Gay Vacations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Aerial view of the coastline in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Corbis)

Rio de Janeiro Highlights

  • Don't freak out if you don't know Portuguese. A few words can be handy, but most Rio residents understand Spanish and, to a slightly lesser extent, English.
  • Rio has one of the most happening lesbian scenes in South America. There's a lesbian dance club open every night of the week—check the local gay newspaper Entre Nos for up-to-date listings.
  • Don't expect any gay-exclusive hotels. Although Rio is super-popular with gays, it has no all-gay lodgings. But there are a plethora of mid- to high-end properties to choose from just steps away from Copacabana Beach, and to a lesser extent in Ipanema.

The Marvelous City should be centered on the map of any gay world traveler. Bronzed muscle men (a.k.a. "Barbies") prance up and down the gorgeous beaches wearing barely anything, as the dramatic backdrop of jutting verdant mountains looms in the background. (For lesbian travelers, the women are just as luscious.) The whole place oozes a casual vibe of sensuality, with a thumping samba beat as the soundtrack. Gays are so melded into the fabric of life, hardly anyone notices them. Plus, Rio is incredibly inexpensive for American visitors.

The city's infamous crime has been tempered by a tourist police force, and Rio now has a renovated airport, a fast new highway from the airport, spruced-up parks, and cleaned-up streets. And of course there are the world-renowned sites: the rocky peak of Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf), the enormous statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) opening his arms high above the city, the Carmen Miranda museum featuring costumes of the native Rio, and the teeming Tijuca National Forest behind the city, said to be the largest urban forest in the world. And don't forget to browse through a feira livre, an open-air food market that sells an incredible variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats. (The gayest market happens on Fridays at Praca Nossa Senhora da Paz in Ipanema.)

The gayest part of Rio is the section of Ipanema called Farme Gay beach between Rua Farme de Amoedo and Rua Teixeira de Melo. Here, friendly gays tan and socialize, even cuddling on the sand and competing in dodgeball and volleyball on Sundays. Behind the beach, Rua Farme de Amoedo is the gayest street in town, with gay-popular restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and bookstores. The other gay sunning area is on the huge Copacabana Beach, at the foot of Rua Fernandes Mendes in front of the stately Copacabana Palace Hotel – where you'll even see some transvestites joining the beach scene. The Avenida Atlantica in Copacabana also hosts a number of gay venues as well.

And of course, what would Rio be without the flamboyance of Carnival? Of the many celebrations and events surrounding Carnival, there's even a gay- and straight-popular ball called O Grande Gala Gay at Scala, in the area of Leblon, on Carnival Tuesday. A traditional samba hall called Elite promotes other popular gay balls on Carnival Sunday and Monday. Gay neighborhood street parades include Banda de Ipanema and Banda da Carmen Miranda, which snake through Ipanema. If you can't make it for Carnival, then plan a New Year’s trip. Millions of city residents usher in the year by wearing white and rushing into the waves at midnight, throwing rose petals. It's just as vibrant a scene as Carnival itself.

Published: 16 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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