6 interesting facts about Copacabana Beach

Copacabana is one of the top touristic destinations in the world, which is a widely known fact. But did you know that the Copacabana beach may not be all natural?

From the origins of the famous Calçadão de Copacabana to the county’s original name and even the fact that the Copacabana Palace Hotel once housed a Casino, there are many interesting facts surrounding this place that may not be familiar to you.

We’re gonna list the Top 6 most interesting matters about the Copacabana beach, giving you a full tour through the curiosities and little-known fun facts about one of Rio de Janeiro’s most famous locations!

If you want to take a look at the neighborhood, check our video below (we recently started a YouTube channel!)

1 – Copacabana Wasn’t Always Named Copacabana

Before the first colonizers arrived in Rio de Janeiro, the place we know today as Copacabana used to be called Sacopenapã, the name given by the local native Tupi indigenous residents.

Sometime after the first non-Brazilian inhabitants started living there, Bolivian immigrants brought in a statue of Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, a religious figure in the country. Copacabana is also the name of a city in Bolívia.

Copacabana’s Fort is located in the same spot the Nossa Senhora de Copacabana‘s church was built back in the day – Credit: WikiCommons | Adenilde Gonzaga

Soon after, a church was built around the image, located by the beach, and the locals who would go there to pray started referring to it as just Copacabana, which means “observatory of the blue.”

After the church was demolished at the beginning of the 20th century, the Copacabana Fort (Forte de Copacabana) was built, where it stands until this day. Even though the church was gone, the Copacabana district still pays homage to the saint that gave its name, having a street named Nossa Senhora de Copacabana.

2 – The Famous Calçadão de Copacabana pattern was Inspired by Portugal

The wavy walk path that separates the Copacabana beach sand line from the pavement is known worldwide, which is one reason why the location is so famous. But did you know that its pattern was actually inspired by Portuguese architecture?

The Copacabana beach sidewalk pattern was first applied in a vertical direction but then reformulated in the ’70s to horizontal lines in order to better match the ocean waves – Credit: WikiCommons | Mteixeira62

The pattern was originally seen at the mosaic ground in Lisbon’s Rocio Square, and its design symbolizes the merge between the waters from the Tejo river and the Atlantic Ocean.

But although we almost immediately associate it with the carioca beach in Brazil, this type of pavement was first installed in Manaus in 1901, being planted in Copacabana only 9 years later. It was refurbished in the 1970s, making the wave’s design direction match the shoreline.

3 – The Copacabana Beach Sand is Artificially Resettled

Most coasts and shores suffer the loss of sand due to climatic factors, like strong gusts of wind and strong sea currents. For that reason, that sand needs to be resettled and reconditioned so that beach-goers can still enjoy the large sand strip in Copacabana.

Artificial sand? No, the sand replaced is very much natural, it’s just the process of replacing it that has to be done by man – Credit: WikiCommons | Rodrigo Soldon

Not only that, the large sand strip also protects the buildings and establishments near the shores from the ocean’s back sweep and high tides, which depending on it’s strengh, can wash over the whole beach sometimes!

The Copacabana beach’s first grounding process was done back in the ’70s when the sand section of the shore was enlarged to expand the Avenida Atlântica (the highway by the beach) pavement.

From then on, the sand is annually resettled through an internal continental shelf, keeping the whole shore even and protected all year long.

And if you want to know a little more about the beach etiquette in Brazil, take a look at this video:

4 – The Copacabana Palace Hotel Used to Have a Casino Back in the Day

The Copacabana Palace Hotel has admitted many rock stars, celebrities, and influential people throughout the years, but did you know that this opulent hotel also used to have its own casino?

The sumptuous halls of the Copacabana Palace Hotel once housed one out of the two main Casinos in Rio de Janeiro – Credit: WikiCommons | Patricia Figueira

The Copacabana Palace Hotel opened its doors in 1923, and it was the first structure of this size in the district. It was originally built to accommodate the Brazilian Independence Centennial guests, an international event that attracted many people worldwide.

The casino inside the Copacabana Palace was a major hit. Aside from all the poker, blackjack, and lucky roulettes, it also served as the stage for various artistic performances and spectacles.

After former president Eurico Gaspar Dutra officially prohibited gambling in the country back in 1946, the casino was turned into a concert hall, increasing its capacity and adding two floors to the original main building. When Rio de Janeiro was no longer the Brazilian capital, the Hotel started facing some tough times.

Although being almost demolished in 1985, the Copacabana Palace Hotel was turned into a registered heritage of the city, still existing to this very day in the same spot and still being one of Rio’s most luxurious places to stay at.

5 – One of The Biggest Firework Shows on the Planet

Aside from Carnaval, the New Years’ Eve celebration is another BIG festivity in Rio de Janeiro, attracting millions of people to the Copacabana beach sands every year.

Big fireworks = big expectations for the new year! Every year the Copacabana beach is the stage of one of the biggest firework shows in the world! – Credit: WikiCommons | Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

Although some of Brazil’s finest artists lend their talents to amazing live performances, the show’s real star here is definitely the fireworks at midnight, putting on a color show in the sky that usually lasts from 15 to 20 minutes.

I’ve been to the Copacabana’s New Year’s Eve party 4 times in my life, and I have to say, each one of them was very special. The thrill of the countdown plus watching those beautiful bright lights exploding over the sea makes for a real bang (no pun intended) as the new year creeps in.

6 – The Largest Elderly Population in Brazil

Copacabana is one of the largest counties in Rio de Janeiro, and a good part of the community that lives there is made of people over 60. This makes this location the #1 Rio county with the most elderly citizens, representing 30% of the total population.

What’s better than living your golden years by the Copacabana beach in Rio? The quality of life by the shores attracts many of its elderly citizens to stay – Credit: Pixnio

Aside from its size, Copacabana is one of the oldest districts in Rio de Janeiro. It is also one of the main reasons most residents have older age since many of the buildings and apartment complexes date back to the 1930s and 1940s.

Since Copacabana is a well-valued spot in Rio (as most districts in the south zone), most residence owners refuse to leave or sell their places, adding that due to the apartments being built back then, they are usually much bigger and spacious in comparison to newer spots around the city.

In 2011, research conducted to evaluate the age level around the districts (but on a national level) revealed that Copacabana held the title of having the most elderly citizens around the Brazilian country.

Hope you were able to learn a bit more about the Copacabana county! While you’re here, I think we might interest you with these:

Rio Carnival: Instruments Used And How It Is Organized – Want to know all about how Carnaval works in Rio? Click and find out!

Swimming In Rio Beaches: The Do’s And Don’t’s – Learn all you need to know about being safe while visiting the beaches in Rio de Janeiro!

Can I Go To A Casino In Rio? – Curious if you can place your bets at the casinos in Rio de Janeiro? We got the answer!

Related Topics:

Is the Copacabana Beach human-made?
No, the Copacabana beach is a natural shoreline in Rio de Janeiro. However, its sand strip was enlarged back in the 1970s to better accommodate the expansion of the Avenida Atlântica highway.

Is the Copacabana beach dog-friendly?
Yes, dogs are allowed at the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. Ever since 2019, dogs are allowed at the beaches in Rio; as long as you have their vaccines up to date, don’t let it litter by the sand, and have it on a leash at all times. The south end of Copacabana is a famous spot for people bringing their dogs along.

Is the Copacabana beach safe?
Since many tourists visit the Copacabana beach, it is also the target of criminals aiming to prey on foreigners, making it a somewhat dangerous place for the unwarned. Leme is the safest spot at the Copacabana beach since the police watch is higher there.

Cover Image: PixHere

Bruno Reguffe

What's up, everyone! I'm Bruno, and I'm a nutritionist living in Rio de Janeiro. I've been a longtime friend of Ana's, and I'm excited to help her expand on all things Brazilian with y'all, as well as sharing some of our culture and a few personal experiences while living in the country!

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