Despite the increase of pousadas, restaurants, and trendy young vacationers from Rio, São Paulo, and Minas Gerais who flock to Barra Grande in the summer for some hippie-flavored R&R, this utterly relaxing fishing village, with its main drag of soft sand leading down to the fluffy sand beaches, is still deliciously unspoiled. Barra Grande is a great place to unwind as well as explore Brazil’s third largest bay (after Salvador’s Baía de Todos os Santos and Rio’s Guanabara).
From the town, you can wander endlessly along the coast—enjoying the bay’s calm beaches backed by thick mangroves and bisected by lazy rivers as well as the palm-shaded white sands that embrace the open sea.
There are two ways to explore the Baía de Camamu: by land or sea. In the absence of paved roads, the former involves walking or catching a ride with a dune buggy or four-wheel-drive open truck. Highlights include Praia de Taipu de Fora, a stunning beach where you can snorkel in pools of vivid blue water, Morro do Farol de Taipu, a lush hilltop with panoramic views and terrific sunset-watching, and Lagoa de Cassange, a freshwater lake in the midst of Sahara-like dunes.
An equally unforgettable experience is taking a boat trip around the bay with stops at many islands. Excursions usually leave early in the morning.
Getting to Barra Grande
The easiest, but longest, way to get to Barra Grande is to take one of the frequent ferries or catamarans from Salvador’s Terminal Marítimo de São Joaquim (Av. Oscar Pontes 105, Calçada, tel. 71/3254-1020) to Bom Despacho on the Ilha da Itaparica. Right where the ferry docks, there is a bus station where companies such as Águia Branca (tel. 71/4004-1010, www.aguiabranca.com.br) have several buses a day to Camamu (3 hours). Upon arrival in Camamu, there are a few options.
You can take the rapid and more expensive lanchas (speedboats that take roughly 40 minutes) or regular motor boats that make the scenic trip across Baía de Camamu to Barra Grande in 90 minutes. It is also possible to reach Barra Grande by land, going north along a dirt road from Itacaré. This requires chartering a Jeep or other four-wheel-drive vehicle, which is expensive, not to mention slow-going.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition