If winter is making your joints ache, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is a beach destination worth checking out. I’ve lived in New York for seven years, so I try to make it down to Rio at least once a year to rest and recharge, and nothing brings me back to life like a dip in the sea followed by a fresh, cold brazilian coconut water (served in the coconut, of course).
Even though I was born in Brasília, the capital city built in the 1960s, Rio has a special place in my heart: on top of the beautiful beaches, it’s an older city teeming with positive energy and deep cultural roots. And the locals are great: they have an inner joy strong enough to weather the political and economic storms that are constantly dancing on Brazil’s horizon.
Fanny packs are back in style, so you can look your best and protect your stuff at the same time.
My favorite period in Rio is during the summer from December to February, when sunscreen is as vital as water (make sure the formula protects against sun burn). But don’t let the heat fool you: while you’ll spend most of your time outside, they crank the A/C indoors, so you’ll want to pack a light cardigan. Also, Rio is a popular tourist destination, so try not to wear expensive jewelry and take precautions to avoid pickpockets. Luckily, fanny packs are back in style, so you can look your best and protect your stuff at the same time.
Winter in the northeast can be a slog. But between sunbathing in Ipanema, hiking to waterfalls in Horto, and drinking caipirinhas at a samba show in Lapa, Rio’s vibrant culture and natural surroundings have everything I need to escape the cold and prepare for another year of riding the NYC subway.
In Brazil, you need to keep your valuables secure at all times. Baboon's fanny pack is my favorite because of its size, water-repellent fabric, and multiple pockets — including a hidden one that fits your money and passport. And with Baboon’s modern, fresh aesthetic, these fanny packs look cool with basically any outfit, from the beach to the bar.
I've seen American friends get sun burn, and it's really uncomfortable, to say the least. Your skin may not react well to the sun in Brazil, especially if you didn't grow up in a tropical country, so make sure your sunscreen doesn’t have any ingredients like fragrances that could irritate your skin. I wear La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios SPF 50. It offers UVA and UVB protection, it doesn’t use toxic chemicals like oxybenzone, and it works well on sensitive skin (like mine).
You’re probably thinking about how to protect your camera against theft, but have you ever seen a $3,000 DSLR after a day at the beach? Sand can get into hard-to-reach places, especially around the lens. I recommend bringing a camera cleaning kit like this Tycka one that comes with a water-resistant carrying case. When you’re traveling with expensive camera equipment, better safe than sorry.
Within a minute of leaving the airport, you'll be visibly sweating. If you’d rather it be invisible, bring a few t-shirts from Uniqlo's Airism collection, which uses a wicking technology to keep you cool. The fabric is also anti-microbial, self-deodorizing, and fast-drying, so you can wash them in the sink with a little detergent after a long day at the beach. And these shirts are versatile: they’re perfect for a stroll on the boardwalk and layer easily, making them dressy enough for a night out.
You'll probably use cabs to get around Rio de Janeiro, and ride-hailing apps are your best option, so it's critical to keep your phone topped up. I never forget to bring one or two portable charger, and I usually go with these Anker ones that fit in a small bag. They only hold around two full charges, so I always add a recurring reminder on my phone so I remember to recharge them every night.
Everyone in Brazil wears Havaianas to the beach (you can buy them at pretty much any drug store), but you’ll also want to bring a pair of shoes that are better for long walks. My favorites are these sporty Teva sandals: they’re stylish, comfy and waterproof, and work just as well for hiking as for sightseeing. These velcro-strapped sandals are the easiest to put on and take off.
Between the seafood and the capirinhas, there's a lot of citrus on the beach, and even a drop in the sun will give you a chemical burn that takes months to heal. If it happens, you can prevent the burn by immediately cleaning the area, so I always keep a pack of Cetaphil cleansing towelettes handy. Besides feeling really clean after using them, the fragrance-free formula is great for people who suffer from rosacea (like me) or have other sensitive skin issues.
Because temperatures in Rio de Janeiro can reach up to 104º F during the summer, indoors they always have the A/C on full blast. Even though I don’t bring jackets with me, I recommend bringing a cardigan, like these ones from Everlane, that’s made with a light fabric. Made from merino wool blended with plenty of cotton and linen yarn, this cardigan has an oversized cut that hangs nicely and isn’t bulky, and it’s perfect for the plane, too.
Rio de Janeiro is known for its beaches, but adventurous travelers like me will want to check out the waterfalls and trails that run through the Atlantic rainforest. The forest is thick with mosquitos, so you’ll want to bring along plenty of bug repellent. I’m not a fan of sprays or lotions (have I mentioned I have sensitive skin?), so I go with this gadget from Thermacell that doesn’t have any smell or cause allergic reactions. Make sure to get this battery-powered model, not the fuel-powered one: it’s the only model that’s TSA-compliant.
All the best things to do in Rio will be outside in the sun—even parties, which often happen al fresco—so you’ll need to stay hydrated. Tap water in Brazil isn’t safe, and restaurants and bars don't usually give out free filtered water, so I like to carry this Brita water bottle everywhere. It comes with a built-in filter, and it’s made with insulated stainless steel that keeps the water cold for hours. Take one with you everywhere and you’ll save a fortune on bottled water—and help the environment, too.