Itacaré, Brazil

Surfers on the beach in Itacaré  

Itacaré is one of those places that’s somehow more than you expect. There must be hundreds of gorgeous tropical beaches and fishing villages in the north-east of Brazil; what’s so special about this one?

If Colombia is the home of magic realism, Itacaré would give it a good run for its money.

Tiny marmoset monkeys run along the telegraph wires, bullfrogs that sound more like meowing cats sit in ponds, capoeira is a way of life and there’s something about the place that makes it hard to leave.

It’s relaxed enough to feel like an escape from the world, but don’t mistake it for the kind of place where nothing ever happens. There’s more than enough bars and beach parties in summer to keep you happy.

Itacare sunset

Places to Stay:

There are dozens of pousadas on the sand streets behind the Praia de Concha, plus a handful of hostels in the centre of town. The main road into town from Praia de Concha also has a wide range of restaurants and bars with live music. If you visit in the off-season (when the weather is still great, this is Bahia!), you can often get good deals at the pousadas, so don’t count them out as a budget option.

Things to Do:

  • Head to the beach: There are plenty of incredible beaches here to easily take up all you time. However, don’t miss out on the other parts that also make Itacaré special.
  • The four beaches walk: Walking through cool rainforest, the remains of a half-built development appear. A Portuguese visitor fell in love with Bahia, bought some land and started to build. Without permission, as it turns out. A strange collection of empty brick and timber lodges lie scattered, walls missing as the forest slowly claim them back. The four beaches walk (which is best done with a guide as there have been occasional muggings) takes you through beautiful, semi-deserted coves where tiny streams and small waterfalls cascade directly onto the beach. Surrounded by rainforest, a lone snack stall sells fresh acaraje and tapioca pancakes. One by one surfers arrive to ride some of the best waves in Brazil.
  • Catch some capoeira: If waterfalls and rainforest-strewn beach hikes don’t tempt you, how about catching some capoeira in one of the local bars? Where it’s performed changes from time to time, so ask around. Our guide on the beach hike was a capoeirista and seemed to know half the people in town as a result!
  • Kayak up rainforest creeks: Hire some canoes for the day and head upriver into the Atlantic rainforest. Hundreds of crabs scatter the mudflats below the mangroves, creeks lead to hidden swimming holes under waterfalls and you can always stop at a riverside place for fresh fish or moqueca for lunch.
  • Surf! Itacaré is well-known among Brazilian surfers for its great break – there are surf tournaments here every summer.

MoquecaAfter you’ve burned some calories, dig into a big plate of Moqueca! 

  • Watch the Sunset: Head up to Ponta de Farol or head up to the point overlooking the bay of Itacaré to watch a fiery sun drop into the Atlantic.
  • Take a boat trip around the Baia de Camamu: Camamu and the Peninsula de Marau are even more idyllic than Itacaré, but lacking the laidback bars and restaurants to enjoy in the evening. You can join a boat trip from Camamu for the day, heading out around the islands in the bay. Take your swimming stuff and dive off the boat or just enjoy some fresh caipirinhas and fruit juice on board.

How to Get There:

Itacaré is about 90 mins north of Ilheus on the Bahian coast. Regular buses leave every hour for the town bus station, from where you can get a taxi for a few reals to your pousada or hostel. Flights from Salvador to Ilheus take only 30 mins and cost around £70. It’s much cheaper to take the bus between the two, but it will take about 8 hours.

Where to Head Next:

  • The diverse north-eastern state of Bahia holds enough to keep you busy for weeks.
  • Head inland to the table mountains of the Chapada Diamantina to enjoy great day hikes, caves, waterfalls and the pretty little town of Lençóis. There are also a number of adventure sports companies in the area who offer everything from climbing to ziplining.
  • Salvador is a unique place to visit, with a jewel-box of a historic centre, a thriving music scene and one of the liveliest carnivals in Brazil. A great time to visit is during the Festival of São João (also known as the Festas Juninas) in June, when the Pelourinho is strewn with flags and live music stages set up by the Elevador Lacerda.

SalvadorThe incredible town of Salvador is well worth a visit 

  • If you’re heading south and want to see some Brazilian wildlife, there’s a sloth sanctuary (CEPLAC) just outside Ilheus. Who doesn’t love a cute smiling sloth?

About the Author: Hi, I’m Claire, the traveller behind Saltwater! From South America to Sri Lanka, Saltwater takes you aroud the world to offer a little travel inspiration. A copywriter and comms specialist by day, travel is in my blood and South America was my first love. I’m planning to return to Brazil again later this year for my fourth visit to see more of this intriguing, beautiful, and complicated country.

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