Fortaleza’s beaches are the be all and end all of the Cearense capital. Life without them would be unimaginable. Too bad that most of their brilliant blue waters are too polluted for swimming. However, that doesn’t seem to stop locals and tourists alike from mobbing them night and day.
Adjacent to Centro is Praia de Iracema, the most legendary and urbanized of the city’s long string of beaches. Although its boardwalk is nice to walk along, Iracema is actually less of a beach than a perpetual seaside party zone. Come late afternoon, its many bars—particularly those on Ponte dos Ingleses, a pier that’s become a classic sunset-watching point—start filling up with the happy-hour crowd. After sundown, its numerous restaurants and nightclubs follow suit.
More attractive and upscale is Praia de Meireles, which lies east of Iracema. Although its waters aren’t recommended for swimming, Meireles’s beach is wider and more pleasant to hang out on. The glittery high-rise hotels lining the main ocean boulevard of Avenida Beira Mar are reminiscent of Copacabana, as is the shady boardwalk that attracts joggers, walkers, and bikers. Just as nice as strolling is kicking back with a cool coconut water at one of the many barracas on the sand. Every evening from 6 p.m.–close, a popular feira de artesanato takes place along the waterfront featuring a hit-and-miss array of handicrafts.
Praia de Meireles segues into the less busy, but equally posh and built-up Praia de Mucuripe. A picturesque aspect of this beach is the presence of traditional fishing jangadas, their faded sails flapping in the wind. The southern stretch of the beach is where the fisherfolk haul their daily catch up to the Mercado de Peixe (fresh fish market). If the glistening shrimp and fish prove excessively appetizing, buy some and take them over to Edileison’s bar (16-D). While you enjoy a cool beer, Edileison will fry the catch up right in front of you.
From Mucuripe, the coast bends south and leads to Praia do Futuro, the only beach in Fortaleza where the water is truly clean enough for swimming. Unlike at the other beaches, the open sea has strong waves that attract surfers. Praia do Futuro is famed for its super-barracas offering food, drinks, bathrooms, and showers, as well as also super-sophisticated extras ranging from kiddie water parks and Jacuzzis to stages where live bands perform for hundreds of revelers. You should stick to these barracas or their more humble brethren if you come here on a weekday.
During off-season, in particular, the beach can get empty, and there have been reports of holdups. If you hang around until evening, make sure to take a taxi back to the center of town. Otherwise, from downtown, take any bus marked “P. Futuro” or “Caça e Pesca.”
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition