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Fortaleza, Brazil: Planning Your Time

The French pirates who navigated the waters around Fortaleza in the 1500s, were so enchanted by the place that they made it a main base of operation for years. Legend has it that they buried treasure in the coastal dunes, although you don’t see locals digging around in search of it. There are more obvious treasures available for the taking, like the emerald waters and shiny white sandy beaches.

It’s difficult to decide whether the highlight of Fortaleza is the incredible nightlife in Iracema and Praia do Futuro; the seafood of the beach kiosks at Praia do Futuro and in the restaurants along the boardwalk at Meireles; or the incredible arts, crafts and clothing available for such great prices all over this region. One thing is for sure; the beaches along the coast to the east and west of Fortaleza will stay in your memory for a long time. What these beaches may lack in clarity of the ocean water, is offset by their pristine conditions and the abundance of variety they offer. Indeed in the 500 kilometers of coastline from Jeriquaquara to Canoa Quebrada, there are some fifty or so beaches worth visiting. The lack of a coastal highway linking these beaches keeps them pure and relatively unpopulated, if a bit more difficult to visit.

Planning Your Time in Fortaleza Brazil

It’s difficult not to compare Fortaleza and Natal, since they are both coastal cities with urban areas and remote beaches along the coast to either side. They are relatively near one another and visitors often visit them both in the same trip. Unlike the beaches along Natal’s north and south coastline, the Fortaleza beaches are spread very far apart, making it difficult to see more than two or three of them in the same day. In fact, you’ll find that most excursions from Fortaleza focus on 1–3 locations in a day-long excursion from morning to late afternoon. Another effect of this distance is that dune buggies are not the principal means of travel to the beaches. Instead, you take a van or bus to your chosen destination and hire a dune buggy from there, if you choose. Travel between beaches is made more difficult due to the lack of a coastal highway, present in most other coastal regions of Brazil. Thankfully, Fortaleza is just too full of sand dunes to make a coastal highway feasible–so the beaches remain separate, difficult to get to, and pristine. Just remember that unless you have your own car, it’s not easy to move from beach to beach. Packaged trips by van are pretty economical, but you’re usually stuck with their schedule, so choose your excursions carefully.

If you want to see the main sites in Fortaleza, you’ll need 5–7 days. That’s one day each at Praia do Futuro, Cambucu, Morro Branco and Lagoinha. Your nights can be spent in Iracema, Meireles, and Praia do Futuro. If you have only 5 days, then spend your last one at Canoa Quebrada, otherwise, spend a night or two at either Jeriquaquara or Canoa Quebrada before you go. These destinations offer more charming (less urban) accommodations than in the city with fewer crowds. Jeriquaquara is just far enough away that most people never make it there on their visit to Fortaleza. It requires an overnight stay at least, but is well worth two or three days. With all these beaches to see in so short a time, it’s no wonder that most people never get to see the historical and cultural attractions in the city. They are there, waiting for you if you can spare the time.

Although the tour vans are comfortable and excellent, many travelers rent a car or buggy to explore the beaches around Fortaleza and this is a decent option that gives you more freedom to get around. But be sure to rent a car and not a buggy, as the high winds and whipping sands can be extremely uncomfortable in a dune buggy. Don’t bother driving to Jeriquaquara as the road is tricky and you won’t be able to do anything with your car once you get there. Better to take the bus.

Don’t Miss in Fortaleza & Ceara

Praia do Futuro: The challenge here is deciding on which part of the beach you want to sit and relax for a few hours. There are over 50 beach bars stretched across almost eight kilometers of sand and surf. Choices range from rowdy and crowded to calm and tranquil–but you’re sure to find tasty boiled crab, wherever you end up.
Jeriquaquara: Something happens when you get this close to the equator. You lose track of time and leave pressures way, way behind. Now imagine a tropical beach village with no streetlights, a few charming inns, and lots of sun and sand.
Avenida Beira Mar to Iracema The New York Times called it one of the most intense night spots in the world. That’s just the west end at Iracema. Farther east the boardwalk a just a tad calmer with arts & crafts fairs, restaurants and lots of people jogging and sitting at the beach bars.

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