Ipanema and Copacabana are unquestionably Rio's most celebrated beaches. Few visitors will want to leave the city without sipping a coconut water and admiring the view at these famous strands.
But while these busy city beaches are notable for their energy and people-watching opportunities, as well as for their jaw-dropping beauty, many locals prefer to hang out at the quieter stretches of sand that lie to the west of the city.
Some of these beaches – such as the small, sheltered cove at Grumari – can only be reached by car. But regular buses transport surfers and sun-seekers to the soft, fine sands at Recreio de Bandeirantes, known simply as Recreio.
Recreio Beach is much less crowded than its famous neighbors — Photo courtesy of A C Moraes
Farther west from the hang glider's hangout at Sao Conrado beach and the 14-kilometer strip of white sand that attracts sporty types and wealthy locals at Barra da Tijuca, the beaches start to get less built up, and the surrounding area becomes more wild jungle than sun-dazzled tourists.
Such is the setting for Recreio Beach.
The beach vendors that patrol the sands at Ipanema and Copacabana are few and far between here and, while it's wise to follow the usual Rio safety precautions, the beach is less of a target for opportunist thieves.
There's a notably surf-focused vibe here, too: you're more likely to hear reggae played at the beach bars than the samba that fills the air at Rio's other beaches.
While there's some good surfing to be had at Recreio, a giant rock jutting out into the ocean provides shelter for one section of the beach, making it a popular destination for families.
The atmosphere is less hectic and more laid back than at Rio's more touristy beaches, although that may be about to change with the Rio 2016 Olympics, whose main hub will be at nearby Barra da Tijuca.
The city's metro system is being extended as far as Barra in preparation for the Olympics, which is sure to be a popular move among visitors and locals keen to see the city's farther-flung beaches.
Currently, Recreio's a bus or cab ride from central Rio and the tourist heartland of the South Zone, and the journey takes around 40 minutes from Ipanema on a good day, or up to two hours when traffic is bad. Avoiding rush hour and public holidays means limiting your traffic jam potential.
It's a worthwhile trip to see a side of Rio's beach scene that feels very different from the super-touristy spots that are so famous worldwide.