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Discovery Coast Travel Guide

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Porto Seguro is the base for exploring the Costa do Descobrimento (Discovery Coast), the strip of shore that covers Arraial d'Ajuda, Trancoso, Espelho, Curuípe, and Caraiva. The northern part of the coast includes Santa Cruz Cabralia and Santo André.

Founded in 1526 and declared a National Heritage Site, Porto Seguro was the first town where the Portuguese set foot on the lands that would become Brazil. Traces of early colonization can be seen throughout the region.

The town has suffered a renewed colonization of sorts since the 1980s, in part because it is one of the favorite tourist destinations offered by big tour operators.

During the high season (July, the New Year period, and Carnival season in February or March), the town is transformed. The beaches and bars are crowded and barracas with axé and forró dance-music shows spring up everywhere.

Porto Seguro ofters good tourist services and facilities, including an airport and various banks and hotels.

The community is 723 kilometers (455 miles) south from Salvador; from the latter, take either the BA-324 or BR-101 highways to Eunápolis and then the BR-367 highway to Porto Seguro.

Coming from the south, Porto Seguro stands 600 kilometers (373 miles) north from Vitória (Espírito Santo's state capital).

Take the BR-101 highway north to Eunápolis and then the aforementioned stretch of BR-367.

Map of Discovery Coast

Map of Discovery Coast e Map of Porto Seguro

HISTORICAL CENTER

The small and well- preserved Cidade Histórica offers a two-hour self-guided tour the first constructions from the beginning of the official history of Brazil.

The tour, which explores Misericórdia Square, begins at the oldest monument in the country, the Marco da Posse. This marble block is engraved with the seal of the Portuguese crown and the cross of the Order of Christ, the organization that financed the Portuguese sea explorations.

The simple Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Penha church (Praҫa Pero de Campos Tourinho), built in 1535, and renovated in the 18,h century, contains the oldest statue of Saint Francis of Assisi in the country.

The Museu de Porto Seguro has multi-media rooms and a small collection of indigenous crafts. The museum is inside an 18th century building, which used to be the Casa de Camara e Cadeia (Council Chamber and Prison) (Praҫa Pero de Campos Tourinho).

The oldest church in Brazil, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia (Praҫa da Misericórdia), was built in 1526 and today houses the Museu de Arte Sacra, a museum of religious art. Its most important pieces include a ruby-encrusted statue of Jesus carrying the cross, and a life-size statue of Christ crucified. Both pieces date from the late 16th century.

The Igreja de São Benedito (Rua Antonio Doutor Ricaldi), a church built by the Jesuits, probably in 1549, stands beside the ruins of the Colégio dos Jesuitas (Jesuit College), built in 1551. While walking past the colonial houses, visitors can enjoy capoeira performances and take in wonderful view of the coast - the sunset is particularly lovely.

BEACHES AND KIOSKS

The barracas (kiosks) are the main attraction on the beaches of Porto Seguro, and in their way, they are true entertainment complexes. Functioning not only as restaurants and snack bars, they also offer gym and dance classes (lambada and lambadaeróbica, a combination of aerobics and lambada) music shows (forró and axé) Internet access, and water sports. The trendiest barracas are Axé Moi, Toa-Toa, and Gaucho, on Praia de Taperapuã, and Barramares on Praia do Rio dos Mangues.

Nighttime entertainment rotates among the main barracas. As a result, there are new options every day. In the high season, the entertainment is almost uninterrupted, with shows beginning at 3am and going on until sunrise. Mundaí, Itacimirim, and Curuípe, which has natural pools at low tide, are quieter beaches. Praia Ponta Grande and Praia do Mutá, the last two beaches in Porto Seguro are the most peaceful and solitary.

PASSARELA DO ALCOOL

This street is an open shopping mall, with stores, restaurants, bars, and stalls selling cachaҫa (sugarcane rum), pepper sauce, the coconut dessert called cocada, and craftwork, including items made by Pataxó Indians.

Brightly colored stalls sell capeta – a popular drink from Porto Seguro, made with fruits, vodka or cachaҫa, powdered guaraná, and cinnamon. Hold your ground against the pushy waiters. Avenida Portugal, Centro.

DISCOVERY ERA MEMORIAL

Built on Praia de Curuípe, the Memorial da Epóca do Descobrimento is known for its replica of Pedro AIvares Cabral's flagship. Mestre Quincas, a well-known local artist, created the replica.

A tour of the cabin and holds reveals the fragility of the original ship, Avenida Beira-Mar; 800, Orla Norte.

RECIFE DE FORA REEF MARINE PARK

One of the largest coral formations in the world, Recife de Fora holds a wide diversity of marine life.

A dive beneath the water reveals a variety of coral reefs, fish, mollusks, and turtles. Tourist agencies in Porto Seguro offer two-hour schooner cruises that leave each morning around low time. Cruises are also available in Arraial d'Ajuda, where they leave from the ferryboat terminal.

If you plan to walk on the coral, take training shoes. Snorkel and goggles can be rented on the boat.

ILHA DOS AQUARIOS

This four-aquarium complex is on Ilha do Pacuio, a river island on the Rio Buranhém, wlich separates Porto Seguro from Arraial d' Ajuda. The largest aquarium holds 220,000 liters (58,000 gallons) of water and features fish such as sharks and moray eels.

The other three reproduce the typical marine habitat found around Porto Seguro, which includes coral, brightly colored fish, and sponges. In addition to the aquariums, Ilha dos Aquarios is part of a leisure complex with a swimming pool, volleyball courts, a food court, art gallery, and bromeliad and orchid vivarium. Its animated nightlife features live music performances aimed mainly at the younger set. Iha do Pacuio. Reach Mar`s ferry, Praҫa dos Pataxós.


VERA CRUZ NATURE RESERVE

Located between Porto Seguro and Eunápolis, Reserva Particular do Patrimonio Natural, covers 60 square kilometers and is home to about 250 bird species and 40 mammalian species.

Some of these birds and mammalian, as well as approximately 50 species of amphibians and 60 species of reptiles, are threatened with extinction. The private reserve offers a brief presentation and a guided walk, which takes you across bridges suspended among imposing brazilwood and jacaranda trees. Visits must be arranged in advance. BR-367 highway (towards Eunápolis) Km 37.

ARRAIAL D'AJUDA

The district of Arraial d'Ajuda, 4 kilometers (2 miles) south of Porto Seguro, was founded by the Jesuits in the mid-l6th century. Today's cosmopolitan atmosphere contrasts with what remains of the old colonial village.

The cobbled streets are narrow and winding, with lighting at night often provided by candles. Today, these old streets are home to stores, cafes, and studios, most located on and around Estrada de Mucuge road.

Rua da Broadway is a trendy nightspot, but it is slowly losing ground to the large beach barrcas. Restaurants usually open in the middle of the afternoon, as tourists tend to sleep late and enjoy the beach in the afternoon; shopping is done at night. Arraial's charming accommodations and culinary variety attract mostly families and couples.

To get here from Porto Seguro, either take the direct, 10-minute ferry ride (and expect crowds in high season) or drive the long way around: Halfway back toward Eunápolis, turn left onto BA-001. This roundabout route is 60 kilometers (37 miles) in all.

BEACHES

Arraial has beaches for those looking for a lively spot as well as for those in search of peace and quiet.

ApagaFogo and Araҫaípe, two beaches near the Porto Seguro ferry, have been taken over by hotels and guesthouses.

Natural pools form at low tide among the coral reefs, making these beaches ideal for calm snorkeling that's unimpeded by ocean swells. Mucuge, the next beach, is the busiest in Arraial. Always crowded with tourists and beach vendors, its kiosks rent out water-sports equipment. With its strong waves and low-tide natural pools, Mucuge is the stage for nighttime luaus and raves.

Similar parties occur on the neighboring beach, Praia do Parracho, with its shows, New Year celebrations, dance lessons, and capoeira and lambada performances.

Tourists can rent kayaks, sailboats, and diving equipment from the enormous kiosks on the beach.

Pitinga is a little less crowded than other beaches, and has a few kiosks and charming guesthouses. Pitinga's sand is powdery and the water is good for swimming, especially at low tide.

Further ahead is Lagoa AZUL, a dried up pool enclosed by high , multicolored cliffs. The more isolated Taípe has a more rugged landscape with its tall cream and blue colored cliffs walls and its strong waves.

Taipé attracts turtles at egg-laying time and is suitable for fly-fishing. Its cabanas have restaurants and stores. It's possible to walk along almost all the beaches, starting from Mucuge in Arraial to Trancoso village (about 12 kilometers, 7 miles), and crossing the Rio da Barra, which meets the sea on a deserted beach of the same name. We recommend starting an hour before low tide and returning by bus or car.

PARTYING AT THE KIOSKS AT NIGHT

Like Porto Seguro, Arraial was a pioneer in axé music. At any given time during the day, axe can be heard over loudspeakers on the beach, but at night electronic music takes hold. In the early hours during the summer months, foreign DJs spin at raves for a young crowd on Praia do Parracho.

Luaus are standard fare in Arraial, and the best ones take place in the moonlight in barracas such as Magnólia, Wind Point Panacho and Cabana Grande - all of which are on Praia do Parracho. The beach at Mucuge also hosts parties.

AJUDA SQUARE

Largo d'Ajuda is the historic center of Arraial d' Ajuda and is recognized and protected by Brazilian's heritage agency, Iphan.

It includes the small, unadorned Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora d'Ajuda, built between 1549 and 1551, which affords a view of the Costa do Descobrimento.

Simple houses encircle the Praҫa da Matriz square. Most of them have been turned into stores, studios, bakeries, and snack bars. Across from Praҫa da Matriz, is the famous Rua da Broadway.

Largo d'Ajuda fills with pilgrims during the August 15th festivities in honor of Nossa Senhora d'Ajuda, patron and protector of the town.

MUCUGE ROAD

Estrada do Mucuge is the main connection between the center of Arraial and Praia do Mucuge.

Numerous kombi vans provide transportation along this road. A huge concentration of businesses on the road and surrounding streets ply many trades: clothing and decoration shops, boutiques, cafes, Internet cafes, restaurants, and guesthouses, as well as tourist agencies and car rental companies.

During the summer high season cars are not allowed between 6pm and dawn.

STUDIOS

Several artists live in Arraial, offering a variety of work in their studios, workshops, and stores.

Established by the artist Keko, the Centro Cultural Arraial d'Ajuda houses an art gallery and a drawing, painting, and sculpting school. In the first two weeks of December it hosts the arts festival, Cultura Mix, which brings together artists from the region for exhibitions and music and theater presentations (Praҫa Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, 136.

CAPOEIRA SUL DA BAHIA and CULTURAL CENTER

Internationally famous performer Mestre Railson established capoeira, a martial-arts-mimicking dance form, in his birthplace of Arraial.

The Espaҫo Cultural Capoeira Sul da Bahia is part of the Associaҫão de Capoeira Sul da Bahia (South Bahia Capoeira Association) which trains teachers to promote the sport in other countries.

On Saturday at 8pm the school offers capoeira presentations to the public. Members also perform at the beach kiosks, nightclubs, and at some hotels in the region. Rua da Capoeira.

WATER PARK

Arraial d' Ajuda Eco Parque (formerly Paradise Water Park) is in a 60,OOO-square-meter area (650,000 square feet) of Atlantic forest on Praia d'Ajuda (also called Praia de Coqueiros, do Delegado, and dos Pescadores).

It has a swimming pool with waves, an artificial river, and water slides. The complex oilers all-day tickets (10am - 5pm) and is a good option for families. In sununer, live music can be heard from a stage in front of the wave pool. Estrada do Arraial d'Ajuda, Km 4.5. Days of operation vary by season.

TRANCOSO

The colonial town ofTrancoso first gained popularity in the 1970s, as a haven for hippies and free spirits.

These days, however, it is synonymous with high fashion and sophistication, and it features innumerable designer boutiques set in the midst of simple, unadorned architecture.

The town has maintained the shape of Jesuit villages. The heart of Trancoso is Quadrado, a picturesque area of restaurants, bars, shops, and guesthouses encircled by well-preserved old houses that line a large unpaved square lacking streetlights.

On top of the cliff, Quadrado bustles with travelers even into the evening hours, when candles cast flickering shadows onto the dim , starlit streets and all types of music from jazz to forró) - fill the air.

Among the architectural remnants of colonization is the 18th century Igreja de São João Batista, built on the site of a ruined Jesuit convent and noteworthy for its spare architectural style, pink limestone, and wood details.

The city's most popular festival is the Festa de São Sebastião which draws the faithful every year on January 20th to its processions, music, fireworks, and dancing.

AROUND TRANCOSO

The southern portion of Bahia (running from Taipe to Caraiva) is ideal for outdoor activities on both land and water - everything from horseback riding, cycling, 4X4 driving and quadricycling to schooner or motorboat trips, coral diving, and river kayaking.

The largely deserted beaches welcome walkers. The Vale dos Búfalos, a majestic valley with lush vegetation, features some 4,000 buffalo and several bird species.

The Estrada dos Macacos road cuts through farmland , rivers, and Atlantic forest inhabited by monkeys, while visitors to Estrada da Sapiara will see manioc flourmills and coconut plantations. Tours are offered by agencies in Porto Seguro, Arraial, and Trancoso.

CURRUÍPE AND ESPELHO BEACHES

These two praias – virtually indistinguishable and separated only by a small creek, Riacho do Espelho - feature charming restaurants and guesthouses set in a dramatic landscape of cliffs, coconut groves, and natural pools.

The hammocks, lounge chairs, and sofas scattered along the sand give these beaches a cozy atmosphere.

Espelho (" mirror") owes its name to the time of morning when low tide perfectly reflects the blue sky. The front gate of the Outeiro das Brisas Condominium controls vehicle access from Trancoso (only guests are allowed in the condominium area), but both beaches can also be reached by boat or motorboat from Trancoso or Caraiva.

At low tide, head just north of Curuípe to the small, unsophisticated Praia dos Amores ("Lovers Beach"), for its natural pools and cliffs, which entice honeymooners.

OUTEIRO VILLAGE

The cliff side Vila do Outeiro has exclusive guesthouses , restaurants, and the residential condominium Outeiro das Brisas.

Its unspoilt beach is lined with coconut trees, while the clear sea is excellent for diving. The difficulty of access, which is controlled by the condominium, guarantees peace and quiet in both village and beach.

To get there from Porto Seguro by car, take BA-001 highway to the Trancoso intersection, then follow the curvy dirt road towards Caraíva until you reach Outeiro.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM AND GOLF COURSES

The Terravista Golf Course complex, between Taípe and Rio da Barra beaches, is part golf course and part archaeological site.

Excavations made for the construction of the course revealed household object, ceramics, and tools of the Aratu and Tupi-Guarani Indian tribes, all now on display at the museum.

Terravista is one of the best places in the Northeast to play golf. It has an 18-hole course, four of which are seaside,
as well as golf instructors and equipment for hire.

CARAÍVA

This quiet, scenic fishing village has sandy beaches, coconut groves, and rivers but neither nighttime electricity (the generators switch oft-at 10pm), nor cars (they are not allowed) , nor paved streets.

One explanation for the town's idyllic state of preservation is its remoteness: It is accessible by motorboat from Trancoso only in the height of summer. The rest of the year the trip entails taking the Monte Pascoal exit (Km 753) off the BR-101 highway, following a dirt road for 43 kilometers, then crossing the Rio Caraíva by canoe.

The canoe trips must be negotiated with the local fishermen who own the boats. If you make the trek, take in the town at sunset, sitting in the pleasant bar called Boteco do Pará. The bar's owner, Para, is also a canoeist and offers long boat trips to beaches such as Espelho, Curuípe or to Ponta do Curumbau village.

Also recommended is the traditional, lively forró dancing that fills the main street, Rua do Rio, as well as Rua do Ouriҫo and Rua do Pelé, and runs until the early hours on the weekends.

On the immense, unspoilt beaches of soft sand, the liveliest spots during the day are the two bars, Bar da Praia and Coco Brasil.

We recommend the restaurant at Pousada da Lagoa, a guesthouse surrounded by extensive gardens and featuring paintings and sculptures. A late afternoon spent here is quite pleasant.

In the main square, near the tiny Igreja de São Sebastião, you can hire bugueiros (buggy drivers) for a trip on the dunes or a visit to Barra Velha, where Pataxó Indians live.

MONTE PASCOAL

Reaching the historic mountain Monte Pascoal - the first piece of Brazilian soil seen by Europeans on Cabral's expedition from Portugal – requires determination and stamina.

The route there passes through typical coastal vegetation (restinga), flood zones, and thick mangrove swamps.

Motorboats from Caraíva run along the Caraiva and Benício rivers, as do buggies on the beach, but the last stretch of the trip requires taking a 4X4 to the foot of the mountain.

The 1.5-kilometer hike to the summit, at an altitude of 536 meters (1,760 fee t), is scenic – with leafy trees, bromeliads, lovely lookouts, and rich bird life. But it is also quite difficult.

Monte Pascoal presides over the Parque Nacional de Monte Pascoal, a national park of 14,480 hectares (35,780 acres) of Atlantic forest and beaches that also includes the Reserva Indigena de Barra Velha.

BARRA VELHA INDIAN RESERVATION

The Pataxó Indians of Barra Velha preserve their traditional folk ways and share them willingly with visitors.

They put on presentations of dance and song and demonstrate rituals, games, and martial arts. They also sell arts and crafts made of wood, coconut, and seeds. Arrange a trip in advance with one of the local tour agencies in Arraial d'Ajuda or Porto Seguro.

The trip from Caraíva involves riding horseback or going by buggy.

SANTA CRUZ CABRÁLIA

The history of Santa Cruz Cabrália (which lies between Porto Seguro and Belmonte), is tied to the early days of colonial exploration .

The first Catholic mass on Brazilian soil took place on the small island of Coroa Vermelha, on April 26th, 1500. In an open-air amphitheater, locals commemorate the event on each anniversary, and a steel cross stands on the spot where the Portuguese and Indians first met.

The town's small historical center stands atop the cliffs in Cidade Alta, the town's highest neighborhood, overlooking the coast.

Buildings in the church square include Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceiҫão, built in the 18th century to replace an original church from 1630; the Casa de Camera e Cadeia (Council Chamber and Prison); and the first cemetery.

The lower part of town, Cidade Baixa, centers around Praҫa Pedro Alvares Cabral, a plaza. The 30-some kiJometers of neighboring beaches are not very beautiful, however, and muddy river waters darken the sea.

JAQUEIRA INDIAN RESERVATION

The Pataxó Indians on the Reserva da Jaqueira, en route to Coroa Vermelha, present dances, games, bow and arrow and hunting techniques, and information about village life to visitors.

A visit to the reservation lasts three hours and includes a tour of village huts, and demonstrations of traditional cooking, manioc-flour preparation, and the cultivation of medicinal herbs. Some tours include a meal prepared by the Indians – fish baked in leaves and cauim, an alcoholic drink made from manioc root.

Native craftwork can be purchased at the end of the tour.

BOAT TRIPS AND DIVING

A schooner trip on the region's biggest river, the Rio João de Tiba, starts with a visit to Ilha do Sol.

That island is popular as a river swimming spot and as a destination for buying sweets. Confectioner Mara hand makes about sixty different delicacies, most of which are coconut-based. Some tour agencies include in their trip a mud bath in the island's swamps. From there, the next stop is Parque Marinho de Coroa Alta, a diving area with more than ten types of reefs; at low tide, natural pools form that are up to 1.5 meters deep and suitable for snorkeling.

The park - a formation of sand and crumbling coral reefs that does not become immersed at high tide - owes its name to its crown (coroa) shape. Occasionally, tours stop at Fazenda da Mãe Teresa, a farm hili of coconut groves, cashew trees, and a pineapple plantation. The farm has trails, a lagoon, and a restaurant to satisfy any carnivore.

SANTO ANDRÉ

This town covers a vast 13 square kilometers area of coastal plain, lined with coconut groves and both saltwater beaches and freshwater beaches (those facing the Rio João Tiba). Sparsely populated and absent of raucous nightlife, Santo Andre is a place of rest and retreat.

The ten minute ferry crossing over the João de Tiba River from Cabrália heads north up the coast, ending at the unspoilt beaches of Santo Antonio and Guaiú, the latter popular with surfers. In neighboring Mojiguiҫaba you will find the simple beachfront Bar Lamarão, which is popular with surfers and famous for its delicious crab pastéis (fried pasties). This should be seasoned with a strong, homemade pepper sauce.

BELMONTE

Sleepy Belmonte (56 kilometers north of Santo André) used to be one of the five biggest cacao producers in Brazil.

Today, the economy is much less robust, with locals making their livings off fishing and the cultivation of coconuts, papayas, black pepper, and piassava palms.

Economic decline has not interfered with the charm of the old town, however: the wide streets, grand squares and bandstands, and ornately deco rated faҫades of the buildings are well worth a stroll.

One of the town's gems is the 35-meter high lighthouse, built in 1800.The sea at Belmonte is brownish because of the rivers that empty into it, among them the Rio Jetiquinonha, which is beautiful at sunset.

The city has no official guesthouse accommodations nor sophisticated restaurants, but good, simple meals are available at Restaurante do Diogo, which serves moquecas and guaiamum crabs.

Take the opportunity to get to know the work of Dona Dagmar, a local artisan who makes ceramics in her backyard with the help of some of her twenty children. The small local orchestras known as filarmonicas on special occasions just as they have done since the 19th century.

Try catching them, for example, during the Festival de Retreta - or simply in a local house during a birthday celebration.

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

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