The crying shame about most American beaches is that they are damn cold when the sun goes down. We all love to frolic in the salty goodness and sandy stretches that beaches provide, sometimes without clothes and sometimes with board shorts and a surfboard to keep us gliding ecstatically through that blue wonderland. What Americans are missing out on, however, is the feeling of partying on a beach at night and sweating from the humid heat that never subsides in a tropical paradise. My cohorts and I spent last weekend at one of these majestic locales, because when the sun goes down, the subwoofers come out, and you are suddenly at a moonlit disco.

When we arrived at the Brazilian isle of Morro de Sao Paulo, we decided the beach was the best place to start our hunt for a good time. What we saw when we descended the hillside onto the sand will be ingrained in our memories as one of the most surreal sights that one can encounter. The mellow stretch of sand — which was earlier home to a few foxy Brazilians lounging around and more than a few bloated European tourists sipping cocktails with tiny umbrellas in them — was now a full-blown beach disco. Hundreds of people were sandwiched between a line of massive speakers complete with a DJ booth and a line of vendors bearing carts of fresh fruit and liquor capable of serving you your own impromptu cocktail in less than a minute. Our hunt for a good time was over.

The beach was packed, full of bodies sweating and dancing to the throbbing beat of some eclectic electro music. It was truly a clash of cultures, with natives dancing in the traditional Brazilian samba, moving hips and feet at blurring speed, while others jumped around and pumped their fists like glow stick-clad rave veterans. It was already a late night, and as the clock ticked quickly from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., I thought we were witnessing the tail end of this seaside spectacle. I was wrong. The night was just getting started, and the crowd continued to grow, reaching its peak sometime around 4 a.m.

The good thing about a party on the beach is that there is no maximum capacity and no dress code. At some point I stumbled into ankle deep water to urinate, taking a page from the Brazilians with a true “when in Rome” attitude, and I accidentally punted a sea urchin on my way. It’s funny how in an American club, spilling a drink on yourself can put a damper on your night, but in Brazil it’s the sea urchins that you need to worry about cramping your style. The urchin was as good as forgotten when I got back to the party and started dancing with a gorgeous Norwegian girl who I somehow managed to trick into thinking my drunken shamble was good dancing.

Like a Brazilian version of Cinderella’s ball, the clock struck 5 a.m. and the party was over. The music stopped, the sun was up, the hot beach was getting hotter and my Norwegian princess was gone. Instead of a glass slipper, there were more than a few glass bottles strewn about like shells of ammunition from some great battle. The crowd sank back into the jungle village of the island like a pack of nocturnal creatures, awaiting a more comfortable hour to emerge again. Luckily, the next party wouldn’t start until 12 a.m., giving the sleepless plenty of time to recuperate.