What is a Brazilian Canga?

But seriously, what is a Brazilian canga?

To start, it has nothing to do with canga-roos.

What is a Brazilian Canga?

A canga is similar to a pareo, sarong, or big lightweight scarf – BUT BETTER and Brazilian.

What is a Brazilian Canga?

A Brazilian canga is a multipurpose, multitasking miracle. Once you buy a canga, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it – even if you’re a wannabe minimalist like me (confession: I’ve got three seven… and a week doesn’t go by that I don’t use all of them)

You’ll notice bright and cheerful cangas right away when you arrive to any Brazilian beach – especially in Rio de Janeiro. No one brings a towel to the beach in Brazil, so don’t do it unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb. Trust me, it’s for good reason. If anyone in the world knows how to do the beach right, it’s Brazil. Everybody brings a canga, and you should too!

Why? Cangas dry much faster than a heavy towel, perfect for drying off at the beach. Also, beach towels start to smell if you don’t wash them right away after every single use (and sometimes they do anyways). Not cangas – they can be air dried in the sun and back to new, even between jumps in the ocean, because they’re cotton and lightweight. They also have a larger surface area, which makes them great for lounging on seaside, and they don’t hold onto sand like a towel does.

Cangas are also super inexpensive, between 10 and 50 reais depending on where you buy. They’re sold everywhere, from markets, to sidewalk vendors, and if you happen to forget yours rest assured someone will be walking around the beach selling them.

Vendor selling cangas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

selling cangas of all colors and patterns

Colorful, and in every assorted pattern you can imagine (including a few of the most popular – the Brazilian flag and Copacabana sidewalk patterns), cangas make a great fashion statement, much more personalized than a towel. They’re also the perfect gift for someone at home, or just a souvenir for yourself.

Brazilian Canga Dress

Brazilian canga as a dress

Cangas are also used as coverups when you’re chilly or leaving the beach, and even as a dress or skirt. You’ll see many women leaving the beach wearing nothing but their itty bitty bikinis and a canga. If you need some wrapping ideas, Copa Bikinis has a bunch of different easy tutorials. Some are REALLY cute.

Brazilian Canga Skirt Watching Buzzards

Brazilian canga skirt for big bird chasing

Cangas roll up super tiny, saving space in luggage or a carry on bag. I always bring one with me on a flight. You never know when you’ll get cold and need a blanket or a pillow, both of which a canga can be used for.

Just a few of my favorite of the many purposes of a canga:

  • towel
  • blanket
  • makeshift pillow (especially on a plane!)
  • beach lounger
  • coverup
  • dress
  • satchel
  • portable changing room (do as the Brazilians do – hold it up around you as you get changed on the beach)

Brazilian Cangausing my canga as a coverup on a chilly Arraial do Cabo morning, and another as a beach blanket. No worries about the sandy dog… all that sand will shake easily off!

Do you have a Brazilian canga? What is your favorite use?

What is a Brazilian Canga? An Essential Question Before Visiting Brazil


Read more about my life as an American expat in Rio de Janeiro by clicking here (including what I HATE about Rio, and the things I wish I would’ve known before moving)

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 Kiwi.com.
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. Ângela Goldstein
    January 5, 2017 / 11:13 am

    Loved your text about the canga, but just one tiny hint, sweetheart: don’t ever bring a canga on a plane, You’ll definitely stick out as the sorest thumb. No Brazilian would ever dream of doing it. 😉

    • January 17, 2017 / 2:53 pm

      Hi Angela thanks for the help but I wasn’t trying to simply copy Brazilians, but to share my uses for the canga as well. I haven’t lived in Brazil in over a year (and never flew domestically there anyways), but my canga is still a must on any flight.

  2. Linda Daly
    August 24, 2017 / 1:34 pm

    I came upon this You Tube video of the Brazilian style Pareo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNZfvmIZJXg). How and where can I buy this??? I noticed the dimensions are different than the typical sarongs you get here in the US. The Brazilian Pareo in this video seems to be more square in shape than rectangular. It also comes with an accessory ring and some ties to create even more stunning looks.

    Please help me. I am absolutely in love with this Pareo from “Based on Brasil.” They have a website, but it is in Portuguese? And I’m not even sure if they sell it on the website to individuals. I would love some feedback/advice from you on how to purchase this Pareo because the material is so thin and lightweight. Eagerly awaiting your reply.

    Please advise,


    • Steph
      August 25, 2017 / 9:32 am

      Hi Linda! I’ve never seen a canga in Brazil come with an accessory ring or ties. The company Copa Bikinis sells cangas online here though, with a bunch of different style options. That’s the only place online or outside Brazil that I’ve found them.

  3. Eli
    September 10, 2017 / 12:03 am

    Does the man wear a canga too or just the ladies? Im prepared to wear a sunga from the hotel to the beach if need be

    • Steph
      September 11, 2017 / 1:39 pm

      I haven’t seen a guy wearing a conga, but men do use them (like as beach towels)… but Rio is pretty free and open — so it’s up to you! 🙂

  4. Ashley
    May 26, 2018 / 8:08 pm

    Can I just throw my canga in the washing machine and then hang dry? Will the colors fade this way or should I just hand wash?

    • Steph
      May 29, 2018 / 5:05 pm

      I always machine-wash on delicate, with cold water, and hang dry. The colors haven’t faded. I’m sure this varies a bit depending on the quality of the canga purchased, but mine are all on the lower end.

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