A Local's Guide To Bahia, Brazil's favourite Beach Escape

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When most people think of visiting Brazil, they think of Rio de Janeiro’s packed beaches and infamous cobblestone sidewalks.But when Brazilians want to escape, they head to Bahia, the coastal state known for its breathtaking beaches and laid-back vibe. Most tourists there are native Brazilians, and the foreigners who do visit the northeastern region generally come from Germany, France, and Italy.

Brazilians are drawn to the region because it is one of the country’s greatest cultural hubs, where African drums, samba and Reggae reign. The first Portuguese settlers to arrive in the country anchored their ships in Bahia and set up the capital there. This is where Brazil was born. It’s no accident that some of Brazil’s greatest poets and musicians grew up there, too.

The colourful buildings and music that fills Bahia’s streets have convinced many tourists to extend their stay. Some even end up spending the rest of their lives there. 

Bahia is a state in northeastern Brazil, right on the Atlantic Coast. Its capital, Salvador, is an international destination for tourists.

travellers are drawn to the region's colonial architecture. The first Portuguese settlers to colonize the region came to Salvador and built amazing churches.

The best way to get from the beaches in the lower part of the city to the cathedral and historical area in the upper part is to take Brazil's largest elevator, called Elevador Lacerda. For only a few cents, anyone can ride this massive tourist attraction.

But people don't just go to Bahia to sight-see. The region is home to Brazil's most beautiful beaches. Locals will tell you that Imbassaí is the place to be. Known for its small-town secluded feel and warm, calm waters, the beach area is only an hour away from Salvador.

The trick to living like a local is to find the right restaurant on the beach where you can relax and spend the day. Many restaurants provide chairs and umbrellas to beach-goers who come for lunch.

If you want a small snack before lunch there are always vendors, like this 90-year-old woman, wandering the beach and selling homemade coconut sweets.

At Imbassaí, locals love the Porto da Jangada, a perfect hangout spot where a fisherman named Zé Mar and his family serve home-cooked Brazilian meals.

At lunch time, Zé Mar will bring you fresh seafood. He caught this lobster the very same day it wound up on our table.

If you to use the bathroom when you're lounging at the beachfront restaurant though, you're in for a surprise. This is Zé Mar's infamous bathroom. Yes, the plastic bottle is used as a toilet.

Low tide is a good time to go for a walk on the beach. The next beach over from Imbassaí is called Praia do Forte, and it is known for its beautiful natural pools.

This church in the main square of Praia do Forte is where tourists and locals lounge under the trees to escape from the hot afternoon sun.

My favourite place to visit in Praia do Forte is the wildlife turtle reserve known as Projeto Tamar. This non-profit seeks to protect turtles from extinction and raises money to do so by opening its doors to the public.

Anyone who contributes to the livelihood of Projeto Tamar with a donation can come in, see the turtles and feed them.

These ancient creatures are beautiful and majestic. Visitors can get extremely close to them!

In the late afternoon, most tourists head back to their hotels to lounge by the pool. Locals say that the best hotel in Imbassaí is the Vila Angelim, a place that steers clear from the resort feel that most foreigners look for in hotels, and instead promotes a spa-like experience.

Salles is one of the friendliest locals around — he'll be sitting at the front desk ready to greet you when you walk into Villa Angelim.

When the sun goes down the air gets cooler, but the scenery is still breathtaking.

Sunsets on the beach of Imbassaí are incredible. I'd recommend standing right where the river and the ocean meet to take it all in.

When it's dinner time you'll notice Brazilians love to have big hearty meals. Steak and fries are among the top picks in restaurants. Brazilians are meat lovers and will sometimes spend all day barbecuing.

The day isn't over yet. Brazilians like to party all night and tourists are expected to join in the fun. During Carnaval, this car paraded through the town square carrying famous Brazilian singer Chico César as he entertained the crowd.

Live music by the beach is definitely a vibrant part of Brazil's night life. Be it rock, reggae or a band that plays popular Brazilian tunes, crowds form at these beachside parties to dance to live music.

In Bahia, you're bound to end the night on the beach. Many people dance the night away to trance music at a beachfront rave, and even see the sun rise.

Now visit another part of Brazil.

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