The Brazilian equivalent of the British expression "Just my cup of tea" is "é minha praia" ('That's my beach"), which tells you all you need to know about the two countries' relative cultural values. Brazilians can talk for hours about their favourite strip, nowhere is more closely associated with the beach as lifestyle than Brazil, and golden sands provide many of the country's cultural icons: The Girl from Ipanema, Havaianas, fio dental ("dental floss") bikinis, Copacabana ...
With 8,000km of coastline and thousands of beaches to choose from – most of them lying beneath palm trees in the tropics – we asked 10 experts to choose their favourites, from a river beach in the Amazon down to one of the country's hippest beach cities, Florianópolis. And if we've missed out your favourite, we'd like to hear from you.
1. Alter do Chao, Pará
Tom Phillips, The Guardian's Brazil correspondent
Brazil's best beach is not in Rio de Janeiro or the sun-bathed north-east. It's not even on the coast. It is on a river at the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Around 30km from the rainforest city of Santarem, Alter do Chao is the jungle's answer to the Caribbean. After a week holed up in the jungle, Alter do Chao is the perfect place to relax: you can lounge on the river beaches in the morning, gorge yourself on a local grilled fish in the afternoon and retreat to one of the area's many charming pousadas by night. People often call the humid and dense Amazon the "green inferno". Alter do Chao is its golden paradise.
• Where to stay: Pousada Tupaiulandia (+55 93 3527 1157, no website) is not very expensive and pretty small, like all places in Alter do Chao, but has a lot of character.
2. Fernando de Noronha
Douglas Vieira, São Paulo journalist
Paradise is the word most commonly used to describe Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago 350km off the north-east coast of Brazil. Finding a nice beach is an easy task on the small volcanic island, but visiting three is mandatory: Praia do Sancho, which is reached through a crack in a rock wall; Baía dos Porcos (Pig's Bay), a place of astonishing beauty and great for swimming; and Atalaia, a natural saltwater pool with abundant sea life. All have translucent waters, and because tourist numbers to the islands are strictly monitored, it is easy to spot turtles, octopuses, a plethora of fish and even sharks. The food chain in Noronha is well preserved, so sharks are less dangerous here there than elsewhere.
• Where to stay: Pousada Topázio.
3. Praia do Toque, Alagoas
Ricardo Freire, author of 100 Praias Que Valem a Viagem (100 Beaches You Must Visit)
São Miguel dos Milagres fringes 15km of beaches protected both by reefs and the lack of a highway – the main coastal road turns inland, and only those in the know take the local road that leads to a forest of coconut trees and scattered villages. The sea is always warm; up to 36ºC at low tide in mid-afternoon - thalassotherapy for free! Set up base at Praia do Toque and walk the sands nearby. Twenty minutes north is Tatuamunha river, a sanctuary for manatees. Forty minutes south are two picture-perfect crescents: São Miguel and Praia do Riacho. At low tide hire a jangadeiro (a small traditional fishing boat) and head to the tidal pools.
• Where to stay: Pousada do Toque, the region's pioneers. Pousada do Caju is also good, and cheaper. See Ricardo's blog (in Portuguese).
4. Taipus de Fora, Maraú peninsula, Bahia
Conor O'Sullivan, founder of Tatur travel agency
The 1,100km coastline of the state of Bahia is speckled with spectacular beaches. I love long beach walks and my favourite is Taipus de Fora on the Maraú Peninsula. The long sweep of beach ends at a headland where beautiful reef pools are exposed by the receding tide, revealing a huge naturally sheltered pool, offering wonderful snorkelling and tropical fish. South, past the headland, the sandy beach goes on and on, and I walk on and on, stopping off for a refreshing dip. On my return, I always stop in at the Bar das Meninas, a cool restaurant bar located in front of the reef pool with a creative seafood menu, breezy cocktails and chilled beers. Maraú is an indigenous word meaning the "sun's light at daybreak". Even more spectacular though is the light at the rising of the full moon. Here the moon seems nearer and larger than it should be, flooding the beach and tide pools in soft light.
• Where to stay: Encanto da Lua, meaning The Moon's Enchantment, is just a short walk from the pools and ringside for the rising of the moon (standard doubles from R$ 230,00 (£70) a night, including breakfast, dinner and transfers). Kiaroa Resort is one of Brazil's leading luxury beach resorts.
5. Caraiva, Bahia
Steven Chew, contributing editor Conde Nast Traveller
There's an adage with remote Brazilian beaches: first go the hippies, then the yachties, then the French ... Caraiva is still at the happy-hippy stage of discovery and even then only for a brief period in the summer. No motorised transport is possible in Caraiva so the sounds that prevail are the breeze in the high almond trees and the exhaling of a dozen mules that pull the little carts that are the only alternative to walking. The beach stretches uninterrupted for more than a day's walk in either direction - north as far as the much-hyped village of Trancoso and south to Corumbau. Golden sands lead down to the water where a firm surf pushes relentlessly against the shore and provides the soundtrack to the handful of idyllic beach bars. And then, of course, there are the goalposts that remind you that you are in Brazil.
• Where to stay: There are a few simple hotels on the beach andFazenda Caraiva is a short boat ride up the Rio Caraiva.
6. Arpoador, Rio de Janeiro
Gavin McOwan, Guardian Travel
At the end of Ipanema when the traffic curves round to Copacabana, pedestrians can carry on walking to Arpoador. A continuation of Ipanema beach, Arpoador ends with a tall rocky headline, an easy 60m climb, offering stunning views of the whole length of Ipanema, Leblon and the famous Dois Irmãos mountain. From the pavement wooden steps lead you down to the sandy beach, a favourite with surfers, body surfers and local bathers (most tourists stick to Ipanema or Copacabana). Arpoador is one of the few beaches which is lit up at night so a late night dip is also a possibility. End the day sipping a caipirinha and nibbling on a prawn pastel on one of the outdoor tables at the Azul Marinho restaurant, the only beachside restaurant in Arpoador and Ipanema, with a fantastic ocean view where you can also watch groups of local kids practicing capoeira and small bands of musicians.
• Where to stay: Ipanema Penthouse (three-bedroom flats from $250 a night, including maid service).
7. Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Rio state
Nadia Nightingale, Rio resident
Ilha Grande – big island – is home to Lopes Mendes, the beach of your dreams, a sweeping 3km of the whitest, finest sand that stretches out to a calm, crystal blue ocean. With not a building or restaurant in sight, Lopes Mendes is lined with palm and almond trees offering only a little shade. Bathers will need to take plenty of suntan lotion, snacks and a good book – although there are always a couple of drinks sellers peddling chilled beers. Getting there involves a three-hour bus journey from Rio to Angra dos Reis then a hop on the ferry to Ilha Grande. A scenic 40-minute boat trip takes you to Abraão, the island's only town. Once in Abraão take a small taxi-boat to Manges beach, the last boat stop before Lopes Mendes. Landing on the beach, walk up over a hill and then down through a small forest to the beach. As you walk out of the forest, the beach is right in front of you in all its glory.
• Where to stay: Pousada So Natureza in Abraão has a pool, air conditioning and is extremely friendly (Doubles from R$ 200,00 (£62) a night including breakfast).
includes breakfast .
8 Praia da Fazenda, São Paulo state
Simon Heyes, Latin American Travel Association
Halfway between two of Latin America's biggest cities, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, but truly a world apart, lies one of Brazil's great natural jewels, where protected, heavily forested coastal mountains drop vertiginously into beaches and azure sea. Praia da Fazenda arcs effortlessly across the wide bay from the small, traditional fishing village of Picinguaba. Wade across the river – catch a flash of kingfisher green among the mangroves – and two miles of deserted beach lie ahead. To your right uninterrupted forest and mountains; on your left the bay, scattered palm topped islands and fish jumping. Things I love about this place: running at dawn you feel like the only person for a hundred miles; the cool, delicious natural spring at the far end; the gentle rise and shelter that provides a perfect spot for longboard surfing; and watching a school of dolphins from a kayak, and once even a whale!
• Where to stay: Pousada Picinguaba, a charming pousada in a beautiful, natural setting (Standard doubles from €122.50 (£108) per person a night, incl breakfast and dinner). Further information on Picinguaba and Brazil at lata.org.
9 Bonete, São Paulo state
Ariel Kostman, Metro newspaper, São Paulo
You'll have to walk a fair way to arrive at his beach – but don't think of that as a punishment. For me, the path is the best part, as you pass waterfalls and walk in the shade of the Mata Atlântica, Brazil's dwindling virgin coastal forest. Half an hour before the end of the 15km walk you'll see the beach at Bonete: this is what Brazil must have looked like to the Portuguese when they first arrived over 500 years ago: just blue sea, golden sand and dense green forest. Finally, the beach: a half-mile strip of sand next to a river estuary, with good waves for surfing. There's a small community of fishermen who offer very simple accommodation, or you can camp (you should stay at least two days). To return to Sepituba, on Ilhabela, there are canoes and boats (US$30pp) unless you enjoy the walk as much as I do, and decide return on foot, too.
• Where to stay: If you want comfort, Canto Bravo. Further information:ilhabela.sp.gov.br.
10. Lagoinha do Leste, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina
Caio Capela, Tucano House owner
Florianópolis island has over 42 breathtaking beaches. Praia Mole, the most popular in the heart of "Floripa" and surrounded by green mountains, is where the young and beautiful head. But my favourite is Lagoinha do Leste, a deserted beach on the south of the island, an hour's hike away. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, and backed by Atlantic rainforest, with dunes, sandbanks, a lake and rocky coastline. Perfect for camping (no campsite, pitch anywhere) or for a day trip. And after the track or boat ride back, you can finish the day eating at Arantes, the most popular seafood restaurant in Florianopolis.
• Where to stay: Tucano House Backpackers (doubles from £12 a night, dorms from £9).