Beaches are a way of life in Brazil. For most Europeans the beach is the place where you take your bucket and spade and suntan lotion for a couple of weeks in the summer. But with many of the principal cities situated along the vast coast of Brazil, a lot of Brazilians spend a huge amount of a time at the beach every day all year round. In Rio, in particular, it’s the equivalent of a park – somewhere to sit and have a drink, catch up with friends, do some exercise, chill out.
Beaches in Brazil generally fall into two categories, those with beach bars and loud music and those where there is almost no infrastructure. I prefer the latter and, fortunately, Brazil is blessed with miles and miles of almost deserted and unbroken coastline often backed by mountains where you can walk for hours. As winter arrives in São Paulo and where it can get surprisingly chilly, it seemed like a good time to remember a few of my favourite beach getaways.
Ilha do Cardoso is a gem of an island, situated right in the south of São Paulo state. A ferry from the sleepy town of Cananeia takes you to the island in a few hours and there is a good chance of seeing dolphins en route. I visited the place a few years ago just a week before Christmas and it still felt out of season. Only two pousadas had started operations and only one restaurant was open for lunch on the day I arrived. I was hungry and decided to go for the recommended fish. In fact, the chef had only just caught the fish and was still in the process of gutting and cleaning it. Two hours passed before I got to eat, but it was delicious and well worth the wait.
Almost at the opposite end of the country lies the small village of Algodoal on the island of Maiandeua, a bus and ferry ride from Belem, the major city that lies at the mouth of the Amazon. Algodoal is situated in the Atlantic and, like Ilha do Cardoso, has no motorised traffic. It’s laid-back and gloriously underdeveloped.
Thailand gets a lot of good press and word of mouth about its beaches, but in my opinion Brazil boasts some of the finest in the world. There’s a saying in Portuguese which pretty much sums up the importance of the beach (“praia”) in Brazil: “não é minha praia” which can be rendered in English as “it’s not my cup of tea”. Brazil’s beaches are very much my cup of tea!