“Expectation” is almost always a bad noun. I’ll never forget what I once heard from a Buddhist lama: “you sit in a chair and it breaks. You can blame the chair, but perhaps your expectations that it would hold you would be at fault”.
As a matter of fact, this can be a piece of advice for anyone going to Brazil. Don’t expect that you’ll only meet pretty people. Don’t expect that your camera will be stolen if you walk around showing it off (it could happen, but probably won’t. Chill out!). Don’t expect the ocean to have Caribbean-colors, and definitely don’t expect seeing monkeys crossing the streets of Sao Paulo.
I had heard of Jericoacora too many times, and it had been on my bucket list for ages. So, wrongobviously, my expectations were quite high. Supposedly one of the best places in the country – and I had been to many others: Fernando de Noronha, Trancoso (to not say Espelho or Caraiva, which I’m trying to hide from the human race), Pipa, Porto de Galinhas, etc. So, when a couple years ago the JDD airport was launched, I vibrated. The only reason why I haven’t gone yet was that it was hard to find the extra two days of travel time (if you fly to Fortaleza, it will take 6h to get there) available on my tight schedule while visiting my home country.
Then one day in January I saw a great airfare for a February week, and I booked it without thinking twice. Mistake #1 (and probably the biggest): it was rainy season.
- Even during rainy season, it is always warm and the strong burning sun still comes out. Perfect for a quick tan. Also, the town wasn’t that busy, so there were no line-ups at the best restaurants.
- About places to eat, here are my top 3 recommendations:
- Bistrogonoff – you won’t see this option in many other lists, but trust me. It is awesome. The strogonoff (Brazilian version) is one of the best I have ever eaten. And the menu is extensive, including the best of the classics, while the service is impeccable. Prepare to be treated like you have been a regular for ages.
- Na Casa Dela – funky, great vibe, gorgeous servers (somehow it makes a difference? Plus they are very attentive), good food.
- Tamarindo – the traditional. It has all the qualities of both restaurants above, combined in one. Get there early as by 7:30PM the tables are packed.
- The village is really nice and welcoming. Be pleasantly surprised with every little ‘beco’ (laneway) identity.
- It’s one of the best places to practice/learn windsurfing (watch for the right season to do it though!)
- Accommodation options fit all pockets and styles. If traveling with children, be aware that some hotels are for adults only.
- Beautiful beaches surrounded by sand dunes.
- Cute horses everywhere – wait; see The Bad session for more details.
- Horses! I mean, they are beautiful animals… but they, as expected but not thought about, poop a lot. The result? Horseshit everywhere (pardon my French). You might be the naturalist that will say “oh come on, horseshit is natural, part of nature, etc”. Fine, but I know of a place (in Brazil!) where the horse carriages use a net to catch the poop, making the roads much cleaner. Also, feel free to google “horse diapers”. There’s a way!
- Very annoying flies – probably related to the horseshit? Perhaps, though, the location I stayed made the matter worse. It was the lovely and expensive “La Villa Praia”, which was located directly in front of the landmark Sunset Dunes.
- Poverty – something that unfortunately is too common in Brazil. Poor sanitary manners, lack of education, etc. It’s sad, but please: THIS IS NOT THE REASON WHY YOU WONT VISIT BRAZIL. Just be aware. Citizens are doing their best, but politicians don’t care enough.
The Obvious Stuff
One day you’ll go East, the other day you’ll go West
This is how things work in Jeri. Bring LOTS OF CASH so you can pay these day tours (no ATMs in the village). I know, I also hate feeling forced to do a stupid tour, but because of the dunes you have to get a professional driver to navigate them. You can opt to just stay in Jeri, but it might get boring. What we did was tailoring our tour to our needs. If you’re paying for a private one, that is. Otherwise just suck it up and try to make friends with the other excursionists.
I’ll write here what’s the typical tour, and then what we decided to do in our private one. Prepare to pay the same $$ for either (if private).
This might be useful for you to start planning!
LADO LESTE (East Side)
Typical tour will drive you to Arvore da Preguiça (Lazy Tree) – you’ll wait in line to take a picture of a bent-over tree (bs!), then to Lagoa do Paraíso (Paradise Lagoon) – worth it, scroll down to see my experience about it; Praia do Preá – another beach, not prettier than Jeri itself, but you might want to check it out if you’re interested in snowboarding; Buraco Azul (translates as Blue Hole!) – it is very instagrammable, and I actually liked because it wasn’t too busy… but see my full review at “my tour” session before making the trip there; Lagoa Azul – yet another lagoon, smaller and less commercial then Do Paraíso. It can be dry depending on the weather. I’d skip it unless you’re really into lagoons. Oh yeah, and Pedra Furada. I can’t imagine how exhausting it must be to do all those sightseeing and manage to do the little hike (1km down, then 1k uphill to get back) to get to Pedra Furada. It is the main landmark of Jeri though, so keep reading to see how we got there in a much better way.
What we did: got our awesome driver to take us to Buraco Azul, and then to Club Alchymist at Lagoa do Paraíso. It was perfect as we were with our 1-year-old, but also because we don’t like touring much. Buraco Azul was not what I was expecting. If you search that hashtag, you’ll fall in love with the place. As I said, it’s a paradise for Instagrammers… but in real life? It’s a large hole in the ground, done by excavation to facilitate roadwork, filled by rainwater. Due to the sandy grounds, the new lagoon has an impressive emerald blue color. What I liked is that, being Brazil, this new tourist attraction already has an improvised hut that serves food and drinks. Tables and plenty of umbrella shadow made it perfect for the visit with my baby. And I have the pictures to prove how my life is nice!
We had a couple drinks there and then headed to Alchymist Beach Club, at Lagoa do Paraíso (another 40 min drive. Expect all drives to last between 40min-1h). Our hotel concierge had recommended us to go to another restaurant, less touristy and fancier – I think it was the Chez Loran -, but our awesome driver said Alchymist, and we trusted him. It was worth it! The Club was better than the lagoon itself. Some crazy Italian millionaire spent a fortune to erect this massive beach structure, filled with weird sculptures, palm trees, and even overwater daybeds. Yes, it’s expensive and the food is meh, but let’s say it’s like going to Cancun and not going to Señor Frogs (in the early 2000s).
Although I am not as fancy as my concierge thinks, I did like the fact that you can pay extra to be in those exclusive daybeds. I think it was R$100 per person. Or was it per bed? I can’t remember, sorry.
Lado Oeste (West Side)
Typical Tour includes Mangue Seco – which is exactly what it translates: a dry mangrove. It is pretty cool as part of a trip, but never by itself; Camboa River, where you can get in a little boat for a “see-a-seahorse” experience; Camocim River, where the biggest attraction is the manual vessel that will transport your buggy to the other side of the river; and the Tatajuba Lagoon, which seems quite nice to practice sandboarding and zipline – this is perhaps the only stopover that I regret not making. Next time! Yes, in spite of my grumpy complaints, there will be a next time.
What we did: we mostly wanted to ride the buggy on the sand dunes, so we asked our sophisticated concierge for a restaurant suggestion that way, west. His recommendation was perfect: Casa Uca. Located in Camucim, this fancy minimalist hotel was literally a breath of fresh air. Once more, it’s not that I like fancy, but when traveling with a baby… it’s nice to have a good structure. They have a grand space to eat around the pool, with daybeds impeccably positioned afar from others. And our timing was coincidently perfect, as we were the only people in the restaurant. So we could have our three courses half seating and half standing, while Beatrix crawled all over the place. I just can’t assure you that Casa Uca is a baby-friendly place as they didn’t have highchairs or a diaper changing station (both situations were fine with some improvisation).
To get there, our 40 min buggy ride passed through parts of the Mangue Seco, and included the idyllic river crossing. Again, perhaps I missed the attraction of Tatajuba, but this modification was perfect for our needs.
What I love about Brazil? There is always a way. É o jeitinho brasileiro! Brazilians are great pleasers.
You can go to Pedra Furada as part of the East side tour (see above); or you can opt to walk there – about a 40 min walk, which I absolutely recommend. None of those options were good for us, as I had to carry my baby at all times. And then there were the horses. I know! I hate their shit, but couldn’t help thinking it would be a great idea to ride on a coach carriage. Funky dude sitting at the beach entrance, by the horses, suggested this alternative way to get to Pedra Furada, the famous sightseeing. Should we trust the slightly filthy guy? Oh hell, yes. 24h later we found him again, this time with the $100 bucks and on Beatrix’s post-nap mood. He attached the simple wood carrier to the horse, who was named “Jittery” or something similar, and off we went. The ride was so bumpy that I can’t believe our baby didn’t fall off. I wish I remember the guy’s name, he was awesome after all, trying to be a bit of a guide but with not much content, so he would just keep on repeating things like: “so those are the dunes, look how nice. How nice are these dunes! Here a nice view from the Jericoacoara dunes. Can’t get much better than this!”
He dropped us off at the top of the hill, and from there we have to climb down on our own. Again, I would like to thank the God of bad-moms for saving me from sliding with baby in the kangaroo sling. Oh boy.
Once on the beach, she loved it! Again, there was a line up to take a picture inside the rock. No, thanks. We took some shots from a bit further, with all the people on it, whatever. It’s the real thing. Although once again a Brazilian offered me a different way to get the picture with the rock “alone”, without waiting in line. “Step up on this rock! Yes, perfect. Now pose!” and click, he got some pictures cutting the people out, as I was tall enough on top of that small rock.
The Do Not Miss: Sunsets
Duna do Por do Sol (Sunset Dunes – dãh!) and at Clubventos. The first one is obvious, and people make the peregrination to the top of dune daily, even is the forecast calls for cloudy with a chance of meatballs. They do it like it’s a religion, and from my hotel room I would daily admire those ant-like humans on their sunset herd walk. I think it’s absolutely unnecessary to do it every day, but evidently necessary to go at least once. There’s a magic peace to that setting. In spite of the crowds, one can meditate and/or pay proper respect to our God Sun.
Clubventos is on the opposite end of the beach, and the view is also beautiful, with the advantage of great waiters bringing you drinks or food. This place is actually one to go even during the day, perhaps for lunch.
Ok, I admit. Jeri might be one of the best places in Brazil. Just remember: expectation could be horseshit.