The Brazilian Job

Photo credit:  Anne Pelliciotto

Photo credit: Anne Pelliciotto

Thanks Anne!

April 21, 2009

You could blame it on Rio but there’s more to Brazil than gang violence, wax jobs and Carnival madness.  Head off the beaten track and venture northeast, to the undiscovered state of Paraíba, with 70 miles of uninterrupted tropical coastline, relentless sunshine, exotic fruits, friendly locals, and safe.

And with an exchange rate of about 2 Reais to 1 Dollar, you can travel like royalty, even on a budget.

Get Oriented
Base yourself in João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba and the second greenest city in the world.  Located at the easternmost point of the Americas, you get to be the first on this side of the world to greet the sun every morning.  The city is also situated centrally, making for easy day or overnight trips to other cool spots like Natal and Olinda.

Pousadas (bed and breakfasts) in the beach neighborhoods of Cabo Branco, Manaíra, and Tambaú are plentiful and reasonably priced.  A clean, basic room at Pousada Caju (I or II) includes an elaborate breakfast of fresh fruit, juice, breads, eggs and meats, and runs from $25 to $45 US. (pousadacaju.com.br, +55(83)247-8231).  Or $100/night gets you a beachfront room at the upscale Hardman Praia Hotel. (Av. Joao Maurício 1341, +55(83)3216-8811).

Life in Joao Pessoa is at its best on its beaches, stretching 20 miles along the eastern edge of the city.
-     Stroll, run or bike along the 5 mile stretch of scenic beach pathway, shaded with palm and coconut trees.
-     Take advantage of awesome wind conditions and try kite-surfing or windsurfing.  Rent gear and get a lesson from Taço and Naterçia at V2Wind Center (V2windcenter.com.br, Av Joao Mauricio, Manaíra)
-  Check out Areia Vermelha or Picaozinho, two sand and coral islands that appear only at low tide, and become party spots for a few hours, until the tide comes in.  Many of the tour boats also provide snorkeling gear and refreshments.

Food is fresh, high quality, diverse, and cheap.  Enjoy a spectacular view of the city from Pontal de Cabo while dining on bolinhos de bacalhau, a Portuguese specialty, fried balls of dried cod fish, served with remoulade sauce and lime. Light and tasty.

Carnivores should check-out one of the many churrascarias in town, like Terere (Av Cabo Branco, +55(83)226-1717), where an elaborate array of barbeque meats, chicken, sausage, beef, lamb, and even cordonha (quail) is brought to your table and sliced right off the skewer onto your plate.  Extra bonus, it’s all you can eat.

Or go shoeless and try one of the countless barracas (outdoor beach bars) along the main beach strip.  Barraca de Galo (Rooster Bar) is a favorite.

Because life’s a beach after all.