Maceió in Brazil

The capital of Alagoas is one of coastal Brazil's most attractive and safest cities, with a string of beautiful white-sand beaches, a pretty little colonial centre and a low-key feel. There are a handful of low-key beach resorts a short bus ride away; the best is at Praia do Frances, near the old Portuguese capital of Marechal Deodoro. The city has a lively street carnival and traditional Festas Juninhas.

Getting there

Flights arrive at
Zumbi dos Palmares airport
from Aracaju, Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, Florianópolis, Salvador, São Paulo, Recife, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre. A bus runs from the airport to most popular city beach, Ponta Verde/Pajuçara; look for name of the beach on the front of the bus. Taxis charge a flat rate. Interstate buses arrive at the
rodoviária
 situated on a hill, with good views. Luggage store is available. Take buses to Ponta Verde/Pajuçara or buses marked 'Ouro Preto p/centro'; these run every few minutes.

Getting around and orientation

Ponta Verde, Pajuçara and adjacent Praia de Jaticúa are easy to walk around as is the commercial centre. You will need to take public transport between them. Local buses connect Ponta Verde and Pajuçara with the tiny historic city centre every few minutes, leaving from the the beachside road Avenida Robert Kennedy/ Alvaro Otacilio and stopping at various points including the cathedral. Bus stops are little blue elongated concrete stands.
Combis
for the nearby beaches like Praia do Frances and Marechal Deodoro leave from in front of the Hospital Santa Casa.

Tourist information

Semptur
, www.maceio tour.com.br
, offers information on the city and environs, including maps. The state tourism authority
Setur
, www.turismo.al.gov.br,
also has branches at the airport and
rodoviária
. The website has a comprehensive list of public services, hotels, restaurants, bars and other contacts. Far more convenient is the
tourist information post
on Pajuçara beach, next to the Sete Coqueiros artisan centre. For very entertaining city tours or trips to Marechal Deodoro, Praia do Francês and beyond contact
Del
, who speaks several languages including English.

Maceió beaches

The sea in Maceió is an impossibly brilliant shade of misty greens and blues and it washes onto some of the finest white-sand beaches in urban Brazil.
Trapiche
,
Sobral
and
Avenida
, immediately in front of the city, look appetizing and are pounded by an impressive surf but they are far too filthy for anything but brown trout. The best beaches for bathing (and the best places to stay in Maceió) are
Pajuçara
,
Ponta Verde
and
Jatiúca
, becoming increasingly plush the further they are from the centre.

Pajuçara
has the bulk of the budget accommodation and a nightly crafts market. At weekends there are wandering musicians and entertainers here, and patrols by the cavalry on magnificent
Manga Larga Marchador
horses. Periodically, especially on
candomblé
anniversaries, there are rituals to the
orixá
of the sea,
Yemanjá
. There is a natural swimming pool 2 km off the beach,
Piscina Natural de Pajuçara
, and low tide leaves lots of natural pools to explore in the exposed reef. Check the tides; there is no point going at high tide.
Jangadas
(simple platforms with sails) can be hired for the day. On Sunday or local holidays in the high season it is overcrowded. At weekends lots of
jangadas
anchor at the reef, selling food and drink.

The next beach is
Ponta Verde
, which is quieter and forms the cape separating Pajuçara from the best of the urban beaches,
Jatiúca
. The better hotels are here and the beach is fronted by a pretty esplanade, lined with cafés and smart restaurants. It is tastefully lit at night. The principal restaurant area in Maceió lies just inland of northern Jatiúca.

After Jatiúca the beaches are:
Cruz das Almas
,
Jacarecica
(9 km from the centre),
Guaxuma
(12 km),
Garça Torta
(14 km),
Riacho Doce
(16 km),
Pratagi
(17 km) and
Ipioca
(23 km). Cruz das Almas and Jacarecica have good surf. Bathing is best three days before and after a full or new moon because tides are higher and the water is more spectacular.

Sights

The centre of Maceió can easily be wandered around in less than an hour. It is pretty, with a handful of handsome Portuguese buildings and some half-decent art deco. On Praça dos Martírios (Floriano Peixoto is the
Palácio do Governo
, which also houses the
Fundação Pierre Chalita
(Alagoan painting and religious art) and the church of
Bom Jesus dos Mártires
(built 1870 and covered in handsome
azulejo
tiles). These are two of the oldest buildings in the city and well worth visiting. The
cathedral
, Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres (1840) is on Praça Dom Pedro II. The
Instituto Histórico e Geográfico
, has a small but good collection of indigenous and Afro- Brazilian artefacts.

Lagoa do Mundaú
, a lagoon, whose entrance is 2 km south at
Pontal da Barra
, limits the city to the south and west. Excellent shrimp and fish are sold at its small
restaurants and handicraft stalls and it's a pleasant place for a drink at sundown. Boats make excursions in the lagoon's channels.

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
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