Urban Beach Dreams – Maceió

28 Jun

Meandering along the palm-lined promenade and looking out across golden sand to painted sailboats bobbing on the clear green sea, it was easy to see why Maceió is a destination on the up.  Located in Brazil’s northern state of Alagoas, the modern city of Maceió initially thrived due to the sugar industry but is now fast becoming a hotspot with tourists in the know. The laid-back city has vibrant nightlife with excellent restaurants and bars but its biggest crowd pleaser has to be the miles of urban beaches and access to idyllic shorelines to the north and south.

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There are two distinct areas in Maceió – El Centro, the commercial heart of the city; and the beaches, where it’s all about enjoyment.  The city centre doesn’t offer much for the history buff or the culture vulture, with futuristic skyscrapers and malls replacing colonial buildings and museums, however, this simply allows more time to be spent enjoying the varied coastline.  The beaches to the north of El Centro are the best place to base yourself with a wider range of accommodation, restaurants and bars at your fingertips.

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A good place to start is Praia de Pajuçara located roughly 2 kilometres from El Centro.  As this beach is so central, the seafront is lined with hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. The curvaceous promenade is a hive of activity with jogging and cycling lanes and equipment for exercising whilst the beach, in contrast, is dedicated to relaxation with rows of sun loungers and vendors serving food and drinks.

The sandy beach is lined with brightly painted Jangadas (traditional wooden sailboats) which can be hired (around R$20 an hour) to sail 1 kilometre out to sea to swim in the natural pools and shallow reefs known as ‘Parrachos’ that form at low tide. On busy days, floating bars pop up at the reef and serve cold beers and cocktails to excited holiday makers.

Praia de Verde marks the beginning of a series of fine sands to the north of Maceió. Ponta Verde is a picturesque sandbar stretching out to the jade green sea and covered with palm trees.  Protected by an offshore reef, Ponte Verde’s waters are clear, calm and ideal for cooling off in Maceió’s year round tropical weather. If surfing and body boarding is more your thing, head further north to neighbouring Praia de Jatiúca, where the reef ends, to enjoy white crested waves.

At low tide it’s possible to walk out to Ponta Verde’s lighthouse and bathe in natural pools. Along the way look out for traditional fishing nets that trap fish in shallow pools as the sea recedes.

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Maceió really comes alive after dark. In the early evenings people wander along the beach stopping occasionally to watch groups of young Brazilians playing football. Music fills the air as buskers strum guitar strings and candle-lit bars crank up the samba music.

The beachfront is overflowing with restaurants and thatched-roof cafes to enjoy local and international cuisine. Enjoy large portions of fresh, tasty fish and seafood. Don’t leave without sampling delicious beiju de tapioca, similar to pancakes, filled with your choice of savoury or sweet fillings and heated until the inside starts to ooze from the edges.

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The beaches to the south of Maceió are simply stunning. Driving out of the city over the Trapiche bridge, the suburbs are replaced by flat wetlands. As you travel, the City suburbs are replaced by small, quaint seaside villages with large stretches of coconut plantations and inland sugar cane fields.

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Only 30 minutes-drive from Maceió, Praia do Frances offers fine white sands and a relaxed vibe. At one end of the beach, the calm green sea is protected by off-shore reefs and a string of rustic cafes and restaurants keep people happy serving fried fish and cold drinks.  Just a little further south Praia do Frances becomes much more secluded and offers excellent surfing conditions.

Barra de Sao Miguel is a small fishing village twenty miles south of Maceió. Sitting on the mouth of Sao Miguel estuary, it’s the jumping off point for Praia do Gunga, considered to be one of Brazil’s top ten beaches. Gunga’s brilliant white stretch of sand curves to meet the river where it joins the sea. From the village schooners regularly sail out across calm seas and deposit passengers on the powdery soft sands.

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Praia do Gunga is situated next to one of the largest coconut palm plantations in the whole of Latin America, offering an extraordinary natural landscape. A few low-rise bars and restaurants sell cocktails, seafood, fresh coconut water and cold beers to enjoy whilst watching the ocean.

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From Gunga take a buggy ride or walk (it takes around an hour to walk) to the other end of the beach to see the stunning tall cliffs (Falésias Praia Gunga) of different coloured sands. With colours of red, orange and grey, the desert-like landscape is mesmerising. We moved between the fresh water lagoons at the base of the cliffs to the salty sea to keep cool and just when we were starting to get thirsty, true to Brazilian form, a vendor with a cooler box arrived selling beer!

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A fun way to experience Maceió’s southern beaches is to take a full day mini-bus tour with one of the many agencies for around R$20 per person. Tours depart each morning, picking you up directly from your hotel, and visit several great beaches and viewpoints. A knowledge of basic Portuguese will enhance your trip as you’ll to be able to chat to your group and understand the guide’s commentary on the region but it’s not essential as the beautiful scenery speaks for itself.

 

One Response to “Urban Beach Dreams – Maceió”

  1. Justine of The Travel Lush June 28, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    Reading this is making me miss South America so much. I haven’t been to Brazil yet but I’m dying to go there. I know I’m spoiled by Indonesia’s beaches but Brazil’s beaches look absolutely incredible. I want to go!

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