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Cocoa Coast Travel Guide

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Around 180km, between the cities of Itacaré and Canavieiras, form the so called Cocoa Coast. Home to nature wonders, rivers flanked by cocoa farms, beaches of vast untouched coconut groves amid the Atlantic Forest and dense mangroves, the region enchants for its landscapes and the opulence of the golden years of the “black gold”.

The architecture preserves the colonial houses of the 18th and 19th centuries, in streets paved with stones, churches and old mansions, important part of the national history that date back to the period when the production and exporting of cocoa were the primordial activity of the Brazilian economy. Scenery of movies, soap operas and novels – most of Jorge Amado’s work, translated in several countries, is set in Ilhéus, main city of this coast -, the region besides being part of history is the right destination for those looking for fun and close contact with nature.

Map of the Cocoa Coast

Canavieiras, Ilhéus, Itabuna, Itacaré, Santa Luzia, Una and Uruçuca offer a variety of options for tourists. The abundance of beaches includes from surfing and fishing spots to calm waters and true deserted paradises. Extreme waterfalls – like Cleandro’s, in Itacaré-, rivers and rapids are an invitation to practice adventure sports such as rafting, rappel and canoeing

Mapa de Praias

ILHÉUS

The stretch of coast known as the Costa de Cocoa led the world in cacao production at the beginning of the 20th century. Its largest city, Ilhéus, however, earned its fame in literature.

The writer Jorge Amado (1912-2001) set some of his most popular novels here, including Gabriela Cravo e Canela.

Ilhéus is 462 kilometers (287 miles) south of Salvador, 65 kilometers (40 miles) south from Itacaré and 110 kilometers (68 miles) north from Canavieiras on the BA-OO 1 highway. But the town's attractions are not merely literary: good hotels and guesthouses provide access to historical buildings, inviting beaches, and Atlantic forest. Ilhéus was founded in the early years of the colony, a result of the sugar boom.

The historic chapel from this time, Capela do Rio do Engenho de Sant'Ana, pre-dates 1550 and is Ilhéus's oldest surviving building.

Most of the buildings in the town's historic center, however, date from the early-20th century cacao boom.

JORGE AMADO

Brazil 's most popular modern writer was born in 1912 near llheus, on Fazenda Auricídia, a farm in ltabuna. Jorge Amado grew up on his father's cacao plantation and watched as the cacao industry came to replace the sugar industry. The conflicts he witnessed between planters and exporters would become themes in his works. A militant communist, Amado was arrested four times and lived in exile in Uruguay, France, and Czechoslovakia.

Amado's works include 25 novels, two volumes of memoirs, two biographies, two children's books, and innumerable short stories and poems, which have been translated into 50-some languages.

The writer received honors in Brazil and worldwide, among them a place in the Brazilian Academy of Letters and an honorary doctorate from Lumiére University in Lyons, France. He also was awarded Candomble's highest honor, that of Oba Orolu, bestowed by the temple Axé Opo Afonjá terreiro.

Jorge Amado died on August 6,2001 in Salvador and his ashes were scattered around the mango tree at his house in Salvador's Rio Vermelho neighborhood.


A walk around the center of Ilhéus is an introduction to the life and works of Jorge Amado.

Vesúvio, a bar that figures in the plot of Cabriela Cravo e Canela, opened in 1920 and still serves chilled chope (draft beer) at sidewalk tables.

Close by is the Teatro Municipal, the former Ilhéus Cine Theater (built 1932), whose matinees the writer frequented. Nearby buildings all date from the golden age of cacao: the Casa dos Artistas arts center, built at the end of the 19th century, the Associaҫão Comercial (Trade Association) from 1932, and the Palácio Paranaguá (today the City Hall) from 1907.

Rua Antonio Lavigne was specially paved with English cobblestones for the wedding of the daughter of local coronel (rich, influential landowner) Misael Tavares, one of the region's most powerful cacao barons. His house, a 1922 mansion on the same street, is known as Palacete Misael Tavares.

The street leads to Igreja Matriz de São Jorge dos Ilhéus church, originally built in the 16th century. The house known as Casa de Tonico Bastos, named for a womanizing character from Jorge Amado's works, is near Catedral de São Sebastião, a cathedral built in eclectic style between 1930 and 1967.

Other attractions include the Ilhéus Hotel, built in the 1920s and home to one of the Northeast's first elevators, the Antigo Porto (old port), and the traditional nightclub Bataclan, immortalized in Cabriela and once frequented by cacao barons. Young guides who work in Praҫa da Matriz de São Sebastião square are happy to lead tours of the town center.

JORGE AMADO'S HOUSE AND CULTURAL CENTER

A lucky 1920 lottery ticket allowed Jorge Amado's father, coronel João Amado de Farias, to build this 582-square-meter (6,264-square-foot) mansion with 5-meter (16-foot) ceilings, a jacaranda floor, and an English tiled veranda. In this house, Jorge Amado wrote his first novel, o País do Carnaval, which was published in Rio de Janeiro in 1931. Guided tours of the Casa de Cultura Jorge Amado see Amado's bedroom, which today displays covers from his books, as well as old photographs and personal objects. Rua Jorge Amado, 21, Centro Histórico.

CACAO PLANTATIONS

Some cacao plantations offer guided tours, but they must be arranged in advance. Cacao trees are small and grow in the shade of other trees, including some of the tallest Atlantic forest species, making the plantations pleasantly scenic. At Fazenda Primavera (BR-415 highway, also known as Rodovia Ilhéus-Itabuna, Km 20), and Fazenda Yrere (Rodovia Ilhéus-Itabuna highway, Km 11), visitors walk through the plantations, seeing the production process from fruit harvest to separation of pulp from seeds. A tasting session usually follows the tour.

BEACHES SOUTH OF ILHÉUS

Map of Cocoa Coast Bahia

Map of Cocoa Coast Beaches Bahia

A favorite of the cacao barons back in the day, the long Praia dos Milionários (Millionaires' Beach) boasts kiosks and fireshwater showers and is the town's most popular beach. The next beach, Cururupe, known for its strong waves and mangroves, has a checkered past: it's said that the Portuguese wiped out an entire village of Tupiquinin Indians here in 1559.

The Olivenҫa district, 16 kilometers (10 miles) from llhéus, is home to the beaches most popular with surfers. Praia de Back Door (named after the famous surf beach on Oahu, Hawaii) hops with bars and restaurants, as does neighboring Batuba.

After Canabrava and its large hotels, the road veers toward the mountains, making it difficult to reach the quiet coconut palm-fringed beaches Acuípe and Itapororoca.

UNA ECO-PARK

A fine example of the Atlantic forest 's rich biodiversity, Ecoparque do Una, 45 kilo meters (28 miles) from Ilhéus, is home to centuries-old trees and numerous animal species in 383 hectares (946 acres) of virgin forest.

The Reserva Particular de Proteҫão Natural is a private nature reserve that accepts groups of up to 15 people.

Along a 2-kilometer (about 1 mile) trail, visitors can see golden-lion tamarins (the park 's symbol) or yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys, as well as watch rubber tapping in a rubber tree plantation.

Bridges suspended 100 meters (328 feet) in the air, running through the treetops, afford a spectacularly unique view of the forest. BA-001 highway, as known as rodovia Ilhéus-Canavieiras, km 45.

ITACARÉ

The Rio de Contas flows here from Chapada Diamantina, and standing at the river's mouth is Itacare, the surfer's paradise of the Bahian coast. The town's name means "winding river of stones" in indigenous Tupi-Guarani language.

Four hundred forty kilometers (273 miles) from Salvador and 65 kilometers (41 miles) from llhéus, the town offers 15 beaches framed by rugged coastline and forested hills crisscrossed by trails, rivers, and waterfalls.

The mountainous landscape is vastly different from that of most of the Northeast. The exuberant outdoors, designated an environmentally protected area, also attracts rappelers, rafters, cascaders, and canopy climbers.

The arrival of adventure sports has quickly changed the tenor of this old fishing village where Jesuits built the Capela de São Miguel chapel in 1731. The guesthouses and bars, which play everything from forró to electronic music, are concentrated on beaches in the town center. For a quieter visit, head for the less populated beaches to the south, accessible only by trails.

DISTANT BEACHES

The locals call the beaches far from Itacaré village praias de fora (out-of town beaches). The nearest is the tiny but beautiful Prainha, which sits on private property but can be accessed, for a fee, through a condominium.

It can also be reached by trail from Praia da Ribeira, but because robberies have occurred along the trail, that route is not recommended. Access to the lovely Praia de São José and neigh boring Jeribucaҫu also comes at a price, but all three of these beaches offer good surfing.

Engenhoca and Havaizinho are accessible by dirt road from Itacaré. The first is sometimes nearly deserted: though there are some tapioca and coconut juice sellers, it's advisable to bring your own water and snacks. Havaizinho, 20 minutes away by foot, promises good surfing waves and a lookout point. Itacarezinho is the only area beach with seafront bars and restaurants. Access the beach through the restaurant of the same name or take a 3D-minute walk from the road.

TIJUÍPE WATERFALL

A 10 minute walk from Praia de Itacarezinho leads to Cachoeira do Tijuípe, on the Tijuipe River. Its 4 meter (13 foot) drop forms icy freshwater pools excellent for swimming. A restaurant serves as a base for the area. Drive to Km 43 on the Rodovia Ilheus-Itacaré highway.

CANOE TRIPS

From the mouth of the Rio de Contas, at Coroinha Beach, simple canoe tours head approximately 6 kilometers (almost 4 miles) upriver to Cachoeira do Cleandro. The trip itself is more appealing than the waterfall: gray river dolphins come to the estuary in search of food and the route winds through twisted mangrove roots inhabited by crabs, including the tiny aratu, which are visible at low tide. The waterfall has two 5 meters (16 foot) cascades, but rocks make it unsuitable for swimming. Stop by the simple

Bare Restaurante Manguezal and try the tasty seafood, served under the trees. If your return trip coincides with sunset, you're in for a treat: seen from a canoe in the middle of the Rio de Contas, it's unforgettable.

RAFTING ON THE CONTAS RIVER

The swift Rio de Contas is one of Brazil's best for rafting. Trips leave from Taboquinhas, a village 28 kilometers (17 miles) north of Itacaré on a dirt road . The class 3 and 4 rapids are excellent on this stretch of the river.

Lifeguards and specialist guides ensure the safety of those participating. If rafting hasn't tired you out, try a spot of rappelling or cascading at Cachoeira do Noré, a waterfall boasting an 18 meters (59 foot) drop. Two instructors accompany each descent.

OFF-ROAD TO MARAÚ

A round trip of 114 kilometers (71 miles) on sandy, pot-holed roads takes the adventurous to the beach at Taipus de Fora on the Maraú. peninsula. But a swim in the Lagoa do Cassange lagoon, the view from the Morro do Celular and Morro do Farol hills, and the natural pools on the beach at Taipus de Fora more than make up for the effort expended by the journey, which begins in Itacaré at 7:30am.

CANOPY CLIMBING AT RIBElRA BEACH

The canopy climbing circuit at Praia da Ribeira , the farthest beach in central Itacaré, is considered moderately difficult. An area of about 5,000 square meters (54,000 square feet) of Atlantic forest offers 17 different kinds of adventure activities, including a zipline and suspended rope bridges. The aerial course is more than 200 meters (656 feet) long, with a maximum height of 10 meters (32 feet).

SURFING IN ITACARÉ

Itacaré was an isolated fishing village until the 1990s, when it was discovered by surfers such as Alfio
Lagnado, from São Paulo, who taught locals the sport and sp read the gospel about surfing to the rest of the country.

In 1998, the opening of a paved road , the Estrada-Parque (BA-001 highway) , made access to the
region even easier. Today, the area is most crowded in July, when the ocean swell from the south and southeast peaks. Praia dos Corais, a beach that can be reached by the rocks at the end of Praia da Concha, is the only vertical reef break in Itacaré; the rest are on sandy bottomed beachs. Praia do Pontal greets some of the country's longest waves, while Tirica, where waves break near the sand, has Itacare's highest surf.

Tirica is part of Super Surf, the Brazilian surfing circuit, and hosts state and local championships.

ESTRADA-PARQUE HIGHWAY

The 72-kilometer (44-mile) stretch of BA-001 highway that connects Ilhéus to Itacaré, passing through Uruҫuca, is called Estrada-Parque. The highway cuts through the state nature reserve, Itacaré-Serra Grande, which protects a precious stretch of Atlantic forest. In a single hectare (two and a half acres), 456 tree species have been identified - a world record.

Built in 1998, the Estrada-Parque is Brazil's first environmentally friendly highway. Every 100 meters (328 feet), subterranean tunnels have been provided to allow animals, such as the crabs common in the mangrove swamps, to cross the road.

It's worth taking the highway during the day to stop at the Mirante de Serra Grande and Mirante de Camboinha, lookout points showcasing the green shades of the Atlantic forest and the sea. For the first 9 kilometers (5 miles) from llhéus and the first 6 kilometers (4 miles) from Itacaré, the road has a cycle lane.

CANAVIEIRAS

Surrounded by mangrove swamps, Atlantic rainforest and beaches, Canavieiras is home to a wealth of marine life, earning the nickname "crab capital". The southern limit of the Costa do Cacau coast, it's 113 kilometers (70 miles) from Ilheus and 505 kilometers (313 miles) from Salvador. The Portuguese founded a village here in the mid-18th century.

Canavieiras developed around the Vieira family's sugarcane plantation. At the end of the 19th century, however, the sugarcane industry was supplanted by the cacao boom. Today, colonial houses coexist with buildings dating from the heyday of cacao, including the Biblioteca Municipal library (1900) and the former home of the old Philarmonica Lyra do Commércio orchestra (1894) , both in Praҫa da Bandeira square.

ATALAIA ISLAND

Ilha de Atalaia, an 18 kilometer-long (11- mile-long) island connected to Canavieiras by bridge, is bordered by sea and swamp. Atalaia is a pleasant fishing village of just over fifty houses clustered around a small chapel and a soccer field. Local women, as they have for generations, catch small crabs (aratus) in the muddy swamps.

They whistle to attract the crabs and then capture them with bamboo sticks. The Festa de Louvor a Santo Antonio, a celebration held from June 1st to 13th, is the highlight of the year in Atalaia.

After each day's Catholic mass, people young and old congregate in the church square to dance forró.

Atalaia's most popular beaches are Praia da Costa and Praia de Atalaia, both which offer calm seas and seafood stands. To the south, Barra de Atalaia, at the mouth of the Rio Pardo, is almost deserted, as is Praia da Costa Norte.

Praia do Albino, at the mouth of the Rio Patipe, offers strolls along the sandbanks between river and sea. Access the beach either by dirt road (12 kilometers, or 7 miles, from the bridge) or by boat, a trip you'll need to arrange in advance.

BARRA VELHA BEACH

Praia de Barra Velha, which stands among mangrove swamps, coconut groves, and white sand, is a quiet island beach, home to just a few straw fishing huts.

The beach is virtually deserted because access depends on a dirt road and ferryboat crossing. By car, access is via the BA-001 highway, 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of Canavieiras.

It's also possible to arrive by ferry or boat. The one-and-a-half-hour crossing from Atalaia Island passes the mangrove swamps of the Patipe River. At low tide, patches of dark mud considered by locals to have aphrodisiac qualities appear. Bring your own water and snacks on the trip.

BLUE MARLIN FISHING

Canavieiras offers one of the Atlantic's best sites for blue marlin fishing. Royal Charlotte, a sandbank 126 kilometers (70 nautical miles) from the coast, also attracts white marlin, tuna, mackerel, and dorado.

The blue marlin, a difficult catch sought-after by deep-sea fishing enthusiasts, visits the Brazilian coast in summer (November to January), when the waters of the northeastern coast are warm and clear. It can measure up to 4 meters (13 feet) and weigh as much as 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds).

They have blue backs and silver underbellies. Before being hauled aboard, the swift fish fight tirelessly. As marlin flesh has no commercial value, the fish are returned live to the ocean after being caught.

Brazil Travel Guide - Cocoa Coast travel Guide and tourism information such as accommodation, festivals, transport, maps, activities and attractions in Bahia, Brazil

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