The Summer Olympics are almost here, with official ceremonies kicking off in Rio on August 5. And with the country’s new visa waiver program going into effect for American and Canadian citizens on June 1, now is the perfect time to book a Brazilian beach getaway.
Praia de Copacabana,
Rio de Janeiro
This may seem like an obvious choice, but with due reason. The three-mile stretch of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean has a mind-blowing view of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and the city’s best hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs are just a short walk away. Make sure to stroll the promenade that runs parallel to the beach — it's got some of the best people-watching around.
Lagoinha do Leste,
Located in the south island of Florianópolis, Lagoinha do Leste (East Pond) is a secluded utopia of waterfalls, lagoons and idyllic beach shores. The only way to access this preserved shoreline is by trail, which makes it all the more appealing. A mix of freshwater and seawater merge in the lagoons from the outflow of rivers on the forest-covered hills, and bioluminescent plankton are sometimes spotted in the surrounding waters below.
Getting There: Florianópolis is a direct flight from Rio de Janeiro, lasting just under two hours.
Praia do Espelho,
The rustic-chic village of Trancoso, in Bahia, delivers in spades. Horses graze freely in the 16th-century, UNESCO-protected town square, known as the Quadrado, and colorful cabanas from boutique hotels like Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa dot the sand. Although the secret is out about Trancoso — it's become a super-trendy getaway for fashionable Brazilians and international jet-setters — there are still beaches that fly under the radar. None is more pristine than Praia do Espelho (Mirror Beach), just an hour south of the main town. Here, palm trees line the crescent-shaped white-sand beach, and reflective pools sit alongside the calm waters.
Getting There: Trancoso is accessible via a direct flight from Rio de Janeiro, and only 50 miles north of the Porto Seguro airport.
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Praia de Jericoacoara,
Jericoacoara, a tiny fishing village turned national park in northeastern Brazil, is as authentic as it gets. Even with the area’s growing popularity, the village remains pleasingly rustic, and at night the stars and moon serve as the only streetlights. During the day, locals crowd the powdery Praia de Jericoacoara to kite surf, windsurf, play soccer and tan. Don't miss a hike to the beach's iconic Pedra Furada rock, which has been sculpted into an arch from years of erosion.
Getting There: Jericoacoara is accessible via a two-hour drive from Fortaleza, which has daily direct flights to and from Rio de Janeiro.
Baia dos Porcos & Baia do Sancho,
Fernando de Noronha
Only accessible by air, the volcanic archipelago of Fernando de Noronha off the coast of Pernambuco, is home to the Fernando de Noronha Marine Park, which attracts scuba divers and snorkelers for its rich marine life (in an effort to preserve the area, the government allows only 420 visitors to be on the island at once). If you manage to be one of the lucky ones, make sure to see the two beach coves, Baia dos Porcos, in the north ridge of the archipelago, and Baia do Sancho, which is surrounded by cliffs.
Getting There: From Rio de Janeiro, flights first stop in Recife, then connect onwards to the Fernando de Noronha airport.
Just a ferry-ride away from Rio, Ilha Grande is a prison turned leper colony turned rainforest paradise, free of motorized vehicles. Getting to the island's best beach, Lopes Mendes, doesn't come easy, as it's a two-hour hike from the main town of Abraão. But your reward is shimmering emerald waters and an empty, perfect shore.
Getting There: Arrive to Ilha Grande by boat. Daily charters leave from Jacarei, taking only 15 minutes to reach the island.
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Praia do Bonete,
Four miles off the coast of Sao Paulo state and only a 15-minute ferry away from the port town of São Sebastião, the Ilhabela coastline is popular for its sailing, scuba diving and whale watching. To get to the secluded Praia do Bonete, on the southern edge of the island, make the eight-mile hike via a trail from the main village, which passes through Ilhabela State Park. Just remember to pack water.
Getting There: Fly direct from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo, and drive four hours to the town of São Sebastião. Ferries depart daily to Ilhabela from the town's port.
Praia do Forno
Armação dos Búzios
Buzios is the laid-back Brazilian version of the Hamptons, and a weekend hotspot for Rio’s glam set. A mere 105 miles from the Carioca capital, it first hit the spotlight after Brigitte Bardot discovered it in the 1960s. Búzios is now teeming with tourists, but there are still unspoiled beaches waiting to be explored, and the best among them is Praia do Forno (Oven Beach). The stretch gets its name from the sand's deep red hue, and the area's high temperatures.
Getting There: Buzios is 105 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, taking under two hours to arrive by car.
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Praia de Taipu de Fora
The Marau peninsula on the southern coast of Bahia has what seems like endless deserted beaches with natural pools of water. Taipu de Fora is the best of the bunch, with more than four miles of translucent sand and oversized palm trees that provide shady spots for snoozing away an afternoon.
Getting There: Fly from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador, where the Maraú Peninsula can be accessed by car or boat.