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Itacaré is somewhat of an enigma. Only discovered as a holiday destination in the early 2000s by São Paulo’s elite, this small cocoa scented village should have become just another resort town. Rather, Itacaré remains a handful of cobblestone streets, two-storey wooden shacks and sandy paths; a place where shoes are not required and time does not matter.
Edged by secluded beaches and wrapped in rainforest, locals are instead led by the surf, by the fishermen’s catch, by hunger and by the sun. Long days with no plans on a beach with a wonderfully tropical name, tanned feet in white sand under the shade of a palm tree, the scent of coconut, suncream and lime in the air and another icy caipirinha in your hand.
Oddly, in a country of tourists, Bahia’s hidden paradise still seems deliciously under the radar. Nobody can know the fate of this Bahian paradise, but for international visitors to Brazil, one thing is clear - something this beautiful cannot remain hidden forever.
Only minutes off the main street begins the chain of beaches that tumble down the coast. Praia Concha is the closest, and understandably most built up, whereas the picture-postcard Resende, backed by wooden shacks serving coconuts and cocktails and a colourful tapioca cart (try the cheese, tomato and fresh basil - you won’t regret it!) is reached quickly on foot.
However, the area’s most beautiful and remote beaches require a little more effort to reach. Praia Prainha, considered by many to be the best in Brazil, requires a half hour walk through rainforest and under cascades (the path begins from Praia Ribeira) whilst Jeribucaçu - famous for its excellent surf break and crystal clear lagoon - can only be reached following a hike through the trees and down a steep hill. It’s tough, but well worth it for the excellent barbecued fish on offer at the end.
For those looking for a little more luxury, consider spending the day at Praia São Jose, a small but stunning private beach attached to a resort. There is a daily fee for non-guests, but this gives you access to some of the hotel’s facilities.
Just a word of warning - for the beaches which are only accessible by trail, try not to take any valuables with you as robberies are rare but have occurred.
It is not until the the shadows grow long and the sun begins to set that the town comes to life, that the streets fill with the sounds of samba and the air with the scent of a thousand kitchens. Restaurants that remain boarded up and deserted in daylight vie for your attention, each with their own chalk board offerings of fresh fish, moqueca and the day’s catch.
They say that you cannot experience Brazil until you taste its food, and there are few ways better to explore the country’s history than through Itacare’s restaurants. For the region’s speciality - moqueca - head to Sabores Da Bahia or if you’d prefer a hearyt plate of fried fish, beans, rice and creamy mash, Agua Na Boca cannot be missed. Not in the mood for Brazilian? Alamaim serves authentic vegetarian Middle-Eastern food and Bastante Elefante prepares the best burger in town.
As the evening falls into night, locals and tourists alike head to Jungle Bar, a hub of sidewalk drinkers and impromptu buskers (if you meet a man singing about cocoa, stop and listen - his voice is almost as good as the chocolate), a place where lothario-like bartenders mix dangerously strong caipirinhas atop old wooden carts and a free capoeira show is rarely far away.
For those unable to sit still for too long, the rugged landscapes of the Cocoa Coast, the consistent swell and the perfect waves mean that there is plenty for the adventurous sort in Itacaré. Whether that means taking a few surf classes with a company like Easy Drop Surf School or Medians do Mar (both highly recommended), trying your hand at standup paddle boarding or white water rafting in the nearby Contas - you’ll never be bored. From July to October you can even spot humpbacks from one of the daily fishing boat excursions.
More experienced surfers can rent boards from any of the many surf schools and shops along the main street and hit up one of the four surf breaks within walking distance.
Pousada Ilha Verde
Ilha Verde is best described as a bubble of Bahian paradise. Guests can laze in a hammock in the privacy of their own balcony, listening to the birds while overlooking the shady mango trees and tropical gardens. The owner's creativity shines through in every pretty detail around the hotel and hospitality is felt throughout. The hotel is in the centre of Itacaré and close to some fantastic beaches. Four categories of rooms make this a good value choice and easily affordable.
Set on a coconut and cacao farm on the coast of Itacaré is this secluded and dream-like beachside resort with a personal spin on service. While the onsite spa, five swimming pools and three excellent restaurants are worth shouting about, the star of the show here is the spectacular private beach. Choose from half or full-board with your accommodation and taste the best of the famous Bahian cuisine. Worth the splurge!
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