Travel Overview Of Northern Brazil (For Guys)

Definitely Rio de Janeiro, maybe São Paulo and Florianopolis. If you come to Brazil chances are those are the cities you’ll visit first. But how about after that? Besides Amazon jungle tours or a visit to Iguazu falls, it’s not obvious where to go if you want to dig deeper into Brazil. So what I ended up doing was starting all the way up north in Fortaleza and in a month’s time worked my way down to Rio (traveling around 1,700 miles by bus).

Northern Brazil

Here’s where I went…

Fortaleza:

A large, plain city with several decent beaches to choose from. If you’re on a budget then head to the sketchy Praia de Iracema beach, which has rooms starting at 55 R$ (divide numbers in Brazilian reals by the exchange rate, which as of this writing is around 1.72). Get off on Avenida Beira Mar facing the beach and bargain with the over dozen hotels clustered nearby. If you have more money to spend then head to upmarket Praia do Futuro a couple miles away.

The great thing about Fortaleza is that the nightlife is easy to find. Simply go to Dragão do Mar, an area of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants within walking distance of Iracema. From Thursday through Sunday you’ll find something happening. Nearby Dragão do Mar is Mucuripe (Rua Travessa Maranguape, 108), a megaclub that has three different dance floors, including one that played decent house and American hip-hop when I went. The cover is 30 R$ and the girls have attitude, but it’s not bad for a visit.

Speaking of the girls, I’ve never seen so many husky women as I have in Fortaleza. It’s as if they’re all spawn of football players, which is interesting because the men appeared normal. While the women tend to be overweight with hammy arms, it’s their wide build which was most disturbing. This was the first city I visited after Rio, so the downgrade in attractiveness was shocking and took a bit away from the Brazilian woman mystique.

Natal:

Cleaner and smaller than Fortaleza, Natal has earned its spot in guidebooks as a city with tours around neighboring sand dunes and pretty beaches. The most common tour is the six-hour day trip up north to Genipabu Beach (60 R$). I hear trips to southern beaches are also nice but beware that all these excursions are extremely touristy, and if you can find an agency that rents buggies and has a decent map you may want to consider doing it yourself.

Praia Ponta Negra is the quaint tourist beach with clothing shops, modern restaurants, and a nightlife center. I stayed in Pousada Recanto das Flores for 50 R$ a night, a clean option located only one block away from the beach. I didn’t get to experience the nightlife but it’s around Rua Bezzera in Alto de Ponta Negra. The girls were cuter than in Fortaleza.

Praia de Pipa:

Further south you have Pipa, a beach village with laid-back hippie vibes. There are several nice beaches within walking distance of the center including Praia Madeiro, which is good for surfing (lessons and board rentals on the beach). On the main drag check out the restaurant with the big “Açai” sign for great sandwiches and… açai.

For nightlife there is usually something going on around Oz Music Bar starting late on Wednesday night, but on Thursday nights more people head to the beachfront in front of the reggae club. A block down from Oz (to the right towards the beach), there is a club with a hidden entrance that usually fills up on weekends. If you want to get laid here your best bet is to hit on the traveling gringas. They’ll be obvious to spot and you can open them with something like, “I have a feeling you speak English.”

The Brazilian girls that live in Pipa tend to be of the tattooed and dredlocked variety, but since this is a tourist destination you’ll get lot of well-maintained rich girls from cities nearby, though they’re usually traveling with family or significant others.

I stayed in the modern Pousada Rivas for 50 R$ a night. It came with a ceiling fan but if you pay a bit more you can get air conditioning. It was the best Pousada I’ve stayed at, with a nice pool, friendly family vibe, and a huge breakfast buffet that came with a great selection of juices, fruits, breads, cakes, meats, cheeses, and other goodies. I think the buffet is worth a stay here alone.

I greatly enjoyed my time in Pipa and definitely recommend a visit. It’s safe, offers good value, and is a refreshing break from the bigger cities.

Recife:

Besides being known as one of the most dangerous cities in Brazil (and for that matter the Americas), it also has the most dangerous beach. Environmental damage over the past two decades has destroyed food and breeding grounds for bull sharks, and they’ve responded by coming closer to shore and attacking humans. The local government has pretty much given up on the problem and is trying to turn the state from a beach spot into a “cultural” destination. The only culture I saw in upmarket Boa Viagem was dozens of streetwalkers, especially on the weekend, though people tell me I should have gone to colonial Olinda where most dirty backpackers stay.

Your nightlife options are the expensive asshole clubs scattered around Boa Viagem like U.K., Audrey, and Nox, or the commoner clubs in old town like Downtown and Burburinho where the quality is poor. All leave much to be desired.

If you visit Recife, and I recommend against it, stay in Piratas Da Praia for a budget option (35 R$/night) or Bamboo, a comfortable hotel for old gringo guys (75 R$/night). The latter allows you to bring guests back at no extra charge, but beware of the bar—all the girls that hang out there are professionals.

Salvador:

What an overrated piece of shit city. It’s literally one big favela that is not worth more than two hours of your time. Leave your bags at the bus station, visit the historic center, and then get the hell out of town to a place that’s not so dirty or dangerous. Or just watch the movie Cidade Baixa.

It’s the only city in Brazil where I didn’t feel safe walking around during the day. To give you an idea of how bad it is, at the hostel the clerk gave me a map and marked half of it as areas that I shouldn’t go to, leaving just a few square blocks that I could explore without surely getting robbed. If you insist on staying here for more than a minute, lodge in Barra instead.

I can’t wait to meet hippie gringos who tell me with a smug look on their face that they’re going to Salvador to experience “a more authentic Carnival.” I’ll respond by saying, “Let me guess, you’ve never actually been to Salvador.” You’ll like this city if you love to romanticize about poverty and note how starving little kids seem “so happy,” a month before you go back to your first-world lifestyle. Asshole.

Ilhéus:

A rustic city seven hours south of Salvador by bus, Ilhéus is often used by travelers as a waypoint to the beaches of Itacaré 90 minutes away, but I was beached out by this point and just wanted to chop up my trip further South. Ilhéus does have a pleasant small-town feel and isn’t bad for a couple days (reminds me of Tena, Ecuador a bit), but it won’t offer you much in terms of beautiful women or sights. Ask for a seaside room at the Pousada Brisa do Mar (73 3231 2644 / Av 2 de Julho 136) for 50 R$ a night. It’s within walking distance of the center.

Other Northern cities I’d visit if I had time and will:

Jericoacoara: Only two hours away from Fortaleza by bus and 4-wheel Jeep, Jeriocoacoara has a beautiful beach located in a fishing village, with good conditions for wind sports and surfing. It rivals Pipa in terms of hippie vibe.

João Pessoa: Along with a decent beach, I’m told this city has pumping nightlife on the weekends.

Maceio: Another choice for visiting nice beaches (see a pattern yet?). Nearby Praia do Gunga is supposedly the most beautiful beach in Brazil.

Here are some related topics on the travel forum:

In conclusion, the north of Brazil has some nice beaches and decent value, but it’s rougher and doesn’t have Brazil’s most beautiful women. For that you have to start in Minas Gerais or Espirito Santo, the two states north of Rio, and work your way south (I’ll have more about my visit to Espirito Santo in the future). Unless you got money and time to blow and want to learn about Brazilian culture, I’d skip the north.

More Brazil Guides:

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  • URF

    Thanks. You just eliminated a massive amount of geography I formerly wanted to visit.

  • http://www.thegmanifesto.com The G Manifesto

    Good data sheet.

    You know you have been traveling a while when you bust lines like this:

    “You’ll like this city if you love to romanticize about poverty and note how starving little kids seem “so happy,” a month before you go back to your first-world lifestyle. Asshole.”

    - MPM

    The G Manifesto’s last blog post: The G Manifesto on 30 Best Blogs of 2009.

  • http://recklessnessandaudacity.blogspot.com TAllagash

    all information both past and present regarding Brazil is highly appreciated.

    TAllagash’s last blog post: Freedom/Odds & Ends.

  • http://www.luannafernandes.wordpress.com Mrs. Chocolate

    In north there are the kindest people ever. And it is beautiful.
    I recommend north during june-july because in this period there are the june-july parties. They occur all over the country, but the ones in Mossoró (RN), close to Natal and Pernambuco (the state) are sick!

    Mrs. Chocolate’s last blog post: And… We are back!.

  • DCScribe

    Likewise, thanks much for the reconaissance. Salvador sounds terrible. I’ll stick with Rio.

  • Roosh

    “In north there are the kindest people ever”

    I don’t think I can agree with that. I find cariocas to be more friendly if you standardize for social class.

  • Lika

    “In north there are the kindest people ever”

    This is a typical Southern Brazil stereotype about the North: “people are poor and a bit retarded but soooo kind :-) ” It is in fact very patronizing.

    Olinda, near Recife: The old colonial town is beautiful and worth a day or two, no more. Nightlife sucks and girls have an attitude.

    Fortaleza: much better than Recife but way too many sex tourists. Hence the bad attitude of the non-pro girls. Taxis are extremely expensive too (like in the rest of Brazil)

    Salvador: Hahaha you are sooo right. For me Salvador is like Africa but more dangerous and without the friendliness, warmth and simplicity of most of the population.

    Rio is of course the most beautiful city with the perfect variety of girls but too many sex tourists too and not a big love of gringos from the Cariocas there…

    I can’t wait you get sick of Rio and you start giving us reports about São Paulo or Belo Horizonte :-)

  • newly divorced

    This was an awesome run down. I’d always heard great things about Salvador & Fortaleza so I really appreciate the color. Just eliminated a useless trip so now I can spend more time in Rio.

  • retired backpacker

    I think this is a really honest take on the north. I thought Salvador basically smelled like a huge urinal, but I had a great time visiting during Festival de Sao Joao. If you go I’d recommend going then, you get all the fun of Carnaval minus the whole getting robbed, groped or vomited on.

    Maceio is awesome. Also, as far as nice people, I actually think Sao Paulo is really underrated in terms of how nice and hospitable people are. In Rio people are definitely friendly, but they’re more used to douchey tourists. Paulistas are kind of more curious and excited when they meet you.

  • retired backpacker

    Also, another not widely known fact about Brazil, 40% of the country is overweight. Might explain Fortaleza. They are catching up to the US pretty fast.

  • http://travelvice.com craig | travelvice.com

    Fortaleza is certainly on the map for one of two things: Heavy prostitution to foreigners (sex tourists) and sand (buggy rides).

    Salvador is a rough town, but I rode the local buses and ventured far off into the ‘danger zone’, which I’m sure you observed is pointed out for the kiddies who don’t know how to take care of themselves. You’re right; the city is a shanty.

    (sigh) Anyways, I could go on… but… maybe you should share with folks something about the temperature of the water. I think most people are surprised by just HOW COLD the water in Brazil is, and how far up the coast you have to go in the summer (USA’s winter) before you’re comfortable with the temp and or the lack of pollution/human sewage.

    craig | travelvice.com’s last blog post: Wacky Bedouin Kids, Beautiful Desert Sunset.

  • Simon

    @craig – where is the nice, warm, clean ocean water? I’ll be in Rio next week, and I’ll probably be swimming in the beach, whether or not the water is full of shit.

  • Billy

    Definitely agree that Salvador is a waste of time, unless you’re a save-the-world-dreadlocked chick who’s into capoeira and brothas. Horrible nightlife and criminals all over the place. Never trust Lonely Planet!

  • http://www.luannafernandes.wordpress.com Mrs. Chocolate

    Lika,

    I didn’t say that… And I’m not being romantic. I met a lot of people there and they were awesome. I really think they are kind, but they drive as hell, careless about the city trowing garbage away, etc.

    Roosh,

    You are right, upper class in northeast is not polite at all. I don’t know much about cariocas, even being kinda neighbors, but their accent drive me crazy.

    Mrs. Chocolate’s last blog post: And… We are back!.

  • Mike in Salvador

    I just want to say I have lived in Salvador for the past 5 or 6 years. I have never been robbed. Not saying that you are altogether wrong, but its not nearly as dangerous as you make it out to be.

  • FARC

    I totally want some foreign dude’s translated run down of the US. “Don’t spend more than a day in Boston. Philadelphia is worth a few days.”

  • http://travelvice.com craig | travelvice.com

    @Simon — Maceió isn’t bad for beach. There’s a good nude beach near Jacumã for getting rid of the racing stripe.

    craig | travelvice.com’s last blog post: Wacky Bedouin Kids, Beautiful Desert Sunset.

  • shoor
  • Anonymous

    please people. spell is travelling. the rest of the world spells it that way.

  • Jim

    Dreadlocked, tattooed Brazilian girls? Sounds fantastic.

  • Hamster

    You forgot to mention – or didn’t notice – that 95% of the girls at praia da Ponta Negra are hookers. The night life revolves around an area where in low season ALL girls are selling themselves. You’ll find out soon enough but it still sucks if you just want to hang out with normal girls. The reason why the girls are cuter than the average is that this area of Natal assembles attractive working girls from all over the Rio Grande do Norte area.

  • Pingback: Linkage is Good for You: Hot Sexy Israeli Girl Conspiracy Edition | In Mala Fide

  • alpha

    dude, u came to ilheus??? wtf?!?! i’m from ilhéus!

  • alpha

    salvador is great but the violence is awful, i’ve been robbed there twice in a single week and i was born in the state, Bahia. the only awesome place in salvador is Praia da Barra. it’s the BEST place in brazil to pick up foreign babes, at least in my opinion. in bahia u should have gone to morro de são paulo, barra grande, itacaré and porto seguro.

  • shane

    i lived in fortaleza for about 6 months. i can say the beaches are nice and the city is okay.

    i have never experiences such rude and unfriendly people. the women are very unattractive as well.

    if your are looking for the warmth of brazil do not go to fortaleza, youw will be so dissapointed.

    i am in porto alegre now. it is fantastic. people are polite and frindly so much the opposite of fortaleza. girls are absolutley gorgeous here.

  • Santana

    Some of the people who have posted above have correctly pointed out how there are many working girls in Fortaleza and Natal. Basically, anywhere in Brazil that attracts gringo tourists also attracts garotas de programa. Many gringoes go to Fortaleza, Natal and the North East and meet an incredibly friendly girl in a bar like the street of gringo bars in Fortaleza who they proceed to bang. She is working and you should accept this; as soon as you go home, she will be back at the bar looking for a new gringo.

    You will also find that because of tourism of a sexually orientated nature by foreign guys in Brazil, that the locals will view you in a certain way, especially when you are out and about with your new friend. As a matter of fact, the middle class types in Fortaleza can be very cold and offhand in certain situations towards gringoes. Just try your luck as a single gringo travelling on your own in a middle class club in Fortaleza if you don’t believe this.

    Remember, when it comes to socialising, Brazilians have a herd instinct. Without Portugese, friends and local connections, you will find it very hard to meet any regular girls – however, if working girls are ok for you, they can be found in any tourist frequented establishments in Brazil.

  • pilgrim37

    As for Fortaleza,I was there visiting my girlfriend so my perspective is different,I got introduced to people so never received any bad reception.

    I think Italians and Dutch/Norwegians go there quite a bit ,some for the access to underage poontang so that’s had an affect .

    Shame they don’t clean the city better.I saw loads of guys cleaning the beachfront but it was still pretty bad,I couldn’t work out what they were all doing.

    Dragoa do Mar is the main nightlife area but there are other bars restaurants away from the front you need people in the know to show you.

  • CHRIS

    I am in Porto Seguro at the moment, came here in the hope of finding some nice girls and something different, sorry to say I m not impressed. I have to go back to Rio, can anyone suggest anywhere to stop om the way to Rio to break up the journey ? I just fancy somewhere nice where there are some garotas to have some fun with before arriving in Rio then fly back home. Already done Rio , know it inside out

  • Ben Y

    I appreciate all the advice on the North of Brazil. I plan on visiting Salvador for 2 days only now just taking some touristy pictures (hell no to time on beach), but will also visit Pipa/Natal afterwards before arriving in Curitiba for my advanced business grammar classes. Thx again!

  • Wei Lo

    Come on people. What’s wrong with the black capital of Brazil? The people of Salvador are way more friendlier than the people of the South to me. The writer of this BS clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he’s arrogant. Visit the North of Brazil and please don’t stay in your protected 5 star hotel. Get out of your shell and venture out. I would totally skip the South and visit the North.

  • anonpdx

    Your posts are bullshit. I have been living in Brazil for the past year and have traveled to various places in the north, south, east, and west. The women are gorgeous everywhere you go and quite easy too. You don’t need to buy this guy’s bullshit advice for an absorbent amount of money, just don’t act like a Brazilian man and you’ll get laid.

  • The truth

    That guy is stupid, the people of Salvador are some of the friendliest people in Brazil. Part of Rio, SP, Recife are much more dangerous than Salvador. You will find gorgeous everywhere in Brazil but you need game, staring at women doesn’t work no matter how hot you are in the US. You need to make some friends and P—y will rain on you. But if you’re looking for quick fix, normal girls will read you through so stick to prostitutes, as a matter of fact save your money go to South Beach or Vegas you’ll meet enough beautiful prostitutes from Europe, Asia, and South America. I had so much fun in Brazil and got my share of great Brazilian girls. I can’t wait until next year world cup to get more.

  • Walla

    Salvador is shit, dirty and the most dangerous city in Brazil. Roosh advice is spot on.

  • Ivana

    stupid and insulting. I’m a girl from Serbia and I believe that you should be facing some consequences of your writing without any responsibility what so ever.