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Arembepe sits on a stretch of coast known as the Coconut coast, which runs from just north of Salvador up to the resort town of Praia do Forte. It is easy to reach from the city of Salvador or from Salvador airport, being just a short drive or bus ride up the coast.
The town became famous in the 1960s for having what is alleged to be the first hippie commune in Brazil. It can count Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin and Roman Polanski amongst its more famous ex-residents.
Then the hippies mostly moved on and Arembepe went back to being a sleepy fishing village again, mostly overlooked by tourists. A small group of alternative lifestylers remain though in a community just outside of the town known as Aldeia Hippie, offering an interesting link to Arembepe’s past.
Arembepe town is very small but has all the essentials required for a lovely beach escape. There are the usual mix of shops selling all kinds of beach paraphernalia, a couple of ATMs, supermarkets, pharmacies and a handful of bars and restaurants. It's small but perfectly formed, and the town itself has a sleepy and relaxed vibe - perfect for a few days of 'away from it all' relaxation.
It's a fishing village, so fish and seafood are the most popular dishes, and you're spoilt for choice when it comes to fresh seafood which has gone from water to plate in just a few hours. For those taking a day off from seafood, there are a couple of pizza places too. Here's a tip: Few waiters will speak English, or any language other than Portuguese, so it is worth having Google with you to help make your meal choices. Or simply trust that the waiter will bring you something excellent.
Arembepe isn't a big place so you can explore the whole town on foot There is a small bus terminal where you can get buses to nearby towns for day trips, and buses back to Salvador which run around once every half an hour during the day and take about an hour. If you don’t fancy the bus there are also numerous taxis nearby the bus station, so getting anywhere isn’t a problem. There’s ample parking too if you bring your own car.
The main attraction of Arembepe remains the beach of course. Miles of clean, sandy beach stretch in both directions, framed with coconut palm trees. It’s not hard to find a deserted beach if you walk away from the main part, or you can stay in the little bay close to the beach vendors if that’s more your thing.
If you like surfing there are numerous beaches with good surf (you can rent boards and wetsuits from the town). If you prefer calmer seas then at low tide you can find a section of the beach protected from the waves, forming little natural swimming pools.
Although Arembepe is well past its hippie heyday, a few do remain in the little community Aldeia Hippie, which is situated around 20-30 minutes walk along the beach from the main town. You walk along the beach, turning left from the town, climb over the sand dunes and you will find the village.
Here around eighty or so people live in little huts made of mud and straw, without electric or running water, eking a living by selling artisan products such as jewellery and dream catchers.
If you want to buy anything the products they sell are well made and competitively priced. If you don’t want to buy anything then that’s fine too and you are still welcome to wander around and look.
If you fancy escaping from modern life for a while you can even rent a hut there, or rent space to pitch your tent. It is a very peaceful place hidden between the beach and a lagoon. The beach on this section is wild and rustic, with crashing waves; it is a great place to sit and contemplate the beauty of nature.
Whilst you’re there you can also visit the little turtle sanctuary, right next to the village. It’s only a small place but cheap to go in and much less touristy than the one in nearby Praia do Forte. They feed the turtles at 4pm, so that’s a good time to get there.
The people who come to Arembepe these days are mostly weekenders from neighbouring Salvador. It gets quite loud in the town at weekends; people pour out of the local bars onto the main square, playing music, dancing and drinking. Vendors appear selling drinks and snacks, and you can find many products for sale in a kind of unofficial market place.
Then the weekend crowd leave and the town is deathly quiet again. If you prefer peace and solitude it is worth avoiding the weekend, or staying in a guest house a little away from the main square. If, on the other hand, you enjoy exciting nightlife with an authentic Brazilian feel, then weekend Arembepe will not disappoint you.
A typical local dish to buy from the beach vendors is Acarajé. This is a delicious deep fried fritter made with bean paste and usually served with a shrimp sauce called vatapá and salad.
If you are looking for a refreshing drink to cool yourself down then there are numerous vendors selling green coconut juice, called Coco Gelada.
There are guest houses in Arembepe to suit virtually every budget. You can stay in town near to the main square or further along on the beach, where it will be very quiet. You could also visit on a day trip from Salvador or from Praia do Forte.
Arembepe has a very unpretentious, authentically Brazilian feel to it. It receives few foreign visitors, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view (good if you are looking to observe the Brazilians at play, not so good if you are looking for someone to speak English with). It’s a good place to kick back and relax for a while.
This modest pousada has a relaxed, rustic style and friendly ambience. Guests can sun themselves on the sunloungers by the outdoor pool, or walk to the beach to enjoy the natural rockpools. The hotel is also close to the main square with plenty of restaurants and small shops to browse. A good breakfast is served each morning.
Pousada A Capela
This locally run boutique hotel has 14 sea-view rooms and direct access to an untouched beach, with a mix of white sand and natural rockpools. The modern hotel has a cozy feel, endeavoring to deliver an all-round experience, rather than just a room to sleep in. An outdoor pool with wooden deck overlooks the ocean, while the sea-view restaurant serves fresh local produce in a variety of tasty dishes. The staff often deliver little touches to make this place all the more special for its guests.
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