. For contemporary culture, check out Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Centro Cultural dos Correios, and Casa Franca-Brasil. They have rotating exhibits that are generally free.


Rio's signature percussion-driven rhythm can be heard in classy indoor music venues, sure, but old-school samba circles can pop up without notice. There are parts of town where musicians traditionally gather, where you can find great samba played the way it was in its origins: outdoors, and free for all. Rua do Ouvidor in downtown, generally has music on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pedra do Sal, in the downtown neighborhood of Saude, has samba circles on Mondays and Fridays.

Parque Nacional da Tijuca

The most-visited national park in Brazil, this nearly 10,000-square-acre expanse of forest embedded in Rio de Janeiro is what allows this densely populated city to breathe. There are a variety of trails carved through the forest, leading to peaks overlooking the city.

Rio de Janeiro's beaches, samba and culture a bargain for travelers 09/25/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.