Lonely Planet review
One long stretch of sand, Ipanema Beach is marked by postos (posts), which demarcates subcultures as diverse as the city itself. Posto 9, right off Rua Vinícius de Moraes, is Garota de Ipanema, which is where Rio’s most lithe and tanned bodies tend to migrate. The area is also known as the Cemetério dos Elefantes because of the handful of old leftists, hippies and artists who sometimes hang out there. In front of Rua Farme de Amoedo the beach is known as Bolsa de Valores or Crystal Palace (this is the gay section), while Posto 8 further up is mostly the domain of favela kids. Arpoador, between Ipanema and Copacabana, is Rio’s most popular surf spot. Leblon attracts a broad mix of single Cariocas, as well as families from the neighborhood. Posto 10 is for sport lovers, with ongoing volleyball, soccer and frescobal (played with wooden racquets and a rubber ball) games.
Whatever spot you choose, you’ll enjoy cleaner sands and sea than those in Copacabana. Keep in mind that if you go on Saturday or Sunday, the sands get crowded. Go early to stake out a spot.
Incidentally, the word ipanema is an indigenous word for ‘bad, dangerous waters’ – not so far off given the strong undertow and often oversized waves crashing on the shore. Be careful, and swim only where the locals do.