Arraial D'Ajuda - Bahia's Most Charming Beach Town
Arraial D'Ajuda is one of the nicer beach towns along the 1,000km of Bahia coastline, with miles of soft sand beaches protected by offshore reefs and backed by palm forests, with stronger ocean and cliffs on the empty beaches leading south.
Porto Seguro has the nearest airport for this area in the south of Bahia, and it lies just 10km away across the estuary of the Rio Buranhem. The beaches, warm tropical waters and offshore reef bring people from all over the world to Arraial. Boat trips out to the reef bring snorkelling opportunities, while catamaran trips to the Abrolhos Archipelago are also possible. The lively beaches close to town, the miles of empty beaches heading south, the dramatic cliffs, and the clay-mud baths under them can all be explored on foot, by horse or by buggy and 4x4 vehicle. Praia Mucuge and Praia do Parracho are the busiest beaches, with the Eco Parque water park complex bringing many Brazilians to the region as well. Praia Pitinga, Praia da Lagoa Azul (with the mud-bath) and Praia Taipe are the subsequent beaches.
As with most of Bahia, you can expect a laidback atmosphere, friendly people, excellent spicy tropical cuisine such as seafood moqueca, and also the opportunity to learn a couple of the classic Bahia activities. Capoeira demonstrations and classes take place throughout town and on the beaches, while other Afro-Brazilian cultural highlights include samba and lambada dance classes.
Arraial D'Ajuda sits on a bluff above the beaches, and has developed in a sympathetic way, with the main street lined with bars, restaurant and boutiques sparkling with the twinkling lights that decorate the town. The church overlooks the beaches, as do many of the pousadas (Brazilian B&Bs) and restaurants, all surrounded with tropical vegetation and wildlife.
Exploring further afield, neighbouring Trancoso is an essential part of a trip to this area, a cute and colourful town sitting similarly above the beaches. The Pataxo Indigenous Community that lives in the Reserva da Jaqueira is also worth a visit. The marine life of the area includes humpback whales from June to November (although best seen around the Abrolhos Islands), with scuba diving and snorkelling trips to encounter tropical fish, turtles and rays. The new Asas Magicas (Magic Wings) Butterfly Gardens is one of the largest in Brazil, while the two national parks of the area have sloth, jaguar, parrots and parakeets, and the magnificent harpy eagle amongst their residents. The Descobrimento National Park is still relatively new and lacking infrastructure, while the Monte Pascoal National Park is set around the mountain that was the first sighting of Brazil by Pedro Cabral's fleet in 1500, and led to them setting foot in Porto Seguro, the first European steps on what is now Brazilian territory.
Arraial D'Ajuda has developed since then, but in a pleasant, charming way to make it one of the most popular destinations of the whole 1,000km of Bahia coastline.
Suitable Destination For: Beaches; Marine Life; Scuba Diving & Snorkelling.
Best Time to Visit: Bahia is tropical so any time of year can be good to visit, although you can expect tropical rain in the late afternoon and early evening too.
Essential Sights & Activities: Beaches! The main street of Arraial D'Ajuda; the clay-mud bath in the Lagoa Azul; the Atlantic Rainforest and wildlife; local indigenous communities