“I held on to my straw hat as I bounced around madly inside the roaring machine known as a bus. The full moon beamed down on the waves that trailed alongside our path along the not so smooth sand. I had been advised to grab a seat on the left side and I was rewarded with the constant kiss of the wind, smell the sea and the chance to witness the beauty that is the Brazilian coast. As every limb and muscle jolted and jumbled around, I reminisced about how if there were ever an adventure to be had it would be the journey to, and within the Northern Brazilian town of Jericoacoara.” –My thoughts during departure from Jericoacoara.
The mention of Brazil usually triggers images of the Rio de Janeiro skyline, scantily clad booties of beach going beauties and deadly animals of the Amazon. If you were to ask people to name destinations, Rio de Janeiro, São Paolo and Brasília would likely be the most known. However, Brazil is a country almost as big as a continent and despite the popular tourist cities and attractions, there are numerous hidden gems that aren’t as well known.
One of these diamonds in the rough is Jericoacoara, an old fisherman’s village that has flourished as a result of water sports based tourism. One of the main reasons that this town came on the map is because of the strong and constant wind that is absolute gold for wind water sports like windsurfing and kite surfing. Jeri’s bay is perfectly oriented for wind water sports, and it was merely by word of mouth from globe-trotting extreme windsurfers found this stunning location with eight months of perfect wind conditions and a prime coastline for magical down winders.
The name Jericoacoara stems from two possible stories one of which is a result of the natural occurrence of turtles laying their eggs on the beach. Locals then began calling it, “the hole of the turtles” which in Tupi-Guarani language is yuruco (hole) and cuara (turtle). Another story is that there was once a lazy crocodile that fell in love with the beautiful beaches of the area and fell asleep on the sand. Due to the high winds, sand continued to blow over him until he was completely covered. From out at sea, fisherman noticed how the dunes and hills resembled a crocodile and thus called it "Jacarequara" which means crocodile.
Located about 295 km west of the closest major city Fortaleza, Jericoacoara is not for the faint of heart. Once you arrive in Fortaleza, you have at least a four-hour 4x4 car ride ahead of you, or if you’re looking to cut costs, a bus that will get you there in about eight hours.
I opted for the 4x4 private transfer since I was coming into Fortaleza airport with 31 hours of travel already under my belt and I knew I wouldn’t want to have to muster the energy to solve the enigma that I anticipated a Brazilian bus service to be. There were two other people included in the private transfer, an older couple who were the paradigm of Brazilians travelling to Jericoacoara for a weekend get away. As we drove, we witnessed endless palm trees, rural shanty towns that were gearing up for the local election only days away and several motorbikes that seemed not to care about their proximity to death as they zoomed in and out of trucks that surely had no idea they were there.
After four hours, we made a quick stop for food and pumped up our tires as we entered the last leg of the journey. The paved road morphed into uneven sandy roadways, which then turned into a looming sea of sand dunes. As the sun set, we almost hit a donkey or three, and when we entered the more vegetation laden paths there seemed to be a wandering cow around every corner. If you have back issues, motion sickness or issues being tossed around violently in a small space, I would probably not recommend this journey unless you have extra padding or medication with you.
Once you arrive on the golden sandy streets of Jeri (nick name used by locals) there are plenty of poussadas, small hotels similar to bed and breakfasts throughout the small town that have rooms that range from R$60, for basic backpacker accommodations, to R$1,500 for a room in the four star establishments that are more similar to medium sized resorts. You also have the option of couch surfing if you are able to make friends with the locals, but you’d best be practiced in Portuguese, as this is the most prevalent language spoken in Jeri.
You will pay more for location, so the more central to the town and the beach that your poussada is, the more you’ll be paying. That being said, the entire town is comprised of three main streets and a central square so walking from one end of the town to the other will only take you about twenty minutes maximum ever. There is also the area of Jeri known as Nova Jeri, that doesn’t have the trappings of tourist businesses or fancy poussadas, and it is where many locals reside.
When you’ve recovered from the journey, get ready to go full throttle with all of the amazing activities offered in Jeri! The immaculate dunes create a stunning backdrop for smouldering sunsets and transport you to a dreamland reminiscent of a scene from “Arabian Nights”.
The beach located immediately in front of Jeri town has a plethora of activities to enjoy. You can choose to relax in the umbrella-shaded recliners or head into the beautiful warm water for a swim. Just make sure to stay over to the left (if you are facing the beach) as the right side of the water can be rocking with waves that can range from a few feet to a few meters depending on the year and surfers are keen to make the most of what the ocean gives them on any given day! Other activities on the beach include capoeira, Brazilian style of martial arts dance that many practice, beach volleyball, beach tennis, slack lining, and football games and training where you can see the amazing young talent of the town. There is also the daily ritual of “Duna Por do Sol” which is when the massive pilgrimage to the top of the large dune to witness the electric sunset occurs.
Horse Back Riding
If you’ve fantasized about a sunset horse back ride on the beach, well your dreams can finally come to fruition in Jeri, as there are several horses along the beach just waiting for you to come along and ride them. That being said, you don’t just hop on a wild horse (there are many of them wandering around Jeri) but there are handlers and guides that you can rent horses from. If you are an experienced rider, feel free to take the horses out on your own agenda, or if you feel more comfortable to have a guide accompany you, that can be arranged as well. Just know that this type of riding isn’t your European equestrian standard of riding- its more of a flip flops, shorts and no helmet kind of riding.
Surfing and Stand Up Paddle Board
Jeri may not have the same consistent calibre of waves as Bahia, but you can still certainly learn, practice and shred some swells when the season is right. Several people can also be seen riding the waves on stand up paddleboards. Because it is constantly windy, it is not prime conditions for beginner SUPers but sometimes the wind dies down in the afternoon. There are a few small surf shops only ten steps away from the water that you can rent equipment or take lessons from.
One of the premiere activities in Jeri is kiteboarding. This up and coming sport is not only environmentally friendly, but easy to learn, especially if you have previous experience with board sports and even more so, water boardsports like wake boarding or surfing. There are many kiteboarders from all around the world that make their way to Jeri to relish in the bounty of constant 30 knot winds. There are several places along the beach that winds away from Jeri that kiters can ride at, as well as lagoons and lakes just a few minutes away. There are also endless beaches for downwind riding, and you can hire a buggy to follow you down the beach.
There are several kite schools within Jeri, some of which are more proficient than others. Factors to take into consideration when choosing your kite school are price, location and professionalism. Some schools are more established than others and hire IKO certified instructors, use premium kite equipment and teach in a location that is safe for beginners. Usually, lessons are offered as private and semi-private, but I recommend private if you really want to get your money’s worth. Kiteiscool was definitely one of the best schools in Jeri- their team of instructors collectively spoke five languages, they were extremely organized when it came to coordinating lessons, transportation, and equipment and most importantly they were extremely knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic when it came to teaching kite skills!
Along with the kiteboarders, windsurfers make the pilgrimage through the dunes to enjoy the dazzling conditions of Jeri. The windsurfing area can be found to the right of the main beach, as this is the closest spot to the resorts, shops and schools where the gear is stored. Compared to kiteboarding, windsurfers have a great deal of equipment that they need to manage from land to water, so the closer the spot the better.
If you’re more into motorized adrenaline, take a ride on a quad or ATV! These all terrain vehicles are capable of handling soft sand, uneven dune hills and speeding down the wide-open range of beach! Prepare for freedom to explore when you rent one of these for about R$200 for a few hours. With your experienced tour guide, prepare for seemingly infinite beaches, lagoons and rivers to explore, so bring along a bottle of water, a sarong and your sunglasses as you head out on an expedition full-throttle!
Buggies are one of the main sources of transportation in Jeri, besides horses, motorcycles and walking. These little toy cars are used primarily for tours to other relatively close destinations such as beautiful land formations, other nearby beaches and lagoons and some kite schools utilize buggies to shuttle their students and instructors.