Rio de janeiro is one of the most visited city around the globe, and in 2014, was pretty much in evidence because of the FIFA World Cup. What many tourists don’t know is the other side of the city, the “Brazilian Miami” as some foreign friends called.
Most of the visitors who come to Rio host at the Southern Area (Zona Sul) of the city, where you can find the most popular attractions as Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Sugar-loaf mountain, The Redeemer Christ and Maracanã.
In this article you will find information and tips about the Western Area (Zona Oeste) of Rio.
These area neighborhoods will be receiving the Brazil Summer Olympic Games 2016 in August, and is now having investments in transportation and infrastructure. Barra da Tijuca, the main neighborhood of the area, was designed in the early 70’s, when cars where synonyms of development, so without a car (Uber, taxi, rental, etc) it will be hard to explore this place, but believe, it’s all worth it.
What to see?
Praia da Barra da Tijuca e Pepê
A fun beach. A place where celebrities, young people and athletes share a very good environment. Here you will find the best kiosks to relax and sports to practice such as kite-surf, stand up paddle and surfing. This beach is also the easiest to get between all the following presented, you have many bus options. The Pepê beach is in the very beginning of Barra da Tijuca for the ones who come from Southern Area.
Praia da Reserva
One of the best urban beaches ever. It’s placed in an environmental reserve (the name in portuguese Reserva means it.), it’s right between the neighborhoods of Barra da tijuca and Recreio. Recommended for people who looks for calm places even in a metropolis.
Recreio and Macumba
Recreio is very similar to Barra da Tijuca, only further and calmer, but Macumba is where the good surfers are. Macumba beach is the first one after Recreio. It’s well preserved and very beautiful. They are separated by the Pontal Stone.
Praias Selvagens (Savage beaches)
They are not exactly savages as we would like, but they are reserved and hard to get. Mostly because there are no public transportation after Macumba beach. To visit this following places you will need a car. I recommend to use Uber in Rio. It’s safer.
Prainha and Praia do Secreto
After Macumba beach and before Prainha beach, you will find Praia do Secreto (Portuguese for secret beach). Few people know here, and almost no tourist know about this place. It’s recommended to arrive early, so you can enjoy it almost alone and with low tide.
To get to Praia do Secreto you will need to get to an observatory, right on the road. There you will find a track to the stones. Track down and have fun. It’s recommended to wear sneakers.
Praia do Secreto is very small and it’s not good with high tide, so, after a morning there, you can go to Prainha, a small sand area beach with good waves and very beautiful.
It’s a very small beach, but it’s just the appearance. The small area is because most of it is a nudist beach, so, it’s well reserved. It’s a stoned beach, with clear water and a restaurant. After climbing the stone on the left side of the sea, you will find a nudist community in a privileged beach. If it’s not a problem to you, take out your clothes and enjoy swimming naked in the sea.
Right after Abricó, is the Grumari beach. the most savage of the listed beaches here. If you got here you have noticed that the civilization is very behind you. Only mountains, green and the sea are with you now. Here is hard to get beach service and there’s only two kiosks. Also, prepare yourself, the things you buy here are more expensive then you are used to find.
The waves are very strong and the sea is deep. Be careful.
Barra de Guaratiba
Is the last neighborhood of the city of Rio de Janeiro. A bit more from here and you are outside the city limits. You can reach Barra de Guaratiba though Grumari (always by car, no public transportation), or you can use the BRT (bus rapid transit) system from Barra da Tijuca’s terminal, named “Terminal Alvorada” to get to Barra de Guaratiba station and then get another bus, a regular one, to get there.
There you will find the typical cuisine of the fishers of Rio and you can rent a kayak or stand up paddle to go near the preserved and restricted area of Restinga de Marambaia. I wrote “to get near” because it’s forbidden to set feet there. It’s a military base and it’s very reserved. If you talk to the people there, sometimes they allow visitors, a few per day, so arrive very early in the morning.
In Barra de Guaratiba there’s a famous stone where people can take the most amazing pictures with good optical illusion.
To get there find the Nossa Senhora das Dores church, the track begins on its stairs. Then, follow the yellow arrows that are painted on the stairs. You can also ask for directions on the establishments. You may find people offering guidance, but it’s really not needed. The track is around 40 minutes long, and it’s well signalized. The tip here is to avoid going too late, because it may be dangerous in the dark.
As you can see, there is a lot more of the most famous city of Brazil to see than some agencies offer, and with the Summer Olympic Games, the Western Area of Rio de Janeiro will be even more attractive and with many transportation options (They are about to finish the Subway there). It’s really worth the visit.