Accessible only by jeep, Jericoacoara is an unspoilt paradise with exhilarating experiences and laid back nightlife.
Hidden away in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará is Jericoacoara, a kitesurfers’ paradise and a lively, cosmopolitan oasis. Here the streets are paved with sand, the waters are crystal clear and it’s warm all year round.
You don’t have to be a kitesurfing enthusiast to find Jericoacoara’s high wind speeds exhilarating – a walk to the top of the sunset dune is enough. From here you can feel the wind whipping past you, and you can see the sands shifting beneath your feet. This naturally-occurring dune is ideally located on the edge of both the village and the sea. Each day, hundreds of people make their way to the top to watch the sun sink into the ocean. It’s a simple ritual that allows for a moment of reflection at the end of each day. Small customs like these help Jericoacoara retain its authentic village feel and its sense of community, in spite of its increasing popularity.
Some might say Jericoacoara’s location is both a blessing and a curse. Jeri is a five hour journey from Fortaleza, the final hour being off-road and requiring either a 4×4 or a bumpy journey in a jardineira (open-air bus). Depending on the season and your vehicle of choice it can be a loud, wet, windy trip, but the rugged journey is an exciting one. Suspense builds as you make your way through simple towns and villages, before eventually speeding along the shores of nearby Preá beach with the strong sea breeze behind you and the waves practically lapping at your wheels. It’s Jeri’s relative isolation that has protected it from being completely swallowed up by mass tourism – it feels out of reach, but just far enough.
Dominated by sand, Jeri is surrounded by beaches and dunes and in parts offers views not unlike Lençóis Maranhenses. Buggies and quad-bike tours are readily available from the town square, offering to whisk you away to nearby dunes and lagoons for a day. Jeri’s sandy streets mean you won’t need shoes, a pair of Havaianas will do just fine. If you get an opportunity, try to experience the dunes on horseback – their hooves are surprisingly efficient at negotiating the soft sand, and the absence of engine noise leaves you feeling on top of the world.
During the day, Jeri is all about boutique shopping, laid-back bars, restaurants and of course, windsports. At night the town transforms and the streets fill with people. A lack of street lights add to the enchantment, with only the glow from the bars, the moon and the occasional firefly to show you the way. Samba and cool breezes drift through the streets as locals sell handcrafted jewellery and clothes, or barbecue meats or desserts.
Blurring the line between indoors and outdoors is something Brazil does so well, and with ideal weather all year round, Jeri makes the most of this. In many bars and restaurants you’ll be sitting beneath trees or under the stars. Sometimes you’ll find indoor floors made of sand, or a giant tree growing in the centre of the room. One such place is Na Casa Dela, which offers tasty, creative fare served in their colourful, candlelit garden. Jeri’s sands don’t stop at the front door at Sabor da Terra – this restaurant serves hearty meals in generous portions. Caravana serves vegetarian meals outdoors and has a quaint Volkswagen Combi Van parked in the garden, which makes for an interesting talking point. Naturalmente is right on the beach and serves crêpes and açaí using surfboards as table-tops. Creativity, charm and attention to detail are watchwords in this town.
Where to stay
Vila Kalango offers the effortless, rustic charm that Jericoacoara is famous for, but with a touch of class. Unlike a number of its big hotel rivals, Vila Kalango provides a five star experience while retaining its rustic authenticity. The timber bungalows and stilt-houses with thatched roofs are both humble and luxurious, with high ceilings, air-conditioning and personal, handcrafted details. Knotted pieces of timber are given a second life as bathroom shelves, holding fluffy white towels and passionfruit soaps, while handmade lamps and cushions add to the cosy atmosphere. Outside, inviting hammocks await in the shade.
The complex offers 24 rooms in total, built around lush, tranquil gardens. From the welcoming reception area, wooden decking snakes a path through the gardens, over lush green grass, around coconut and cashew trees, past the massage rooms and comfy day beds, down to the outdoor beach bar and the striking red swimming pool. From here you can lay on a sunlounger or take a swim while enjoying the spectacular views of the sunset dune and Jericoacoara beach.
Breakfast is a glorious start to each day: freshly squeezed fruit juices, strong coffee, tasty cakes and bread, as well as eggs and crêpes made to order. The restaurant’s open design allows the strong Jericoacoara breeze to flow through, and its high vantage point gives a great view over the beach as horses, motorbikes and dune buggies pass by, and kite surfers twist and fly through the air.
Located on nearby Preá beach, Rancho do Peixe offers a private, tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of Jeri. Consisting of 22 bungalows in total, 14 of which directly face the beach, the complex shares its owners with Vila Kalango and a shuttle bus travels between the two premises numerous times each day.
Spending some time at both hotels gives you two totally different experiences and is highly recommended. While Vila Kalango feels intimate and cosy, Rancho do Peixe feels spread out and pleasantly desolate. The sea can be seen from just about any part of the property, and sand and palm trees appear to stretch out for miles on either side.
Guests can relax in the bar or the pool, on daybeds and in hammocks beneath the trees, or they can wander down to the beach bar. At night, the bar becomes a pizzeria, serving some of the most delicious pizza you’ll ever find, at very reasonable prices. There is no better way to end the day than to relax with a tasty meal as the sounds of the wind and waves wash over you.
Afterwards, you can retreat to a hammock outside your bungalow and marvel at the spectacular night sky. The bungalows are charming and offer plenty of privacy, as well as premium bedding, high ceilings, handmade decorative touches and a mini bar.
These two hotels, in fact, the Jericoacoara and Preá regions in general – offer the perfect balance between luxury and simplicity. It’s this combination that makes a visit to this part of the world so memorable. After you leave, you’ll ache to return.
Rooms at Vila Kalango start from R$410 (£100) per night and at Rancho do Peixe from R$350 (£86) – double occupancy with breakfast and wi-fi included.