Fortaleza  is a major tourist destination with plenty of hotels to choose from. Centro has some good bargains. However, while the area bustles during the day, it is pretty dead at night. Most people tend to stay in the beach neighborhoods where all the action takes place. For proximity to the city’s restaurants and nightlife, Iracema and Meireles are good choices. Upscale Mucuripe tends to be a bit more tranquil. While Praia do Futuro is great for swimming during the day, it is far from the center and dangerous at night.
For the most part, hotels are rather innocuous, modern high-rises that are strong on amenities (you’ll want air-conditioning or a good fan to fight the heat), but light on character. Be aware that in summer months and July, prices can often double.
Centro’s character and lack of tourists can be refreshing, although you won’t have beach access. A nice antidote to the usual high-rise hotels, Pousada Toscana (Rua Rufino de Alcecar 272, tel. 85/3088-4011, www.pousadatoscana.com.br , R$42 d) is an impossible-to-beat budget option. Not far from Praia de Iracema, it’s located in a faded villa close to the Mercado Central. The 10 rooms are airy and spotless, but very spare. Basic amenities such as air-conditioning, breakfast, and a TV all cost extra.
Located in a fetching villa, the Atalaia Hostel (Av. Beira Mar 814, Iracema, tel. 85/3219-0755, R$70 d) is a pleasant and well-maintained hostel with a coveted beachfront location. Aside from dormitories (R$32 pp), private rooms range from doubles to quadruples. The staff is very helpful. Extras include Internet, a communal kitchen, and laundry services.
Like all hotels in the Ibis chain, Ibis Iracema (Rua Dr. Atualpa Barbosa Lima 660, Iracema, tel. 85/3052-2450, www.accorhotels.com.br , R$89 d) offers comfortable, no-nonsense, modern rooms with little character, but unbeatable prices. Amenities include a restaurant and a nice pool. Breakfast is extra.
More upscale, but still good value is the beachfront Sonata de Iracema (Av. Beira-Mar 848, Iracema, tel. 85/4006-1600, www.sonatadeiracema.com.br , R$170–200), whose large, bright, if bland rooms all have sea views. There is an attractive pool area with a bar, as well as a restaurant, fitness room, and Internet access.
The French-owned Hotel La Maison (Av. Desembarador Moreira 201, Meireles, tel. 85/3242-7017, www.hotellamaison.com.br , R$77–110 d) is a favorite of French backpackers in search of low frills with flair. This pretty budget hostel is located in a renovated house only a few blocks from the beach. Basic air-conditioned rooms are enlivened with colorful accents and hanging art, and there is a small, charming courtyard garden. Internet is available and the owner, Francis, is very helpful.
Hotel Marina Praia (Rua Paula Barros 44, Meireles, tel. 85/3242-7734, www.hotelmarinapraia.com.br , R$95–120) is another small-scale cozy hotel located in a residential building and surrounded by a pretty little garden. The simple air-conditioned rooms have polished hardwood floors, good lighting, and brightly painted walls. The staff is extremely friendly and there is Internet access.
More luxe is the Olympo Praia Hotel (Av. Beira Mar 2380, Meireles, tel. 85/3266-7200, www.olympopraia.com.br , R$240–295 d), a low-slung resort on a tranquil stretch of Meireles. It is sleek and tasteful, if a little lacking in warmth. The sizable air-conditioned rooms are awash in neutral tones with natural wood accessories. Bathrooms are swish and gleaming. The bar, restaurant, and pool areas are also pretty styling.
Hotel Luzeiros (Av. Beira-Mar 2600, Meireles, tel. 85/4006-8585, www.hotelluzeiros.com.br , R$260–320 d) is Fortaleza’s attempt at an international-style design hotel. It succeeds very nicely in the lobby, two restaurants, and bars, all of which are achingly minimalist. As for the rooms, the suites are quite posh and lovely. However, the standard rooms, while quite comfortable, are disappointingly basic. All rooms have at least partial sea views, and there is a nice pool and fitness room, as well as a business center with Internet access.