What is a Brazilian Canga?

But seriously, what is a Brazilian canga?

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 one, 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)


  1. 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,


    • 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

    • 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! 🙂

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