Why Buzios is Brazil's Best Beach Destination
Brazil’s beaches are world famous. The names of a couple of sandy stretches in the lusophone South American country are known even by people who have never been south of the Equator. Copacabana and Ipanema provide an almost mythical image. Other urban sands, in cities like Recife and Salvador, enjoyed a little bit of screen time during last year’s FIFA World Cup.
Knowledgable beach aficionados who have spent time in Brazil will point you to a place that is more than 100 miles away from the surf of Copacabana.
Armação dos Búzios, which is almost always shortened to Buzios, has been the beach destination in Brazil for celebrities and plugged-in tourists for the past 50 years.
Equal parts laid-back paradise and glamorous getaway, Buzios was a sleepy village until the 1960s. During that decade, one woman was largely responsible for “discovering” it and setting off a tourism boom.
Buzios and the 1960s movie icon who made it famous
Buzios was a haven for French pirates in early colonial times before settling into a more tranquil existence as a fishing village. Its quiet days came to an end in 1964, however, when French movie star Brigitte Bardot came to the area seeking a place where she and her Brazilian boyfriend could vacation away from the paparazzi who hounded her every move in Rio.
Bardot fell in love with Buzios thanks to its quiet atmosphere, laid-back vibe, natural beauty and its two dozen different beaches. Other celebrities followed in her footprints. Stars like Madonna and Mick Jagger have vacationed in Buzios, and the town remains a favorite weekend getaway spot for Rio’s fashionable elite.
There is now a bronze statue of Bardot in Buzios, and a street and cinema in the town have been named after her. Though evidence of the bucolic pre-’64 fishing village has all but disappeared, most locals are fond of Bardot for putting their town on the tourist map.
PHOTO: A statue erected in Bardot's honor. (Via Flickr)
Two dozen beaches
By most counts, Buzios has more than 20 beaches. There are a number of inlets and coves, so even though the peninsula where the town is located seems crowded with beaches, many of the spots are isolated from one another.
The result of this geography is a buffet-like menu of choices. Surfers and bodyboarders head to Geriba Beach, which usually has a decent swell. Horseshoe-shaped Ferradura Beach draws snorkelers and families who appreciate the always-calm water.
Photo via Flickr
Ossos Beach is a favorite of jet-setters, who frequent the hip waterside bistros and cafes. Ilhabela Beach, meanwhile, is the best place to get in touch with the laid-back vibe that Bardot and her Brazilian beau first found so enticing.
Two stretches of sand, Joao Fernandes and Joao Fernandinho, are the most crowded spots. This is where tourists come when they want to experience a typical Brazilian beach scene with tanned and toned “beautiful people.”
Old meets new: flagstone streets and hip hotels
The town of Buzios itself has some features that hearken back to the pre-tourism-boom era. Rua das Pedras, the “Main Street” of Buzios, is still paved with flagstones.
The flagstones are actually partly responsible for the casual vibe at local restaurants and nightclubs. Flat shoes are a necessary part of every partier’s outfit. You might see celebrities at the most popular nightclubs in town, but you will rarely see high heels. It is too difficult to walk on the flagstones with them.
Photo via Flickr
Another attractive Buzios trait is its array of boutique hotels. The town’s hip image is probably most evident in its accommodations. Examples include the cool Insolito Hotel, which has individually decorated suites with features like floor-to-ceiling windows, Afro-Brazilian art and murals of cherubs overlooking the beds. Casas Brancas and Boca do Ceu Domaine both have the same type of creative one-of-a-kind decor in each of their rooms.
Like any beach destination, Buzios is at its best during the shoulder seasons. In Brazil that is March through May and September through November. Since the town is only about two hours from Rio by highway, weekends tend to be a little busier than weekdays during the high season.
Buzios is definitely on the tourist map, though people with a casual knowledge of Brazil probably don’t yet know about it. It’s impossible to have an authentic discussion about Brazil’s beach scenes without including this as one of the top-ranking places to catch a tan and relax on the sand.
More by Josh Lew
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