I am not a fan of crowds. So what was I doing at an event that has 2 million people on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro on New Year’s Eve? Fourteen minutes of fireworks across 4 km of a brightly lit up beach is quite an attraction creating one of the world’s biggest New Year’s celebrations.
People come for the Copacabana New Year’s from all around the world, bringing friends and money.
In total, the year we were there the city estimates that the weekend will bring in $541 million BRL (Brazilian reals). Not bad for an event that cost the city of Rio de Janeiro $25 million BRL ($6.76m USD).
Called Revellion in Portuguese, it’s a Brazilian party second only to Carnival. Copacabana Beach is one of the best New Year’s Eve parties in the world.
It’s not just a visual event, we felt it in down to our bones. From the first burst of fireworks to the finale it was 14 minutes of heart-pumping adrenalin making it obvious why Rio’s New Year’s eve is world-famous (second only to Sydney, Australia).
We watched the fireworks from a boat
Copacabana is one of the most famous beaches in Brazil. However, it isn’t all that safe on the best of days. With 2 million people (that’s half the population of New Zealand) standing shoulder to shoulder, there is plenty of pickpocketing and other petty crime.
A Copacabana New Year’s in Rio de Janeiro may be on your bucket list but there are safer ways to enjoy it. We did it from the sea.
Standing on the deck of a small cruise ship, we could see it all, enjoy champagne, hear the party, and feel the energy pulsing through our bodies as we enjoyed one of the world’s best fireworks shows. If you are going to be on the beach, check out the safety tips below.
Here is what it looked like:
Revellion: Let the fireworks begin
And then the fireworks began. As the show progressed, smoke filled the sky, reflecting colours while at the same time blocking out some of the fireworks. To better understand the massive size of this beach display, notice the boat on the right-side foreground. It is the Costa Fascinosa, a cruise ship holding nearly 4,000 passengers.
Popular Rio de Janeiro New Year’s Eve superstitions to bring good fortune for the coming year
These were told to us during a Rio city tour we had during the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.
- Wear white. This stems from the African religion. However, if you want to wear colours, wear yellow for money, or red for love. Many people wear these under their white layers. Never wear black.
- Release flowers into the sea.
- Hop seven waves at midnight.
- Eat seven grapes.
- Eat lentils.
- Wrap seven pomegranate seeds in foil and carry them in your pocket.
Practical tips for Rio de Janeiro on New Year’s Eve
- Book early.
- If you are planning to go next year, or even thinking about it, now is the time to book a hotel. If you use booking.com and get a rate that is fully cancelable, you can always change your mind. But, with 2 million people heading to Copacabana beach, it’s best to have a place to stay.
- Probably the best place to stay is the Copacabana Palace Hotel. It’s certainly where we would stay if we hadn’t been on a cruise ship. Right on the beach, it is absolutely first-class and lovely. An ideal spot for New Year’s Eve or any night.
- If you are taking a cruise, also book early – although we only booked ours in August, and it sailed with several empty cabins (to our surprise).
Safety tips for New Year’s Eve on Copacabana beach
- If you are heading to the beach, go empty-handed and always be aware of your surroundings.
- Do not wear jewellery. It is very common for necklaces to be ripped right off of necks, watches pulled off wrists, and I don’t even like to think about what happens when they snatch your earrings.
- Keep cameras in a backpack or zippered pocket. Take them out only when you are going to take photos.
- Hold your backpack in the front, under one arm – if you bring one. Ideally, leave it at home.
- Speak Portuguese on the beach if you can.
- Do not bring a wallet, but rather the exact amounts of money you plan to spend, ideally, each group in a separate pocket. Perhaps some for food and drink and a different small wad for the taxi (ideally you have booked early enough to be able to walk to Copacabana beach, as taxis and buses will be nearly impossible to get after the fireworks).
- As a safety precaution for everyone, the fireworks are shot from barges at sea.
- Don’t be so paranoid that you cannot have fun, but do be cautious. Check out our general safety tips for travelling in South America.
Rio de Janeiro is a fabulous city to visit. See more on our daytime adventures in Rio or click here for our nine-week South American itinerary.
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Have you ever, or will you one day enjoy Rio de Janeiro on New Year’s Eve?
Note: This page based on New Year’s Eve 2018-2019.
Happy New Year Rhonda and Jeff! So happy to have shared some South American adventures with you – here’s to more in 2019!
Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
Your pictures are spectacular! We have a great fireworks show in Sydney too but I’m not a fan of crowds so I prefer watching at home on the TV in my PJs! I would love to see the Rio fireworks but only if like you, I was on a cruise ship!
Happy New Year! We had a great time at the fireworks display in Rio a few years ago. Your safety tips are very important, although I had a pair of shorts stolen – couldn’t really avoid taking them! I hope you follow the steps and receive much good fortune this year!
Dare I ask, how did you get your shorts stolen? I hope you were not injured in the processes. They fireworks are pretty spectacular.
Keri | Ladies What Travel
Wow, what an epic way to see in the New Year! Those fireworks look amazing and love the idea of seeing them from the safety – and different viewpoint – of a boat!
I agree. Even without the safety element, watching the fireworks from the sea was pretty spectacular.
Happy New Year to you! What an incredible experience! I love fireworks!! I’ve never been to that part of the world, or been on a cruise, but the NYE celebration looks out of this world!
I love them both, cruising and South America (and fireworks). NYE in Rio is really special.
Wow what an experience. I hope that I can take my boys to something like this when they are older. Wishing you all the best for 2019.
We didn’t take our kids this time. For us, it was just the adults in Rio.
May I know the name of the cruise company you choose?
We were sailing on the fabulous Azamara Pursuit. I wrote more about it here: Our South America Boutique Cruise on Azamara Pursuit
Fantastic photos and what a great place to witness the party but not be in the thick of the throngs of people. Reminding myself that this would be a great cruise to do someday.
I totally agree. This was the safest and best way to enjoy the fireworks
Happy New Year!
” HAPPY NEW YEAR ” Rhonda. Wow what unbelievable photos. Well, I’m in the process of getting ready for my 10 day cruise. I’m getting excited. I see that you are enjoying your own cruise. See ya.
Yes, We are having a great time cruising in South America.
It is considered the world’s second-best NYE display.
Those were incredible pictures of the fire works, Rhonda..Lucky you to be in this amazing spot during the new year’s eve
I have to agree, I feel very lucky to have been able to see this.
Another amazing adventure – wow! The fireworks photos are wonderful.
Yes, Rio has been quite the adventure.
Memories of Eric and Flynn
What a fantastic display, and beautiful photos.
I could only capture a portion of it as it filled 4 km of beach.
Wow these pictures are spectacular!! What a lovely experience! How cool to be in Rio on New Year’s Eve!
It’s a once in a lifetime experience for us.
Wow = what an awesome display! Rio sure knows how to throw a party.
Yes, it was really impressive.
The fireworks display looks so beautiful. I didn’t do any partying to bring in the New Year, I watched a comedian as the New Year was coming in.
LOL – that is our normal NYE – we sit home with friends, have dinner, watch a comedy, and at about midnight maybe have a glass of bubbly, maybe not.
Those look quite spectacular, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a big display.
I had never seen anything like it either. It is rated as one of the best in the world.
Amazing fireworks. Happy New Year!
They were pretty impressive. Happy New Year to you too.
7 definitely seems to be a lucky number for the Brazilians. Do you know why that is?
You are correct. We were told seven is a lucky number at New Year’s Eve, but we don’t know why.
Very smart tips and brilliant moves with the cameras. I have a pretty cheap tough pns (Lumix) I try to have on me at all times. Took some shots on the way home of our first real snowfall today. Incredible fireworks shots and I’m glad your such a savvy traveler.
Those little tough cameras are great, but the can’t do the fireworks like the OMD can.
Wow, they go all out. Great shots too. That would have been something to see in person.
Have a happy and healthy 2019. ♥
They sure do. It is currently rated the number two New Year’s Eve fireworks show in the world.
These are great photos and I felt like I was right there with you! Happy New Year to you and happy travels. Pomegranates play a role in New Year’s in Greece as well as one is to be smashed at the front door before entering to bring good luck the following year.
I think the Greek pomegranate custom will be messier than the Brazilian one.
Wow! that LQQKS magnificent I am not a crowd lover either so prefer to watch ours on TV as the display only lasts 3-5 minutes LOL, but it LQQKS nothing like this.
Happy New Year Rhonda and best wishes for 2019 😉
It was pretty impressive, and it just kept going at that high level. It’s not the same as on TV, which is where we usually see it from too.
Ryan K Biddulph
Fun times Rhonda! Kelli and I were in bed at 10 PM in Oman LOL. Finally getting over 3 weeks of jet lag, we do not party anyway, and in a dry, low key Muslim country, business as usual. Just how we like it. Rocking pictures!
LOL – this is us on most years. Today we took a nap to stay up and watch the fireworks
I can imagine how beautiful these fireworks must have been from the boat. We sometimes go to Lake Arrowhead for 4th of July and watch the fireworks from our boat. It’s a very different view when you are right under them, rather than watching them from a distance. I’d love to go to Rio, but from what you are describing it’s not quite safe. I enjoyed reading about the New Year’s Eve superstitions. How funny!
As a cruise port may be one of the safest ways to see Rio de Janeiro. Our ship was here two full days, so we got a chance to get out and see quite a bit before the New Years Celebration. As for safety, it’s mostly petty crime, but the crime rate is quite high.