Are you stressed? Do you need to relax? Are you planning to take a few days off to forget life and replenish energies? Here is a good tip: pack your bags and travel to Maceió, the capital of the state of Alagoas, in Northeastern Brazil. You can’t stay for long? That’s fine, a week gives you plenty of time to relax. Alright, five days.
What is important is catching a flight prepared to put your feet in the sand, eat well and de-mist your eyesight in front of a sea, which oscillates from light blue to light green. That is not to mention the sky, which seems to have been retouched with Photoshop and, of course, the pleasant Alagoanos (the natives of the state).
All of this may be reached by flying less than two hours from the city of São Paulo, directly. Isn’t that an invitation to the good life?
Once in Maceió, it is best to stay at one of the three busiest urban beaches of the city: Ponta Verde, Jatiúca or Pajuçara. That is because the city has one of the most beautiful shorelines in Brazil, full of bars, where it is possible to have lunch or dinner watching the day or the evening go by in the sway of the coconut tree.
At Ponta Verde, the highlight is the “walkway”, where the locals stroll in the early morning and late in the day. At Jatiúca, in turn, the idea is to pause to sample carefully-made and served tapioca, filled with cheese and coconut, the classic version, or shredded beef jerky, for example. All of these may be served you at the bars on the beach.
No less attractive, Pajuçara brings together two of the attractions most cherished by the residents of Maceió: the handicraft fair and the natural pools. What does it require? A trip in a jangada, a kind of sailing boat common in northeastern Brazil, to a certain point in the sea where, depending on the tide, it is shallow.
It is a true natural pool. Furthermore: while you are there, in peace, “water waiters” in boats serve soft drinks, beer and cocktails. And you can also eat fried fish and shrimps. To those interested, the boat rides are paid for at a stand just in front of the fish stand, on Pajuçara beach itself. They cost, on average, 20 Brazilian reais (US$ 11) per person.
Are you prepared to visit more distant beaches? Pleasant options are not lacking on either the North or South shore, always starting from Maceió. Among the stars of the North are Maragogi and Japaratinga, both close to the border with Pernambuco state.
At the former, 131 kilometers away from Maceió, the sceneries include fishing villages, hikes in the Atlantic forest and, of course, beaches with calm and warm maters. You may also take a trip to the coral reefs, six kilometers off the coast.
A program offered by most hotels and inns that sell packages to their guests. More peaceful, Japaratinga, 121 kilometers away from the capital, is very peaceful. The calm sea, light green, is the same, but with fewer people around. If the idea is to rest, sit on the sand and stay there.
When heading south, don’t miss Praia do Francês and Barra de São Miguel, respectively, 30 and 33 kilometers away from Maceió. A favorite for citizens of Maceió, Praia do Francês may not be one of the most peaceful tourist attractions, as it is always crowded, but the waters are of a blue that can only be found there. It is worth facing the blaring music of some of the beach bars just to enjoy the view. Find your parasol and let the day flow by, slowly.
On the following day, don’t forget your sun block, as Barra de São Miguel has another famous attraction: Gunga beach, at the meeting of Roteiro lagoon and the sea. Go to Barra pier and take a boat to cross the lagoon. The boatman will set a time to pick you up later, when, truly relaxed, preferably late in the afternoon, you decide it is time to return to Maceió – to sleep and dream of the peace you had throughout your days in paradise.
Fresh Water Geography
Alagoas got its name from the state’s lagoons (lagoas in Portuguese), the most famous ones being Mundaú and Manguaba. Together, they make up the largest lagoon complex in Brazil. Thus, if the idea is to have a good example of the beautiful geography of the fresh water in the state, take note of two trips to put in your travel book: Nove Ilhas and a trip to Massagueira settlement.
The former is in Maceió itself, close to Pontal da Barra, renowned for its many handicraft shops. The program consists of visiting Mundaú, which is 27 kilometers long, with stops at different islands, like Fogo (Fire), das Cabras (Goats’) and Paraíso (Paradise), among others.
And with the right to dips while going from one to the other, as everybody needs a break. Go on a sunny day – very common all year round in Alagoas, except from June and July, when it tends to rain.
Want to have lunch somewhere where time, fortunately, seems to go by very slowly? Then go to Massagueira settlement, in the city of Marechal Deodoro, 15 kilometers away from Maceió. On the bank of Manguaba river, it is a gastronomic hub with several bars and restaurants. All offer a generous view of the lagoon, and of the beautiful coconut forest in the background.
As if the banquet for the eyesight was not enough, the taste buds are pleased with the fish or shrimp in coconut, two of the most traditional dishes of Alagoas. Another local hit is crab steak, also prepared using coconut. The dish comes with plenty of sauce, so do like the Northeasterners and eat it with plenty of cassava flour.
For dessert, there is no option better than the coconut sweet sold by locals on the way out of the village, at improvised stands, all very rustic. There are many flavors: from the most basic ones, of white and baked coconut, to those made with jackfruit or condensed milk, for example. Delicious, they are worth every calorie. And they are going to help crown the end of your day in the fresh waters surrounding Maceió.
Being on holiday is the best excuse in the world to eat with no concern for the scales. Therefore, when in Alagoas, you may enjoy the vast regional cuisine. The highlight, of course, is the fish and seafood. Among the former, you may try varieties like dourado, cavala or arabaiana. Not to mention shrimp and sururu, all traditional in the region.
The sauces may be the traditional ones, but there are interesting variations like the chef’s shrimp at Peixarão, which has restaurants in Jatiúca and Pontal da Barra, in Maceió. The dish is made of breaded shrimp in tomato and cheese sauce, in a kind of maritime version of the traditional parmesan fillet. The dish may be served with white rice and mashed potato.
Tired of seafood? Then try the jerky with cassava. In Maceió, the most traditional restaurant for this food is Carne de Sol do Picuí, which serves a juicy dish accompanied by green beans, white rice, farofa (cassava flour cooked with other products), vinaigrette sauce and, of course, fried or boiled cassava. The crowning touch is bottled butter, which you may sprinkle over the whole dish.
Tourist information and clues about housing and feeding (in Portuguese)
The main airlines in Brazil have daily flights to Maceió
The main travel operators in Brazil offer packages, normally seven nights, to the capital of Alagoas
Restaurants at Massagueira: Bar da Ilha – Avenida Nossa Senhora da Conceição, 90. Telephone: (+55 82) 3260-7025) and Bar do Pato (Avenida Nossa Senhora da Conceição 1308. Telephone: (+55 82) 3260-7048. Site: www.bardopato.com.br
O Peixarão (Avenida Júlio M. Luz, 50, Jatiúca. Telephone: (+55 82) 3325-7090 and Avenida Alípio B. da Silva, Pontal da Barra. Telephone: (+55 82) 3351-9090. Site: www.opeixarao.com.br) and Carne do Sol do Picuí (Avenida da Paz, 1140, Jaraguá. Telephone: (+55 82) 3223-8080)