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As Rio de Janeiro is blessed with terrific climate all year long, there are plenty of outdoor activities to take part in.
As Rio has much of a beach culture, many activities are focused around the beach and ocean. Some of the most popular water activities include surfing, bodyboarding and kite surfing. Also on the beach are beach volleyball, beach football and an amazing combination of the two they call "fute volei" or basically volleyball using football rules (no hands!). A more laid back beach activity is fresco ball which is basically two people with paddles hitting a rubber ball back and forth.
For surfers, some of the more popular beaches are Ipanema, Leblon, Sao Conrado and Barra da Tijuca. A bit outside of Rio and past Barra da Tijuca is probably the most hard-core surfing beach called Prainha. For those interested in kite surfing, Sao conrado and Barra da Tijuca are the popular beaches.
There are also a number of activities off the beach in Rio. Throughout Rio and along all of the beaches are separate pathways for bicycles and runners/walkers. Additionally, on Sundays and Holidays, the road closest to the beach is closed off to cars and becomes a pedestrian walkway. On these days, many people get out and about for a walk or run along the beach with family and friends. Another landmark in Rio is the Lagoa, which is a lake in the middle of the city and Zona Sul. Around the lake are also large sidewalks where many walk, run and bike.
Barra and Ipanema are considered the most " in beaches". In Barra, the place to see "beautiful people" is at Pepe. In Ipanema, it depends of what you are looking for. At point 9, you will find the artists and modern people in general from 25 to 45; Farme de Amoedo is a GLS place (you can recognize by the rainbow flag) and point 10 is for young people. Of course everybody is allowed to stay wherever they want, but its something which is really interesting in Rio's beach. Just run away, from places in front of the main hotels. They are known to be the worst place at beach because are full of people trying to sell you all sort of things.
In a city with such a beach culture, you have to keep your body in prime condition. To accomplish this, many Cariocas frequent the many fitness centers (called Academias in Portuguese) throughout the city. There are many different fitness centers in most neighborhoods but one of the largest franchise chains is Body Tech which has several locations in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and Barra da Tijuca. Various memberships are generally available including short term.
Another great option for good physical activity is hiking and climbing. Another source of local pride in Rio is the Tijuca National Forest. This forest was, at one time, completely deforested by various coffee plantations. Many years ago, the local government decided to re-dedicate the land into a national park and it was completely re-forested. These days, it offers several good trails for medium to difficult hikes. One of the most invigorating hikes available is to climb up Pedra da Gavea, another Rio landmark. It is advisable for visitors to enquire about a local guide for these hikes. Around Rio, there are also several good mountains for rope climbing. These include climbing the famous mountains of Sugar Loaf and Corcovado. Again, going with a local guide who knows the locations is advisable.
For those more aggressive thrill seekers, there is also hang gliding. The jumping off point is Sao Conrado, which is surrounded by the beautiful Tijuca National Park and various other landmarks. These flights offer incredible views of the mountains and beaches of Rio. Various local companies offer tandem flights, including transportation to/from your hotel.
One other favorite past time of some holiday makers is golf. However, golf is not popular in Brazil so there are not a lot of options. Within Rio, one option is Gavea Golf Club. However, Gavea is a private club and it is necessary to have a membership or be a guest of a member to play there. For those determined to play golf while in Rio, the other options are in Teresopolis, Buzios and Angra dos Reis. These offer nice public courses but are approximately 2 1/2 hours drive from Rio. Also we do have a golf club in Sao Conrado and another in Barra da Tijuca, but still not a popular sport in Brazil.
In Rio and Brasil, sport is all about football (soccer for americans). As you can imagine in a country that produces some of the best footballers in the world and in the lead of all countries at five World Cup Championships, they are quite fanatical for the sport. On Brasil game days during the world cup competition, it is considered an informal holiday and most all Cariocas are in front of a television in some part of the city. One of the most famous stadiums in all of the world is also located in Rio - The Maracana. This is the stadium that was the star of the 1950 World Cup and is famed for holding events with as many as 200,000 fans. These days, crowds of this magnitude are no more with modern day security concerns and no more standing room only admission. In 2005, the Maracana was closed for six months undertaking remodelling necessary for the 2007 Panamerican Games. Once all remodelling is completed, the new Maracana is expected to hold approximately 90,000. However, as of January 2006 it is back in operation hosting several Rio clubs.
Nationally, Brasil has quite a few clubs who play virtually year round (except December and the first half of January). During this time, clubs take part in various championships and South America / Latin America competitions. The various championships include both state and national championships. The format of these varies and have a history of changing from time to time. The state championship of Rio de Janeiro (it's also the name of the state), is composed of two competitions, the winners of which meet in a two stage final for the crown. The largest and most popular clubs in the city of Rio de Janeiro are Flamengo, Botafogo, Fluminense and Vasco. These clubs have large followings and generally play in the Maracana. Vasco also plays some games in its own cozier stadium in the neighborhood of Sao Januario.
To take in a game while in Rio, visitors have several options. Except for some of the bigger games such as the derbies between the local clubs, tickets can easily be purchased at ticket windows just before game time. However, with the language barrier and unfamiliarity of the location and security, this may be a bit daunting for foreign visitors to go on their own. Another great option is to go accompanied by a guide to a game. Visitors can generally query about this possibility through their hotel staff. One of the best options for such a guide is a Brit, now living in Brazil for a number of years named Robert Shaw (Tel 2275 8811; Cel 9874 8962; e-mail: email@example.com). Rob reports on Brazilian football for several English outlets and is extremely knowledgeable on local and national football in Brazil.
And while in Rio, why not play a game yourself! AtivoRio organises pick up games for anyone living or visiting Rio de Janeiro. You can sign up on the website (www.ativorio.com) and pick the game you want to play (football, basketball, etc). Their games are fully organised and give you a great opportunity to play with locals and meet some other travellers at the same time. The organisers speak both English and Portuguese and will make sure that you will have a great time!