Unless your budget can stretch to going for a few cocktails at the famous poolside bar of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, I would give this area a miss after the sun goes down - there are nicer places to be, such as Ipanema or Leblon, where there is certainly more interest going on.
The main evening attraction here is Help! discotheque, which is where many tourists head for a night out. My advice is to give it a miss - this is a tacky trouble hot spot (muggings are commonplace along this strip at night), where petty criminals go to make some easy money out of tourists, the music policy is uninteresting, and it's full of prostitutes.
Prostitutes are not only restricted to this discotheque, however, as Copacabana is now one of Rio's most notorious red-light districts. As you sit at one of the many restaurants along the Avenida Atlantica ,which runs along the seafront, the prostitutes gather around the hedge that borders the outdoor seating area. If you get up to go to the toilet, you'll bump into some of them in there, combing water through their hair or reapplying their lipstick.
The people that run the restaurant don't seem to mind their presence. In fact, it soon becomes pretty clear, as the waiters bring glasses of water out to the girls, that the restaurant is in some way involved in the whole business and probably receives a percentage of profits made.
It's also worth pointing out that most of the people sitting here, and we are pretty much the only female diners at this particular establishment, are entirely up for this kind of attention. The ladies behind the hedge aren't doing anything offensive after all - they just stand clustered around, beaming big smiles down at the diners, chatting with one another, and laughing at jokes. They are a varied bunch - some old, some young, some good-looking, some not, some well-dressed, some not.
The same can be said of the clientele, who occasionally invite one of the girls to come over and share a drink with them, or just slip off subtly, sometimes leaving a friend sitting there all alone.
We can't help but feel a little out of place and wonder if people think that the three of us girls are offering our wares, too. Looking around, the thought makes us feel a little nauseous, or is that the food? Grateful for the interesting experience but keen to get back to our hostel, we finish up and leave.