View of a wide sandy beach leading up to a cluster of palm trees.

Head a bit outside the town of Arembepe itself for more pristine beaches. Photo © Ben Tavener, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Only 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Salvador, this fishing village was a hippie haven in the 1960s. In fact, the actual “hippie village”—consisting of ingeniously constructed palm-frond cottages set amid sand dunes—was so swinging in its heyday that it attracted the likes of Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger, and Roman Polanski. Some hippies still live (without electricity) in the village, making and selling jewelry and macramé and living off shrimp and fish. The placid lagoons attract a mellow crowd intent on smoking reefer in idyllic surroundings. Show up at the end of the afternoon to catch the sunset and moonrise while floating in the warm waters of the Rio Capivara.

If you really want that tropical Woodstock experience, come by during the first full moon of January, when the community hosts the Festival Internacional de Cultura Alternativa, featuring dance, music, and poetry reading performances. The town of Arembepe attracts weekending and summering Soteropolitanos and, of late, has been filling up with condos. Despite the recent development, the beaches are attractive enough (especially if you walk far from town itself), and there is a nice unpretentious vibe to the place.

Accommodations and Food

A languid place to while away the hottest hours of the day, Mar Aberto (Largo de São Francisco 43, tel. 71/3624-1257, 1:30–10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–midnight Fri.–Sat., noon–7 p.m. Sun., R$45–55) is easily the best and prettiest of Arembepe’s beachfront restaurants. Although it’s a little more upscale and pricy than its neighbors, the extra reais are worth it. In fact, day-trippers come all the way from Salvador to dig into the likes of bacalhau à brasileira (salted cod cooked in coconut milk), fragrant stews, and moquecas featuring seafood, much of which is supplied by Arembepe’s local fishermen. For dessert, try manjar, a creamy pudding topped with a peppery mango coulis.

Most tourists do Arembepe in a day trip from Salvador or as a stopover on the way up to coast to Praia do Forte and beaches beyond. In truth, there are nicer spots to stay than in Arembepe, but if you do want to spend the night, a good (albeit pretty basic) choice is Hostel Bahia Albergue e Pousada (Estrada de Aldeia Hippie, Loteamento 9/10, tel. 71/3624-1031, R$80–110 d). Here, you’ll find rustic faded pink bungalows (including a big communal one with a kitchen that sleeps up to 7), idyllically situated on a sand dune that straddles an untamed stretch of beach on one side and the hippie village with its palms and lagoons on the other. It is also adjacent to Tamar Arembepe’s small sea-turtle preservation center, whose headquarters is up the coast in Praia do Forte.

Getting There

Arembepe is easily reached from Salvador via highway BA-099. Frequent buses leave from the main Lapa bus station (final destination Monte Gordo) or the Terminal França near the Cidade Baixa’s Mercado Modelo. The trip takes about an hour and costs R$5.50.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Brazil.