Winter in Rio for the Gay Traveler
So it seems that prior to my arriving in Rio de Janeiro for a week in July, EVERYONE had the same two thoughts on their mind... 1) "it's winter time, how could you possibly go there when it's cold and raining" and 2) "you can't go to Rio, it's too dangerous!"
Well, I can tell you that both myths are just that... myths! First, Rio in their winter is a bit like Miami in winter, but just a tad bit cooler. Most days we were there, it was a gorgeous 80 degrees and sunny. There were two days of cooler winter weather, but that meant it was windy and in the 60s, and that was just really one blustery day.
So why go into all of this about the weather in Rio? Because for the gay traveler, going to a destination such as this "off season" is fantastic. There were so few tourists and the majority of hot men roaming the streets were all locals. And they are HOT! Once in a while you'll hear an occasional English or French word heard, but overall, all Brazilian!
We had the opportunity to stay with friends in Copacabana, very near the Copacabana Palace. We ate like the locals, including one seafood hot spot called Shirley. Strolling the beach boardwalk by day, the scenery both on the beach and walking, rollerblading or biking by, was stunning. Shirts off, eyes lingering just a little longer than they should. Stopping for an occasional coconut made for great walking breaks, and we walked a lot... from Copacabana to Ipanema and then further to Leblon. On Sunday they close off part of the street, so renting a bike and taking that tour from Copacabana to Leblon is a ton of fun... and then biking inland a bit to the lake there in Rio is just a cherry on top for a delightful Sunday afternoon.
Heading into Ipanema, the gay beach is really easy to find as it's highlighted with several rainbow flags right at the foot of Rua Farme de Amoedo. Walking up that street any time of the day or evening is a real delight, as "the gays" are all perched in various eating and drinking spots along that street just enjoying the day and the sites. Some of our favorites were Cafeina, a true delight and reminiscent of Le Notre in Paris, just much more Brazilian! Getting a little chicken at the Galito restaurants in the neighborhood, as well as some acai at one of the various Sucos shops in the neighborhood, make one feel like they're living life like the locals.
Nightlife was over the top, even off season. Le Boy never fails to disappoint, and we went both Thursday and Saturday night to a packed club full of friendly and hot locals. One can only imagine the line outside when Rio is "in season!"
Safety-wise, the entire area felt quite safe overall. There were cleaner areas than others in this small ocean stretch of a rather big city that is Rio de Janeiro, with Ipanema and Leblon being a bit more upscale. The area around Le Boy got a little sketchy, but never really unsafe. As anyone will tell you, it's always about being just the tiniest bit street smart in such scenarios and all should work out fine. Walking along the beach boardwalks at night always feels the safest, as there are lots of people and "tourist police" keeping folks in line.
Overall, winter in Rio is when I would return time and time again... it's like being on the beach in LA on a nice, sunny 70-degree January day and enjoying all of the cafes, the boardwalks and the lunch hot spots without fighting the summer tourist crowd. It's like you found your own little hidden gem in life.
Link to photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattskal/sets/72157621001887841/