The best beach towns of southern Bahia
Bahia, one of the largest states in Brazil, is home to a wide variety of different sceneries and cultures, and its southern coast is particularly rich in experiences. Travel from mountains to beaches, from waterfalls to big busy cities, and from small farmers' villas to surfing paradise – the biggest coastline in the country is a wonderland of sand, coconut trees and wildlife.
Southern Bahia is the place to be if you're looking for a tranquil place to unplug. The region is dotted with small towns featuring photogenic colonial architecture and lounge-worthy pousadas, and humpback whales migrate into the nearby waters to breed and give birth in October. Here are our favorite places in southern Bahia to get away from it all and embrace that slower pace.
Prado is an old villa built around a fishermans' market and one of Brazil’s oldest churches. A laid-back little city, it's famous nowadays because of its gastronomy festival, which happens once a year at the restaurant Beco das Garrafas. Take time to sample the local cuisine, especially seafood recipes such as camarão na moranga (shrimp cooked inside a pumpkin) and budião (local fish) at Jubiabá restaurant (named for the famous Brazilian literature classic, written by Jorge Amado).
Cumuruxatiba is a bohemian-style villa frequented by backpackers from all over in Latin America. The town is famous for its charming inns, its local artists and, of course, its calm, warm waters and inviting beaches. Sunny beach spots such as Moreira and Barra do Cahy are almost impossible to forget thanks the perfect sea views and stretches of golden sand. It's common to see people playing volleyball or soccer by sunset or lighting a fire pit by the sand in the evenings. Beach bonus: if you take the quick 12 km drive to Cahy from Cumuruxatiba, you'll be rewarded with an atmospheric beach setting lined by dramatic cliffs.
Upon arrival, this villa may not look like much – the inns and hotels are almost completely hidden. But dig a little deeper and you'll find the details that make this place a worthy stop: rustic restaurants like Canal do Pampo where a local fisherman will come back from the sea with your lunch, and the breathtaking beach Ponta do Corumbau. This place, built near the Aldeia Pataxó (an indigenous land), is one of the oldest towns in the area that still preserves its traditional fishing culture.
Caraíva is to Brazil what Bali is to Indonesia – getting there requires effort, but it's remarkable to see the river meeting the sea while boats lie on the sand. The little villa does not allow cars and the only way to get round is by foot (or bike). Here, people tend to enjoy the starry nights at bars such as Satú Beach Club or Bar da Praia, where local musicians play forró – a Brazilian folk music. Head to another favorite, Vila do Mar to taste their delicious ginger drink called the 'Netuno' or wander to the Boteco do Pará for a traditional 'pastel'.
Caraíva can get relatively crowded compared to the other places on this list, especially during January, when many digital influencers come to jump-start the new year.
Make it happen
While these destinations are surely worth it, traveling to them requires a bit of logistics planning. If you're flying into Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, connect to either Porto Seguro or Salvador in Bahia; Porto Seguro has the closest international airport with flights from every major city in the country. If you're traveling from Porto Seguro, you can book a boat trip to Caraíva or catch a bus to Prado; it's also possible to catch a boat from Caraíva to Prado, as there are several boat trips that go south along the coastline. If you are planning to explore beyond that, a car will be required and you will probably have to face an unpaved road of around 80 kms (depending on your chosen path) through tropical forest and beaches. If you choose to go up, you can take the bus (or rent a car – which is probably the best option) to Prado and have an off-road adventure on the path to each villa.
Before you head on your beach excursion, don't forget to update your yellow fever vaccine – mandatory for international tourists coming to Brazil – and to pack sunscreen, sunglasses and bug repellant.