Pontal Rock (Pedra do Pontal), Rio de Janeiro’s Iconic Rock

Pontal and Macumba beaches as viewed from the rock

photography by: Omri Westmark

Situated in the western outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Recreio dos Bandeirantes is an affluent suburban neighborhood, best known for its string of golden beaches. Nevertheless, what truly sets Recreio apart from Rio’s more central neighborhoods is a massive rock, incessantly fluctuating between being an island and a peninsula. Known as Pedra do Pontal, the giant semi-islet is surprisingly blessed with some of Rio’s most stunning vistas.

Part of Rio’s west-zone, the neighborhood of Recreio dos Bandeirantes, or simply Recreio, might be a popular weekend getaway for Cariocas, yet due to its 35-kilometer distance from the downtown area, it is far less frequented by foreign tourists. While Recreio lacks the glamor of Copacabana and Ipanema, it is home to one of Rio’s most incredible natural rarities, Pedra do Pontal Rock. Named after the nearby Pontal Beach, the rock is nestled at the exact location where Macumba and Pontal beaches meet.

 

An Island? A Peninsula? Well, the answer is surprisingly both. Pontal Rock is a craggy isle which is linked to the mainland via a narrow sliver of sand. Due to Earth’s cycle of high-tide and low-tide, the sandy passage is submerged underwater nearly half a day, every day. As a result, Pedra do Pontal becomes inaccessible for non-swimming visitors for 12 hours, making it essential to precheck the local tide forecast prior to arrival.

 

As you reach the island’s shores, you’ll come across a steep, rocky slope stretching across a couple of meters. While theoretically, it is possible to successfully traverse this obstacle with flip flops or even bare footed, due to its slippery nature, it is nonetheless recommended to do so with sturdy shoes.

 

To reach Pedra do Pontal’s 125-meter-high hilltop, visitors must hike through a series of uphill trails crisscrossing a thicket of native shrubbery and trees. Perhaps the most challenging part is actually finding the right way to the peak, as some pathways lead to areas where only professional climbers will find it easy to ascend. Therefore, the only feasible way to the top entails a careful walk along the base of a 35° rugged slope, located in the eastern half of the island. It is then followed by a narrow path through an agave field, culminating at the coveted peak itself.

 

Once on top, visitors are rewarded for their sheer efforts with some of Rio de Janeiro’s most spectacular views, encompassing Recreio, the adjacent beaches as well as a distant glimpse of Pedra Branca State Park.

 

Take note that weekdays tend to be far less crowded than weekends, when the nearby beaches are brimming with locals, many of whom climb over Pontal Rock as part of their recreational activity.

Pedra do Pontal as seen from the beach with which it shares the name

photography by: Omri Westmark


The meeting point of Praia da Macumba and Praia do Pontal

photography by: Omri Westmark


The narrow strip of sand connecting the rock to the beach

photography by: Omri Westmark


During high tide, the strip is obscured by seawater

photography by: Omri Westmark


The top of the rock, viewed from a downhill slope

photography by: Omri Westmark


The pathways across the island are accompanied by a medley of native plants

photography by: Omri Westmark


The further you climb, the better the views are

photography by: Omri Westmark


The uphill hike

photography by: Omri Westmark


The 35-degree slope that leads to the top. While it is a bit tricky to find, the rugged area is located in the eastern portion of the islet

photography by: Omri Westmark


A view of Macumba Beach

photography by: Omri Westmark


A mind-boggling vista of Recreio dos Bandeirantes and its scenic coastline

photography by: Omri Westmark


The rocky peak of Pontal

photography by: Omri Westmark