Unlike in other northeastern cities, beaches are not a main attraction in São Luís. Although clean, sweeping and wide, the sands are an uninspiring beige and the water is murky. Due to the city’s proximity to the Equator, the tides are enormous. As a result, when the tide goes out, you have to walk for ages just to feel the ocean lapping against your knees. When the tide is high, rough waves and currents make swimming dangerous. Nonetheless, the beaches do offer a relaxing break. Crowded on weekends, they’re almost deserted during the week.
It’s easy to get to the beaches by bus or car from Centro. All you need to do is cross the Ponte José Sarney that spans the Rio Anil, on the other side of which is the modern, commercial district of São Francisco. From here, Avenida Ana Jansen leads past the Lagoa de Jansen to Ponta d’Areia, the first of many tony, but completely characterless beach neighborhoods, which serve as residences and playgrounds for São Luís’s middle class and elite.
The main drag, Avenida Litorânea, then follows the ocean past the long beaches of São Marcos, Calhau, and Olho d’Agua. São Marcos has a pleasant boardwalk lined with animated bars that are popular with surfers. Equally nice is Calhau with its many barracas where you can take refuge from the sun (or rain). Vendors sell various snacks, including fresh oysters, which they will open right in front of you and douse with lime juice. You can easily feast on dozens.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition