West Zone Information
The West Zone of Rio de Janeiro is where Rio’s citizens are building a new vision of their marvelous city. With room to grow, the West Zone is building both horizontally and vertically -- as luxury high rise buildings dominate the skyline and traffic crowds the newly constructed highways. Compared to the traditional tourist section in the South Zone, the western zone represents a "good news / bad news" scenario depending upon your point of view – unlike the south zone, there is plenty of parking spaces – but you really do need a car! Some compare the West Zone to the city of Los Angeles and parts of California. There are many lifestyle advantages (beautiful beaches, gorgeous natural settings/wildlife, luxury accommodations and shopping galore) and some disadvantages (rush hour traffic, construction delays). There are many who view this part of Rio as the "future of Rio".
A far cry from its origins as a muddy beach pockmarked with fetid swamps, the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca is now one of the most affluent parts of Rio - a magnet for the rich and famous. It’s flanked by 9 miles (14.4 kilometers) of golden sand and turquoise ocean, forested with luxury high rise condominiums and dotted with cobalt lakes, and it’s considered one of the safest regions of the city. Entertainment is second to none, with a bewildering amount of nightclubs, bowling alleys, go-kart tracks, music venues and cinemas to choose from. The area is also renowned for its gastronomic diversity, with practically every cuisine imaginable offered here, from Thai to Italian to Portuguese.
Due to the impressive swell, the beach is very popular with surfers and other water sports enthusiasts. In fact, it is the center of extreme sports including championships in long and short board surfing and kite surfing. Barra Beach is where you go when you want to spread out a little. It is still crowded on weekends in the summer but there is plenty of elbow room for volleyball and foot volley.
The area is also home to 20 high-end shopping malls, offering yet another opportunity to splash the cash. Another sign of its "up and coming" status is that Barra is home to most of the Olympic venues for the scheduled Summer Games in 2016. The challenge has always been getting to Barra as driving and bus travel resulted in high traffic. However, the city has just finished upgrading an express bus lane into the city and is readying a new metro station to facilitate mass transit. Barra is busy getting itself ready to become center stage and to demonstrate there is more to Rio than its better known cousin, the South Zone.
Squeezed between Barra da Tijuca to the east, the Grumari Environmental Preserve to the west and Guaratiba to the north, Recreio, which rather appealingly translates into ‘playground’, is a kind of amalgamation of its neighbors, inhabited as it is by upper-middle class who can’t quite stretch to the high prices of Barra da Tijuca, and emerging middle class from other districts including Guaratiba and its neighbors to the north. It is home to four great beaches – Praia do Recreio, Praia da Macumba, Praia do Pontal, and Prainha – which are generally agreed to be the cleanest and most enjoyable in the city.
The district is very much up and coming, with the emergence of new shopping malls and building projects, but pockets of tranquility abound, with numerous parks and nature reserves scattered about the place. If staying here, look out for wildlife, some of which includes cormorants, marmosets and alligators. Another highlight is the Casa do Pontal Folk-Art Museum, which includes pieces from all of the 24 different states of Brazil showing the daily work, festivals, religious traditions and creative work of the Brazilian people.
This sprawling district is a tranquil place, a world away from the hustle and bustle of central Rio, and is inhabited mainly by lower middle class, with one of the lowest population densities of the city. Because of its vast size, Guaratiba has been loosely divided into the three main districts of Barra de Guaratiba, which is known for its wetlands and largely agricultural industry, Pedra de Guaratiba, which occupies the coastal region and boasts a newly developed waterfront, and Ilha de Guaratiba, which with its abundance of farms is the most rural district.
As a whole, Guaratiba is celebrated for its superlative seafood restaurants, its stunning nature trails and its easy access to the State Park of Pedra Branca, an environmental conservation area and home to Pedra Branca, which at 1,025 metres is the highest peak in Rio.
Translating into ‘little meadow’, Vargem Pequena is a delightful neighborhood, which is accelerating in growth at a phenomenal rate. With much of its area being taken up by the aforementioned State Park of Pedra Branca, it is one of the most scenic districts of Rio, and a haven for wildlife. Many of its restaurants are highly acclaimed, with a variety of cuisines offered, including Portuguese, Italian, French and Japanese.
As you can probably tell from studying the map, (adjust size as necessary), the West Zone is quite large and some of its beaches can only be accessed by car. A number of busses routinely travel from the South Zone and Downtown through the primary avenues including the Av. das Américas. And naturally, you can get just about anywhere by taxi. if this is your first visit to Rio, you will probably want to plan at least one day to visit the beaches - if you are a surfer, the surfing schools will offer to pick you up at your hotel and take you to the beaches here as they represent some of the best surfing. Click on the links to revisit the pages describing the South Zone - Part I , the South Zone - Part II, Downtown and the North Zone.
Recreational clubs on the Lago...
Taking the tram to the top of ...
Christ the Redeemer on Corcova...
Photo: Pedro Kirilos / Riotur
Wildlife on the Lagoa
An oasis in the city - Jardim ...
"If God had really intended men to fly, he'd make it easier to get to the airport" - George Winters