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Photo by Ametxa

Brazil’s Best Beach Cities for Study Abroad.

Brazil is a big country. Approximately 185 million inhabitants inhabit a land mass roughly the size of the continental USA. Two-thirds of Brazilians live within 100km of the coast, where, many would argue, you’ll find the most vibrant cities.

The following study abroad guide covers cities by moving down the coast from north to south.

Northern Brazil

Geography and Culture

Northern Brazil is predominately populated by people of African descent, while Southern Brazil has a large German and Italian population. The northern city of Salvador is also known as Roma Negra, or Black Rome, while the southern city of Blumenau holds the second largest Oktoberfest, outside of Germany.

Life is typically more laid back and infused with a lively Afro Brazilian flare in the north, while cleanliness and a reserved culinary palate comes with the cooler weather of the south. Regardless of whether you choose to study in the north or south of Brazil, you are going to find incredibly friendly people with an unrivaled passion for life.

Fortaleza

Capital of the northeastern Brazilian state Ceara, Fortaleza has the most sunny days of any coastal Brazilian city. You can dance to hot Forro beats in the city’s buzzing nightlife district.

Beautiful beaches stretch for 25 km in front of the town. Some of the best bars and clubs are found near the Dragao do Mar Center of Art and Culture. With a number of universities, including Universidade Federal do Cerra, the city has a long tradition as a cultural center.

You will enjoy a sumptuous life melding bohemian nightlife, white sand beaches, and spicy food, alongside peaceful and fun-loving people.

Salvador de Bahia

Unquestionably the cultural heart of Brazil, Salvador, the State Capital of Baiha, is a melting pot of different cultures.

A very strong African influence infuses the music, food and dance here. If you are interested in Capoeira (a combination of martial art and dance), Salvador is a great place to learn.

The city is large and safety is an issue, but if you want to be in the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture, Salvador is where it beats.

Rio De Janiro

Rio is a city of great contrast: class and classicism, beach and granite, rambling jungle and abject poverty–all wrapped into an urban landscape. There are world-class accommodations, bars, restaurants, shopping, beaches and surf–you can find anything in Rio.

photo by Zeca Baronio

Tijuca National Park, rising from the center of the city, offers a great place to take walks or cycle, and is the largest urban forest in the world.

Living in Rio you will find the locals, “Carioca” very friendly but weary of the dangers in their own city.

Rio is wonderful, but desperate poverty lives right down the block. Violence is common and the consequences cannot be overlooked. Many exchange programs will not place students here due to the violence, but I would gladly take the risk.

Use caution, avoid flashing around money and valuables, ask the locals where to go, and you will have an amazing stay.


Balneário Camboriu

This resort town is located on the coast of Santa Catarina, and its beach-front is a popular Brazilian getaway. There’s good year-round nightlife due to a lot of university students, and many clubs are situated a little outside the main city with dance parlors stretching out onto the sand.

photo by appm

The world’s only cable car connecting two beaches is the bondinho running from the southern end of town to Laranjeiras Beach, with a pit stop on top of a mountain.

Equipped with modern amenities, cinema, shopping, and good restaurants, Camboriu strikes a good balance between the buzz of a large city and the safety of a smaller town.

Southern Brazil

Florianopolis

Located on the island of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis is known for its beaches, surfing, kite-boarding, and sand-boarding.

photo by Andréia

Florianopolis has forty-two beaches to choose from, varying from stylish beach resorts to deserted stretches of white sand. Southern Brazil, predominantly settled by Europeans, has a large German population. “Floripa” as the locals call it, is known throughout Brazil for it’s beautiful blondes.

Southern Brazil is much safer than northern Brazil, and has a cooler climate–particularly nice during the summer months. Floripa claims to have no Favelas, (slums) like Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. The culture is laid-back and you can find many nice bars in the city center or in the neighborhood of Lagoa.

Which Program is right for me?

You will find a number of study abroad programs in Brazil; here are a few good ones.

If you are high school age, AFS, is a great program for 6 month to year programs, and you can go with no prior study of Portuguese.

Another good program is First Step World, which offers a number of courses in Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis and Salvador.

Also take a look at Two Worlds United.

Different programs will require different levels of language proficiency, ranging from two years of college Portuguese to no prior knowledge at all.

Choose a program that fits your skill level. Program costs will differ depending on the length of stay and additional options they give you. Look for programs offering trips to other parts of Brazil. After all, you want to see a bit of the country!

Two Worlds

Once, I had a conversation with a Buddhist monk about language and cultural exchange.

He said, “When you speak two languages it is like having two minds, when you live in two cultures, you have lived two lives.”

I think his sentiment is a beautiful and true way of at looking at study abroad. No matter where you choose to study, with whatever program, you are going to have an eye-opening, exultant, wonderful experience.


Community Connection

Check out more on Brazil including info from local experts, organizations where you can study and volunteer, plus job opportunities, travelers you can connect with, and the most inspired blogs you’ll find anywhere on the web.

About The Author

Freya Fennwood

Freya Fennwood Freya Fennwood is a freelance writer and photographer who has lived in Brazil, traveled by truck across South America, and acted in Thailand. She resides in an 8’ by 10”chichen coop in Port Townsend WA in-between adventures.

  • Brian Requarth

    Thanks for the article. It was really informative and gave a nice panorama of Brazil.

    Is anyone familiar with a program designed around business professionals looking to get away for 3-4 weeks (intense language courses).

  • Caro!! (Mexicana)

    Hey Freyaaaa!! I really LOVE IT congratulations, really nice!!!

    I miss you sooooo much sua louquinha Saudades demais!! t adoroooo!!

    and come and visit meeee!!:)

  • Brian Requarth

    Thanks for the article. It was really informative and gave a nice panorama of Brazil.

    Is anyone familiar with a program designed around business professionals looking to get away for 3-4 weeks (intense language courses).

  • Caro!! (Mexicana)

    Hey Freyaaaa!! I really LOVE IT congratulations, really nice!!!

    I miss you sooooo much sua louquinha Saudades demais!! t adoroooo!!

    and come and visit meeee!!:)

  • Daniel Harbecke

    Wow, this brought back some memories… I wrote a friend of mine who's dying to talk about his hometown of Curitiba, a big city bout 200 miles from Florianopolis. They've got an excellent language program there as well.

    Great article, Freya! Tudo bem!

  • Daniel Harbecke

    Wow, this brought back some memories… I wrote a friend of mine who’s dying to talk about his hometown of Curitiba, a big city bout 200 miles from Florianopolis. They’ve got an excellent language program there as well.

    Great article, Freya! Tudo bem!

  • Alaya

    Freya!!! Great article, made me miss brasil, you and floripa so much.

  • Hakan Almerfors

    Rio de Janeiro is a great place to study, here you have beaches and good universities. One of the aspects that will enrichen your time whereever you are in Brazil is to learn basic Portuguese, without it you will feel quite restricted. Luckily the university PUC (where you are quite likely to study actually) offer great 6 week intensive courses where you can get the basics.

    I´m a Swede that has been living in Rio since 2003, I have a website that provides information to independenet travellers, all is in English. Check it out by clicking <a HREF="http://www.gringo-rio.com/&quot; rel="nofollow">here</A>.

  • http://www.gringo-rio.com Hakan Almerfors

    Rio de Janeiro is a great place to study, here you have beaches and good universities. One of the aspects that will enrichen your time whereever you are in Brazil is to learn basic Portuguese, without it you will feel quite restricted. Luckily the university PUC (where you are quite likely to study actually) offer great 6 week intensive courses where you can get the basics.

    I´m a Swede that has been living in Rio since 2003, I have a website that provides information to independenet travellers, all is in English. Check it out by clicking here.

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  • Andre

    I am Brazilian and I found your coments very acurate!!! Tank you for your sincere opiniion of Brasil! Muito obrigado e boa sorte!

    • Sainath

      Hi Andre…

      • sainath

        I would like have my further studies in Brazil..could you suggest me..please!!!!!!!

  • Douglas

    Actually, only Fortaleza and Salvador are in the Northern part of Brazil (Northeast, exactly). Rio de Janeiro is in the Southeast region and Florianopolis and Balneario Camburiu are in Southern region. The others informations are quite right. Congratulations! If I was to study Portuguese in Brazil, I would think about other cities, since those described above have very strong accents and a lot of regional idioms, sometimes hard to understand even for us, Brazilians. You can consider going to Sao Paulo (Brazilian biggest city), Brasilia (the capital), Belo Horizonte (with a vibrant bohemian nightlife) or not-so-famous places, such as Sao Luis (a historical city, reputed as having the best spoken Portuguese). The first 3 cities don't have beaches, but you can always travel, and if there's something easy to find in Brazil is a beautiful nature landscape.

  • Zeca Baronio

    Hi! Thanks for putting a pic of mine in your blog. But just a correction: the photo I took is from Florianópolis, a city located in the state of Santa Catarina, Brasil, not from Rio de Janeiro, as you mentioned.

  • Fernando

    Strange… writing about places to study in Brazil and letting São Paulo out of the picture… considering the facts that São Paulo city alone holds aprox. 10% of the country's population and it's USP (Universidade de São Paulo) is notably one of the most important south american universities.

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  • Flavia

    I agree, when I saw the title “The Best Places to Study in Brazil” I thought, “surely São Paulo will be on top – if not on the first place”. I’m from Rio de Janeiro, but perplexed with the fact São Paulo was left off of the picture.

    Sampa, as we call it here, is the largest city in the southern hemisphere, a point of reference on finance as well as cultural activities. It’s the 10th richest city in the world according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, it has many well reputed universities, a large variety of entertainment options and is considered one of the world’s capitals of gastronomy.

    Leaving São Paulo out of the list is just… bizarre.

  • Kathy Rose

    Brazil is really an awesome place for me. Last year I went to Balneário Camboriu, to visit my younger cousin and check her studies there and to also have a vacation with her. She have told me how this place is very important for her, how she love studying in Balneário Camboriu and she asked me to apply for a job near their house and stay with her until she graduate in college. Until now, she is calling me and asking me to decide .. I think after reading this post I must call her back and say Yes because I think there are lots of opportunities in Brazil that I should grab as soon as possible.

    Kathy Rose,
    International Call

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but u had a mistake, Santa Catarina is not an island, indeed is a state where the Captial is Florianópolis, Floripa as called by Flarianópolis citzens (manézinhos) is divided in two parts, the continantal part and islet part.

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