Like any traveler, when you reach a new country you want to explore its art, history, culture, and livelihood. You yearn to breathe in the spirit of the people and if you are in Rio de Janeiro you want to learn the joys of the Carioca (a local who is from Rio). Yes there are many things to see in Rio, the Cristo Redentor statue and Pão de Açúcar to name a few, but if you really want to surpass the facade and dive deep into all that is Carioca you will find no better place than the beach, where you can enjoy the best of food and drink in Brazil.
Before You Go
First off, you need to make sure you have everything you need for the beach, so grab your bags, your umbrellas, your snacks and drinks and throw it all in the corner, you won’t need it. Throw on that bathing suit you bought while in Brazil, the Cariocas don’t wear much when they go to the beach but what they do wear is stylish. Your lack of a sun tan is a bad enough calling card, don’t add tacky or prude beach attire to the list. This is the time when you need to love your body and let go of any inhibitions because honestly out of the thousands of people on the beach, nobody is going to freak out about your thong or sunga (Speedo) but you. Other than your Havaianas, some money and maybe some shorts to throw on top for the walk to the beach you pretty much don’t need anything that won’t fit in your pockets.
When You Arrive
While Lola may be calling you to Copacabana you need to know which crowd you are trying to hang out with, if you want the college crowd then venture to Post 9 Ipanema, the GLBT crowd at Post 8 Ipanema, you’ll find more tourists and families on Copacabana beach posts. (Don’t worry – food and drink in Brazil are available at any beach spot.) Once you find your post you need to find some beach chairs and start chatting up the different tents to strike a deal. The first time I went to the beaches I spent nearly $R8 for my chair, my last week there I had my buddy who would rent me a chair for under $R3. It’s good to find someone willing to give you a decent price because you’ll likely get your beers and food from this guy as well.
When You’re Hungry
Wait! Don’t go ordering everything off that menu they show you, there is plenty of food and drink in Brazil just walking around the beach, you just need to find the one that calls to you the most. On top of the tents and kiosks, there are tons of vendors walking around Rio’s beaches with everything you will ever need at the beach. So what kind of delicious food options do you have?
Salgadinhos – These are fried sandwiches like fold-overs with meat or spinach in them. The best ones come from the guys walking around with full-on Middle Eastern-style clothing, checkered hijab and all.
Mate – these are the sunny beach version of the St. Bernard avalanche rescue dogs, except for a barrel of brandy they are supporting two barrels of ice-cold goodness. One barrel has lemonade and the other has mate (tea) you can have one or the other, or possibly some varied mixture of both (my favorite).
Grilled Cheese – I’m not talking about the sandwich, no this comes on a stick of melted goodness. You know who these guys are because they are carrying around a mini grill to toast your cheese. Although I’ve heard that these, along with the next beach classic, have fallen out of the favorable eyes of the Olympics/FIFA prep crew and local politicians. I hope it is only rumors, for the sake of all things cheesy.
Coconut – I’m not sure how it plays out for Danny Trujo in Machete but if all else fails the guy could probably get a job down in Rio chopping coconuts. While I’m not a fan of the flavor, I’ve downed my fair share of coconut water since nothing will keep you hydrated better.
Seafood – You will find guys walking around with platters of shrimp and more calling out to you, enticing you to buy a tasty snack. My advice is to dust yourself off, play it safe, and order your seafood from someone who hasn’t been baking out in the sun all day.
Corn on The Cob – These bad boys are everywhere and fill the air with their sweet scent. I never thought of corn as beach food till I lived in Rio.
Hot Dogs – These aren’t your ‘take me out to the ball game’ franks, no sir. These dogs come with toppings like peas, quail eggs, potato stix, mayonnaise, and a whole host of other toppings.
Biscoitos Globo (or simply Globo) – These little donut air-like snacks, almost resembling Cheetos minus the cheese, are flavorless and bland but seem to be everywhere.
Fruit – Wherever you go you will find a fruit stand, and order up some exotic fruit that will cost you a fraction of what it costs in the USA. Try the Maracuja (passion fruit) and açaí.
Beer – Itaipava, Skol, Bohemia, Brahma, and many more are all mostly light pilsners so the magic word to know is ‘Chopp’, pronounced ‘schop’ which is an ice-cold draft.
Caipirinha – The drink of drinks in Brazil. A little bit of lime and sugar then your glass is filled with cachaça and you are ready to go.
On Your Way Home
In Brazil, when you spend a day at the beach you really spend the day at the beach, so bring some sunblock, enough money for the bus ride/taxi home, and a smile on your face because you may have just found out a little bit of what it means to be a Carioca. With the best food and drink in Brazil, life’s a beach!