The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are famous the world over, and the mere mention of Copacabana or Ipanema calls to mind images of leggy beauties languishing on sunny white sands. But while it's easy to spend much of your time in Rio simply working on your tan and thinking about ordering another ice-cold beer or tangy caipirinha, it's well worth making the effort to actually take a stroll along the beachfront.
Fishermen on Copacabana Beach — Photo courtesy of Daniel J. Hoffman
By far the best day for a beachfront stroll is Sunday, when the entire beach road is closed to traffic from Gloria, close to downtown and right up to Leblon at the western end of the lovely Zona Sul (the touristic "South Zone," home to Rio's most famous beaches).
The absence of zooming traffic on Sundays allows families to flock to the orla ("promenade") for relaxing strolls, while joggers, skaters and speed-walking exercise buffs also take the opportunity to enjoy the beachfront without running the risk of being mowed down by an oncoming bus.
The eye-catching black and white tiles that adorn the promenade have become an iconic image of Rio - the iconic design cropping up everywhere in Rio, from bikinis and t-shirts to home furnishings. Walking along the length of the beaches is a wonderfully laid-back way to admire the view, get some exercise and work on that tan at the same time.
And with bars and restaurants to be found every few paces, there are plenty of opportunities to refuel along the way.
Copacabana Beach is a beautiful location for a Sunday walk — Photo courtesy of Daniel J. Hoffman
An energetic but not strenous walking option is to start at Copacabana´s farthest end from Ipanema - known as Leme - and enjoy a coconut water at a beach bar before strolling along the five-kilometer length of the beach, turning at Arpoador before continuing onto the chic beachfront of Ipanema. Keep a lookout for the fort at the western end of Copacabana, and the fishermen who cast their nets out into the water there.
Should you have the energy to continue your stroll, Ipanema beach lends itself well to a late-afternoon walk, with the sun casting the waters in an orange glow as it dips over the horizon.
Those with energy to burn can keep on going across the small canal that marks the point at which Ipanema becomes Leblon, before stopping for a well-earned beer and a plate of fresh fish and fries at one of the numerous beachfront bars.