Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Niterói’s ocean beaches

Niterói has some of the most beautiful coastal beaches in the area. If you are looking for urban beaches with mosaic promenades, rushing traffic, restaurants and shopping, then Rio is definitely your best bet. But if you are looking for quiet natural surroundings and beautiful views of Rio – check out the ocean beaches in Niterói.

There are many beaches surrounding Niterói but due to the low water quality within Guanabara Bay it’s best to seek out a “praia oceânica” (ocean beach) for swimming, surfing, snorkeling or fishing.

Itaípu Beach – this has been our personal favorite for years. It is about 1,000 meters long and is bordered on one end by a string of small, simple seafood restaurants which keep you in food and drink at umbrella-shaded tables on the sand. There is a tiny fishing village still in operation with a 1.5 meter wide walkway through its center.

The water is very calm, so this beach attracts families with small children as well as deep water spear fishermen. There’s nothing better than buying a fish from the guy emerging from the sea and then having your restaurant friends cook it up for you. Add cold beer. Ahhh – qualidade de vida. And the sunsets are amazing – with the golden sun dropping behind Rio.

Several Niterói bus lines terminate at the beach and there is a line (Pendotiba 770) that originates in Rio and terminates at the beach.

Camboinhas Beach – This is a very popular beach with food and drink services at tables on the sand (waiters run up and down from the kiosks located back by the road). The 2,600 meter beach can get a little hectic during summer weekends with jet skis zipping back and forth just offshore. The view of Rio is fantastic. Since there is no bus access to this beach it is popular among those with cars, or those seeking to be at a beach where those without cars cannot reach. But this does not mean fewer people. On a hot summer weekend the place is MOBBED with swimmers and sunbathers.

Piratininga Beach – This 2,700 meter long beach is split into two parts. There is the long end, which does not get a lot of traffic, but some, and then there is the more protected “prainha” where the surf is calmer (although it can still get pretty rough) and is more scenic. On busy days local independent entrepreneurs cover about half of the prainha with tables and chairs and serve food and beverages from their base camps under large awnings. This section is popular, in part, because there is a large rock formation from which you can dive into the surf.

Several bus lines terminate at this beach, but none from Rio.

Itacuatiara Beach – This spectacularly scenic beach is just 700 meters long and is truly mesmerizing. There are no services on the beach, so it is more of a do-it-yourself beach. There are food and beverage kiosks along the frontage road, but you have to leave the beach to get to them and there is a thick bank of vegetation that often blocks your view of the sea.

Itacuatiara is preferred by surfers. The surf is generally rough and sometimes downright dangerous. The lifeguards will call you out of the water and often down from the rocks at the first sign of large swells. The sea has a reputation for drowning swimmers here. But the sun bathing is fantastic. This beach, which you can reach by bus, is the “see and be seen” destination for the younger set. Lots of eye candy.

On the far west end of the beach is a tiny area where the surf is blocked by some rocks. Even on rough water days swimming is possible there. Actually it’s a bit small for swimming proper, but you can safely get wet to escape the heat.

Each beach has its appeal and we switch off from one to the other frequently, depending on our mood or which friends will be joining us. There is no shortage of options. Come check them out.

Best advice: visit the beach Monday through Thursday to avoid the crowds and arrive early to get some beach time in before the sun is impossible to bear.


Danielle said...

How greeaaaaatt!

I dream about hanging out on the beach on particularly busy, stressful, landlocked days.

Rachel said...

We must plan our Itaípu Beach trip!

Fiona said...

Wow, this is a beautiful account of an amazing looking area. Did you take all those pics? I wanna head out that way some day, it looks amazing.

Jim said...

Yeah - almost all of the pics are mine. Just one is a boost.

These beaches are beautiful.

Do come visit.

Fabio Bossard said...


Anita said...

In Itacoatiara the tiny area you mentioned is called Prainha, and is more attended by kids. I love Itacoatiara, cloggie hubby too ! But, shhhhh ! Don't spread around about the marvels of Niteroi...