Located in Rio de Janeiro's west side, Barra da Tijuca has never been an obvious touristic spot. The district is far from the city's main attractions, and the reliance on cars to get around earned it the nickname of "Rio's Miami."
But the 2016 Olympics changed that. The Summer games brought a new subway line connecting Jardim Oceânico to Leblon in only ten minutes, and the offer of hotel rooms in the area quadrupled between 2010 and 2017; the number of units went from 3,500 to 14,000, according to ABIH-RJ (Association of Hotels of the State of Rio de Janeiro).
Domestic tourists are also discovering Barra da Tijuca's attractions on their own. During last November's two three-day weekends, on the 15th and 20th, local hotels had an 83% occupancy rate, according to Rio's Hotel Union. In 2017, the rate was less than 50% for the same period.
The distance from Rio's downtown, formerly an issue, now works as an attraction for those who want to enjoy the city's natural beauty away from the buzz of traditional tourist spots.
Barra boasts the longest seafront in the city, with beautiful beaches and lots of green. It takes 10 miles from Praia do Pepê to the border with Recreio dos Bandeirantes, near the 9th post, and it is rare to see it full of people as it usually is the case in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.
But Barra's main attractions are further down the coast, towards Barra de Guaratiba: the beaches of Prainha and Grumari.
Because they are located in environmentally protected areas, with no buildings or highways, both beaches are only accessible by car. The view from Avenida Estado da Guanabara alone is worth the ride.
The distance from civilization and the strong waves put the two beaches among Rio de Janeiro surfers' favorites.
At other Barra da Tijuca beach, surf shares the waves with other water sports, such as kitesurfing, windsurfing and stand-up paddle, the latter a frenzy among Cariocas since last summer.
Translated by NATASHA MADOV