Salvador's (& Environs') Beautiful Beaches
|Important: Most of Salvador's beaches -- and those in other localities in Bahia -- are unattended by lifeguards, and some of Salvador's most beautiful Atlantic beaches can be affected by strong currents, particularly during high tide. Unless you are an experienced ocean swimmer, stick to beaches protected by reefs and rocks, or stick close to shore!
Salvador is literally surrounded by beaches.
They are where people go to relax, cool off, chill, socialize, eat,
drink, dance, exercise, surf, and of course swim. They vary from crowded
city beaches great for meeting people to tropical idylls up and down the coast.
Porto da Barra
One of the first beaches that most people
get to know in Salvador is Porto da Barra. Porto
da Barra was, interestingly, the site of Bahia's first European settlement, Vila Velha, or the Old Village. During the 1960's it was
a hangout for Tropicalistas Caetano Veloso (who sang of the beach in his song "Qual é Baiana?") and Gilberto Gil and
their crowd, and it continues to be very much of a hangout today.
The beach is set within the bay
and the water is much calmer than on the oceanside beaches; it's good
for swimming. On weekends, especially Sundays, Porto da Barra can get very crowded, and it's a good idea to keep a good eye on your stuff. Sandals, sunglasses, and like items can
disappear in an instant, the magicians usually being innocent-enough looking kids
playing around in the sand near you.
Moving out, the next beach is Farol
da Barra. Farol means a beacon; here "lighthouse"
(the word "farol" is derived from "Pharos", the
name of the small island of the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, where
a great lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,
was built). The end of the beach closest
to the lighthouse is rocky, with protected pools making it a good
place for kids to safely play in the water. The far end of the beach
is usually surfer territory.
Porto da Barra on a Saturday morning.
Farol da Barra and the rocky end of the beach.
From here the beaches run in a more-or-less
solid line up to, oh I don't know, Venezuela probably. But the next
important point-of-reference within the context of what I'm laying
out here is Itapoan (also spelled Itapuã). Itapoan used to be a village quite apart from Salvador,
but it has since been aborbed into the greater Salvador metropolitan
area, and you fans of Brazilian music may have heard the place mentioned
in the eponymous (and nonpareil) Tarde em Itapoan (Afternoon in Itapoan) by Toquinho and Vinicius de Moraes.
The beach at Itapoan starts at almost
right angles to the general lay of the beaches running up the coast,
then it rounds a bend and a bit further up is another lighthouse,
the Farol de Itapoan. The waters off
the first stretch of beach are protected by rocks and reefs and tend to be calm and good for swimming, while the waters on the far side of the lighthouse are strong, unprotected Atlantic surf. A lot of locals surf here but there are powerful currents in the waters off the lighthouse and they are only recommended for strong swimmers who know the area.
But don't let me scare you out of the
water; I'm not Peter Benchley. Moving back in the direction we've
come from there is the long, lovely, arcing, coconut-palm backed praia (beach) of Piatã ( a very broad beach with hard-packed sand). The waters of Piatã are generally safe in that the slope of the sand into the water is very gentle and the depth of the water accordingly increases very gradually (however, the currents around the rocky area at the beach's far end -- to the left as you face the water --can be strong and dangerous).
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That's João do Boi (John of the Ox) to the right of the ubiquitous Jay-Z there...
Piatã: The barracas are no longer there.
The next beach to the north of Piatã, just around the point at the right side of the photo to the left, is Plakaford. The beach is so called because some years ago there was a big sign along the road there for Ford automobiles, and the Portuguese name for "sign" is placa. (I don't know where the "k" -- now officially banished from Brazilian Portuguese -- came from.) Plakaford is good for families with kids in that the waters are gentle, protected by rocks and reefs. The beach lays between Piatã and Itapoan.
On the other side of Itapoan, immediately to the north, are, in succession, the beaches of Stella Maris and Flamengo. Flamengo in particular is a great beach, beautiful and palm-lined, with varied and interesting barracas*.
* Several years ago Salvador's contemptible then-mayor oversaw the destruction of Salvador's beach barracas, an outrageous abuse of private property and public confidence born in opaque legal maneuvering founded in pique.Well finally the barracas will be back, kind of, in the form of removable tendas (tents) from which beer, soft drinks, and pre-prepared food (?) will be served.
Each new-style barraca will come as something of a kit, with collapsible beach chairs and umbrellas, these limited to ensure that the entire beach will not be overrun with chairs. I guess tables on the beach are a thing of the past, which in my opinion is kind of too bad.
Mangroves along Rio do Inferno
Moving south out of Salvador takes one down to three coastal islands: Tinharé, Cairu, and Boipeba. Cairu, though verdantly lovely, is surrounded principally by mangrove forests and hence is not a beach island. Tinharé and Boipeba, on the other hand, are home to extensive palm-lined beaches protected from the strong Atlantic surf by virtue of either their orientation or their offshore structure. Tinharé's principal community of Morro de São Paulo is generally far better known than that of the island upon which it sits, while the name of Boipeba's principal community is identical to that of the island as a whole (although the village is usually referred to as Velha Boipeba -- "Old Boipeba"; it was founded by Jesuits in 1537).
* Rio do Inferno -- Hell River, photo at right -- is not (for the information of anybody who may be planning to travel along it) a scary place. Forming the southern boundary of Tinharé and traversed when en route to Boipeba from point-of-embarkation Torrinha (on the island of Cairu), the name was derived from the difficulty of navigating through shifting sandbars where the river (actually a saltwater estuary) gives onto the open sea.
Evening at Velha Boipeba
Busca Vida, to the north of Salvador
Barra Grande, on the peninsula of Maraú, Bahia
Barra Grande: Baía de Camamu
Barraca Mar e Coco (Sea and Coconut), close to Moreré, on the island of Boipeba
Mar e Coco's wonderful moqueca de camarão (shrimp)
Barraca Mar e Coco
Praia de Moreré: As unlikely as it might seem, when David Byrne was here he heard Psycho Killer booming out of a sound system somewhere!
The island of Maré
Itamoaba, on the island of Maré
Praia (beach) at Ribeira, with the Igreja (church) de Bonfim in the distance