About Salvador beaches
The colourful city of Salvador is the cultural jewel of Brazil’s Bahia state. Whereas Rio to the south has become a slick, cosmopolitan centre, Salvador has retained a strong cultural identity inspired by the influx of African slaves centuries ago. The rhythm of life is played out daily on the streets of the city devoted to samba, carnival, capoeira (martial art) and Candomblé (religion). But the sea is never far away and a growing army of holidaymakers are joining Salvadorians for sun blessed days on palm-fringed, white sand beaches on the coast nearby.
Beaches near the city centre are not recommended because of pollution. The closest beach of any note is Farol de Barra, which is a popular weekend hangout for many of the city’s inhabitants. But the smart tourists head further north to the picture book tropical beaches of Itapoã, Stella Maris and Flamengo. All three are sandy beaches with palm trees, lapped by a turquoise sea that can be rough at times. Stella Maris and Flamengo are popular with surfers. Flamengo is backed by a beautiful lagoon that is great for fishing and relaxing sunsets. All beaches have beach ‘shack’ style restaurants serving freshly caught fish and cold drinks.
Beyond the beach:
Even the most ardent sun worshippers cannot visit Salvador without a walk around the old town. The multicoloured Colonial buildings and museums of the Largo de Pelourinho are the main draw. This central ‘square’ where slaves were traded has been extensively renovated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to all manner of museums, churches, restaurants and souvenir shops. Of particular note are the Museu da Ciadade (City Museum) and the Rosário dos Pretos church, built by slaves. Steep steps and narrow alleys lead to other areas of the old town, while the Lacerda Elevator (Prace Tomé de Souza) transports visitors to the lower city.
Children with a sense of adventure will love Salvador’s vibrant character, but there are no real family attractions as such. Fun can be had taking the ferry over to Ihla de Itaparica, the largest island in the bay, and riding the scenic Lacerda Elevator (Prace Tomé de Souza) in the city. The beaches are family friendly but are not often patrolled by lifeguards.
Adventurous travellers should head inland to the Chapada Diamantina National Park, where they will be rewarded by a high plateau cut by canyons, rivers, waterfalls and some of the largest caves in the Americas. A more relaxed excursion is Morro de São Paulo on the Ilha do Tinharé with spectacular beaches, old colonial buildings and laid-back bars and restaurants. There are no cars on the island so it is the perfect antidote to the bustle of Salvador.
Even those on the tightest of budgets can afford to live well in Salvador. It’s not really a jetset destination and doesn’t offer a lot in terms of luxury living. One of the most exclusive restaurants is Trapiche Adelaide, Praça Tubinambás, 2, Avenida Contorno, where an Italian chef serves Mediterranean food. It is a sumptuous, modern restaurant on the site of an old dock warehouse with fantastic views of the bay. Perhaps the most extravagant option is to visit one of the few trendy clubs in town, such as Fashion Club, Avenida Octávio Mangabeira 2471.