The draw for the Brazil World Cup takes place in Bahia this Friday – at a faceless mega resort. These friendly pousadas and hostels couldn’t be more different, offering laid-back comfort near stunning tropical beaches
Pousada Estrela do Mar, Salvador
Porto da Barra beach sits at the entrance to the magnificent Baía de Todos os Santos, one of the largest bays in the world, dotted with 50 tropical islands. This is one of the great city beaches, Salvador’s equivalent of Ipanema in Rio, only with more attitude and much nicer water. The sea is calm, clear and perfect for swimming. Renovations are under way to pedestrianise the area, with the aim of returning the district to its former glory. Nearby is Estrela do Mar, a nine-room pousada, or guesthouse, run by Irishman Sean O’Flynn, a genial host and mine of local information. The pousada is in a great location, close to two of the city’s best beaches (Porto and Farol da Barra, the latter on the ocean rather than the bay). It has comfortable rooms, friendly staff, and a great breakfast served until noon.
• +55 71 3022 4882, estreladomarsalvador.com, doubles from R$150 (around £42) B&B
Albergue do Porto, Salvador
This hostel is tucked away on a street corner just one block from Porto da Barra beach. Rooms of varied configurations – separate dorms for men and women, as well as rooms for couples and families – are housed in a beautiful, well-maintained property in the heart of Porto da Barra, close to the beach, bars, restaurants and supermarkets, with the best sunsets in Brazil just around the corner. Staff are a great source of information on what’s cool and cultural about town, with daily listings posted. There’s also a good social area and small pool.
• +55 71 3264 6600, alberguedoporto.com.br, bunks from £10 for HI members or £11 non-members, doubles from £31 or £34, including breakfast and Wi-Fi
Pousada Tatuapara, Praia do Forte
Just 50 miles north of Salvador along the Estrada do Coco, or “Coconut Highway”, Praia do Forte is the Bahian capital’s number-one beach getaway. Built in 1556 by the Portuguese, this was a sleepy fishing village until it was discovered all over again by the Salvador set in the 80s. While many hanker after the way it used to be, Praia do Forte now offers an extensive variety of excellent hotels, pousadas, restaurants and bars, to suit all budgets. The more popular beaches are at the port, but a short walk to the north leads to Praia do Lord and Papa Gente, which are better for swimming and snorkelling. The family-owned Pousada Tatuapara sits in a quiet part of the village, just 50 metres from the beach and adjacent to the busy main street, full of restaurants, bars and cafes (be sure to visit the Tango Café, where the apricot and almond cake is sublime). The pousada has 24 standard rooms and six studio apartments, which are excellent for families. The central patio has a small pool and outdoor hot tub. The property offers good value for money and a great location in an increasingly expensive destination. Like all pousadas in Praia do Forte, they tend to be full at the weekends, especially in summer months, so avoid the weekends if you are seeking a quieter stay.
• + 55 71 3676 1015, tatuapara.com.br, doubles from £67 B&B
Praia do Forte Hostel, Praia do Forte
This extremely well-run and popular hostel at the entrance to the main street offers the best value accommodation in Praia do Forte. Rooms in the original building on the ground floor come with ceiling fans, those in the new wing have air conditioning. The new wing has rooms for couples and families, while the ground-floor rooms are dorms with shared bathrooms. Access to the beaches is 500 metres from here, down the main drag.
• +55 71 3676 1094, albergue.com.br, dorms from £12 for HI members or £15 non-members, doubles from £32
Pousada Santa Clara, Boipeba
Pousada Santa Clara, just 50 metres from Boca da Barra beach, is a model of excellent inn-keeping. New York brothers Charles and Mark, the latter a sublime chef, have combined the lush tropical setting with simple but stylish rooms, as well as the finest restaurant on the island. Boipeba island is as lovely as the pousada, home to the surviving areas of Brazil’s hugely depleted Atlantic rainforest and some of the most idyllic palm-tree fringed beaches in the state. The pace of life is slow, there are no cars and the island’s remote location safeguards its natural beauty. To get here, you need to take a small ferry or speedboat though the mangrove channels.
• +55 75 3653 6085, santaclaraboipeba.com, doubles from £55 B&B
Vila Guaiamu, Morro de São Paulo
By day, Morro de São Paulo (on Tinharé island) is a haven of pristine, palm tree-fringed beaches and calm crystalline waters perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving. By night, it’s a party island, popular with both young Brazilians and international travellers. The beaches are numbered one to four, and the third beach, 15 minutes’ walk from the village, is best for swimming and is home to some of the best pousadas on the island, including the rustic Vila Guaiamu, which sits in a huge coconut grove. The 22 rooms are in chalets spread throughout the property’s lush tropical vegetation, with the main restaurant and reception area in the complex’s centre. There is also a beachside restaurant serving great local seafood and snacks. The island is a 20-minute flight or 2½-hour catamaran ride from Salvador.
• +55 75 3652 1035, vilaguaiamu.com.br, doubles from £45 B&B
Velas a Vento, Taipu de Fora, Maraú
While not directly on the beach, Velas e Vento, 80 metres back from the sand, is the best value for money pousada on the stunning Maraú peninsula – the stuff of Bounty bar adverts. The spacious en suite rooms are distributed in two blocks, facing the tropical gardens and the small pool. A breakfast of champions sets you up for the day, which can consist of beach walks, trips on the Camamu bay, or Taipu de Fora reef pools, where the receding tide reveals a 400m-long natural swimming pool with a stunning variety of tropical fish and wonderful snorkelling. Here you’ll find another Maraú gem in the Bar das Meninas beach hut, the peninsula’s favoured hangout, which serves cool beer, creative cocktails and delicious petiscos (tapas-like snacks).
• +55 73 3258-9069, velasevento.com.br, doubles from £53 B&B
Pousada Victor Hugo, Santo André
Victor Hugo is an impeccably maintained beachfront pousada, made largely from local materials to create an ambience of rustic comfort and architectural good taste. There are beautiful tropical gardens, surrounding the lounge/bar, which is open to the sea and has an soundtrack of cool Brazilian music. There’s nothing but beach for miles in either direction, so it’s effectively all yours. This peaceful estuary fishing village has stunning beaches, which have been saved from mass tourism by their isolation. Foodies should not miss Restaurante Maria Nilza in nearby Guaiú, which serves imaginative Bahian cuisine: on the menu you’ll find prawns fried in garlic oil, crab pasties, bacalhau (salted cod) and moqueca (regional seafood stew cooked with palm oil and coconut milk). If you have time, arrive at Santo André by boat, it’s one of the best river trips in Bahia (ask the owner for details).
• +55 73 3671-4064, pousadavictorhugo.com.br, doubles from £44 B&B
Pousada Tãnara, Itacaré
The beaches of Itacaré offer some of the best surfing in Brazil, and the most popular surfing beach is Tiririca, where the ocean squeezes into a little cove flanked by rising Atlantic forest at either end. In between, you find Pousada Tãnara, just seconds from the sand. Filled with rustic charm, it has six rooms, all except one with a verandah and air conditioning. The pousada is constructed almost entirely of wood, and set against the dramatic back drop of the Atlantic forest. Breakfast is served on the deck overlooking the beach, with a soundtrack of waves breaking on a beautiful cove beach. Itacaré is the gateway to the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Brazil, where the dense forest rolls right down to meet a chain of stunning coves and inlets, many only accessible by forest trails. The dipping contours of the surrounding countryside provide wonderful forest walks to isolated beaches or waterfalls, and there is great raftin, plus other adventure sports.
• +55 73 3251 3423, pousadatanara.com, doubles from £42
Vila do Mar, Caraiva
The more difficult it is to reach, the more preserved it will be. This is the case in Caraiva, an enclave of beaches at the southern reaches of Bahia. Shirking the glitz of nearby Trancoso and the bustle of Arraial da Ajuda, Caraiva rolls along a slower pace, against a backdrop of the Monte Pascoal national park. Pousada Vila do Mar has 14 rooms set amid coconut trees, a beachfront swimming pool, and a restaurant serving the best in local cuisine. It is within striking distance of Monte Pascoal hill, the first sighting of Brazilian land by the Portuguese in 1500. For the energetic, there are treks available to outlying beaches such as Espelho (if you go, make sure you have lunch at Silvana’s – book ahead), or on horseback to Barra Velho, or take a canoe on the Caraiva river. You can also take lessons in hobie cat sailing, wind surfing and kite surfing. The big show though is at night, when the southern sky glints with stars.
• +55 031 9324 0026 pousadaviladomar.com.br, doubles from £42 B&B
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