When you arrive in Porto Seguro, you’ll be greeted by banners touting the fact that this is where Brazil  “began.” Indeed, “Porto’s” claim to fame as the nation’s “first city” stems from the fact that it was here that, in 1500, Brazil’s “discoverer,” Pedro Alves Cabral, planted his wooden cross in the name of the Portuguese crown. Half a millennium later, Porto Seguro is better known as the birthplace of the 1980s dance craze known as the lambada and as being one of the biggest and ballyhooed beach resorts in all of Brazil.
Indeed, despite a few colonial vestiges and some attractive beaches , Porto Seguro is all about packing in the tourists. Synonymous with two words, “package tour,” in the summertime, the place is downright Floridian in its touristic fervor as Brazilian families check into condos and crowds of young party animals crash in fleabag hotels after drinking and dancing the night away.
As a party capital, Porto is known for two merrymaking institutions: the Passarela do Alcool , or “Alcohol Catwalk,” a seaside promenade filled with stands hawking near-explosive fruit cocktails, and sprawling, sophisticated beach bars known as “mega barracas ”—by day, they function like fully equipped adult playgrounds, while at night they metamorphose into raucous clubs that are home to luaus and raves.
Although Porto’s heyday has passed, leaving the place a little beat-up and seedy around the edges, if you want to party hearty—and then nurse your hangover on some fine beaches—this is the place to be. Be advised, however, that Porto is neither tranquil nor unspoiled. Those seeking something with more natural beauty and charm are best advised to take a quick look around and then head south to Arraial d’Ajuda , Trancoso , and lovelier points further south.
Porto Seguro’s summer festivities come to a head during Carnaval. Although much smaller than Salvador’s celebration , the axé-throbbing merrymaking lasts for a lot longer—until the Saturday following Ash Wednesday. This gives Salvador’s mega-stars a chance to migrate south and whip the party into full swing.
A more traditional celebration is the Festa de São Benedito, held between December 25 and 27 in the centro histórico, in which traditional African music and dances are performed.
Due to its status as a tourist mecca, there are usually numerous, and often inexpensive (if booked in advance and during off-season) flights available to Porto Seguro from Rio , São Paulo , and Salvador . The international airport (tel. 73/3288-1877) is very close to town. After just a 5-minute taxi ride, you’ll be in the city center.
Buses from all over Brazil  also serve Porto. São Geraldo (www.saogeraldo.com.br ) has daily service to São Paulo (26 hours), Rio (19 hours), and Belo Horizonte (18 hours), while Águia Branca (www.aguiabranca.com.br ), whose night bus has reclining sleepers, offers service north to Ilhéus  (5 hours) and Salvador (11 hours). The rodoviária is a 5-minute taxi or bus ride to the center of town.
If you’re traveling by car, you’ll need to turn off the BR-101 at Eunápolis and take the Porto Seguro turnoff (the BR-367) for roughly 70 kilometers (43 miles).