Beaches in Rio de Janeiro -
Drink Life Up Like a Carioca!

Beaches in Rio de Janeiro

Beaches in Rio de Janeiro. Let's face it. There are gorgeous beaches all over the world. But no other beaches in the world caress the jewel that is the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And, I believe, no other beaches are hosted by people with a passion for life quite like Cariocas (Rio's locals). Something about that quick, joyful smile, that mischievous sparkle -- and that irresistible rhythm!

I've floated into a love affair with Rio ever since I first heard Brazilian rhythms as a child. I've even told my parents for years that the stork got lost and I was really supposed to be born in Rio!

 I reasoned that I have "tropical hair" with natural curls that are really only happy in an exotic climate, and the Brazilian rhythms -- they speak to me deeper than any other music I've ever experienced! And the JOY of the music, the JOY of the people -- I fit right in!

You see, I'm what I call "naturally-caffeinated!" My parents used to call me the "jumping bean" as a child! And for most people, I'm sickenly happy and optimistic. I can't help it!

So the beaches in Rio de Janeiro are definitely the perfect place for me!

Beaches in Rio de Janeiro - Baby on beach

Can you imagine happening upon the Harbor, formally known as Guanabara Bay? Portuguese explorers laid eyes on it in 1502. It was then occupied by the Tupi Indians. They thought they had reached the mouth of an immense river, so they named it Rio de Janeiro or "River of January" in honor of the month they first glimpsed the magical harbor.

Two unusual mountains guard the beaches in Rio de Janeiro. Corcovado Mountain has become the most easily recognized landmark worldwide because of the enormous statue of Christ the Redeemer, whose arms span 75 feet in a seeming caress of the beauty below. The statue was built in 1931 to commemorate the centennial of Brazilian independence in 1822. Yes, the statue was completed nine years late, but hey, I think my Carioca friends' philosophy is "time is not important, only life is important." (Well, that's actually a quote from my favorite movie Fifth Element -- don't ask me why its my favorite because I really have no idea!)  

Christ the Redeemer by Quiltsalad
Christ the Redeemer

The mountain is 2300 feet (710 meters) and can be scaled by car or train. I'll opt for the train ride which ascends the 2.3 miles in about 20 minutes, winding through the lush Tijuca National Park, the largest urban park in the world at 8,151 acres -- WOW! I am so excited to be cycling through Stanley Park every morning here in Vancouver, BC. It is 1,000 acres -- can you imagine having daily access to a tropical urban park eight times that big? It would be surreal, with huge blue morpho butterflies fluttering by and waterfalls taking your breath away!

The other mountain is aptly named Sugar Loaf! It is shaped like a mound of crystalized sugar cane. You can take a cable car to its 1325 feet (404 meter) summit. I've seen amazing photos taken on the way! What a magnificent view! What a way to see the beaches in Rio de Janeiro!

Rio de Janeiro

Once you've ascended to the bird's eye view, you'll see all the gorgeous beaches in Rio de Janeiro, but it's going to be very hard to pick which one to melt into for the day.

Rio is called Cidade Maravilhosa "Marvelous City" with good reason, and a day on the beaches in Rio de Janeiro will have you proclaiming "This is life!" in no time at all!

You know I have to start with one of the beaches in Rio de Janeiro that has become the most famous -- Impanema. The story goes, according to a website I frequent called Club do Tom ( that chronicles the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, that "Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto is the "girl from Impanema." Tom and Vinicius de Moraes used to patron the Veloso Bar, in the Impanema neighborhood, at the corner of Prudente de Morais Street and Montenegro Street (lately named Vincius de Moraes Street).

 They would sit on small tables placed on the sidewalk to have some beer and chat with friends. Several times they admired Heloisa's charming walk. Living very close, she used to go to the Veloso Bar to buy cigarettes for her mother. Inspired by her beauty, Vinicius and Tom wrote 'The girl from Impanema.'

Beaches in Rio de Janeiro

The first of Vincius' attempts to write the lyric to Jobim's melody was unsuccessful. The song was first named "The Girl That Passes By": 'Tired of all many paths, without any poetry, without any birds, fearing life, fearing love, when in the afternoon. so pretty in the space, I saw the girl, strolling along, swinging her step, towards the sea.' Both partners disliked the lyrics, but approved a second version that Vinicius wrote a little later.

Heloisa only knew that she had been the inspiration for the song some two and a half years later. In May 1966, when she married the engineer Fernando Abel Pinheiro, Tom Jobim and his wife Thereza attended the ceremony. Heloisa had a daughter, and became a model and TV presenter.

Nowadays she can be spotted mostly in Rio and Sao Paulo, still a charming woman, who will always be remembered as the inspiring force of one of the world's most famous songs." ("When she walks, she's like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle." What a song and what a beach! Of all of the 23 beaches in Rio de Janeiro forming a 45-mile stretch of white sand kissing turquoise-blue water, Impanema remains the most sophisticated and elite.

Bordering the city's high-end neighborhoods, Impanema beach is where you go to see and be seen. Sounds like I'll be doing one of my favorite sports -- people-watching. I could people-watch all day, playing a game trying to figure out their "stories." I find it such a curious thing to watch people's efforts to impress -- extremely entertaining!

Beaches in Rio de Janeiro

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Then we'll have to move on in the beaches in Rio de Janeiro to none other than Copacabana. I plan to go for New Year's Eve and witness the celebration of Iemanja. She is the African goddess of the sea, and the central deity often compared to the Virgin Mary in the Macumba spiritual tradition brought to Brazil by victims of the slave trade from West Africa.

In studying African spirituality, they have a pantheon somewhat similar to many pantheons of many cultures around the world. In the Yoruba tradition, Obatala is GOD, and then there are demi-gods called Orishas. Yemaya (Iemanja in portuguese) is the goddess of the sea, Chango (xango in portuguese) is the god of fire and Oshun (Oxun in portuguese) the goddess of love.

As the African diaspora spread across the Americas, mostly from West Africa, these entities came along. In Cuba this spiritual tradition is called Santeria. The names of the Orishas will be spelled differently in different regions, and different Orishas will be highlighted above others, as observed around the world with demi-gods, or Catholic saints, for that matter.

It was relatively simple for African slaves to fit their Orishas into the Catholic "pantheon" of saints, and Catholicism has tended to be more of an assimilating "borg" (yup! I love Star Trek, too!) than the Protestant religions. So in places like Cuba and Brazil, Africans have been able to keep their spiritual ceremonies, language, music and dance nearly perfectly intact. I observed these ceremonies in Cuba -- amazing! But that's a story for another day! I can't wait to experience this!

As if the beaches in Rio de Janeiro aren't magical enough any other day of the week, on New Year's Eve thousands of Macumba followers, in flowing white, float like a soft cloud to the water's edge, pulsing to ancient rhythms.

Macumbeiros baptize initiates while followers chant and create altars to Iemanja placing candles in mounds of sand. Caricoas then send out their wishes for the New Year on little hand-made paper boats, filled with their presents of flowers and lit candles for the sea goddess, hoping she will fulfill their heart's desire.

It is interesting that in Brazil they combine symbols of Iemanja with symbols of Oshun, goddess of love, by sending presents of beauty -- lipstick, perfume and mirrors -- in their little boats as well. If Iemanja intends to fulfill their wish then she accepts their gifts, as the little boats float out and are engulfed into the sea. If she does not accept their gifts, then her waves return the boats to shore.

How magical is that? That is a sight that would be amazing to see from the sky. Imagine all 45 miles of beaches in Rio de Janeiro awash in flowing white with sprinkled candlelight on the beach and floating out to sea, all to the pulsing rhythms unique to Rio.

Okay, I knew this would happen if I wrote a page about beaches in Rio de Janeiro, or anything to do with Rio or Brazil for that matter! I could go on and on! I'll have to save Carnaval and all the other things I want to do in Brazil for another story and another trip!

First Class Dirt Cheap Vacation on the Beaches in Rio De Janeiro I bet you're wondering where I'm going to stay! I've chosen to stay at yet another one of the famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro, Leblon. Impanema and Leblon are actually one beach, the borderline is considered Allah's Garden which connects Lagoa Park to the ocean.

I'm going to stay in the Marina Palace, within arms reach of fine stores, malls, nightclubs and restaurants. Room service is available 24 hours a day (a nice perk I don't usually find unless I'm at an all-inclusive resort). On-site amentities include a restaurant, resort pool and nearby you can find golf, horseback riding, fishing, bicycling, sailing, para-sailing (which I'll have to do) and the all important live entertainment!

Beaches in Rio de Janeiro

I actually have seven resorts to choose from in Rio. I thought I'd try this one on Leblon beach first, and visit the rest of the beaches in Rio de Janeiro from there. i know there are Rio de Janeiro problems with tourists. It is another reason why I like to stay in timeshare resorts over any other type of accommodations. I feel much safer.

I can also ask my vacation consultant when I book about the latest Rio de Janeiro facts with regards to safety. For the other reasons I choose timeshare see Why Timeshare and Buying a Timeshare.

So guess how much! About $200 for the week! I'm not kidding!

I just pay an exchange fee to book Marina Palace through Interval International! Now, I know I'll have to book as far in advance as possible, of course, because Rio is a hot commodity. EVERYBODY wants to enjoy the beaches in Rio de Janeiro!

Since I'm the "jumping bean" there are very few places in the world I wouldn't want to be doing some type of extreme sport or something very active -- but on the beaches in Rio de Janeiro? I'm slathering on the sunscreen, melting into the white sand with the blue waters kissing my toes and doing nothing, to the rhythms of samba!


Beaches in Rio de Janeiro

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