Rio de Janeiro Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Rio de Janeiro gay guide to the best hotels, things to do, gay bars, clubs, beaches, parties & saunas.
The Gay Travel Experience: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s most popular gay travel destinations for countless reasons. Beautiful weather, gorgeous men, a gay-friendly social scene, and one of the best gay beaches in the world are just a few things keeping LGBT tourists coming back to Brazil.
You’ll find gay travelers in Rio all times of year, but even more during the northern hemisphere’s cooler months. The city is also a hugely popular international gay New Year’s destination, where everyone gathers to watch an impressive firework display
Gay guys also flood Rio during yearly Carnival festivities, especially to attend some of the world’s wildest gay circuit parties.
Gay travelers tend to rave about Rio, especially how it’s one of Brazil’s best gay destinations. They’re not hyping it up though—Rio is as incredible as people say it is! It’s certainly a city I’ll always go back to.
Gay Rio: Hotels & Where to Stay
Ipanema is the place to be for Rio gay travelers. A relaxed beachfront neighborhood, this area of the is the hub of Rio’s gay scene. The epicenter of the Rio gay area starts in front of the gay beach and Boteco Belmonte, and extends a few blocks inland.
You’ll naturally want to stay in a hotel or vacation apartment as close to the beach as possible. Truthfully though, anywhere except for inside the favela will be a decent place to stay in Ipanema.
The southern part of Copacabana or even the upscale neighborhood of Leblon to the west of Ipanema are also perfectly beautiful areas to stay near. Walking time to Rio’s gay beach is just a little longer.
The best and most luxurious hotels will be facing the beach. I’ll mention some of the best gay hotels in Rio below.
Apartment rentals in Ipanema are another popular and common option, especially for travelers who want more space or are traveling in groups.
Prices tend to be quite reasonable, except around popular times like New Year’s. If you plan to visit Rio during one of these popular periods, book as far in advance as you can.
Hotel Arpoador is a newer boutique hotel in Rio that has become popular with gay travelers. I stayed here for a portion of my trip and truly enjoyed the rooftop pool area and expansive views of Ipanema.
There were clearly a few other gay travelers around, however Hotel Arpoador is not overly gay-oriented.
Some of the most memorable aspects of the hotel besides the pool deck were staff’s hospitality, the boutique-feeling signature hotel scent, and the rear restaurant that opens onto the Ipanema beachfront promenade.
Hotel Fasano is the most popular, classic gay resort in Rio. It’s directly in front of the gay beach, too. A quick search on Instagram, and you’ll undoubtedly see photos of guys enjoying the hotel’s beautiful balcony and rooftop views.
As one of the best luxury hotels in Rio, Hotel Fasano is one of the pricier options, no matter what time of year you visit. But for those who want the ultimate beachfront view of Ipanema while surrounded by gay vacationers, your best bet is the Fasano.
Arena Ipanema Hotel
Arena Ipanema Hotel is another nicely located property popular with gay travelers. The hotel’s cute rooftop pool and deck have a fantastic view of Praia do Arpoador, the westernmost section of Ipanema’s beach.
Rooms at Arena Ipanema Hotel are nicely sized, everyone raves about the hotel restaurant’s food, and they also have a small fitness center.
Rio Gay Travel Experiences
Climb Sugarloaf Mountain
A ride up the Rio’s famous cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain is an easy, low-stress experience perfect for any traveler.
Buy your cable car ticket online, skip the line and get right on the next cable car up to the top! There’s a series of two cable car rides with some shops and restaurants between.
After your ascent sugarloaf, you have to stop for lunch at Clássico Sunset Club Urca on the way back down. The restaurant is in the area between the 2 separate cable car rides.
They have epic views of all of Rio facing Ipanema and Copacabana. The music gives a relaxing beach club ambiance, and the service is impeccable.
Visit Christ the Redeemer / Corcovado
Seeing Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer up close is pretty epic. But even more impressive are the panoramic views of the entire city at the adjacent lookout deck. This scenic spot is known called Corcovado.
The earlier you arrive to Christ the Redeemer, the better of an experience you’ll have. It can get pretty crowded. During peak hours, tourists will be bumping shoulders, vying for their turn taking a photo. This can be stressful, so it’s better to go earlier and beat the crowd.
It may not be obvious to first-time tourists, but you need to take a funicular to reach Christ the Redeemer. Get a taxi to the official entrance to the Corcovado Funicular and walk inside to buy a ticket (don’t engage with any of the people outside the official entrance).
Stroll Rio’s Botanical Gardens
Rio’s famous botanical gardens, or Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, is an absolute must-see. The park is gorgeous, full of all sorts of interesting things like a cactus garden, a harmless bee exhibit and of course the iconic palm-tree lined trails!
The botanical garden art great to visit on a cloudy or even a hot sunny day since all of the tree coverage provides enough shade to make it cooler.
Make sure to bring cash for the entry fee. The botanical garden was one of the only times I needed cash while in Rio. It’s not possible to purchase tickets online. You also need your ID.
Walk around Pedra do Arpoador
Pedra do Arpoador Is a beautiful rocky lookout point that separates Ipanema from Copacabana beach. It’s a great landmark to take a walk along the beach toward. Sunset here is also fantastic, too.
Look for the narrow path that leads from the beach up the side of the rocks from the end of the main promenade.
There is even a sizable outdoor gym free for everyone to use. The barbells and other weights are made of concrete!
The Rio Gay Beach: Ipanema
Smack in the middle of Ipanema is the famous Rio gay beach area. Ipanema is without a doubt the best gay beach I’ve ever been to—ever!
The vibe is incredibly carefree and friendly, even between people who don’t speak the same language. Plus, everyone’s wearing sexy swimsuits everywhere you look.
You’ll find a sea of gay men congregated on between Ipanema’s Posto 8 and Posto 9. In between is the notable Barraca Da Denise beach bar, the epicenter of Rio gay beach life. This is where you can get some strong and delicious Caipirinhas!
There are dozens of small huts/bars along the shore and each has a clearly visible number. Wherever you want to rent a chair or umbrella, get it from stand at the point in the beach that you want to be in front of. You won’t be able to move your rented chairs away from that specific area.
Note that the beach hut numbers are separate from the “posto” building numbers. They don’t coincide!
Cool Off with Frozen Açai
Açai is everywhere in Rio. Buy an açai bowl from one of the vendors walking along the beach or grab one at a local café. I quickly became obsessed with the everything at Maria Açai.
Visit the Havaianas Store
Ipanema is home to the Havaianas Flagship Store, one of the world’s most iconic flip flop brands. Gay guys love Havaianas too, especially the Brazil Collection, which have a little Brazilian flag on the strap and the flag colors along the sole.
The Havaianas store is beautiful. It has three levels with every color of flip-flop you could ever want. It’s a quick place to pass by and cool off while walking through Ipanema. I also love how all the flip flops are arranged on the walls.
Eat at Aprazível
Aprazível is widely known as one of the best restaurants in Rio. Even with this popularity and it’s Michelin Star accolade, this Brazilian restaurant keeps the experience authentic. Plus, the views are unbeatable, especially later in the afternoon before sunset.
Both the food and the service were incredible. The entire experience was seamless, from being able to chat about the reservation via WhatsApp chat to a friendly welcome and a delicious meal.
The taxi ride to Aprazível was quite an interesting ride, by the way. You’ll get to see both gritty areas and spectacular views along the drive from Ipanema/Copacabana.
Take a Trip to Ilha Grande
Possible as a long day trip or a short trip outside of Rio, Ilha Grande is one of the most magnificent tropical destinations in all of Brazil. It’s even mentioned in one of my favorite coffee table books 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
While I didn’t have the time to make the trip to this paradise island, you should totally go! If you can, try booking a place to stay on Ilha Grande for a night to break up the trip to and from Rio.
Ilha Grande day trips are a viable and popular option, though. You can book boat tours including Angra Dos Reis and Ilha Grande.
Rio Gay Bars & Clubs
Heaven Club Rio
Heaven Club is the largest and most well-known gay club in Rio de Janeiro. It’s massive in fact, with three spacious levels. The third level is the main dance floor area. On the second level, there’s plenty of room to socialize without overly loud music.
I loved the music at Heaven Club. The mixes were original, upbeat, and went all night long! The club primarily has a gay circuit party vibe, so bring all your best circuit gear!
Everything at the club paid for using a plastic card given to you by the club, that is attached to your fingerprint.
The staff will take your fingerprint when you enter, and you pay upon exiting. The fingerprint is to just make sure that anyone who sneaks out without paying will never be allowed back in.
For travel time, keep in mind that Heaven Club is in central Rio, about a 25-minute drive from Ipanema.
Pink Flamingo Gay Bar
Pink Flamingo is a relatively new gay bar in Rio de Janeiro and has quickly become popular for upbeat drag entertainment and live DJs. So if you love a good drag show, this is the place to be.
Some of the best drag queens around will perform here at Pink Flamingo, like the recent winner of Queen of The Universe, Grag Queen.
The bar has a large open floorplan so there’s plenty of space to socialize and relax. Expect a mixed, but largely queer and younger gay crowd. Pink Flamingo is in Copacabana, just a 15 minute-drive from central Ipanema.
There’s usually a cover at the door, unless you arrive earlier than the stated time, which is different depending on the event. Pink Flamingo always advertises their event info, which you can also follow on their Instagram page.
While Lou Lou is not technically labeled as a gay bar, it’s pretty clear this place is a gay bar! They’re a small, relatively new Mykonos-inspired cocktail bar in Ipanema just a couple blocks from the gay beach.
Lou Lou tends to be busier earlier in the evening, especially as people walk home from the beach. The vibe is cozy, with fun music and a mixed crowd.
More Gay Bars in Rio de Janeiro
While there not as frequented or well-known among international gay travelers, Rio does have a couple of other gay nightclubs you should know about!
Since they’re not always convenient to reach from Ipanema, I didn’t get to try them all. But if you visit, let me know how about your experience!
Boate 1140 is a large gay bar in northern Rio, located in the Praça Seca neighborhood. It’s a casual local venue with a ton of space and frequent drag shows.
Not far from here is Papa G Gay Nightclub. It’s also a relatively large space with a stage, always featuring live music and drag queens. The vibe is much also quite local feeling.
Both Boate 1140 and Papa G are both impossible to miss, with enormous rainbow-colored signs across their building facades.
Rio de Janeiro Gay Parties
Much of Rio’s gay nightlife revolves around regularly scheduled parties. They will often change locations, but are without a doubt always epic. Brazilian guys really know how to party!
The Original Brazilian Pool Party
The Original Brazilian Pool Party is one of the most fun, intense gay parties in Rio. They host events at huge venues outside of central Rio, like Hode Luã Resort and Faro Beach Club.
These parties might seem a little far outside Rio for tourists who haven’t been. But make no mistake, flocks of gays all make their way to the venues. The parties often have sponsored bus transportation.
Treta Festa Rio
Treta is another one of Rio’s most popular gay parties. Their music is more on the pop side of the spectrum while still being like a circuit party. Treta-hosted events also take place in Sao Paulo and New York City at one of NYC’s most popular gay bars, Rebar Chelsea.
I had an epic time at a Treta party in Rio during the series of gay Carnival events. It can get sweaty in the humid air, so you’ll want to wear your best lightweight circuit party accessories.
Rio Gay Saunas
While there are various cruising venues and gay saunas in Rio, there’s a couple that are much more popular than the rest.
Rio G Spa is the most popular gay sauna, located in Ipanema. It’s a traditional type of sauna where everyone gets a locker and towel. It’s on the smaller side but had an enjoyable number of guys inside!
While I can’t say they’re known for being the best, a few other gay cruising spots in Rio include Sauna Point 202, Sauna Botafogo and Sauna Copacabana.
Rio de Janeiro Gay Travel Tips
Using Grindr in Rio
In a super-gay destination like real, you’d probably imagine receiving nonstop messages on hookup apps like Grindr. In reality though, this isn’t exactly the case!
Don’t get me wrong… Locals and tourists definitely use Grindr and other gay apps in Rio. But like other destinations densely packed with gay travelers, there are just so many opportunities to meet people in person, that guys tend not to use Grindr as much.
Everyone seems to go along with the flow of the day, too. Same situation applies in places like Fire Island Pines, for example. So, get out there and flex those social skills!
How to Get Your Iconic Rio Beach Photo
Everyone wants to get that classic beach photo with Dois Irmãos in the background. But it’s not as easy as it looks!
To get the best photos at Ipanema’s gay beach, you’ll want to go earlier in the morning when the sun is at a better angle for the picture. If you wait until later in the afternoon, the sun will be behind you and in front of the mountainside, putting your body in shadow.
Sunset is the other magnificent time to take photos on Ipanema. But considering that your camera will be facing the light, you’ll need more than a basic phone camera to capture the moment. Get yourself a mini LED camera light box to perfect the lighting of the moment.
Pack Your Tropical Vacation Essentials
Before you head off to paradise, check wolfyy’s useful list of what to pack for tropical destinations. You’ll find my favorite waterproof gear, lightweight clothing ideas, rain gear, and tons more.
Is Rio Really That Dangerous?
Before visiting Rio, tons of friends mentioned how dangerous it can be in Rio. Part of me believed them, but I still had some doubt. After visiting Rio, it becomes clearer how the city can be dangerous in some situations, but not everywhere all the time.
The short answer is yes, Rio can be dangerous for tourists, but this largely applies to anyone who is walking around the city late at night, tends to be reckless with their behavior or doesn’t keep track of their belongings.
Armed robbery is not uncommon in Rio. In fact, a friend I was traveling with was robbed at gunpoint. And this was in 2022. But again, this happened at three in the morning on a relatively desolate street. In any event, purchasing travel insurance before visiting Rio is a smart idea.
Rio is safe as long as you generally keep your wits about you and follow basic safety guidelines. Here are a few other specific safety tips for Rio gay travelers:
- Don’t wander into favelas (especially alone).
- Travel by car anytime things feel desolate.
- Never wear expensive jewelry.
- Don’t leave anything alone out in plain sight on the beach.
- Avoid being noticeably drunk or loud while walking the streets at night.
- Don’t walk along busy roads holding your phone out
Book One Extra Night
Flights from South America to the USA and Canada typically depart later in the evening. Your final day in Rio can be a bit stressful if you need to check out of your hotel early, but still want to enjoy your final day.
Along with the fact that any flight delays will push your departure even further into the night, I highly recommend booking a place to stay for the night of your departure.
Booking one extra night of a hotel stay well make sure you have a place for your luggage, a place to shower up before your flight home, and in the worst-case scenario, a place to sleep if your flight is delayed. This happened to me, and my flight actually departed at noon the next day.
Check out my hotel recommendations at the beginning of this guide, if you haven’t already.
Do I Need Cash in Rio?
While there were a couple of situations where I did need cash while visiting Rio, I paid by card for just about everything.
Every vendor in Rio has a card terminal, including beach bars and taxi drivers. The only time I was actually in a pinch for cash was at the entrance to the botanical gardens.