Fortaleza

Splish splash

This sprawling seaside metropolis of more than 2.5 million is the capital of Ceará state and one of the best-selling destinations among Brazilian tour operators. Domestic tourists love the opportunity to take daytours to a different beach everyday and spend evenings at the handicrafts fair held at the beachfront promenade. But above all what draws families to Fortaleza is the allure of Beach Park, the largest water park in Brazil, 30km (19 miles) to the east.

For many foreigners, however, Fortaleza is usually just the (almost) unavoidable stopover on the way to Jericoacoara, Canoa Quebrada or some other beach village in Ceará coast.

However, don’t let it dissuade you from including a bit of big city life in your itinerary. Smart beach bars, weekeend clubbing, water slides… what’s not to like?

Fortaleza travel guide: Cumbuco

You may also begin your seaside tour at Cumbuco, Fortaleza’s very own kitesurf village, 30 km (19 miles) to the west.

Here you’ll find out how to make the most of your stay in town – and how to smoothly depart to your next destination.

Why Fortaleza | When to go | Getting to Fortaleza | Stay | Eat | Do

Fortaleza travel guide: CEART

Why Include Fortaleza In Your Trip

  • Comfortable mid-priced accomodation
  • Nice beach resorts outside town
  • Giant water slides at Beach Park waterpark
  • Praia do Futuro and its beach clubs (the megabarracas)
  • Thursday is crab night!

Keep in mind:

  • The only clean beach in town is Praia do Futuro, 15 minutes away by cab from the hotel zone
  • Historical and cultural attractions are limited

Why Fortaleza | When to go | Getting to Fortaleza | Stay | Eat | Do

Fortaleza travel guide: Guarderia

When To Go

Sunny season goes from July through December. From August on it’s also the wind season, when Cumbuco village (and many other Ceará beach towns) attracts Brazilian and foreign kitesurfers.

From January through June you’re likely to get some rain or at least cloudy days. The rainiest months are usually March, April, and May.

The average lows rarely go below 23ºC (73ºF) and the average highs are usually around 30ºC (30ºF). But the heat is always tempered by the breeze.

Price-wise, high season in Fortaleza happens during the Brazilian school holidays: July, January, and the Carnival week (in 2018, from Feb 9 to 18). Prices are lower in the wet season, between March and May.

When Is Beach Season In Fortaleza?

Almost no rain: July | August| September | October | November | December

Slightly rainy: January | June

Likely rainy: February | May

Definitely rainy: March | April

Fortaleza travel guide: Dragão do Mar

How Many Days In Fortaleza?

Been there done that: 2 days. Take an afternoon to visit the José de Alencar Theater and other downtown attractions, and a whole day to go to Beach Park (see the park schedule for dates and hours).

Got more days? Beach time: enjoy the megabarracas (huge kiosks more akin to beach clubs) at Praia do Futuro. Spend one at day at Cumbuco beach.

In a hurry? Skip it altogether. Go straight from the airport to to Jericoacoara (yes, it’s possible).

Why Fortaleza | When to go | Getting to Fortaleza | Stay | Eat | Do

Getting To Fortaleza

There are nonstop international flights to Fortaleza from Lisbon (TAP Air Portugal), Frankfurt (Condor), Miami (Latam), Buenos Aires (Gol), and Bogotá (Avianca).

Nonstop domestic flights depart from São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife, Natal, São Luís, Belém, and Manaus.

The airport is 20-30 minutes away from the hotel zone at Beira-Mar avenue.

There are two cab types.

The táxi especial (special taxi) runs on fixed fares and costs R$ 53 to the Beira-Mar hotel zone, R$ 115 to Porto das Dunas (Beach Park complex, 30km), R$ 120 to Cumbuco village (30km), R$ 140 to the Vila Galé Cumbuco resort (35 km), and R$ 140 if you want to go the Iguape resorts, Dom Pedro Laguna and Carmel Charme (40km).

The táxi comum (regular taxi) goes by the meter. If you’re heading to Beira-Mar hotel zone, expect to pay around R$ 40 (with a R$ 10 surcharge at night, on Sundays and holidays). Fares could be higher in heavy traffic (prices as of July/2017).

Uber is still illegal in Fortaleza. A few drivers don’t like to pick up passengers at the airport, but there are many other who do. Uber is especially cost-efficient (problably 50% cheaper than special taxis) when you have to go outside of town, to Beach Park, Iguape or Cumbuco regions.

How To Go to Jericoacoara Straight From The Airport

By bus

At R$ 81 one way, the bus is the cheapest way to get from Fortaleza to Jericoacoara. Fretcar runs 4 buses daily, leaving Fortaleza Airport. Tickets can be bought online, or at the 24-hour booth at Fortaleza Airport arrivals lounge. You’re advised to buy your ticket at least 2-3 days in advance, because buses can be sold out. Total journey time from the airport is 7 hours. In Jijoca you’ll transfer to a jardineira (passenger truck) for the last 20 km (13 mile) stretch. You’ll be dropped off at your pousada in Jeri.

When buying your ticket online, keep in mind that the departure times informed are the ones from the Bus Station; buses leave Fortaleza Airport 30 minutes earlier. The 4am bus leaves the airport by 3.30am. The 7.15am bus leaves the airport at 6.45am. The 2.45pm bus departs from the airport at 2.15pm. The 6.30pm bus leaves the airport at 6pm. Also note that you’ll have to drop by the Fretcar booth at the airport to print out your ticket (you can’t board with your confirmation email only).

By SUV

Your pousada can arrange a transfer by SUV that should take 5 hours to Jericoacoara with no need to transfer at Jijoca. A private transfer costs R$ 600 for up to 4 passengers. Shared rides are difficult to arrange on the way to Jeri; it’s easier on the way back to Fortaleza.

Fortaleza travel guide: Jericoacoara by bus

How To Go To Jericoacoara From Beira-Mar Hotel Zone

By bus

Fretcar buses pick passengers at Hotel Praiano (Av. Beira-Mar 2800) 3 times a day. Tickets (R$ 81 one way) can be bought online or at Fretcar agency at the hotel zone (operating out of a modified shipping container on Av. Beira-Mar beach promenade #2985, across the street from Náutico Clube). Buy your ticket at least 2-3 days in advance, because buses can be sold out. Total journey time from the hotel zone is 6 hours. In Jijoca you’ll transfer to a jardineira (pick-up truck) for the last 20 km (13 mile) stretch. You’ll be dropped off at your pousada in Jeri.

When buying your ticket online, keep in mind that the departure times informed are the ones from the Bus Station; buses pick up passengers at Hotel Praiano 20 to 30 minutes later than scheduled times. The 4am bus passes by Hotel Praiano at 4.20am. The 7.15am bus stops by Hotel Praiano around 7.45am. The 2.45pm picks up passengers at Hotel Praiano around 3.15pm. The 6.30pm bus doesn’t stop at Hotel Praiano. Also note that you’ll have to drop by the Fretcar office by the beach promenade (#2985) to print out your ticket (you can’t board with your confirmation email only).

By SUV

Your pousada can arrange a transfer by SUV that should take 5 hours to Jericoacoara with no need to transfer at Jijoca. A private transfer costs R$ 600 for up to 4 passengers. Shared rides are difficult to arrange on the way to Jeri; it’s easier on the way back to Fortaleza.

How To Go To Canoa Quebrada Straight From The Airport

There are no buses departing from the airport to Canoa Quebrada, so you’ll have to go to the bus station. Regular cabs fares to the bus station cost R$ 30. It’s also possible to hop onto the 404 line bus that leaves from the small bus terminal (go down the escalator to the parking lot). The fare is R$ 3.20. São Benedito (tel. 85/3272-1232; no Website) operates the route from Fortaleza Bus Station to Canoa Quebrada in 4 hours, making several stops along the way — we really don’t recommend it. It’s wiser to spend at least one night in Fortaleza and leave from the hotel zone.

How To Go To Canoa Quebrada From Beira-Mar Hotel Zone

Your best bet to go from Fortaleza to Canoa Quebrada in one of the regular group tours that leave daily: just take your luggage with you and stay in Canoa. Every early morning the tour vans pick up passengers at their Beira-Mar hotels and go straight to Canoa Quebrada. Some tour (called ‘3 Praias’, or ‘Three Beaches’) stop also at Morro Branco and Praia das Fontes on the way to Canoa. Tour tickets cost around R$ 60 at local agencies. The Canoa-only tours take a little longer than two hours to get to Canoa. You can get off downtown (Bróduei/Dragão do Mar street) and get to your pousada on foot. To go back to Fortaleza, book another day tour and join the group after lunch at the beach kiosk used by the operator.

Why Fortaleza | When to go | Getting to Fortaleza | Stay | Eat | Do

Where To Stay in Fortaleza

Know your hood

The most convenient region to stay in Fortaleza is Beira-Mar, the beachfront avenue along Meireles and Mucuripe neighborhoods. There’s plenty of services and it’s near the restaurant hub of Varjota.

Iracema neighborhood is a more central option, but not as safe as Beira-mar: at night you’d rather hail a cab or Uber to get in and out of your hotel.

Hotels at Praia do Futuro are recommended only for those who want to thoroughly enjoy the beach; restaurants at Beira-Mar or Varjota are a 10 to 15-minute taxi ride away.

The village of Cumbuco offers a beach town experience just 30 km (17 miles) away from the big city — but it only gets busy during kitesurf season, from August through December.

If you’re bringing children with you, or if you’re in need of some R&R, choose one of the good beach resorts out of town, either at the Beach Park complex, in Iguape, or further afield in Cumbuco.

Beira-Mar

Fortaleza travel guide: Beira-Mar

Always bear in mind that the main hotel zone beach is beautiful to see and pleasant to stroll along, but is too polluted to swim in. To properly go to a beach, take a cab or Uber to Praia do Futuro.

Othon Palace (beachfront, good pool) and Comfort Fortaleza (good value, half a block from the seafront) are good choices. They’re on a nearby stretch of the avenue and have good restaurants, and are also 5 minutes away by taxi or Uber from the Varjota gastronomic district.

On the mid-section of the avenue, the most pleasant hotel is the cozy Mareiro, the only beachfront hotel that is not a high-rise.

Fortaleza travel guide: Pontamar hotel

On the eastern side of the avenue, Pontamar hotel offers bedrooms with clean decor and big windows, and you’ll be near Boteco Praia, a lively bar.

Carmel Magna Praia is technically in Iracema but it’s so close to Beira-Mar that we decided to include it in this group – and its rates are consistently lower than the others.

Iracema

Iracema is neighborhood of choice for business travelers. The best bargain is the well-known Ibis hotel, in the heart of the neighborhood. There is also a Novotel hotel (super comfortable rooms, good swimming pool). Also consider the Holiday Inn and the Nobile Beach Class Long Stay. Fortaleza is not known for its hostels, but the best of the bunch, Albergaria, is also in this area.

Praia do Futuro

Fortaleza travel guide: Gran Mareiro hotel

If you want to stay near the beach for considerably lower prices than those in large resorts (and also a 10 to 15-minute taxi ride away from the bars and restaurants at Varjota and Beira-mar), choose one of the two most recently built hotels at Praia do Futuro: Crocobeach (a spin-off business owned by the biggest megabarraca in Praia do Futuro, also called Crocobeach, a 5-minute walk) and the Gran Mareiro (in front of the smartest beach club in town, Órbita Blue, and a 5-minute walk from Cabumba, favored by LGBTs).

Beach Resort Hotels

If you want to relax for a few days at the beach, choose one of the beach resort hotels on the outskirts of the city. Please note, however, that they are favored by families with children, expect some noise in and around the pool. The beach, however, will be quiet: children (and their parents) prefer the pool. All resorts have buffet restaurants. Breakfast and dinner are usually included in the room rate.

Porto das Dunas

On Porto das Dunas beach, 30 km (about 18 miles) to the east, the Beach Park resort complex has four resorts with distinct features. All offer preferred access to the water park (although the ticket is not included on most rates).

Fortaleza travel guide: Beach Park Resort

The Beach Park Suites, next to the water park, is the largest and offers the best structure, with several facilities, and it also has the largest beach front.

The Beach Park Acqua Resort, also near the water park, looks more like a condo; the pool is extended by a lazy river.

The Beach Park Wellness Resort is also adjacent to the water park, but is one block away from the beach; it offers full-fledged apartments with one, two or three bedrooms and also doubles as a time-sharing condo.

Finally, 500 meters (less than half a mile) from the water park (and with free shuttle for guests), the Beach Park Oceani Resort is the low-cost option: facilities are limited and the title “resort” does not really apply (prices are way more attractive, though).

Iguape

The deluxe resorts in the Fortaleza vicinity are in Iguape, 40 km (about 25 miles) to the east.

Dom Pedro Laguna is inside a closed condo called Reserva Aquiraz and offers apartments and cabins; the latter are surrounded by a pool that emulates a river and is navigated by little boats. There’s a golf course nearby.

Fortaleza travel guide: Carmel resort

Carmel Charme, on the other hand, is smaller but offers really comfy lodgings and the most beautiful furniture of all Brazilian beach resort hotels.

All-inclusive

Five kilometers away (3 miles) from Cumbuco downtown (35 km, or 20 miles, from Fortaleza) is the Vila Galé Cumbuco, the only all-inclusive resort in Fortaleza. The swimming pool is preferable to the beach, where you won’t be provided food and drink service and will feel annoyed by the constant traffic of buggy cars and four-wheelers.

Cumbuco village

30 kilometers (about 18 miles) from Fortaleza to the west is Cumbuco village, which doubles as a kitesurf town when the best winds blow, from August to December.

The most comfortable lodgings in the village is Carmel Cumbuco Resort, with compact resort structure, excellent rooms and a large pool.

If you’re looking for a more intense kitesurfing atmosphere, a great option is Duro Beach, right next to the sand and really close to downtown. The loveliest of the bunch is the 0031 Hotel, on the back of the village, next to the dunes.

Why Fortaleza | When to go | Getting to Fortaleza | Stay | Eat | Do

Where To Eat In Fortaleza

In general, restaurants along Beira-Mar avenue are more geared toward tourists. The Varjota neighborhood is a gastro hub of sorts — despite having been hurt by recession, it’s still the place to go in order to join the locals (it’s just a short cab or Uber ride from your hotel). Always look up the restaurant’s Facebook page linked here to check opening times (many are closed on Sunday nights and on Mondays).

Varjota

Varjota, right next to the upscale (and high-rise) Aldeota, is a horizontal neighborhood of ugly and poorly-finished streets. However, its competitive rent prices and good position make for a great location for restaurants. Most places are found in two parallel streets: Professor Dias da Rocha and Frederico Borges.

Moleskine gastrobar (Dias da Rocha, 578, tel. 85/3037-1700) has a fusion menu and beers from all over the world. It’s very popular in the evening, teeming with people all over the place, from the sidewalk tables to the pleasant terrace.

Fortaleza travel guide: Porpino, Mercado Meirelles, Cort

Cort is a boutique butcher complete with a rooftop bar (craft beer, anyone?) open for happy hour. Wed, Thu and Fri are barbecue nights, when a Uruguayan asador prepares the fresh produce sold at the shop. Look up for special events at their Facebook page (Dias da Rocha, 247 at Ana Bilhar, tel. 85/3051-5503).

Mercado Meireles (Frederico Borges, 27, tel. 85/988-948-398) is a food plaza with foodtruck-like stalls. Have a drink at Docca Rooftop Bar, try a pizza-dough wrap at Panzeroni or a burger at T-Bones.

By the way, burgers are the lastest craze in every Brazilian big city. The most popular hamburgueria right now in Fortaleza is a Belém import: Porpino Burger — a milkshakes-served-out-of-jam-jars kind of place (Virgílio Távora, 597, esquina República do Líbano, tel. 91/3202-5900).

Looking for genuine regional food? The best in town is Colher Restô (Ana Bilhar esquina Frederico Borges, tel. 85/3267-6680), where traditional recipes are done with a sophisticated twist. That’s the place to try carne de sol (jerk beef steak) with baião-de-dois (rice and beens cooked together).

For pizza and pasta in an informal outdoors setting, go to Pizza Vignoli (Virgílio Távora, 10, tel. 85/3267-9450). But should you fancy a more romantic decor, the Italian place of choice isCaravaggio (Dias da Rocha, 199, tel. 85/3242-4703) — its seafood spaghetti is nicely done.

It doesn’t get more exotic than at Oppa Dak‘s (Canuto de Aguiar, 1449, tel. 85/3085-7081), a Korean fried chicken place. It’s served with sauces of your choice, and wok-fried rice.

There are several Japanese restaurants. Ryori (Dom Luís Avenue, 1113, tel. 85/3224-9997) in the Bouganville shopping mall has an Asian fusion menu and charming decor. Kazu (Ana Billar corner Dias da Rocha, tel. 85/3242-0020) is right in the middle of the buzz and Conimaki (Canuto de Aguiar, 1368, tel. 85/3242-4041) was the first temaki place in town.

Zug Choperia has live music on weekends (Bouganville shopping mall, Dias da Rocha, 579, tel. 85/3224-4193).

Beira-Mar and Aldeota

Fortaleza travel guide: Mercado dos Peixes

From noon until mid-afternoon, it’s worth dropping by the Mercado dos Peixes, a beachfront fish market (av. Beira-Mar, opposite to no. 4670). You can buy shrimp or fresh fish at one of the stalls and take it to one of the restaurants and they will fry it for you!

The place everyone will try to send you to is Coco Bambu (Beira-Mar, 3698, at Manuel Jacaré, tel. 85/3198-6000) — a tourist attraction on its own right. Don’t go unless you’re in a party of three (dishes are that big) and have a taste for shrimp prepared with cheese, cream or cheese and cream.

On the other hand, do follow everyone’s advice to try 50 Sabores ice cream shop (Beira-Mar, 2,892, between Desembargador Moreira and Paula Barros, tel. 85/3032-0050) (’50 Flavors’), which has the best ice cream in town. Try Amazonian flavors such as açaí and bacuri, or local fruits such as siriguela and cashew. Did you know that corn and avocado are ice cream flavors in Brazil? (And they are sweet, not savory).

The only really beachside restaurant at Beira-Mar is Faustino Fortaleza, close to Coco Bambu. Veteran chef Faustino Paiva signs the menu, which is rather standard, featuring Brazilian pub fare and regional dishes with a sea view (Beira-Mar, 3821, tel. 85/989-024-713).

On the opposite end of the beachfront avenue, the Boteco Praia (Beira-Mar, 1680, tel. 85/3248-4773) is the other place to try Brazilian pub fare along with ice-cold chopp (draft beer).

And if you want to enjoy good beef (not the jerk kind) during your stay in Fortaleza, go to one of the upscale steakhouses in Aldeota: Cabaña del Primo (Maria Tomasia, 503, Aldeota Open Mall, tel. 85/3244-3691) or Santa Gris (Tibúrcio Cavalcanti, 790, tel. 85/3224-0249).

Iracema Beach and Vicinity

Fortaleza travel guide: Moranga Bistro

If you’d rather have dinner in a cosy restaurant with traditional food (fancy a steak Béarnaise?) and indirect light, head to Moranga Bistrot (Xavier de Castro, 100, tel. 85/3219-7078).

The Dragão do Mar Cultural Center is surrounded by bars and restaurants (and nightclubs that open only on weekends). None are gastronomically remarkable, but they attract a young crowd from the early evening. But if instead of mixing with the bohemian youth you prefer to rub elbows with the foodie elite of Fortaleza, their favorite restaurant is across the street: L’Ô (av. Pessoa Anta, 217, tel. 85/3265-2288) — try the rack of lamb with sugarcane honey and couscous.

Le Marché, tucked away in a quieter area of midtown, across the beautiful Mercado dos Pinhões (a cast iron structure that is now used as a cultural space), offers classic French cuisine at a very good price (Praça Visconde de Pelotas, 41, tel. 85/3181-6059). It opens only for dinner. On Fridays there is a festival of serestas (literally “serenades”, old Brazilian romantic ballads) on the Market, providing a beautiful soundtrack for your dinner.

At Rua dos Tabajaras, in the historical section of Iracema beach, Mambembe (R. dos Tabajaras, 368, tel. 85 / 3048-6060) is an interesting alternative-scene restaurant-bar. Check their Facebook page to know more about the parties they throw on Saturdays.

Cumbuco

The village small downtown is where everything’s at. Restaurant Muda (Almirante Soares Dutra, 3, tel. 85 / 8171-3878) offers a modern menu and also makes drinks.

Almirante Tamandaré, the small street near the beach, has a row of pizzerias and bars, a smaller pé-na-areia (feet-on-sand) version of the so-called “Broadway” in Canoa Quebrada. The Laranja Mecânica (Almirante Tamandaré, 180) and the Tô na Onda are the nicest bars. On the corner, Malai Thai (Almirante Tamandaré, 10, tel. 85 / 988-469-555) offers a Japanese-Peruvian-Thai menu. If you go around the plaza you will inevitably end up at Armadillo for ice creams and crepes.

Should you visit it during the day, the is an excellent choice (r. Beatriz Correia, 64, tel. 85/3318-7491).

Why Fortaleza | When to go | Getting to Fortaleza | Stay | Eat | Do

Things To Do In Fortaleza

An Afternoon In The Historic District

Fortaleza travel guide: Theatro José de Alencar

Downtown Fortaleza is quite run-down. Most old façades are covered by gigantic shop signs. The attractions are scattered around the area, and navigating its narrow, crowded streets may feel unsafe. It’s best to get there and get around by taxi to avoid any setbacks.

All this can be done in one afternoon, from Tuesday through Saturday. Arrive a little earlier than 2.00 pm at Theatro José de Alencar, the most treasured heritage of the belle-époque of Fortaleza. Its cast-iron structure in art-nouveau style is hidden by a second, more conventional neoclassical façade. Take the 2.00pm guided tour (it’s in Portuguese, but there is no other way to visit the theater).

Teatro Jose de Alencar

  • R. Liberato Barroso, 525 | Tel. 85/3101-2596 | Guided tours: Tue to Fri at 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm; Sat and Sun at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm | R$ 4

Fortaleza travel guide: Passeio Público

After the tour, take a cab or Uber and head to the Passeio Público gardens (Rua. Dr. João Moreira, 198), the oldest plaza in town and a real oasis for downtown. Right in the middle of the garden is the pleasant Café Passeio, perfect for an afternoon snack or late lunch.

You’ll be within walking distance from two handcraft centers.

Fortaleza travel guide: Mercado Central

Two blocks to the east is the Mercado Central (Central Market), a big warehouse dotted with ramps inspired in the São Paulo Biennial building. There you’ll find traditional local products, such as cotton clothing, leather shoes, lace articles, basketry, hammocks, handicrafts, and delicacies — but not just for tourists: locals are the main public.

Heading in the opposite direction, just one block away to the west from the Passeio Público gardens, you’ll arrive at Emcetur, a handicraft mall located in a 19th century jail building. The place is way prettier than the Mercado Central, but the product selection is meant for tourists. If you decide to go to both, start at Emcetur, which closes at 5pm. (But if you’re looking for more original pieces instead of souvenirs, schedule a leisurely visit on another day to the CEART central store. They hand-pick artisans that produce limited series.)

Mercado Central

  • Av. Alberto Nepomuceno, 199 | Tel. 85/3454-8586 | Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm; Sat, 9am to 5pm; Sun/holidays, 9am to 1pm.

Emcetur

  • R. Senador Pompeu, 350 | Tel. 85/3101-5507 | Mon thru Fri, 8am to 5pm; Sat, 8am to 4pm; Sun/holidays, 8am to 1pm.

CEART

  • Av. Santos Dumont, 1589, Aldeota | Tel. 85/3101-1644 | Mon thru Sat, 9am to 9pm; Sun, 2.30pm to 8.30pm.

Around sunset, take a cab or Uber and head to Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura, one of the postcards of Fortaleza. It’s pretty close to any of the two handcraft fairs, but if you go on foot you’ll have to cross motorways, which may not be safe.

The museums of the complex (like the Museu da Cultura Cearense, or Museum of Ceará Culture) are open until 7pm on weekdays (9pm pm on Saturdays). The surrounding bars start to get crowded around 7pm. There is also an arthouse cinema (the movies are shown in the original language with Portuguese subtitles) and a planetarium, as well a CEART branch (which does not come close to the main store at Av. Santos Dumont). The Santa Clara Cafeteria has good coffees, cakes and tapiocas (yucca tortillas with several different fillings — try curd cheese or grated coconut).

Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar

  • R. Dragão do Mar, 81 | Tel. 85/3488-8600 | Museu da Cultura Cearense e Museu de Arte Contemporânea: Tue thru Fri, 9am to 7pm; Sat and Sun, 2am to 9pm; free admission| Multigaleria: Tue thru Sun, 2pm to 9am; free admission| Planetarium: Thu & Fri, 6pm, 7pm and 8pm. Sat and Sun, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm; R$ 8 | CEART: Tue to Fri, 9am to 7pm; Sat and Sun, 3pm to 9pm| Cinema do Dragão: Tue to Sun, first session at 2pm; R$ 14

Beira-Mar

The beaches at Beira-Mar (Meireles and Mucuripe) are beautiful, but unfit for bathing. They’re great for walking and jogging on the boardwalk, though.

Fortaleza travel guide: Handicrafts fair

Nightlife revolves around the Feirinha da Beira-Mar, a busy handicrafts market that opens at dusk and runs until 11pm. The fair is located between R. Osvaldo Cruz and Av. Desembargador Moreira – right in front of the Oásis and Praiano hotels.

Right at the eastern end of Beira-Mar avenue in Mucuripe is Mercado dos Peixes, a fish market with stalls that sell fresh fish and seafood; since you can’t take it home, buy it and ask for a nearby restaurant to prepare it for you.

Praia do Futuro

Praia do Futuro is the urban beach in Fortaleza. It’s a 10 to 15-minute ride by cab or Uber from Beira-Mar. Stretching for 6 km long (around 4 miles), it’s wide enough to house megabarracas, beach kiosks that have expanded so much they became beach clubs. All of them have operating restaurants; some have kiddie pools, sports courts, and even stages for stand-up comedy shows. Some barracas are super well-kept, others are a little bit run-down; when hailing for a cab, specify which barraca you want to go to. They are safe (you can leave your valuables in lockers), but avoid by all means walking along deserted stretches on the sand or on the boardwalk.

Fortaleza travel guide: Órbita Blue

The coolest megabarraca of all is Órbita Blue (#3879), the only one which offers a plastic furniture-free environment. Other smart clubs, offering sofa-beds, chill-out music and the likes, are Guarderia Brasil (#4451) and Sunrise Brasil (n# 4959).

Santa Praia (# 3345) gathers beach tennis players. Cabumba (# 3911) is an old-time favorite among the LGBT crowd (but only gets busy on weekends).

The largest of the megabarracas is Crocobeach (#3125), which also has a massage room, a beauty salon, and a cybercafé. But if you’re looking for peace and quiet instead, the kiosk right across the Vila Galé Fortaleza Hotel (which belongs to the hotel) has a good restaurant, and it’s located on a spot where the sea carves shallow pools during low tide.

Porto das Dunas and Prainha

Two other beaches are close enough to Fortaleza to be deemed ‘urban’ – although technically they are already in the neighboring municipality of Aquiraz. 25 km (15 miles) away from Beira-Mar is Porto das Dunas, where Beach Park is located. The beach is mostly meant for the hotel guests. The exception is the Beach Park kiosk itself, right next to the water park. It is in a beautiful coconut grove and offers a VIP area — a ‘bubble lounge’ sponsored by Chandon.

10 km (about 6 miles) further on is Prainha, the best “rustic beach” option near Fortaleza. The strip of sand is narrow, so the kiosks are closer to the water. Grab the chance to stop by the Centro das Rendeiras da Prainha, a market for artisan lady lacemakers. Avoid Prainha on Sundays when it’s too crowded.

Beach Park

Fortaleza travel guide: Beach Park waterpark

Beach Park waterpark is the main tourist attraction in Fortaleza. It’s 30 km east of Beira-Mar, on Porto das Dunas beach. It’s home to some of the world’s most radical waterslides – such as Insano, where you complete a 41-meter descent in merely 5 seconds, reaching 65 mph (some few hundredths of a second will be spent in free fall, with no contact with the surface). In addition to the slides, there’s also non-radical playground equipment for small children, plus a lazy river (where you can float on a buoy) and a large wave pool. You can also enjoy the beach right across it, where the tables are arranged under coconut trees (and a fancy area sponsored by Chandon sparkling wine).

Beach Park

  • Porto das Dunas, Aquiraz | Open from 11am to 5pm (hotel guests are allowed from 10am) | Check opening hours here (it’s usually closed on Wed and/or Thu, except during Brazilian school vacations) | R$ 215, 13yo and older; R$ 205 for children over 3’3’’and over 12yo; free admission for children under 3’3’’| Taxi fares are R$ 120 from Beira-Mar to Beach Park or R$ 180 with return appointment; Uber costs from R$ 45 one way | Tour agencies offer transfers by van for R$ 35 per person (return)

Daytrips To Nearby Beaches

Brazilian tourists love visiting a different beach each day. Tour buses stop over at hotels in ungodly hours (say, 7.00-7.30am) and take you to beaches which are 1.30h to 3h away from the capital. In most cases, the scenery won’t be that different, and you’ll be stuck at a beach kiosk for the whole day (you’d be better off at one of the coolest places in Praia do Futuro).

Beach Hopping

Instead of taking a lousy daytrip, think of going to beaches worth staying for a few days.

Canoa Quebrada

Fortaleza travel guide: Canoa Quebrada

160km (around 100 miles) east. Beautiful dramatic cliffs and lively nightlife. Check our guide to Canoa Quebrada (it’s still in Portuguese, but you can always Google Translate it).

Flecheiras & Guajiru

140 km west (25 miles). The two villages are joined by an extensive beach, with natural pools among the reefs and long deserted stretches. They attract kitesurfers, have good hotels and are usually not part of most people’s daytrip plans. The Fretcar agency has coaches that leave the bus station headed to Flecheiras. It’s not possible to buy your ticket online, so head to the Fretcar kiosk at Beira-Mar (number 2840, across Rua Desembargador Moreira).

Icaraí de Amontada

200km west (about 125 miles). It’s also known as “Icaraizinho” and it’s the homeplace for windsurfers and kitesurfers who want to espace the Jericoacoara nightlife. Fretcar buses leave from the bus station and head to Icaraí. It’s not possible to buy your ticket online, so head to the Fretcar kiosk at Beira-Mar (number 2.840, across Rua Desembargador Moreira).

Jericoacoara

300 km west (about 190 miles). Fishermen-village-turned-hippie-village-turned-wind/kitsurftown-turned-party-central. Read more about it here.

Lençóis Maranhenses & Parnaíba Delta

The so-called ‘Thrilling Route’ (Rota das emoções) begins in Jericoacara and carries along the tiny coastline of Piauí (with fine kitesurfing at Barra Grande do Piauí and the largest river delta in the Americas, the Parnaíba Delta), finally reaching the Lençóis Maranhenses, stunning dunes interspersed with crystalline lagoons. Go from June through September.

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