A taxi, colectivo, hilux, a sleep in a cheap hotel, a bus, another taxi and a 4×4 truck – this is what it took for us to get to Jericoacoara from Santo Amaro. Six modes of transport, and what a schlepp.
There’s nothing straightforward about getting to this very isolated piece of Brazil’s north coast, unless you’re up to forking out the dosh for a direct transfer by chopper. Sadly not an option for this pair of budget travellers.
It’s so much more fun crammed into the back of a colectivo with 18 others, rattling down bumpy tracks wondering which end your lunch was going to come out first – as was the case on our 2-hour Barreirinhas to Paulino Neves leg of the journey.
It started its life as a small fishing village, a quiet locale soon to be discovered by intrepid backpackers. And then Washington Post Magazine puts Jericoacoara into its Top 10 list of best beaches in the world, back in the early 1984. Fourteen years later saw the arrival of electricity, more places to sleep and eat; yet to this day there are no paved roads.
There’s a range of budget, mid-range and lux lodging available in this compact town, so anyone’s bound to find a place to drop the bags and rest their head. The cheapest places are generally on the eastern edge of town, about 10 minutes walk from the beach. We were shacked up at Hotel Jeri, a pretty decent option with very clean rooms, air-con, fast wifi, a pool and our own colourful hammock on the breezy balcony out front.
As for the town itself, Rua Principal is pretty much the backbone of Jeri; with R. do Forro and R. São Francisco running parallel and loads of other ‘paths’ and ’roads’ forming a haphazard web of streets. Hotels, pousadas, grocers, restaurants, handicraft stores and boutiques are crammed in the town centre – lots to see, taste, buy and experience.
Food options seem virtually endless in Jeri and just like the accommodation, you can do it on the cheap or splurge a little. And who would have thought that Italian food – in particularly pizza – would play such a large part in the dining scene. It’s absolutely everywhere.
What, no Portuguese?
DIY is pretty easy, too, as the two larger grocery stores on the main drag are well equipped with fresh fruit and veg, tinned goodies, bread and anything else between. The biggest avocados we’ve seen happen to be in Jeri, as well – the size of a babies head. I kid you not.
For a bit of local food, we hit up Restaurante da Nega. Always filled with locals, it’s nothing more than a small marquee in the sand with a handful of plastic chairs and tables. From moqueca to fried fish, you simply choose your dish from a well-thumbed plastic menu and it’s delivered with a plate of typical Brazilian accompaniments – salad, farofa, rice, spaghetti and feijão.
We can vouch for the frango au molho (15); a deliciously slow-stewed chicken in rich gravy. It’s the camarão (25) that stole the show, however. Simply fried in golden palm oil, the shrimps have their heads removed yet retain their shells and tails. A few slices of tomato, some seasoning and a good squeeze of fresh lime. No need to peel them, either. Those shells are soft enough to down them whole. Divine.
This popular lunch and dinner spot takes corner possie on R. São Francisco and one of the small laneways. It doesn’t take much to fill the restaurant, given it only has about eight tables, and if you like your pasta, risotto, seafood and carne – this one’s a goer. There are even a couple of dishes designated for the kids.
The spaghetti carbonara (37.5) may have a arrived a tad scrambled, but the flavour was bang on. My spaghetti with bacon, mushrooms and rocket (41) was deliciously fresh and perfect with a chilled cerveja. If wine is more your thing, they do local or Chilean vino by the glass.
It may appear as a local ‘pro kilo’ restaurant, but Padaria Central is purely a rustic-style buffet where you fill your plate as high as you want and pay the R$15 price tag. The name of the place is more ‘bakery’ than ‘buffet’, but there were no baked goods to be seen anywhere while we were in town.
Fish, sausage stew, chicken stew, meats, couscous, rice, salads and more – all with a local and regional flavour. Take a seat inside or head outside beneath the shady trees and you just may get a visit by ‘blue eyes’, one of the many cats you can expect to see in Jeri.
Plenty of restaurants, bars and pousadas line the beach-front and this is where you can find Jeri Beach Cozinha Natural – an eatery and bar just metres from the water when it’s high tide. What drew us in was the glassed-in rotisserie, slowly spinning around and laden with pork sausages, ribs, hunks of pork, chicken and potatoes. I had no idea how delicious roasted meats were with a good squeeze of fresh lime juice!
There are plenty of tables in the sand where you can enjoy your $38/kg assado, or choose from a menu featuring pizza, sandwiches, fish and many beverages.
Quite a few of the eateries offer coffee on their menus, much of which is the watery American-style drip variety. Filter coffee doesn’t cut it for this pair of caffeine snobs that barely function without espresso pumping through our veins, but lucky for us there’s espresso to be found in Jeri. We just had to sniff it out.
It may be a bar. It may be a restaurant. But what Bar Restaurant Alexandre well is espresso.
It’s the most perfect location – loads of tables in the sand, by the beach beneath large shady trees. It’s also in the walking path of people trying to peddle sunglasses, dream catchers, bracelets, woven hammocks and fresh lobsters as you sip your coffee, but all is good because you’re in some kind of paradise, remember?
Ok, the lobsters were just being shown around by the waiter, tempting you to stay for lunch. Gotta love the free wifi, too, but if reconnecting on your device isn’t your thing, then people watching on the beach may do.
Another coffee-mention goes to Casa de Pedra – a very popular night-time eatery that’s all about ice cream, burgers and tapioca. For us it was a couple of espressos in its breezy and very colourful space close to all the action on Jeri’s main artery. Pity they don’t open earlier than 10 am for us early morning folk.
Other places we had coffee was at Pimenta Verde (our favourite coffee spot) and Padria e Coneitaria – a corner bakery on R. São Francisco just down from Pimenta Verde. They only use pods at the bakery, but if that’s fine, go for your life. You may want to stash a fly swatter in your back pocket.
The centre of town in the mornings along Rua Principal resembles a bit of a parking lot – of dune buggies, not your regular cars. This is where you take your pick from a handful of tour operators that, for around R$225, you can take a trip into the surrounding area for half a day. The tour includes stops at the glorious Lagoa Azul and impressive stone arch of Pedra Furada.
Afternoons in Jeri mean one thing to a lot of its visitors.
Head down Rua Principal towards the beach and you’re met with small barracas on either side. Whether its Brazil’s national cocktail – the caipirinha – or anything else you’re in the mood for, these guys will free-pour and mix it for you. And they’re cheap!
The hardest part is deciding which one. Or you can try something from all of them and choose your favourites. Why make things difficult for yourself?
One thing any visitor to Jeri must experience is sunset on Duna do Pôr do Sol – or Sunset Dune. Yes, a sunset is a sunset, but – when in Rome, right?
There’s even a drinks trailer up there, just incase you get a bit parched.
For some post-sunset boozing, this is the perfect place – Samba Rock Cafe. It’s right by Praça Principal on the main drag, has many tables in the sand, a lengthy drinks list and some pretty good live music in the evenings. The drinks may not be as cheap as the barracas on the beach, especially when they add on an ‘entertainment fee’, but it’s got fantastic atmosphere and is another great spot for people watching.
Eat some more.
Jericoacoara Beach isn’t all about sunning, swimming and drinking. During the day you can expect to see one or two carts selling some pretty cheap and damn fine açaí, as well. Talk about the best way to cool down!
Hello brain freeze!
Then there are the two grill stands either side of Rua Principal as it hits the beach and before the barracas start. These girls pump out some rockin’ skewers of goodies like chicken, beef, shrimp, calabrese and chicken hearts. Yep, chicken hearts, for all of us offal lovers.
How could I forget the skewers of queijo coalho? Think haloumi, just not as salty. Insanely addictive.
Just near the Praça on Rua Principal at night you’ll find a couple of tables set up by some friendly ladies offering regional food at dirt-cheap prices. Choose what you want, they’ll dish it up on plastic plates and off you go. Loved their bolo cenoura – Brazil’s version of carrot cake, doused in oozing chocolate glaze.
Other cakes and sweet pastries can be found in Sangue Bom é Massa, a grocery store on R. São Francisco that has a bakery tucked at the back. Plenty of options including savoury edibles, but just ask when things were baked before buying them. Our custard rolls were quite possibly made a couple of days prior, judging at how stale they were. One bite and in the bin they went.
The pedestrian-only passages that run between Rua Principal and R. São Francisco are lively places dotted with restaurants, small bars and eateries. It’s here that we dropped into Sabor Jeri Restaurante, a tiny joint that literally has three small tables in the sand and a hole-in-the-wall counter that conceals the kitchen.
They whip up a mighty fine caipirinha and all the food options are scribed on a small chalkboard. Nothing fancy here, just home-style cooking that won’t break the budget. Chicken parmigiana (18) or chicken & fries, anyone?
There’s even a yakisoba menu, just incase Japanese is more your thing.
For something a little more posh and, dare I say it, romantic, drop into Pescador Restaurante & Bar – opposite Pimenta Verde. These guys are part of Pousada de Charme, where its decor inspired by fishing cabins can also be seen in the restaurant. Kinda cute, really.
When a restaurant is called Fisherman, there’s no guessing what the menu is all about. Aside from a couple of chicken and vegetarian dishes, the rest comes from the sea.
How about pulvo à galega (35) – tender octopus, slow cooked in fish broth and served over warm paprika potatoes.
Or salada a camarão (40) – shrimp salad with pickled palm hearts and crushed brazil nuts. Then something a little more hearty like moqueca de peixe (28) – hunks of fish in deliciously spiced coconut broth with a side of rice sautéed with butter and brazil nuts.
If I can play favourites, this restaurant is my bestie. From the outside it’s nothing more than a row of plastic tables and chairs in the sand next to a bright yellow building. An understated setting that pumps out some pretty special food.
The deal with Peixe Brasiliero Restaurante e Peixaria is you step into the small room where they grill the food, let the friendly guy show you his daily catch, choose what you want and then take a seat outside.
They basically weigh your fish, octopus, lobster – whatever you want – it’s cleaned and then grilled over flames. Have a few drinks and wait for the food to arrive.
Our hefty red snapper set us back R$69. Any sides like salad, mashed cassava or potatoes, rice or beans are extra.
How we got to Jericoacoara from Santo Amaro.
This was no straightforward journey. Basically we left Santo Amaro in a pre-booked 4×4 that took us from Pousada Bellas Aguas, across the Rio Grande and dropped us at a waiting taxi (beaten up old car owned by some bloke) waiting on the other side.
From here we drove to BR 402 and headed east to Barreirinhas – a 2-hour drive that’s R$50 per person. Along the way the car got a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, but our driver changed that over in a record 10 minutes.
From Barreirinhas we waited for a colectivo – which didn’t leave for 1.5 hrs so we grabbed some lunch and were on our way to Parnaiba along with about 10 others crammed in the back. A very uncomfortable 2-hr ride that dropped us at a small town called Paulino Neves where we jumped into a waiting Hilux that drove the remaining distance to Parnaiba. Barreirinhas to Parnaiba cost R$350 for two. This is where we spent the night at Hotel Pousada Toca do Coelho (near the bus station).
We grabbed the first bus out of town to Camocim. Cost R$19 each.
From Camocim we shared a taxi with two other travellers (R$45 each) to Jijoca de Jercoacoara – a 1-hr drive. There is a local bus for R$19, but we just missed one and the next was in another 4 hours.
We were dropped at a petrol station where 4×4 jeeps are already waiting to pick up passengers. From here it’s another 45 minutes to Jericoacoara.