Maceió is one of these cities all Brazilians know but foreigners have never heard of. There are hundreds of these cities in Brazil—places you discover by accident, because there are on the way and an easy stopover between point A and point B.
Once in a while, you get lucky.
Maceió was on my way and Google promised me nice beaches, so I left Recife and a five-hour bus ride later, I arrived in the capital city of the state of Alagoas.
Yep, “Alagoas.” Brazil also has a bunch of states I’ve never heard of.
The Airbnb was a pleasant surprise. I had a room with my own bathroom in a lovely penthouse. With the shared kitchen, it reminded me of hostel life, but a quieter and more stylish version of it. So far, so good.
“It’s safe here,” the owner and occupant told me right away. “Feel free to go out at night. Hell, you can even walk on the beach at 3 a.m. No worries!”
Either she was trying to get rid of me, either I had somehow landed in a parallel universe. Brazil is reasonably safe but most cities tend to turn into ghost towns at night. Even in Copacabana, it’s definitely not recommended to walk on the beach at night—Avenida Atlântica is a better option.
She was right. The streets were full of people, even late at night. Even better, there were dozens of restaurants—including a very cool food truck zone—closing around 11 p.m. or even midnight. That’s “late” in Brazilian.
If it wasn’t for the fact that people—quite logically—spoke Portuguese, I could have thought I had crossed the border to Argentina where locals consider dinner around 10 p.m.
But wait, there’s more! The beaches were also amazing—28⁰C water, no sharks, questionably clean but lovely for a long, long walk since there are all connected. Quiet Praia de Cruz das Almas, long Praia de Jatiúca, Praia de Ponta Verde with the funny-shaped coconut trees and the corny “Eu Amo Maceió” sign, Praia de Pajuçara with the traditional fishing boats…
“Picolé e sorvete Caicó… Picolé e sorvete Caicó… Picolé e sorvete Caicó…” the speaker attached to ice-cream carts repeated all day long. The beachfront smelled of dendê, palm oil used to fry acarajé and if you were thirsty, you had the choice between coconut water or coconut water.
“Let’s see… the main street was closed to traffic, beaches were packed and people were drinking beer,” Feng guessed when I called last weekend.
“Holy shit, how did you know? A+ on your typical Brazilian Sunday test.”
I arrived last Saturday and Maceió was packed with Brazilian tourists from all over the country. Tuesday through Thursday was quieter, and it was picking up again when I left today.
I ventured into Jaraguá, the historical centre, but it left me puzzled. Most of the streets were completely empty with a couple of busy ones uphill. Not much to see, not much to do—Maceió is a beach town, the action is on the waterfront.
And so I spent six days walking around in my bikini on the beach, then making my way back to Jatiúca around sunset to try new local foods (more on that later!).
I loved Maceió.
And now I’m sitting in the Airbnb from hell in a town I probably should have skipped.
That’s backpacking for you…