It would be a crime to travel to Bahia and not visit Salvador , but it would be pure sin to spend time in Bahia’s capital city without exploring a few of the many natural, historic, and cultural attractions within the borders of the largest of Brazil ’s northeastern states. Although Bahia is vast—roughly the size of France and Spain stuck together—there are many worthy destinations within a couple of hours of Salvador.
The gentle hills and decaying sugarcane plantations of the Recôncavo  region that rings the Baía de Todos os Santos  is a good place to start. Highlights include the colonial towns of Santo Amaro  and Cachoeira , both known for their traditional religious celebrations as well as delicious dishes such as maniçoba (a rich stew of shredded beef, ground cashews, and manioc leaves) boiled for three days to ensure the removal of natural toxins.
Also close to Salvador is the long string of idyllic beach towns stretching north along the coast. Some, such as Praia do Forte —renowned for its whale-watching and sea turtle reserve—have developed into chic resorts with espresso cafés and sushi bars. Many others, however, such as Diogo and Sítio de Conde , retain the tranquility of small rustic fishing villages.
Blessed with the longest coastline in Brazil , Bahia has no shortage of beaches. Heading south, you can spend days or even weeks migrating from one long unspoiled strip of sand to the next. Two of the biggest draws are the towns of Ilhéus , the historical “cocoa capital,” and the ultra-developed Porto Seguro , a famed party capital. Both towns are surrounded by numerous white-sand beaches, but die-hard surf and sand junkies can also venture to dozens of other alluring destinations.
Take your pick from the trendy but still Robinson Crusoe–worthy resorts of Ilha de Boipeba , Barra Grande , Itacaré , or Trancoso . Or if you want all-out isolation, consider the area surrounding Caraíva , an unspoiled paradise in the far south of the state. Meanwhile, divers shouldn’t miss Abrolhos National Marine Park , an offshore treasure trove of Technicolor coral, fish, and sea birds that was a favorite of both Charles Darwin and Jacques Cousteau.
Natural wonders of another kind await travelers who venture into the Chapada Diamantina  region of the Bahian interior. Imagine dramatically sculpted rock formations carpeted in wild orchids and studded with caverns and grottoes. After a day spent hiking, caving, and plunging into waterfalls, unwind at one of many charming eco-resorts situated in centuries-old diamond mining towns such as Lençóis  and Mucugê . Although diamonds are in short supply these days, natural riches are in abundance in Bahia.