Although many Brazilians opt to stay on the beach the sand is not as clean as it is in Piauí and Ceará, while the city centre is charming and full of life. Cheap hotels can be found in
, very central, and
, Av Avicência, Praia do Calhau, T098-2106 0505, www.pestanasao luis.com.br A fully renovated resort hotel housed in a former 1970s grand hotel. This is much the best option for families or business. Rooms are well-appointed with work stations and good desks, there's a full business centre and the various leisure options include a large pool, games area and tennis courts.
, R do Giz 129, T098- 3222 9937, www.portasdaamazonia.com.br. Tastefully converted wood-floor rooms in a colonial building in the the heart of the centre. Smart and well run. Internet.
, R Afonso Pena 112, T098-3232 2834, www.clickcolonial.com.br. Clean, well-kept rooms set in a beautiful restored, tiled house, a/c, comfortable, quiet.
, R de Nazaré 258, facing Praça Benedito Leite, T/F098-3221 4655. The carpets and scruffy walls in the lobby and on the stairs don't look as if they've been changed since the hotel opened in the 1970s, but the long, plain tiled rooms are spacious and clean, and they offer views out over the colonial centre from tiny terraces. Noisy a/c, cheapest with shared bathroom. Check for spongy mattresses.
, R da Estrela 115, T098- 3221 3390. Spartan but bright single, double, a/c or fan-cooled triple rooms with good views out over R da
, R da Estrela 175, T098- 3231 5154. Very scruffy, tiny fan-cooled boxes with button-sixed windows in a dilapidated house reached by rickety stairs. Bizarrely very popular with backpackers but definitely only for the desperate. Other options nearby.
Excursions from São Luís
, R da Palma 127, T098- 3232 6694, www.ajsolardaspedras.com.br. By far the best backpacker option in town. Well- run, with tidy 4-6 person dorms (
) and doubles, internet, lockers and a little garden.
In Raposa there are hotels on Av Principal.
, Av Gonçalves Dias 320, São José de Ribamar. With a restaurant.
, Praia da Baronesa, T098-3337 1339. A beach front
with a series of bungalows with en suites, a good restaurant, canoe hire and advice on excursions around the town.
, Vila Jerico s/n, Cema, T098-3337 1569, email: danniloalcantara@ ig.com.br. Cabins and pretty suites with great views out over the bay and a restaurant with delicious Maranhense food.
, R de Baixo s/n at the Post Office, T098-3337 1291. Tiny simple
with 4 small but well-kept fan-cooled rooms.
Parque Nacional Lençóis MaranhensesBarreirinhas
, R Direita, T098-3337 1109. A friendly, family-run restaurant and pousada right in the centre with a range of very simple, plain rooms. Look at several.
Most hotels can organize tours. Bring a hammock for flexibility; in the smaller hamlets it is always possible to rent space in a beach bar or restaurant for a few dollars.
, R Joaquim Soeiro de Carvalho 245, T098-3499 0054, www.bh mirante.com.br. Well-kept tiled and white- washed rooms near the central square. The quietest are at the front. Good service from the
welcoming owner, Albino and a pleasant rooftop breakfast area. Sister
, R Coronel Godinho 320, T098-9111 0461. Small, boxy fan-cooled or a/c doubles set in corridors opposite the Assembleia de Deus church, which has noisy hellfire sermons at weekends.
Caburé, Vassouras, Mandacaru and Atins
, R Coronel Godinho 204, T098- 3349 1237. Simple fan or a/c whitewashed rooms, with decent beds and mattresses, ranging from phone box-sized with shared baths to more spacious en suite doubles.
It is possible to rent hammock space in the restaurant shacks in Vassouras or Mandacaru for around US$20/day with food included.
, R Principal, Praia do Atins, Atins, T098-9616 9646, www.rancho pousada.com. Comfortable, though simple beach chalets cooled by the constant sea breeze. The best are close to the waterfront. The
has a simple restaurant and a pool. There are a couple of other, simpler options in the village.
Paulino Neves and Tutóia
, Praia do Caburé, T098-9143 4668. Rooms for up to 4. Well- kept. The owner was the first to settle here and named the town after a local bird. Best food in the village. Watch out for glass on the vast, sweeping Atlantic beach. There are other options in town and rooms are always available outside peak season.
Tutóia is an ugly, scruffy town surrounded by wastelands of billowing plastic bage. It's a good idea to try and arrive early and leave quickly.
, Av Paulino Neves 1100, Tutóia, T098-3479 1247. Crumbling mock colonial hotel in garish pink with 12 fading rooms, 5 of which have a/c.
, Av Rio Novo, Centro, Paulino Neves T098-9966 1351. A very friendly river bank
run by Dona Mazé and her family. Public areas are decorated with old photos of the Lençóis, the breakfasts generous, but the fan-cooled rooms are very simple and in need of refurbishment.
, Praça Tremembés, Tutóia, T098-3479 1354. Very, very simple, with fan-cooled plain boxes and shared bathrooms. Look at several.
, R Cesario Coimbra, Centro, T098-3391 1252. Twenty very simple rooms with shared baths and fans.
, Av Liberalino Miranda 53, Jacaré, T098-3391 2359. A friendly family-run guesthouse with 8 plain little rooms with shared bathrooms and a large breakfast,
There are many cheap hotels near the
should you get stuck in town.
, R Paraíba 740, T086-3529 8500, www.posseidonhotel.com.br). The best in the city, oriented to business and with internet access and a pool.
There are a handful of very simple
near the bus station.
, Praça do Estudante 460, T099-3531 2318. Chalets with fan, restaurant, natural pool and 3 neighbouring waterfalls.
, Estr por Riachão (BR-230), Km 2, T099-3531 2452, www.pousadadolajes.com.br. Chalets with a/c gathered around a little pool outside town with a restaurant and a small play area for kids.
provide simple home cooking, although most are found away from the centre and beaches. Typical dishes are
and desserts or liqueurs made from local fruits. Try the local soft drink
has many eating places with outdoor terraces.
has good places for lunch. There is further choice in the
district, just across bridge. The centre is very lively on Fri and Sat but on Sun most people go to
, R da Estrela 210. Portuguese and Brazilian standards, decent fish and pizza in this restaurant decorated with local art, colourful bottles and bric-a-brac. Lively on weekends and Mon-Fri after 0800.
, R da Estrela 401, T098- 3254 1274. A fine dining restaurant upstairs, offering French-Brazilian dishes like partridge in
sauce and standards like steak diane. Downstairs there's a great little
in a long, stone-walled cool room with Romanesque brick arches, offering good
snacks and live music on weekends.
, R da Estrela 210. Varied menu with excellent fish and regional standards and tables that spill out into the plaza. Both this restaurant and neighbouring
are the liveliest spots in this busy streets and have good live music at weekends.
, R do Giz (28 de Julho) 164. Delicious cakes, faux-French eclairs, quiches,
tropical fruit juices and coffee, friendly.
Parque Nacional Lençóis MaranhensesBarreirinhas
, R da Palma 83. Great value per kilo with a good choice of stews, salads and
. Near the IYHA.
, Av Beira Rio s/n, T098- 3349 0627. Fillet of fish in Passion fruit sauce, açai pulp with guarana and various simple meat and poultry dishes and fresh juices.
, R Inacio Lins s/n. Wide choice of pizzas cooked in a traditional wood- fired oven and delicious
, Rio Preguicas at Joaquim Diniz. A floating restaurant, bar and dance club with live reggae every Wed and Sat. Very busy after 2300 with a crowd ranging from 18 years old to 80.
, Coronel Godinho 176. Very cheap but hearty
with meat, chicken or fish options, rice, beans, vegetables and salad.
, Praça da Matriz. Pleasant with good simple food, fried shrimps highly recommended.
, in Imperatriz Shopping, Av Dorgival Pinheiro Sousa 1400. Self-service. Modest
with a reasonable choice of side dishes.
Bars and clubsSão Luís
, Av Getúlio Vargas 2234. Minas Gerais wood-oven cooking with a range of heavy, meaty dishes and side vegetables like squash.
dancing, drum parades and buzzing nightlife every Fri and Sat along the north end of
, Praia Grande. Live music Thu-Sat.
, R do Portugal 49, T098-3232 1115. One of the best
reggae bars in the city with a broad range of live acts and DJs and a vibrant crowd at weekends.
, R da Palma 86, T098- 3221 7580. Live reggae and Maranhão roots music most nights. Especially lively at weekends.
Fly Back Disco Club
, Beira Rio, north of the ferry crossing. 2 dance floors, 1 fast, 1 slow (for couples only), good.
, Av Mcal Castelo Branco 92, São Francisco.
, R Oswaldo Cruz 806.
Festivals and eventsSão Luís
, Av Getúlio Vargas, Monte Castelo, T098-3218 9019.
. For several days before the festival, street bands parade, particularly in front of São João and São Benedito churches. There are dances somewhere in the city almost every night in Jun and a whole string of smaller Boi-related festivals and very lively
and reggae at weekends all year round, especially on R Giz.
Festival with dancing, at
suburb (take bus of same name).
, at Pentecost (Whitsun). On 29 Jun is
, on R Portugal sell wicker and weave work, pottery and figurines from Maranhão.
Music and books
, R do Giz at João Gualberto, T098-3221 2940. Sells Maranhão art made by indigenous peoples.
, R João Gualberto 52, Praia Grande, T098-3232 4968. Cosy
little bookshop and cybercafé with a selection of Maranhão music.
Parque Nacional Lençóis MaranhensesBarreirinhas
, R João Vital s/n between Estrela and Giz, T098-3232 4799, sells a huge selection of Maranhão and north- eastern roots, traditional and contemporary music. This is one of the best music shops in northeastern Brazil.
Activities and toursSão Luís
There is an arts and crafts market next to the river selling
palm waevework bags, mats and homeware. Light and excellent value.
, with an office in São Luís airport T098-3349 0545, also at R Inácio Lins 164, Bareirinhas, www.ecodunas.com.br. The best option for tours of Lençóis Maranhenses, the delta and tours all the way from São Luís to Jericoacoara or vice versa. Excellent guides, infrastructure and organization. English spoken and flights organized. Can arrange wonderful scenic flights over the Lençóis with pilot Amirton for around US$100.
, T098-8839 0578, firstname.lastname@example.org. Freelance guide in Barreirinhas. Good for groups only. Excellent rates and adventure trips. A local who grew up in the area. Portuguese only.
, T098-8118 1710, phylipi@ hotmail.com. Very good guide for São Luís and Alcântara. Fluent English and French. US$25 for a 2- to 3-hr city centre tour. Around US$80/day for groups of up to 10. Trips run to the Lençóis Maranhenses; also offers transfers to the Delta do Parnaíba and Jericoacoara.
For those interested in diving in the Parcel Manoel Luís State Marine Park contact
, Universitário SENAC, Av Eng Eusébio Stevaux 823, Santo Amaro, São Paulo, T011-5682 7766, www.scafo.com.br. Can organize dive operators and boats in São Luís. Give plenty of notice.
Minivans run to the airport from Praça Deodoro in the centre, every 40 mins until 2200, US$1, 1 hr. As well as local flights, there are connections through
to the rest of Brazil and international flights to the
, www.voe gol.com.br and
, www.tam.com.br have offices at the airport. Other airlines include:
, www.voetaf.com.br; and
leave from the Terminal Hidroviario da Praia Grande Rampa Campos Melo s/n, Cais da Praia Grande, São Luís, T098-3232 0692.
There are departures in the morning usually at 0700 and 0930 but times vary according to the tide. The trip takes 1 hr, US$4.
Parque Nacional Lençóis Maranhenses
, US$270, 4 a day, 18 hrs. To
, 13 hrs, US$30,
at 1900 and 2000 (no
). Also to
, US$50, 25 hrs, all other major cities and local towns. To
, 3 hrs on a newly paved road US$10. More comfortable on a private bus, US$30 - organize through
or your hotel.
Hotels in São Luís can book minivan trips for the same price as the bus. A regular boat service plies the river between
on the way. Boats leave daily at 1000-1100 from the end of the
next to the town dune (US$4, 3-4 hrs to Caburé or Atins; both 4 hrs, US$10); the boat returns with the tide. Speedboats can be organized at Barreirinhas through
, and it is possible to reach both
T098-3349 1964, organizes freelance boat trips for a good price to anywhere in the region.
, T098-9608 0624, has 4WD transfers to Tutóia from Barreirinhas via the other towns and villages.
Boats from Alcântara to
leave daily at 0830 and 1600.
There are flights to
. Air taxi:
, at airport, T098-3722 3009.
, R Luís Domingues 1420, T098-3723 1073.
, R Ceará 678, T098-3722 3148.
, R Luís Domingues 1471, T098-3723 2155.
There are regular bus connections with
along the BR-010, there are also connections on this route for
in northern Goiás. There is a slow, crowded bus service to
. Local buses run frequently to
to the south. To get to
on the Transamazônica, you can either take a
bus direct, 7-10 hrs (starting on the Belém highway, the bus then turns west along a poorer road, passing finally through destroyed forest, new
and unplanned cities), or a faster route, involving taking a ferry across the river in the early morning (0600-0700) to catch a pickup on the other side, takes about 5 hrs, but is more expensive. To get to the ferry across the river, go along R Luís Domingues, which runs parallel to Av Getúlio Vargas.
, Av Dorgival Pinheiro de Souza 990, T098-3722 3050.
, BR-010, Setor
, T098-3721 4507, and at airport, T098-3721 8611.
There are branches of all the major Brazilian banks.
Av Magalhães Almeida 300, T098-3212 2359 and at the airport.
, Praça Deodoro, for TCs and Visa ATMs and at the airport
, off Praça João Lisboa, accepts MasterCard/Cirrus/ Maestro at ATMs.
, R do Sol 33A.
, R Santo Antônio 259, T098-3231 4459.
, Praça Gonçalves Dias 301, T098-3232 7766.
, R do Genipapeiro, Jardim São Francisco, T098-3227 0270.
, Praça Duque de Caxias 3, João Paulo, T098-3223 2846.
, Av Daniel de La Touche, Jardim Buriti, T098-3248 1769.
Plenty of internet cafés in the centre of town.
, R Paparaúbas 11, São Francisco.
, T098-3227 1527, for Portuguese lessons. Recommended.
, R de Nazaré 218, rare documents on local history.
, R do Passeio 546, English-speaking doctor.
, R Rio Branco 156, T098-3232 3260, 24 hrs.
There are no longer any
banks in Alcântara - bring cash from São Luís.
Banco do Estado do Maranhão
, R Grande 76, changes US$ and TCs.
R Direita off Praça da Matriz.
, Av Getúlio Vargas 1935.
, R Piauí, T098-3722 3415, 24-hr emergency ward.
R Rio Grande do Norte 740, a side street off Av Getúlio Vargas, near Hotel Posseidon, 0630-2400.
, R Benedito Leite 57, T098-3731 1271.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF