Though only the fifth-largest city in Brazil, the coastal hub of Fortaleza packs the highest demographic density in the country. In Portuguese, Fortaleza means "fortress," inspired by its eventful early history of contention with the natives and Dutch. It was originally founded as a village in 1726 and would later become the capital of Ceara. In the last several decades, Fortaleza has turned into a hot spot among visitors, claiming the title as one of the main tourist destinations in northeast Brazil. The city revolves around its sunny beaches, bustling nightlife and knockout cuisine, which all play a role in its wide draw.
In June, Fortaleza will host the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The city features two main stadiums for the matches, including Ceara, Fortaleza and Ferroviario Esporte Lcube, which is known as the Castelao. The Castelao has been renovated and expanded to hold more than 58,000 fans for the world's largest soccer competition.
Fortaleza has 16 miles of sand and surf that's split up between styles and subcultures.
Praia do Futuro
Praia do Futuro stretches continuously for 4 miles, and is known for the surfers who inhabit it. Unlike the other urban beaches, it doesn't have a reef lining the shore, making the breakers accessible and less dangerous. The water is cleaner, the wind is stronger and the waves are bigger. Praia do Futuro is also famous for its barracas, which are rustic restaurants usually built right on the sand. Because this beach is less crowded than others in Fortaleza, it is less safe. At night, be sure to take taxis instead of the public transportation when going out to bars and shows.
The Washington Post hailed Jericoacoara as one of the "Top 10 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World." It is hidden behind sand dunes, which makes arriving at the beach a bit tricky. Nevertheless, this mecca for leisure-lovers is not to be missed. Surfing, kite surfing and seafood dinners are all part of the magnetic package. In spite of the tourists, Jeri has maintained its wilderness side, still without electricity and sheerly running on power generators.
Iracema is known as the Bohemian beach, with the wild and free spirit as its centerfold. Visitors who enjoy partying from dusk till dawn should make their way here. The name Iraceda stems back to the legend of the wife of a famous warrior. She is so engulfed in Fortaleza history that there are five statues of her across the city. In the afternoon, the beaches start to get busy, offering an easy walk to the huddle of restaurants in the area.
If you're searching for a spot to bring the kids, look no further. Meireles is a family hangout, complete with several playgrounds and places to sit down and drink a coconut. The stretch of beach borders the Feirinha de Artesanata, or Handicraft Fair, which is rife with tasty eateries. Expect a busy vibe through the day, as people flock to this neighborhood for lunch and dinner, and to purchase fits in the fair.
Mucuripe is abound with jangadas, little wooden fishing boats that you'd imagine Captain Jack Sparrow escaping on. Although there is no clear marker that divides this beach and Meireles, once you spot the fishing rafts, you'll know you're here. The colorful sails in the harbor make this a top-runner for photography buffs, and Mucuripe is a quaint neighborhood all around.
Restaurants, Arts and Nightlife
A trip to the ocean isn't complete without a seafood dinner. At Coco Bambu Frutos Do Mar, you can indulge in a buffet-style lunch and a la carte options. Shrimp, lobster dishes and unbelievable fish can all be found here.
For foodies craving a juicy steak, Cabana del Primo has got you covered. Both the service and entrees are top-notch, with specialty cuts, prime rib, T-bone, hermanos fillet and more! The wine menu doesn't hurt either.
Chocoholics flock to Emporio Brownie, a brownie shop which bakes chocolate treats so delicious and gooey, they melt in your mouth. Don't be fooled by drinks, chocolate connoisseurs are better off with its signature brownie deluxe.
Sea Gradon Art and Culture Center (Centro Dragao do Mar de Arte e Cultura) houses all the collaborative music performances and cinematic shows you want to see. Art-lovers are advised to check out the schedule for this cultural hot spot.
One of the most famous nightclubs in the city is Pirata, situated in the heart of the city. Doors stay open from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., when free soup is served. It is sure to offer a boisterous time with good local musicians or DJs taking the stage. Drinks are fairly pricey, but the menu is big and doesn't shy away from creative cocktails.
Mucuripe Club is the most happening disco in the Northeast. It is a non-touristy venue, and boasts five different dance areas where you can choose between DJs and live forro, which is the region's popular dance music, Afro-Brazilian pop, rock and other genres.