Jericoacoara: White Dunes and Blue Lagoons
Waves roll westward across the Atlantic to the windswept coast of northeastern Brazil. Jutting into the ocean at the top of South America, Jericoacoara is a secluded vacation spot that’s a favorite with kitesurfers.
At night, lovers lie in the equatorial darkness on Jericoacoara’s feather-soft sand dunes watching meteors falling to earth. The Southern Cross sparkles in the velvet sky, the blaze of Orion’s belt a slash across the black void. Turtles crawl out of the sea to lay their eggs in the dark. Waves break against towering dunes as the tide surges in the moonlight.
At daybreak, Jericoacoara’s beautiful, barren dunes lie humped and pale, like desolate whales beached upon the shore. You can rent a snowboard to race down the side of a dune on warm sand as fine as powdery snow. High season in the fishing village runs from late June through January.
A five-passenger helicopter makes the 50-minute flight daily to Jericoacoara—or “Jeri,” as everybody calls it—from the airport at Fortaleza, the capital city of the state of Ceará. Or you can buy a Redenção bus ticket at Fortaleza’s Pinto Martins airport for about $20 for the five-hour trip (slightly more for the VIP bus). Tourist hotels can arrange for an early morning bus pickup, but be sure to bring a sweater because Brazil’s air-conditioned buses are uncomfortably cold.
Buses from all over go as far as Jijoca—less than eight miles from Jericoacoara—where everyone piles into a pickup truck—“carlinhos”—or four-wheel-drive SUV, since only vehicles with 4×4 traction navigate the rugged terrain. Or you can take a bus to Camocim, where every morning an open-air vehicle makes its way westward to Jeri along the beach. Wear sandals, since you’ll have to jump out and wade through shallow lagoons as men with barge poles ferry the truck across pools.
Once in Jeri, you can explore the beaches on horseback or rent a dune buggy (or ATV) to roam the vast expanse of shoreline. Wind and waves sculpt jagged shapes out of sandstone and quartz, creating fantastic rock formations like the Pedra Furada, about a 45-minute walk along the beach from the village at low tide.
Every evening tourists climb the Pôr do Sol (sunset) dune to watch the sun sinking into the sea. Night falls rapidly at the equator. Visitors from around the world crowd the makeshift bars around bonfires that light the beach as soon as tropical darkness falls.
When the sun goes down, nightlife begins on the beach—bartenders set up tables in the sand as smoky charcoal braziers waft odors of churrasco (barbeque). Cocktails are relatively expensive, so try Brazil’s national drink, Caipirinha, made from cachaça (sugarcane alcohol), sugar and lime. The local Guanabara soda has a very sweet lemon-lime flavor—and you’ll find Coca Cola-owned beverages everywhere. Nightclubs and bars stay open until dawn.
Expect to do a lot of walking since none of Jeri’s streets are paved. You’ll find anything you need along the Rua Principal (Main Street) and a couple of lanes running parallel to the central visitor’s center. The town is a favorite of European travelers, with its sandy footpaths and a constantly changing selection of restaurants.
Northeastern Brazil is on the move, thanks to an influx of tourists and cheap nonstop flights from Europe. Most U.S. flights go direct from New York to São Paolo (at the bottom of Brazil), requiring you to change planes and fly all the way back north to Fortaleza. Here’s a tip: fly from Miami to Manaus (with breathtaking views of the Amazon) and then across the top of the country to Foraleza, cutting your travel time by about nine hours.
Photos: Stephen J. Sitko