No other country conjures images of paradise quite like Brazil, and its beaches are no exception. With 7491km (4656 miles) of coastline fringing this vast nation, there’s a perfect stretch of sand for every situation, whether you want a party atmosphere or a place to revel in the whisper of the surf and the swoosh of palm fronds.
Along the Brazilian shoreline, you can surf, sunbathe, snorkel or kitesurf against a backdrop of samba, riotous festivals and breathtaking nature. Pack your swimwear and sunscreen – here are the best beaches in Brazil.
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1. Copacabana and Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Best beaches for a party vibe
When you think about beaches in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana and Ipanema are probably the first stretches of sand to enter your mind. These lively beaches buzz with activity – local families, rambunctious soccer enthusiasts, hip young things, relaxed retirees and excited tourists all come here to enjoy the surf and sunshine. Grab a caipirinha cocktail from a beach kiosk and revel in the energy of the Ciudad Maravillosa (Marvellous City).
Planning tip: It pays to respect the currents at Rio’s beaches – undertows are common at Ipanema, so only swim where the locals swim.
Surfers and swimmers take to the water at Barra da Lagoa beach © Ines Sacramento / Shutterstock
Best beaches for water sports
Florianópolis has long enjoyed favor among Brazilian, Argentinian and Uruguayan travelers, but word is spreading further afield. The capital of the state of Santa Catarina is a coastal city with many monikers, including Floripa, the Ibiza of Brazil and the Magic Island, but when people say Florianópolis, what they usually mean is Ilha de Santa Catarina, the island on which most of the city is located.
Cruise around this lush island to discover your perfect beach – there are more than 40 to choose from. Novice and experienced surfers are welcome here, as are lovers of paragliding, windsurfing, kite surfing and hiking. Cut off from the sea, the lagoons of Lagoa do Peri and Lagoa da Conceiçao are particularly picturesque locations to while away the days.
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Jericoacoara is a beguiling mix of rolling sand dunes and miles of blue lagoons © Rosie Bell / Lonely Planet
Best beach for dunes
“Jeri” is a riot of color, a bohemian beachside village with trees dressed up in dangling dream-catchers and streets dusted with sand. Brazil has countless beaches, but Jericoacoara is special – it sits at the point where rolling sand dunes come together with blue lagoons, creating some truly remarkable vistas. The waters offshore are a kitesurfer’s (or anyone’s) dream, and if you take a wander on the dunes, you might not meet another soul for miles.
Planning tip: The best place in Jeri to start your evening is atop Duna do Pôr do Sol (Sunset Dune), where sunset gazing is a strictly observed pastime. Once you see the mobile caipirinha cocktail vendors wheeling themselves up the dune, you’ll know it’s time to find a perfect spot.
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4. Praia da Trindade
Best beach for Costa Verde charm
Praia da Trinidade is a heavenly beach outpost just south of the friendly colonial-era town of Paraty, encompassing several gorgeous beaches that sit in a neat row along the shoreline. Punctuated by enormous boulders and backed by lush forest, these beaches offer a great day trip for anyone looking to see more of the Costa Verde coastline. While the surf can get a bit rough, swimmers will delight in the nearby natural swimming pool, the Piscina Natural do Cachadaço, ringed by greenery and giant boulders.
Turquoise blue waters and inviting surf make Porto de Galinhas a popular beach stop © Pollyana Ventura / Getty Images
5. Porto de Galinhas
Best beach for seafood snacking
It’s easy to see why people love Porto de Galinhas (Port of Chickens) in Pernambuco state. Signs mark the way to pretty natural pools and the beaches of Praia do Cupe, Praia de Muro Alto and Praia de Maracaípe – a surfer hotspot. Along Porto de Galinhas’ beaches, street food takes on new meaning. Hail down a roving seafood cart to munch juicy shrimp, lobster and crab right on the sand. Beachgoers are lured here by turquoise blue waters, sun and surf, and many leave with saudade – a feeling of joy for what was and a yearning for what no longer is.
Best beach for nature
The “Beautiful Island” certainly lives up to its name! This Unesco-protected biosphere reserve is home to forest-covered mountains harboring numerous endemic and protected species of animals and plants, drawing nature enthusiasts from near and far with the promise of spectacular wildlife watching and orchid spotting, as well as time on the sand.
Ilhabela’s beaches are numerous and diverse. Some have a lively mood while others are secluded and tranquil. Hit the beaches near Vila to get a sense of island life or head further out to the heart-shaped former pirate hideout of Praia dos Castelhanos for a relaxing day by the water.
Planning tip: Divers are well rewarded on Ilhabela – shipwrecks litter the coastline, making for some incredible diving experiences. Narwhal is a trusted local dive operator.
Find your own personal paradise on the beaches of Salvador da Bahia © Christophe Schmid / Getty Images
7. Salvador da Bahia
Best beach for Afro-Brazilian culture
The spirit of Africa thrives in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil’s third-largest city. Bahians love to eat acarajé bean patties – what Yoruba Nigerians know as akara – and the Afro-Brazilian martial art dance of capoeira was also born in Bahia. Woven into the ebb and flow of life here are days spent surfing, sunning and swimming on beautiful beaches. Praia Porto da Barra and Praia do Farol da Barra are popular sandy spots.
Detour: For a quieter beach experience, heed the advice of the great Vinicius de Moraes and head to Itapuã. In his song Tarde em Itapuã, he hails the neighborhood as a serene locale to spend an afternoon, listen to the sea and talk about love.
8. Ilha Grande
Best island beaches
Ilha Grande remains a verdant tropical getaway thanks to its troubled past – formerly a leper colony and then a high-security prison, this idyllic island avoided rampant development and today it embraces its position as an eco-friendly hub for outdoor adventures. More than 100 stunning beaches ring a leafy interior that’s crisscrossed by nature trails; famous Praia Lopes Mendes is a perfect white-sand crescent framing a small cerulean bay. Ilha Grande is also known for excellent surfing and quiet streets – motorized vehicles are prohibited from this laid-back island.
Maragogi beach is one of Brazil’s most relaxing escapes © MesquitaFMS / Getty Images
Best sandbar beach
If you harbor dreams of endless sandbars floating in crystal clear waters, make a beeline for Maragogi. This beach town is relatively unexplored and famed for its piscinas naturais – natural pools that teem with colorful sea life. Visit Barra Grande when the tide is low – there’s a sandbar where you can walk right into the middle of the Atlantic. Praia Central is the main beach, but Praia de Antunes is also distractingly good-looking – both offer perfect snorkeling conditions.
Planning tip: Boat trips to the Galés marine reserve – the most famous natural pool – are easily organized through beachfront restaurants or hotels at low tide.
Only a limited number of visitors are permitted to visit Baía do Sancho each day © Ramesh Thadani / Getty Images
10. Baía do Sancho
Best beach to escape the crowds
Baía do Sancho is the jewel in stunning Fernando de Noronha’s crown. This beach on Brazil’s most gorgeous archipelago ticks all the boxes – spectacular turquoise waters, excellent snorkeling and minimal crowds. It takes a bit of planning to visit Fernando de Noronha as the islands are part of the national parks system and only allow a certain number of visitors per day, but your efforts will be rewarded at what many say is the best beach in Brazil.
Planning tip: The sands at Baía do Sancho are only accessible by boat or a downward cliff climb, which means entering Parque Nacional Marinho de Fernando de Noronha and paying the state government environmental preservation tax.