Abstract The present study describes the community diversity and gives a seasonal distribution of an intertidal macroalgal assemblage at Prainha Beach, Arraial do Cabo City in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. Sampling was performed during four seasons of a 1-year period. Organisms were sampled and photographed using photoquadrats to quantify relative coverage. Ninety-six taxa of macroalgae were registered, including 23 chlorophytes, 19 ochrophytes, and 54 rhodophytes, while three barnacles, seven mollusks, one isopod, and one polychaete were recorded among the zoobenthos. In the upper intertidal zone, the coverage was frequently dominated by invertebrates. Macroalgae always dominated the middle and lower zones, covering almost 100 % in both zones. The highest values of species diversity (H’), richness (S), and turnover rates were found during the transition from spring to summer, which coincided with the upwelling period. A comparison with the 1980’s flora revealed that the major changes in the macroalgal assemblage were among species belonging to the same genera, unless new additions were provided. The combination of photoquadrats and minimally destructive sampling allowed a detailed description of the composition and structural characteristics of the intertidal zone, a methodology that should be applied to study protected marine areas.