Brazilian Beach Checklist

Living in Rio de Janeiro, just a few blocks from the beach, has meant that I have daily access to the sand. I no longer even need to drive, simply take a short stroll.

But even though I live so close, once I get there, I don’t want to have to rush home because I’ve forgotten my sunscreen and will bake to a crisp. I have a checklist I run through before leaving, to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything (yes I am one of those super organized types).

Since many of you may have not ever visited a Brazilian beach before, I’ve beefed up my own personal checklist with a few extra tips at the end for you!

Brazilian Beach Checklist


After years of tanning beds and chasing a “healthy” golden glow, I’m officially freaked out over skin cancer. And the sun in Brazil is INTENSE. Even if you lather up at home, bring the bottle with you in case you start going full-lobster.

… and FAKE sunscreen

The absolute BEST tip for hiding money and keys (outside of in a zippered pocket, of course)! Don’t tie your keys to your umbrella in Brazil (someone will steal them and sell them back to you, trust me). After your next sunscreen runs out, save it. Clean it out really well, and use it for stashing cash and any keys while at the beach. Who will steal a sunscreen bottle (well, probably someone, but it isn’t likely)?


Vendor selling cangas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

My FAVORITE and the most versatile item ever discovered, once you get a canga you’ll wonder how you survived without it. A towel, blanket, makeshift pillow, beach lounger, coverup, dress, satchel, and even portable changing room – the canga does it all and is an absolute must for any Brazilian beach visit.

A bit of Money

Money for Overseas Emergency Room Visit

You’ll definitely want to sip something cold and have a snack. You’ll need money to buy a caipirinha or beer, and maybe some Globo biscuits or a picole (popsicle). Rio feels like paradise, but money doesn’t grow on trees, especially here.


Arraial do Cabo scam umbrella

I don’t care what kind of base tan you’ve built up – the Rio sun is HOT! I’ve never used shade or an umbrella in my life (including Southeast Asia), but Brazil is one place that I don’t want to sit without a guarda-sol (sun umbrella).

If you’ll be around for a while, buy your own.  Best beach decision ever. I’m notorious for getting antsy and cranky when I’m standing in the sweltering sun – so waiting for a guy to finish whatsapping every member of his family and actually do his job by accepting my money and taking his umbrella back at the end of the day isn’t for me. If you’ve got a lot of patience – rent one at any beach kiosk.


Aside from downing a cold caipirinha, my favorite thing to do at the beach is catch up on reading. If I don’t plan on going in the ocean and it’ll be in my hands the whole time, I’ll bring my Kindle. If not, this is definitely the time for a good old fashioned paperback book.


Relaxing under an umbrella in Buzios Brazil

Before meeting my fiance, I never owned a pair of sunglasses (wtf right? I thought it was a senseless luxury). He forced a pair on me, and I’m totally obsessed now. I can, like, actually SEE when it’s bright outside! My eyes don’t ache! I can read a magazine!

Brazilian beach first timer? Forget these:


No one brings a towel to the beach. You’ll stand out like a sore thumb. Plus, who needs a towel when you’ve become a canga convert?

Body shame

Men and women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and fitness levels strut their stuff on Brazilian beaches – in tinier bikinis than you can even imagine! A Brazilian beach is the place to learn to love your body, and rock whatever swimsuit you want. Let it all hang out, and love it!

Full coverage swimsuit bottoms

To delve deeper into the statement above, now’s the time to try out that teeny tiny swimsuit you’ve been dying to wear but too embarrassed to try. You’ll be in good company. Brazilians call American-style, full-coverage bottoms “diapers”!

Flashy valuables

Unfortunately, too much crime happens on Brazilian beaches. From arrestaos (mass robberies on beaches by gangs of teenage boys) to beachy scams, you don’t want to look like a sitting duck and an easy target. Leave the jewelry and fancy handbag at home.


Brazilian Beach Checklist Teeny Bikini

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Brazilian Beach Checklist

What are your beach must-haves?


Necessary Details: Rio de Janeiro

What Else to Do in Rio de Janeiro
Check out my full guide to Rio de Janeiro here, which includes the best suggestions for hiking (including my favorite Morro do Leme hike), where to eat, weekend getaways from the city (including Buzios), and the best beaches.
You can read every article I’ve ever written about Rio de Janeiro (and there’s a lot: I lived there for almost two years!) here.
Viator offers a bunch of different Rio de Janeiro tour options, including for visiting Christ the Redeemer, and provides excellent customer service and refunds if anything goes wrong — much more than local operators would do.
Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro
If you have around $100 per night to spend, you can’t get a better value than Rio 180 hotel — each room is a suite and has its own private hot tub along with incredible views!
For a wider range of pricing options, check here
How to Arrive to Rio de Janeiro 
You can take the bus into Rio de Janeiro from many destinations within Brazil, but most people choose to fly. While Copa Airlines isn’t my favorite carrier, they do usually offer the cheapest flights. To check the latest low prices on airfare to Brazil, try Skyscanner , or if you have some date and/or destination flexibility and want to score the absolute lowest prices, try
Visa information for Brazil and Visa Renewal in Rio de Janeiro
I’ve written an extensive post (along with Q&A about the topic in the comments) here

A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook


  1. March 22, 2016 / 1:19 pm

    When I go to the beach (which doesn’t happen enough – but that’s another story), I usually bring a soccer ball because I love to juggle it on the beach. So I guess I would fit right it in on a Brazilian beach.

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