Ceará is a state in the North East region of Brazil. We managed to rent a car which opened up the possibility explore the state by driving about half of its 600km of sandy coastline. We discovered this region through four main stops: Fortaleza, Cumbuco, Prea and Jericoacoara. But Ceará has so much more to offer and to discover, including its mountains! Next time…
Here is how our wonderful week in Ceará state of Brazil went:
Fortaleza, the Brazilian Miami!
Palm trees, sandy beaches and high buildings: Fortaleza resembles the landscapes of Miami. The funny part though is that the structure of the city was actually inspired by the French Baron Haussman!
Fortaleza has a similar history as Recife: indigenous, Portuguese, Dutch, back to Portuguese. A minor difference though: the slaves were used not for the sugar cane plantations but for the cotton plantations. Mind you.
The name of the city comes from its fort, called Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora de Assunção (“Fort of Our Lady of the Assumption”), shortened to Fortaleza. Note that the fort in question was actually initially built by the Dutch who called it Schoonenborch (“graceful stronghold”)… not such a graceful name in my opinion!
Miami beach... almost!
Our first impression of Fortaleza? Wow it’s warm! We had sun daily with heat of over 40 degrees at times.
Luckily by the seaside it is also windy… sometimes too windy: the sand would whip you all over! Ouch! But still, sandy beach, blue sea and sunny days: perfect combo for a good time. Best is to install yourself behind one of the embankments so that you get protected from the wind while sunbathing.
We even saw dolphins!!! We were told by our guesthouse that the best spot was the pier Espigão Da João Cordeiro and indeed first time there and we could observe many dolphins!
We stayed near Praia de Iracema (Iracema beach) so we mainly hung out around there. All along the seaside you will find a pedestrian walkway, a road for car and then high buildings: it is pretty similar indeed to Miami, thus the nickname! Like in Recife, the architecture and layout really reminded us of the USA. Check the pictures to judge by yourself!
Note: while we kept most of stuff in a dry-bag that we swam with, we noticed a guy looking with attention to our personal items that we left on the beach. We are pretty sure that he would have stolen anything valuable if there would have been anything (we only left our flip-flops, magazines and a bottle of water). So be careful, and do not leave your belongings unattended!
Street art occupation
If you go more South, after the Ponte dos Ingleses, the urban landscape changes a lot. Lower buildings, abandoned structures or colorful renovated ones: the atmosphere is a bit strange. Many places look empty, unused, abandoned but at the same time there were some cool and rather fancy bars like the Pirata Bar or the JamRock… Interesting mix…
However they also have very cool street art!
The city center
We walked towards the city center through the avenue Monsenhor Tabosa, which is a pleasant commercial street, that again reminding us of Miami. On the way you can stop at the Benévolo Café e Gelato for an ice-cream or a coffee.
At the end of that avenue you will arrive at the Praça Cristo Redentor passing in front of the cute Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Prainha (long name for a small church!). On your right, on the square you will find the Center of Art and Culture Dragão do Mar. This building is a bit incongruous with its modern and bright architecture. It features a museum as well as free exhibitions. We were too late to visit any but you could give it a try.
Finally continue straight towards the Mercado Central (again we were a bit late to see it, also we were not very eager to) and turn left to get to the imposing but rather ugly Metropolitan Cathedral of Fortaleza.
All in all we were definitely not impressed by the center of Fortaleza…
Where to stay in Fortaleza?
We can recommend our lovely home stay, called Pousada L.Q. The owners don’t speak English but they are an adorable couple who will take care of you and prepare you a big breakfast every morning. It is also well located to explore the city.
Cumbuco, the getaway of people from Fortaleza
Cumbuco is a small city, only one hour away from Fortaleza. It features a beautiful sand beach and seems to be the paradise for kite-surfing and wind-surfing: it was super crowded!
Our first impression of Cumbuco was bad, very bad: we arrived by car and on the way we were harassed by people trying to sell us a buggy tour. When I say harass, I mean it. Two examples here. One guy put himself in the middle of the road to stop us: when we understood he was trying to sell us a tour we continued and… he ran next to our car, hitting on our window! Another guy on his bike told us to follow him: we didn’t ask him anything, not talked to him, he just drove in front of us making signs to follow him. In the end we entered a small side street going towards the beach and parked there: yes the guy turned around and came to tell us that the city center was 5 min further and that he could give us great prices. Oh my, we had to tell him that we were not interesting because we were going at the bar at the end of the alley we just parked in… Like whatever but just leave us alone! Not willing to get to the city center to have more of this, we decided to actually stayed park there and explore the beach by foot. It was pretty cool actually because we were at one of the kite-surfing spot and could enjoy the show!
Once passed the initial stress of our arrival we actually enjoyed looking at kite-surfers, have a walk on the beach and relax with a fresh juice and a coco verde! It was truly a beautiful place!
Of course Silviu could no resist and we started asking for kite-surfing class prices; but it was getting late and I was not really willing to sleep in this area so I convinced him to try it in Prea!
Prea, the quiet village
Our initial goal was to get to Jericoacoara but somehow we could not make up our mind on a place to stay. Meanwhile I had spotted a place that looked amazing in Prea, the village just before Jericoacoara. Silviu and I both agreed we should avoid the crowds and head for this accommodation.
A burlesque arrival
First bad surprise: some of the roads are quite sandy, including the one that is supposed to lead us at our hotel… yes we got stuck in the sand and it was already nighttime with no one around! But we are a great team and while Silviu was driving, I… pushed! 😀 I got covered with sand but we made it out!! But no way we could continue on that street.
Second bad surprise: the hotel is actually only accessible by the beach, even the cars!! Even worse in terms of sand that the street we tried to take! No other solution: we had to leave the car in a street nearby. We were told that Prea was a quiet and safe village but we were still in Brazil, so we were quite anxious… Well now we can confirm: Prea is a quiet and safe village and its inhabitants are very kind people!
To be honest at this point we were not sure what to do! We were tired and it was already night time: finding another place or staying there?But the place did look great so we decided to give it a chance… no regret!
Our oasis in Prea
The great surprise was actually our hotel, which was a little piece of paradise during the day! An oasis with a swimming pool, located between a sand dune and the beach! At night it is so quiet! And you can enjoy the stars in the sky from the sand dune… In the morning after a delicious breakfast we would take the surfboard, wax it and have fun dune surfing!
We loved it and wished we could have stayed much longer! If you want to relax in a beautiful setting go to Eco Kite Dunas! Just be aware that it is not easy to access and the best is to have a buggy or a small SUV!
Prea itself is a quiet place but with many dining options, by the beach or in its small streets. Note that during the day many shops are closed so buy water beforehand!
As promised to Silviu before, the next day we looked for a kite school and actually got a great feeling talking with one nearby called Vila Bela Vista Kite School, located within the hotel Vila Bela Vista. The team there was very nice and Silviu got some great instructions that allowed him to get standing on the kite-surf within 2 days only! It is clearly not an easy sports and I am super proud of him! Don’t blame me for the pictures please, I tried my best!
Why didn’t I try? Well there are many reasons:
- the altruist one: being a paraglider and wake-boarder, Silviu would learn much faster than me so I would have slowed him down
- the savvy one: well we are still on a budget and that was not included!
- the honest one: 3 hours of this per day? Are you kidding me?! I don’t want to swallow salty water for that long!
An evening in Jericoacoara
Everyone told us Jericoacoara is the place to go! We were also told that it was best to visit it at night to get an actual feeling of the “hippie” vibe of the village… Let us tell you about our experience there!
Getting to Jericoacoara
There is only one way to get to Jeri (its little name): by the beach! Clearly there was no way we could take our car so we had to rent a buggy. Thanks to our host it was super easy to have one, and we left after Silviu’s class just on time for sunset!
We loved the ride! The sunset colors were amazing! On the way we could see people kite-surfing on the sea or in a lagoon, wild donkeys (there were not a lot of use for donkeys anymore so they just let them going freely and the new generation is now wild) and super cute little owls!
Sunset on the dune Pôr do Sol
We arrived just for sunset down the famous dune Pôr do Sol that is next to the village of Jericoacoara. First shock: hundreds of people are coming back from the dune!! Coming from pretty empty Prea we were very surprised to see that many people!! The funny part is that they all left as soon as the sun disappears leaving us alone to enjoy the dune in this perfect light! People are weird (say the weirdos).
The dune itself is quite impressive because it has a steep slope towards the sea! It was so much fun walking around and sitting on the edge of a sand dune!
Welcome to Disneyland!
Yep that’s what we thought of Jeri… a sandy Disneyland! Tourists from everywhere, more than we crossed in the past month in Brazil! A village full of restaurants, bars, ice-cream shops (seriously, so many!) and hotels with shows at every corner to entertain the tourists. And let’s not forget the loud music and disco lights from the nightclubs! We didn’t feel the hippie vibe at all, apart from some of the stands trying to sell you the same stuff as everywhere (jewels, dreamcatchers, etc…). There were some interesting shops there and there though, as well as fancier designer shops.
Restaurants are pricier of course but we can recommend the Cantina Jeri where the prices were OK and the risotto delicious (with shrimps and mangos!).
After wandering around the village with an ice-cream to watch the different shows we were truly happy to get back to our quiet Prea!
2 anecdotes before leaving the state of Ceara:
- In the restaurant in Jeri we had a cute cat that comfortably installed himself on our backpack! It stayed there the full dinner, sometimes sleeping, sometimes playing with Silviu’s legs (ouch!).
- On our way back we stopped to help a SUV that got stuck. We could not really understand but we assumed that it went off-road to the sea and drowned its engine! With the tide coming up, it was necessary to get it out. Luckily 2 cars stopped by and they managed to pull it out and the 3 of them drove in line back to Jeri! The passengers were mainly posting on Instagram rather then helping.