Located in one of the wealthiest areas in Rio de Janeiro, Ipanema Beach is between Leblon and Arpoador, adjacent to the famed Copacabana Beach. Although the word Ipanema literally translates to “stinky lake” in the Tupi language, this description doesn’t fit what you’ll find along this stretch of white-sand beach where the rich and chic come to worship the sun. Beyond the western limit of the beach, there is a beautiful view of the two mountains, Dois Irmãos.
Originally, Ipanema referred to the homeland of a previous landowner instead of the stretch of coastline. Western culture recognizes the famous beach from the 1960s hit song The Girl From Ipanema, which was written by two local residents.
The local weather is mild year-round, but the best time to visit Ipanema Beach is from July through September when the weather and sunlight are ideal. During Rio’s Carnival, Ipanema hosts its own celebration, Banda de Ipanema, which draws in nearly 50,000 visitors. Regardless of when you visit, make sure you swim only in areas with designated lifeguards, as the water can be treacherous. Multiple lifeguard towers are located along Ipanema’s coastline.
You’ll find devoted surfers and sunbathers every day of the week, but you can expect a larger crowd on Sundays when the nearest road is closed to traffic, but open to walkers, runners, bikers and all varieties of skaters.
The area right near the beach features high-end restaurants and retailers. Wander down Rua Vinícius de Moraes where there is the highest concentration of shops and boutiques. Take a seat at a table in a botequim, which is the Portuguese term for bar or café. Watch the passing parade of people while you sip Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha. Note that prices in bars, cafés and restaurants in the Ipanema Beach area are higher than most other parts of Rio.
Ipanema Beach is about 30 minutes by taxi or bus from downtown Rio during normal traffic. Avoid renting a car if possible, as parking is hard to find and almost never free. If you must rent a car, read your hotel details carefully and see if parking is included. If you visit during peak times, make reservations early for either New Year’s Eve or Carnival, which is typically near the end of February.