By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One doesn’t need to go too far in order to enjoy a paradise-like beach this summer. Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone), the city’s largest region, offers at least sixteen stunning beaches, most of them about an hour away from Zona Sul (South Zone).

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Located between São Conrado and Barra, the Joatinga beach is a great option for escaping from the crowds of Copacabana and Ipanema, photo internet recreation.

From Joatinga to the very end of Guaratiba beach, Zona Oeste’s 27 kilometers of sand are ready to please all tastes.

Zona Oeste’s first beach is Praia da Joatinga, the closest one to Zona Sul. Located in the frontier between São Conrado and Barra, the beach generally attracts Carioca families and friends looking for a silent sun bath or simply having a good time in a chilled area.

As the access to Joatinga is not widely known among Cariocas and tourists, the short beach is usually empty during the week days, being a great option for those willing to escape from the crowds of Copacabana and Ipanema. This predominant calm pace of Joatinga is also the reason why many TV celebrities prefer it during the week.

Situated halfway between Barra and Recreio beaches is the great Praia da Reserva. Part of an ecological reserve – as the name suggests -, Reserva is famous for its crystalline waters and very long sand strip. Less busy and safer than its neighbor Praia da Barra, Reserva is a good option to go with groups, either friends or family. At Reserva, it is possible to find some kiosks selling food and drinks.

Going a little further towards Zona Oeste, one will find Prainha, one of Rio’s favorite surfing spot. From canoeing to kite surfing, plenty are the water sports one can practice in Prainha’s excellent waves. Beginners also have the opportunity to take a chance with one of the numerous surfing schools situated at this beach.

Right at the side of Prainha, Praia do Secreto is a stunning beach still little explored by visitors. Like in Joatinga, Secreto is inaccessible when the tide is high – sometimes, its short sand strip gets completely submersed. However, Secreto becomes the most beautiful natural pool in low tide periods, perfect to give a break from Zona Oeste’s strong waves.

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In low tide periods, Praia do Secreto, between Macumba and Prainha beaches, becomes a true natural pool, photo by Trilhas e Aventuras.

Those into an unusual beach experience should definitely check Abricó, Rio’s only naturist beach. It is recommended by locals to arrive at Abricó very early in the morning in order to see its unforgettable sunrise. What’s more, this is the moment when the beach is more empty.

Another great surfing spot is Grumari, located right after Abricó. Also part of an environmental reserve, Grumari offers a good infrastructure of bars, like Quiosque do Alemão, run by German expatriate Franz Gessler and his wife Gil Rodrigues. Once at Alemão, make sure to try its fried pastel (typical Brazilian fried dough) stuffed with prawns and its caipirinhas.

Sea food lovers will have a pleasant surprise at Barra de Guaratiba, Zona Oeste’s last beach. Scenary for many Brazilian soap operas, Barra de Guaratiba is considered one of the most important regions for the fishing activity in Rio. Among Guaratiba’s best sea food restaurants are Tia Penha, which serves an excellent shrimp “bobó”, and Bira de Guaratiba.

To get to Zona Oeste’s beaches by bus, one must take lines 557 and 556 to go to Joatinga, and lines 818 and 880 to go to Pontal. A great alternative is the “Surf Bus”, which departs from Largo do Machado, in Zona Sul, and goes through all the Zona Oeste beaches until Prainha.

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