Presentation of the destination
Enjoy serene mountain jungle, party the night away as you learn to dance the forro in Ituanas, and enjoy lazing on the 23 beaches of Guarapari all within in the east coast state of Espirito Santo in Brazil. The state of Espirito Santo begins in the north on the beaches of Conceicao da Barra, and runs down the coast to the oceanfront city of Marataizes. Unusually, the capital Vitoria is located on an island, and it’s here you’ll see some of the historic churches such as Anchieta Palace, and Catedral Metropolitana that lend the cities a bit of character. In next door Vila Velha you’ll find the Brazilian chocolate manufacturer Garoto’s store, where sweet tooths can stock up on snacks. Find relaxation on the many beaches, or head a little inland to one of the national parks, where jungle covered mountains are habitat for monkeys, sloths, deer and beautiful orchids. Check out the huge 30 metre (98 foot) high sand dunes of Ituanas which are responsible for swallowing much of the old town! The local seafood is not to be missed! The most common dishes found along the coast are cooked in traditional clay pots. Moqueca Capixaba is a stew made from freshly caught seafood, and Caranguejada, literally ‘crab feast’ is cooked in a tasty broth, and must be enjoyed with very cold beer.
Points of interests / things to see
The old city of Vitoria, founded in the 16th Century was built on an island, but has grown to encompass some of the mainland too. Surrounded by the Rio Santa Maria river and facing out across the South Atlantic Ocean, this is once capital city where you’re assured of waterfront views. Some of Espirito Santo’s most interesting historic buildings are located in Vitoria. Take a guided tour of the ornate Anchieta Palace, once a Jesuit convent and church, and now a parliamentary building, or visit Brazil’s second oldest convent, the Monastery of Sao Francisco. Cross the bridge to Vila Velha to visit the Penha Convent, which sits high above the city surrounded by greenery on a mountain overlooking the sea. Head to one of Vitoria’s five beaches for some relaxation time, or enjoy some local cuisine at the waterfront kiosks. Try your hand at windsurfing in the bay, take a boat tour around Victory Channel or a fishing charter. Nights in Vitoria are best spent in the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ in the suburb of Praia do Canto, where cars are banned on the streets after 11pm, and you’ll find nightclubs, restaurants and bars galore. Rua da Lama is the place to go for live music and bars.
Itaunas is a town surrounded and partially buried by huge 30 metre (98 foot) high sand dunes! During winter, from December to March it is also the Forro centre of Espirito Santo, when you’ll see couples dance to this popular style of Brazilian music featuring accordion and zabumba drums, and you can learn a few steps yourself. The Itaunas you’ll see has all been built after the 1970s, although the town has been in the area for much longer. The original town, which was considerably closer to the beach was swallowed up by the huge sand dunes. Perhaps the only thing stopping modern Itaunas suffering the same fate is the wetland reserve bordering the town. Park Estadual de Itaunas is mostly mangrove and wetlands, and is home to capybaras, monkeys, sloth and wilcats, and the dunes are a nesting site for loggerhead, leatherback and green turtles. Take a turtle watching tour to see the mothers laying through November and December, and the hatchlings finding their way to the water during the months of January and February. Enjoy long walks up the beach to the next state, Bahia, 8 kilometers (5 miles) away, and while away the evenings eating seafood and drinking beer as you watch the sun set colour the dunes. Accommodation in Ituanas ranges from camping by the beach to friendly guesthouses known as pousadas.
In Guarapari you’ll find some of Espirito Santo’s loveliest beaches, as well as the lagoon environments of Parque Estadual Paulo Cesar Vinha. Guarapari has twenty three beaches to its name, white crescents with mountain backgrounds, and clear blue waters and rock pools to explore. Praia dos Padres is the most secluded, as it is only accessible via a hiking track. At the end of Praia do Morro, one of Guarapari’s main beaches, there is a forested reserve with hiking track leading along the coast, where you can see some of the local bird life. Drive north to the Parque Estadual Paulo Cesar Vinha, where you can take the trail to the lagoon, home to many birds, and keep an eye out on the walk for armadillos and sloth! Some seriously good seafood can be had along this coastline. Try the moqueca, a fish dish with coconut milk, tomatoes and coriander. Party all night at the abandoned quarry, which has been turned into Pereira Adventures, a venue for festivals and nightlife. The quarry is spectacular with all the coloured lights shining on the stone faces. Do be careful about where you drive at night, as some of the Favelas can be risky areas.
This nature park in Domingos Martins features an unusual rock formation, the quartzite Blue Stone or Pedra Azul which appears to change colour many times throughout the day due to its covering of moss. It is also known as the Lizard Stone because of the way it juts strangely out of the landscape like a lizard raising its head. The park is known for its colourful orchids, bromeliads and much wildlife, from sloths, anteaters, coati and marmosets to deer and birds. There are several walking trails of varied difficulty to explore as well as a fantastic visitors centre which offers interpretation of the ecosystems and biodiversity. Rangers are on hand to give guided tours of the park. One of the most picturesque walks requires good hiking shoes, as it includes a long climb up a rock slope aided by a rope. You can bring your swimsuit to enjoy a swim in the several natural rock pools which have been eroded into the rock. The pools have an incredible view of the blue stone: a good reward for the long climb. Experienced climbers can tackle the ascent up Pedra Azul itself Just outside the park you can replenish your energy at one of the restaurants, or relax on the beaches within the reserve.
This park is home to the third highest of Brazil’s highest peaks, Pico da Bandiera and is covered with Atlantic Rain Forest. For hikers, mountaineers and wildlife lovers this is one of Espirito Santo’s not to be missed attractions. Take the walk to Bonita Cascade waterfall, which plummets from a height of 80 meters. Enjoy a swim in the Caparao River before setting off on an endurance challenge on the four hour hike to the peak of Pica da Bandiera, 2897 metres (feet) above sea level. The views are worth the journey, but the journey itself through forest and grasslands where Pampas deer, toucans, coatis, macaw and endangered muriqui (wooly spider monkeys) dwell is quite incredible. Many intrepid adventurers choose to do the walk before daybreak because of the amazing views over the park as the dawn colours light up the sky. There are campsites around the base and at some higher up plateaus for those wanting to enjoy the atmosphere of the mountain and views of the faraway city lights by night. Crystal Peak and Morro da Cruz do Negro are slightly less elevated but still provide for a challenging and rewarding climb. It’s best to plan your hike for winter or spring when there is less rainfall.
The staff at this research station will take you on a tour down the beach to search for the turtles that nest and hatch in this reserve. Visit the education centre to learn more about these creatures and the work carried out here gathering data on their laying activities. The best times to go to see laying turtles is around November and December. The hatchlings begin to emerge in January and February, and use the light of the horizon to navigate their way down to the ocean and take their first tentative swim! The research station is located near to the town of Anchieta.
Inland Domingos Martins is a bit different from the rest of Espirito Santo. It was settled by many German immigrants and as a result has a distinctively Germanic flavour to its architecture and food. Enjoy the strange ambiance of a German beer hall in Brazil. It is quite close to the Pedra Azul State Park. Its high elevation makes it much colder in the winter than most other parts of Espirito Santo, which makes it the perfect place to have a winter festival! There is also a wine festival held mid-year and a flower festival in spring.
Relax on the beaches of Lake Juparana, camp out under the stars, and enjoy water sports and fishing. This lake is 38 kilometers long, with naturally secluded beaches and coves which provide the perfect place to get away from the bustle of the city. For a short period of time in the nineteenth century Lake Juparana was an idyllic home for a group of American confederate colonists. It is not far from the river Rio Doce, another good fishing spot. Kayak or sail around the lake, and enjoy the serenity of this little known place near the town of Linhares.
Enjoy the beaches and city life of Marataizes, Espirito Santo’s second largest city. It is a well-loved destination with a very long stretch of white sand beach renowned for summer fun, with the population swelling with holidaymakers over the warmer months. There are plenty of resorts and friendly guesthouses to stay in, as well as camping right on the beachfront. Dine at the bars and restaurants with views over the water.
Vacation rentals in Guarapari (Espírito Santo)
How to get there ?
You can fly in to Vitoria International Airport from most of South America, and rent a car from the airport. If you’re thinking of travelling extensively around Espirito Santo, it will be easier to get around by car as some of the natural places can be fairly remote. If you’re just keen to beach hop you can get around quite cheaply on the coastal bus routes. Most of the beach towns are not terribly spread out and can be navigated on foot. Most of the main towns have a bus station where you can inquire about services, but for some of the areas furthest from the main city of Vitoria taking the bus can mean several changes. There is a train that links Vitoria to Belo Horizonte, in the neighbouring inland state of Minas Gerais, a journey of about thirteen hours. The train is fully air-conditioned and has food service so you can undertake your lengthy trip in comfort. There is another train trip worth taking in Espirito Santo. The Capixaba Mountain Train runs from the vintage station in Viana, and climbs up through the mountains, taking in forests and waterfalls before alighting at Domingos Martins and on to Araguaya.
Guarapari city hall
Hotels in Guarapari (Espírito Santo)