By Zoë Roller, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Nestled between the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana lies Arpoador, a tiny neighborhood best known for surfing and romance. Arpoador’s residents are walking distance from the 24-hour Zona Sul supermarket, the General Osório metro station, and the bars and shops of Copacabana. Buses and vans run through it to connect to Centro, Barra, and the rest of the Zona Sul (South Zone).
Arpoador’s greatest asset is its natural beauty in the form of a rock peninsula jutting into the ocean. Portuguese settlers and Brazilian natives used the rock to hunt whales, hence the name Arpoador, meaning “harpoon thrower.”
Because of its location in the center of Rio’s famous coastline, Arpoador boasts spectacular views: the lights of Ipanema, Leblon, and Vidigal twinkling beneath the peaks of Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) on one side, and Copacabana on the other. The rock is crisscrossed with small trails and secluded nooks, making it one of the most romantic spots in Rio.
During midsummer, crowds flock to Arpoador to watch the sun set over the ocean, a rare treat on the mostly east-facing coastline. The rocky point is also a popular night spot any time of year; revelers can always be found there passing around bottles of wine and enjoying the view.
Arpoador Beach (only about 500 meters long) is considered by many to be the best surf spot in metropolitan Rio, with breakers up to three meters tall and floodlights for night surfing. It is dominated by locals and professionals, and the crowds can be daunting. In July, Arpoador hosted the Association of Surfing Professionals’ World Masters Championship, a competition for surfers between 36 and 49 years old.
Arpoador has more to offer than just surfing, though. Rua Francisco Behring has a beach lane for pedestrians and rollerbladers, as well as a beach without any significant traffic noises to be heard.
Garota da Ipanema Park, named after the famous song by Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim, is an ideal place to cool off in the shade after a long day of sunbathing. The park hosts concerts by MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) artists, as well as the Bourbon Street Fest, a jazz festival.
There is also a paved path up the hillside to a lookout point, and walking though the foot path to the ledge there is a skateboarding bowl overlooking the beach.
Unsurprisingly, Arpoador is an extremely affluent neighborhood. Well-heeled tourists can stay at the Hotel Fasano, a favorite haunt of celebrities like Beyoncé and Lenny Kravitz, where suites cost upwards of R$1,000 a night.
Travelers who want to be close to the surf without breaking the bank can opt for the Arpoador Inn, one of the more economical beachfront lodgings in Rio at R$396. The Hotel Cristal Palace offers rooms starting at R$193 a night.
Arpoador’s size and location drive prices up to the dizzying heights of Leblon and Ipanema. According to Roberto Evarista, a realtor with Green Imóveis , prices in Arpoador have climbed at the same rate as neighboring areas over the past few years, with ocean views commanding the highest prices.
A two-bedroom apartment with a view ranges from R$1.8 – 3.9 million, while a three-bedroom without a view goes for R$850,000. A modest one-bedroom apartment will likely start around R$400,000.
Though renting beachfront apartments can cost up to R$3,000 a month, a recent search found some great deals on apartments a few blocks from the beach. Renters willing to share an apartment can live in this exclusive neighborhood for as low as R$450-600 a month.