Idyllic Jericoacoara (Jeri) is located 300km Northwest of Fortaleza. A couple of decades ago it was a tiny fishing village similar to Atins, but it has now grown into a lively town with dozens of accommodation options, restaurants and activities for tourists. It hasn’t lost its small town appeal though, its streets are entirely sand and there’s no streetlights. There are still donkey’s roaming the beach, and I spotted a horse having a swim in the ocean (I was swimming so didn’t have my camera handy for that one!)
The image that conjures up Jericoacoara, hammocks in the Emerald green water, is not actually in the ocean but in Paraiso on Lagoa do Jijoca, an inland lagoon just south of the national park. Paraiso takes about 30 minutes by 4×4, it costs $R30 return per person to go there and stay as many hours as you like, just make sure to get your return trip by 4pm or risk having to hitchhike to Jijoca as some others we met had to do. There are daily tours to different parts of the national park for $R50 per person, some which stop at Lagoa de Paraiso. Hammocks are located in several places along Paraiso Beach, all with posadas and restaurants located nearby. As beautiful as Paraiso is, a day trip was enough for us. For variety, nightlife and atmosphere, Jeri is where it’s at.
Jeri can be unbearably hot in the day, although the cool winds between June and January help to cool things down and also attract Kite surfers and wind surfers. I was considering Kite surfing lessons, however if you’re a complete beginner like me it would set you back $R1350 for a three day course with a properly accredited trainer. I think that’s actually really good value, but knowing myself I’d probably get addicted and kitesurfing is not a cheap hobby. You really need buy your own gear if you’re going to take it up!
At about 4pm in the afternoon is the ideal time to be on Jeri’s beach, as people start to gather on the sunset dune for Jeri’s famous Atlantic sunset. It feels like some kind of pilgrimage, with a wave of people ascending the dune at the same time, and everybody claps and cheers as the sun sinks into the horizon. There is something very special about the feeling of community and celebration in Jeri that makes it unique, and the daily gathering at the Sunset Dune sums it up perfectly. There is even an enterprising (and very fit!) cocktail vendor who pushes his cart up the dune every afternoon, making sure everyone has easy access to caipirinhas and beers.
Once the sun sets the action moves onto the beach with a Capoeira (traditional martial art) performance and then begins moving into town through the dozen or so cocktail carts that have set up along the beachfront for the evening. Some of the restaurants feature live music and Samba nights, the best I thought was the Samba Rock Cafe, which has a definite Peter Pan and the lost boys feel to it, with a giant crocodile model attached to a large tree and chandeliers hanging from the branches. Samba Rock Cafe has several sets every night of talented musicians from a range of genres, we listened to a few but Fidelis Meneses was my favourite! Incredible, vocals and guitar skills, like a Brazilian John Mayer.
Another thing we did in Jeri was visit the Pedra Furada, basically it’s just a big rock. Everybody comes here at sunset and it gets extremely crowded. We walked here in the middle of the day, having it almost to ourselves. Maybe it’s prettier at sunset, but honestly the 40 minute walk from Jericoacoara town to Pedra Furada was what impressed us. The trail took us through sand dunes covered in shrubbery and cactus, overlooking the rocky beaches below with large boulders and interesting rock formations. It was unlike any other landscape I’ve seen. The sand is extremely hot and burned out feet!
To go, or not to go to Fortaleza
Jericoacoara is a place where many end up staying longer than planned! That was certainly true for us! One girl at our hostel was shocked when the staff counted 15 days for her stay. We already had a flight booked out of Fortaleza and we were going to spend a few days there after Jeri. Aside from some beautiful beaches north and south of Fortaleza there is not a lot to see there, according to people (mostly Brazilians) I asked and they recommended staying in Jeri over moving on to Fortaleza. I’m not suggesting Fortaleza is not a place to visit, and I guess I’ll never know, but for us it was also a practical decision with regard to work. Josiah had a lot of work to catch up on and Jeri was a great place for that. Aside from the internet, which drops out regularly and can be a little slow, we had everything we needed within a 5 minute walk – shops, restaurants, cafes and the beach.
Fortaleza is known as a dangerous city, not safe to walk in certain areas, particularly at night. I wanted to stay somewhere where I could go for a swim and wander around town by myself without worrying about whether I’ve just wandered into the wrong area. When we left Jericoacoara to travel to the airport, I noticed the extreme level of security on every building in Fortaleza, high concrete walls with metal spikes or glass shards atop, coiled barbed wire and electrified fences. It certainly didn’t feel safe.In saying that though, you can’t let your guard down anywhere in Brazil. A girl at our hostel was mugged right outside in Jericoacoara. It was late, dark (no street lights doesn’t help) and she was alone, making her an easy target. All in all though I don’t regret staying in Jeri over going elsewhere.