Grumari, Prainha, Macumba, Joatinga and Praia Vermelha
Located far to the west of Rio de Janeiro in a nature reserve it’s clean and beautiful. Embedded in Atlantic Rainforest it is one of the favourites for many Cariocas. There is no commerce here so you have to bring food and drink. In order to get here you need a car, if you are a tourist Car Rental is both easy and quite cheap. Maybe some local agrees to bring you there? A taxi there would be expensive and also leave you with the problem how to get home. Avoid sunny weekends because traffic is really, really bad then. In order to get there, get a map and look for the coastal road that goes from Recreio.
Located a little bit closer on the same road but that leads to Grumari is Prainha, it is considered to be the best surf beach in Rio. It has a few quiosques with food and drinks. Avoid weekends, too crowded! The best way to get there (if you don’t have a car) is The Surf Bus It is a specially designed bus that can take up to 30 passengers with their boards. They run everyday and have English speaking staff on board. The itineary is: Largo do Machado(Flamengo)-Botafogo-Copacabana-Ipanema-Leblon-São Conrado-Barra de Tijuca-Recreio-Macumba-Prainha and leaves at 7h-10h-13h-16h. Call 98702-2837 to confirm a pick up, they will then give you a time and street corner to be at for the pick up. The Surf Bus returns from Prainha at 8:30h-11.30H-14:30h-17:30h, and goes back at the same stops to Largo do Machado. It doesn’t run on Mondays.
Just next to Recreio you have Macumba Beach, named after a big flat rock where descendants from Africa used to practice their religion Macumba. One of Rio’s best beaches for surfing and particularly long boarding, it’s pretty accessable. You can either take the local bus S20 on the beach avenues in Copacabana or Ipanema (beware of reversed traffic on Sundays and holidays), or (especially if you are with a board) the above mentioned Surf Bus. Again, sunny weekends are crowded.
This is a real gem and well hidden. Almost only accessable by car. If you don’t know how to get there it’s gonna be hard so you need someone to show you. In São Conrado you are supposed to enter Estrada de Joá. The beach is located inside a condominium of houses, wedged in between some cliffs; it’s quite a steep little hike to get down there. The tide has to be low, otherwise you have no beach. The surfing here can be really good. Bring water and bananas since vendors are rare. This is by far my preferred frescoball (English: beach tennis) beach. Together with Grumari Beach it’s my favourite when it comes to nature.
Last but not least is the often forgotten Praia Vermelha (English: the Red Beach). Located at the foot of the Sugarloaf it is a very special place to be. The water for some reason (it is located quite deep in to the bay) always seems to be quite clean here. There are a few good restaurants in the area and makes a perfect combination with a visit to the Sugarloaf.