Our speedboat glides across the open ocean, leaving the tranquil island of Boipeba in its wake. Soon we dock on the sunny shores of Barra Grande, a bustling, vibrant village on the tip of the Maraú Peninsula, a few hours south of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. For the majority of visitors to this vibrant strip of coastline, this is their first stop, and it certainly makes a good first impression.
Barra Grande is a laid-back village with sandy streets and coconut trees, as well as a number of rustic bars, restaurants and pousadas. The village is the area’s main tourist hub, a place for people to shop, eat and drink before venturing off to explore the peninsula’s other attractions.
Maraú is famous for two things – pristine beaches and incredible food. A Tapera dishes up hearty traditional fare, like moqueca, in a charming, rustic setting. Bar da Rô offers superb seafood in a sunny, riverside location. Pizza Taipu whips up some of the best thin-crust pizza you’ll find in Brazil. Be sure to visit Sol do Mutá, where you can sip a caipirinha or an ice-cold beer and watch the sun set while the sea quite literally laps at your feet.
As for beaches, those which face eastwards offer excellent surf, while those on the west side have calmer waters. The sedate waters and shaded shores of Ponta do Mutá make it ideal for children. Taipu de Fora is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the region. It’s great for surfing and at low tide it has vast natural rock pools which are fascinating to explore. Further south is Cassange Beach, which has softer sand and a freshwater lagoon, great for swimming and snorkeling.
Where to stay?
Butterfly House Bahia
This rustic-chic retreat is all about privacy and attention to detail. Butterfly House is a sophisticated little enclave, offering a fine-dining restaurant, plus a beautiful pool and bar area, all surrounded by fragrant, manicured gardens and towering palm trees. There’s also a beachfront bar, where you can relax in a hammock or in the giant timber throne and either watch the rising sun (if you’re a morning person) or the glowing moon above the crashing waves. The sunset is best watched while swimming in the sea – you can turn around, face the pousada and watch the sun slowly slip behind the palm trees. Pure magic.
The pousada offers eight charming bungalows and three suites, each with its own unique style. I stayed in the Moroccan-French-inspired Esmaralda bungalow, with its high, thatched ceilings, timber floors and walls made from smooth Moroccan plaster, it was like nothing else I’ve seen in Brazil before. All rooms come with TV, air-conditioning and plush bedding.
The best thing about the hotel may be the worst thing about it too, depending on how you look at it – the location is remote. Taxis and quad bikes can help you get around, but it’s worth keeping this in mind. That being said, once you’re here, you probably won’t want to leave. With a superb restaurant, a spectacular beach at the doorstep and a freshwater lagoon just a short walk away, it’s a glorious place to relax in.
Double rooms start from R$380 / £97 per night, breakfast included. Visit butterflyhousebahia.com.br
This pousada really lives up to its name. Built by Norwegian owners Jan and Lyana, Dreamland is their dream – and you can see how much they enjoy running the place. They make you feel right at home and that’s part of the charm of this place.
The bungalows themselves are well-constructed, the decor is rustic-chic but they feel modern and comfortable, with air-conditioning, fridge, TV and fast wi-fi. Every bungalow has a sea view and a spacious patio outside with a table and hammock. The premium bedding and the roar of the nearby waves will ensure you rest easily.
The hotel’s location is also remote, but it’s a little closer to the buzz of Barra Grande, just a 10-minute drive from the town. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to venture far from the pousada – there’s a bar and restaurant on-site, the beach is right at your door and there’s a small shop at the hotel selling essentials just in case you run out of toiletries.
The breakfast buffet is an excellent way to wake up each morning and includes tasty cakes, breads, fruits and juices – everything was made fresh each morning. The caipirinhas at the bar were superb!
Taipu de Fora beach itself is stunning – the waves are great for surfing, the sand is soft, the water is clean and there are natural rock pools to explore during low tide. Sitting in the bar listening to the waves crash, feeling the sand between my toes and watching the moon rise over the water was a real highlight. Jan is also a musician – from a group called Jan Session – and they occasionally perform live in the bar.
Double rooms start from R$400 / £102 per night, breakfast included. Visit dreamlandbungalows.com
Viking Inn is tucked away amidst the palm trees and sandy roads near Taipu de Fora beach. It’s a modern, stylish boutique hotel with rustic touches, built around a large, immaculately clean swimming pool, complete with a poolside bar and plenty of deck chairs in which to relax. It’s only a short stroll to the beach, where you’ll find Viking Inn’s brand new beach bar, complete with superb cocktails and comfortable deck chairs on which to relax. Try the cocô batida – pure bliss!
The pousada has a restaurant on site which serves a hearty breakfast buffet with fresh breads, cakes and fruit, as well as a diverse menu of mid-priced lunch and dinner options.
The owners Henry and Janete are a delight. Henry speaks excellent English, which was extremely helpful. It was lovely to sit in the restaurant and chat with him over lunch, and hear his stories about his move from Sweden to Brazil and what it’s been like to build a pousada in Bahia.
The rooms were spacious, modern and comfortable, with all the comforts you’d expect – air conditioning, fridge, cable TV, premium bedding and a roomy balcony overlooking the surrounding nature.
Viking Inn is a wonderful place to wind down and spend a few relaxing days away from it all.
Double rooms start from R$295 / £75 per night, breakfast included. Visit: vikinginnboutiquehotel.com
Explore Brazil’s finest boutique hotels: hiddenpousadasbrazil.com
Article published in the February 2017 edition of the Brasil Observer newspaper, London.