Sandwiched between Fort Copacabana to the north and Fort Duque de Caxias to the south, the stunning white-sand Copacabana beach caps the majestic coastal setting that is synonymous with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s spiritual capital.
Stretching a full 4.5 kms, the beach has for hundreds of years been the focal point for visitors and locals alike. Seduced by the beach culture, rolling surf and year-round coastal climate, the 160,000 Copacabana residents treat the beach as their backyard, just as the millions of Rio visitors regard it as top of their list of attractions.
Although I first visited Copacabana twenty years ago, I was as excited to step out across this famous stretch of sand this week, on my trip to Brazil for the World Cup, as I was the first time. It still epitomises everything you imagine Rio and Brazil should be. Beautiful as a beach, stunning as a city backdrop and effervescent as a barometer on the melting pot that is Rio de Janeiro.
Under normal circumstances Copacabana offers everything from sunbathers, surfers and sports enthusiasts to clowns, crabs and caipirinhas. Throw in the football World Cup (the largest month-long party on earth), with over half a million international visitors joining forces with local Brazilians to attend 64 games across the country, and you have an all action, ever-vibrant beach scene to end all beach scenes.
These photos, all taken over the last week, show the diversity of people as much as the explosion of colour so evident at the moment. While Copacabana acts as the 24/7 heartbeat of Rio and Brazil in normal circumstances, this month it feels as if it is the epicentre of planet earth. With the world’s media beaming images back to billions across the planet (FIFA estimates far exceed South Africa 2010’s 3.2 billion in the first two weeks), Copacabana Beach has enjoyed a surge in popularity. The FIFA Fan Zone has welcomed hundreds of thousands, with equal numbers fully embracing everything else dotted along the 4.5 kilometre stretch of fine soft sand. Beach-football, crashing rollers, ice cold caipirinhas, jugglers, musicians, skimpy thongs, the bold, the bleached and the beautiful… all in situ, and ever-welcoming.
Even under normal circumstances there is a constant football theme to Copacabana; this month that theme has been blown out of all proportion as World Cup fans descend. The buzz is infectious, with the daily party becoming ever more exhilarating. Football fans mix with locals, and with friendly, welcoming and all together hassle-free beach service-providers (hawkers). Offering a smorgasbord of exactly what you want, when you want it, the local spirit of enterprise stretches services to include an ice-cold cocktail, skewer of fresh prawns, a massage, deck-chair, bikini, football or flags… in addition to activities ranging from full blown 11-a-side matches to rackets, foot-volley, headers, frisbee, keepy-uppy as well as all manner of surfing.
However long you plan to be in Rio, I urge you to drop in on Copacabana Beach. Ideally we at Nomadic Thoughts suggest you stay in one of the beachfront hotels. Lock your valuables in your hotel safe, before walking across the road and promenade to the action.
The location is majestic. Set below Rio’s UNESCO listed Carioca Landscape (between mountain and sea), with Sugar Loaf and Morro de Leme rising behind. The ambiance is chilled and welcoming. And like any beach environment, as long as you do leave your valuables locked in your hotel the biggest problem, aside from sunstroke, is seeing how strong the surf will be each day.