The coconut is to a Carioca* what the baguette is to a Parisian. Okay, well, not quite. Rio de Janeiro’s locals don’t cycle along Ipanema beach with a coconut under their arm, nor will you see them munching into one (ouch!) as they walk home from work. But like the baguette in Paris the coconut is ubiquitous in Rio. Cariocas and their coconuts are seemingly inseparable.
Stroll along Ipanema, Leblon or Copacabana beaches and you’ll see Cariocas soaking up the sun at the plastic tables outside the tiny beachside bars clutching onto green coconuts and sipping the agua de coco (coconut water) from a straw.
Occasionally, you’ll see Cariocas take their coconuts back to the bar so the guy can hack the fruit up with a machete and they can spoon out and eat the young flesh, though it’s not that common. Most seem content just to drink the juice. Why?
Well, it is delicious and it’s very refreshing on a hot day. Trust me, I’ve tried it. See the picture top right? Yes, that’s me. But Cariocas claim the agua de coco is also a fantastic cure for hangovers, and we know how much they love their caiparinhas, right.
Cariocas, who obsessively exercise, also tell us that they consider agua de coco to be ‘nature’s sport drink’. Apparently a glass of coconut juice contains more electrolytes than the average sports drink, which is handy after a day on the beach playing volleyball, racket ball and soccer. Particularly when a coconut costs R3 and a sports drink around four times as much.
Regardless of the obvious health benefits, when we asked our new Carioca friends what their must-do recommendations were for Rio, 9/10 said “drink an agua de coca at Ipanema”. And no, we haven’t triangulated that data nor have we done any chalk tests. You’ll have to trust us on this one.
It just feels right to sip a coconut on the beach in Rio. Especially Ipanema Beach.
*Carioca = local of Rio de Janeiro