While the vibrant Brasilian city of Rio de Janerio is world renown for it's vibrant culture and breathtaking scenery it however is commonly shunned by traveling surfers the world over. This indifferent attitude towards the waves of Rio and in fact much of the coastline of Brasil is largely thanks to many an international surfing contest being commonly held in very poor and somewhat lackluster surfing conditions and thus influencing many a potential visiting surfer to write the coastline of this stunning country off altogether. To hold such a close minded attitude towards what Rio has to offer surfing wise then you do so at your own peril and the assumption that Rio is merely small wave territory could not be any further from the truth and you are about to find out why..... [Continued below]
Tourists have been flocking to the beautiful seaside city of Rio de Janerio (the River of January ) for decades. Rio is the crown jewel in Brasil's tourism crown and not without due reason. Whatever be it your reasons for visiting Rio you will most likely experience one of the best moments of your life when visiting this city of extremes. I can guarantee that you will have the time of your life here whether your come to partake in the cities famed vibrant Carnival or New Year's Eve festivities or just to enjoy the abundance of beautiful sights, sounds and culture which Rio has to offer. However, any surfer worth his salt will know that there is far more on offer here and that many jewels hidden in Rio come in liquid form.
While I journeyed to Rio primarily to experience the amazingly vibrant Brasilian culture and lifestyle I was more than impressed and somewhat surprised with what I encountered wave wise as I like many had virtually written Rio off on the wave front. While the coast of Brasil may not experience the size and consistency of swells that frequent the Pacific coast of the Latin Americas this region still experiences more than it's fair share of swell and great surfing conditions with punching short period swells being very frequent here. The stunning coastal city of Rio is literally littered with dozens of beautiful beaches that on their day can well and truly fire and none more so than the pounding beach breaks of Itacoatiara and Sao Conrado as well as a number of less know wedges that will remain nameless.
While Rio's beach breaks can dish up more than their fair share of quality waves what is Rio's real surfing trump card is the heavy ledging reef breaks that are ever so quietly tucked away here and while hidden in plain sight only in recent years have begun to garner the attention of the global surf community. My friends if you believe that Brasil suffers from a shortage of waves of consequence then it is well and truly time you thought again. Rio is home to close to half a dozen below sea level dredging reef breaks that are sporadically spread along the coastline of this unique city. These widow-makers attract the brunt of Rio's swells. Here the raw unforgiving ocean swells will lurch, dredge and slam down hard on unforgiving near dry razor sharp urchin infested reef. It is not uncommon to encounter lips twice as thick as the waves are high.....definitely not for the faint of heart. Rio does not just break the myth of Brasil having no waves of consequence...it absolutely shatters it!
I came to Rio solely for the cultural experience but was absolutely blown away by the quality of the waves I unknowingly stumbled apon here. With thumping beach breaks, high performance wedges and dangerous reef breaks this region is definitely suited more towards high performance bodyboarding and surfing and this clearly shows as bodyboarders can easily out number the surfers here. So be warned, the bodyboarding hot spots of Itacoatiara and São Conrado are hotbeds for talent and are over run with many a passionate and frothing bodyboarder. When you combine these heavy waves with deep blue water, perfect lighting and stunning backdrops you can easily find yourself in a surf photographer's paradise in Rio where almost every image you capture is a picture perfect postcard in the making. [Continued below]
Epic waves in Rio? Well don't just take my word for it.......
Waves aside, during my month spent in Rio I had an absolutely epic time and Rio now features highly near the top of the list of my most favourite places on the planet. As you are undoubtedly already aware the city of Rio is absolutely stunning with picture perfect beaches flanked on all sides by dramatically beautiful mountainous headlands, lush tropical rain forests and intriguingly chaotic favelas (Brasilian slums).
The lifestyle on offer in Rio is truly amazing. Rio is where an epic beach culture warmly embraces and merges with a passionate and vibrant party culture. In Brasil they know how to do beach properly and I swear they do it better than anywhere on the planet. Beautiful bronzed bodies, beach volleyball, ice cold cervejas, potent Caipirinhas, refreshingly fresh coconuts, sexy samba, minuscule g-strings, slack lining and fun surf, it can all be found here in abundance on the gorgeous beaches of Rio. You can literally spend all day every day on the beaches of Rio and never get bored.
If you wish to take a break from the ocean there is an abundance of mountain trails, lakes and gardens to explore which dish up some of the most beautiful and dramatic city views in the world today. The jaw dropping views of the world famous Sugar Loaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar), Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor), and the Two Brothers (Dois Irmãos) will literally take your breath away. What about the nightlife? Oh the nightlife, don't get me started! Rio easily houses some of the best night life on the planet be it samba, discos, clubs, pubs, underground events, live music and boat parties, Rio has it all! I strongly recommend while in Rio you definitely must make the effort to visit Samba bars and Samba schools to eagerly lap up the vibrant passion of samba, a key ingredient of the raw Brasilian culture.
The food? Well I absolutely loved the food here. From traditional local cuisines such as Pão de Queijo (Brasilian Cheese Bread), Feijoada (Black Bean and Pork Stew) , BBQ Picanha (rump cap) and Acai just to name a few all the way to top quality international palettes.... you can easily find it all here in Rio. Let's just say the Brasilian BBQ's are to die for, are absolutely mouth watering and should not be missed. The tender Brasilian Picanha meat will literally melt in your mouth, I shit you not. [Continued below]
One thing that truly blows me away about Rio is the mix of extremes that exist here. Right next door to some of the most affluent, wealthy and expensive neighbourhoods in Rio lay some of the biggest and most dangerous Favelas in the Latin Americas such as Rocinha, Vidigal and Babilônia for starters. Rio a city of extremes where the rich and the poor live side by side day to day and it is a key factor in what makes this city so interesting. Rio is greatly diverse not only in the social standings but in the rich ethnic mix that exists here from Portuguese, German/Italian, African, Indian, Asian to everything else in between. It is truly complex cultural melting pot that produces one of the most unique cultures as well as some of the most beautiful people on the planet. Rest assured that Rio is a true attack on the senses from the food to the people to the scenery and nightlife there is never a dull moment here. [Continued below]
Safety in Rio
Unfortunately all to commonly when many people think of Rio and Brasil one of the first things that comes to mind is the crime that can be abundant here and many locals will attest that while visiting their city can be a truly an amazing experience however living there can be a much more challenging aspect in itself.
In recent times and especially more so since the end of the 2016 Rio Olympics the city has experienced a large spike in violent crime. Unfortunately Rio is currently a broke state that is struggling to fund the security measures required to keep the city controlled and safe. The majority of the police and military presence which was common place during the Olympics and FIFA World Cup have now been greatly down scaled as a near broke state can no longer afford to keep the same level of security on the streets. Combine the lack of security with a nationwide recession and record unemployment levels you thus have the perfect recipe to cultivate the record crime levels that have graced the city in recent years. Crimes such as muggings, express kidnappings and petty theft can sadly be common place here. Many locals will note that while on the surface Rio appears to be the perfect city and travel destination it is in fact cracking at the seams.
Does this spike in crime mean you should avoid Rio and Brasil altogether? Well I firmly believe that the answer to this question is a firm and resounding no! If you take care, keep your wits about you and adhere to basic travel precautions then I believe that your exposure to risk can be greatly limited and you should still have no major problems enjoying this amazing place. [Continued below]
I did not wish to end this article on a negative note and have thus kept the best topic for the last....the people! I seem to say this often in my articles and perhaps I am beginning to sound like a broken record here but I firmly believe what can truly make or break a country and greatly enhance a travel experience is in fact the people that have made that country their home. I can gladly state that without a shadow of a doubt that the people of Rio and Brasil are easily some of my most favourite people I have encountered on my travels to date. Vibrant, passionate, animated, extremely friendly, hilariously funny, helpful and considerate are just a few of the words that easily spring to mind here when I try in my earnest to describe these unique people. These warm welcoming people will go well out of their way to help you and make you feel at home. They are truly proud of the beautiful city, country and culture and rightfully so and they are more than happy to share this with you.
It will not take you long to feel at home here with these amazing people that I love so much. Brasilians are totally unique and completely different to any other people of which you will encounter on your travels within the Latin Americas! So why not come and visit this amazing city and you might just find yourself making some amazing life long friends.
What more can I say? Rio is without a shadow of a doubt completely amazing. My visit to this great city was one of the best experiences of my life and I cannot not wait until the next chance of which I have to return. The culture, the people and the city completely blew me away and also being fortunate enough to score such amazing surf was merely an added bonus. Thinking Rio? Don't think, just get those flights booked and I can guarantee that you will be about to have one of the best experiences of your life!