How to Survive a Beach in Brazil: An Honest Guide


South America

Tudo bem, amigos? Before you guys go off on my title, I am not suggesting that going to a beach in Brazil is dangerous. Relax. However, it might be dangerously fun

Ok, I’ll show my way out. I know dad jokes are something most of us left in 2019.  

For anyone who knows Brazilian geography, you know that most of the population of the country lives pretty dang close to the coastline. This, along with the fact that most of the country falls within the tropics, has led to a thriving beach culture. In fact, Brazil has some of the most coveted beaches in the world. That’s not just an opinion, just search up places like Jericoacoara, Porto de Galinhas, and Maragogi on Google and you’ll quickly understand what I mean. 

So why does this warrant an entire article? Well, Brazilian beach culture is a lot different than the beach culture of pretty much any other country I’ve been to. I figure that if you’re heading to Brazil and plan on going to the praia, perhaps you might want to print this out and take it along with you.

Actually, I’ll give you a second to marvel at me drinking from a coconut on a hammock before I dive into the article (pun intended).

Guy Maragogi Coconut
Relaxing in Maragogi, Alagoas

Rule #1 – Honor the Barraca

The first thing you’ll notice when you step onto a Brazilian beach is the large variety of barracas (Pronounced: Bah-hah-kahs). These are basically small locally-run businesses scattered along the beach which rent out chairs, tables, umbrellas, and even serve food and drinks! This means that you normally DO NOT bring chairs, umbrellas, and those kind of things to the beach.

The coolest part of barracas is that a lot of them have a very distinct cultures. For example, if you’re part of the rainbow club and are looking to mingle, there is almost always a gay-friendly barraca that seems to attract all of the gays on the beach. Sometimes they wave a rainbow flag, other times you just need to hold up your Grindr app and follow it like a compass.

Important: Before sitting down at a Barraca: Ask the “barraca boys” how much it costs to sit there. Whereas some barracas include the umbrella and chairs for free if you order a drink, others count them separately and will inflate the price if you don’t discuss it beforehand. Likewise, if there is no printed menu for drinks and food, confirm the prices beforehand. 

Caipirinha Barraca
Some delicious caipirinhas my friend and I ordered at a barraca in Praia do Futuro, Fortaleza

Rule #2 – Bring Some Cash for the Vendors

Growing up in Hawai’i, my friends and I always used to haul a bag full of food and drinks to consume on the beach (since these luxuries aren’t really available once you arrive). In Brazil, don’t do this! In addition to the barracas, there are vendors sauntering around the beach who will gladly bring the food and drinks to you. It’s how they make their money. In fact, it doesn’t end there. You can even buy sunglasses, sunscreen, and phone chargers on the beach. Heck, one time a man thought my friend and I were a couple and said he could marry us. You really can’t make this stuff up.  

My favorite thing to eat on the beach in Brazil is queijo coalho. Basically, you’ll hear a guy yelling “QUEIJO COALHO!” and once you summon him over, he’ll pull out a portable barbecue, grill a skewer of cheese in front of you, and sprinkle on some oregano. This usually costs only around 4 reais (Less than $1 USD) and they usually throw out bargains such as 3 for 10 reais. At the same time, you’ll hear vendors yelling “PICOLÉ!” (Popsicle), “CAMARÃO (shrimp), and basically any other food you can think of. My advice: Come with an empty stomach. 

Let’s also not forget about the drinks! I generally opt for one of three traditional choices:

  • An ice-cold Brahma beer (the drinking age in Brazil is 18, boys and girls)
  • Coconut water from a real coconut 
  • A fresh caipirinha filled with fruit

Important side note: The traditional caipirinha flavor is lime but usually you’ll also find strawberry, coconut, passion fruit, kiwi, and who knows what else. Every time I go anywhere in Brazil I somehow find a new fruit I previously didn’t know existed.

Queijo coalho AKA heaven on a stick

Rule #3 Invest in a Canga

No – I’m not talking about a specific kind of dance, nor a country in Africa. A canga is basically this awesome piece of fabric you can buy at most Brazilian beaches between 20-50 reais that can be anything you want it to be. It’s super lightweight and you can sit on it, dry off with it, or even use it as a makeshift skirt. Some people also prefer running around the beach with them and pretending they’re Brazilian superman. Do what makes you happy.

Regardless, if you need to take one thing from this whole article: Swap out your beach towel for a canga. You’ll thank me later. 

Just a canga hanging in my bathroom, the closest I'll get to a beach here in Belo Horizonte

Rule #4 Show Off Your Body

If you’re an American (who is not from Hawai’i), you’re probably going to be shocked by Brazilian swimwear. The fact of the matter is, Brazilian beaches are a pretty body-positive environment and people aren’t afraid to show off what they’re workin’ with. 

Women generally wear bikinis that people call fio dental or dental floss. The reason for the name is pretty straight-forward but let’s just say that there’s a bit less fabric than their American counterparts. In fact, I’ve heard some Brazilian women exclaim something to the tune of:

Women’s bikinis in the United States are fraldas

For those of you behind on your Duolingo lessons, fralda is Portuguese for “diaper.” Ouch.

On the other hand, a lot of men wear sungas which are basically speedos but with a prettier pronunciation. Even though I have spent a decent amount of time in Brazil, I still have yet to jump on this train. Maybe it’s lack of body confidence, maybe it’s cultural resistance. Maybe it’s Maybelline (actually no, it’s probably not that).  

Rule #5: Socialize and Have Fun!

In Brazil, the beach is somewhere you go to socialize and enjoy the company of others! It’s not somewhere you slam on your Beats headphones, tune the world out, and read some cheesy novel. Instead, maybe try blasting some funk music on your JBL speaker, cracking a few cold ones, and catching some jacarezinho with the locals. That’s the way it’s done in this part of the world.

Book a flight to Brazil now to find out what it’s all about!

Now, I have a question for you all. What is beach culture like in YOUR country? Leave a comment down below!

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