To be honest, I really didn’t think Ipanema would be anything special. Yeah, it’s often included on lists of  the world’s most famous beaches but in my mind it’s a city beach so how good could it be.

I was wrong. It’s fantastic. Aqua colored water meets a wide white sand beach, flanked by mountains and clouds and a subtle city scape. Oh and it has waves that the twelve-year-old me, body surfing and boogie boarding off the coast of North Carolina, would have died for.

Here’s just a little piece of beach zen that I shot on my flip cam:

But keep in mind that I shot that video on a Wednesday, a day where most Rio natives (or cariocas as they call them here) did not go to the beach. Everyone who lives here goes to the beach on Sunday.

Here is the scene last Sunday:

Photo: Nellu Mazilu

Now technically South America is going into its fall season. But almost on call, the day we arrived in Rio, we were greeted with a mini summer. The weather has been consistently hot and sunny for the last week and a half. So you can understand the packed beach.

Also fun: since this weekend is Easter, many people here have had both Thursday and Friday off this week.  We went down to Ipanema again today as our last beach day in Rio (Nellu suggested we go to Copacabana because it was less crowded last Sunday, but I just couldn’t cheat on Ipanema like that.)  Packed again. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many people really enjoying the beach: sand castle building, playing soccer (and something that looks like soccer and volleyball combined), swimming, riding waves… It was great.

And even though everyone sits just a little too close for my NYC comfort zone, I’d go back in a heartbeat.