Joined to Rio’s more famous South Zone by the Joa Bridge and Tunnel, West Rio de Janeiro holds its own as a growing Brazilian tourist destination, attracting visitors to its pristine beaches, lakes and outdoor recreation facilities. Coming to life during the Olympic Games in 2016, this once-suburban enclave of genteel living on the Atlantic Ocean now teems with celebrities, politicians and soccer stars.
Tourist flock to the Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood of West Rio often referred to as the “Brazilian Miami”. The Jardim Oceanico mirrors the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, with lively bars and eateries along Olegario Maciel and Erico Verissimo streets. Barra da Tijuca Beach is where to meet up with surfers, windsurfers, cyclists and serious fishing aficionados, while the smaller Pepe Beach draws families for more casual water sports, kite flying and snacking from numerous street food kiosks.
Motorists in West Rio use several main roadways, including the 21-kilometre-long Avenue of the Americas, the Avenida Ayrton Senna connecting Barra to the Linha Amarela highway, and the Avenida Lucio Costa that runs along the coastline. The Bus Rapid Transit system operates a metro and subway system through West Rio, connecting to the South Zone and other suburban areas. The growing popularity of bike paths allows cyclists to traverse the neighbourhoods and the coastlines with relative ease.
Barra da Tijuca in West Rio de Janeiro was once a huge swampland with an undergrowth of sandbanks, suitable only for occasional fishing. After being ceded to the Benedictine religious order in 1667, restructuring and settlement began in the suburban neighbourhoods now known as Camorim, Vargem Grande and Vargem Pequena. Natural mountains and hills dividing it from the south and city centre districts perpetuate the exclusive aura of West Rio.