by Lin Given
There are many beautiful places in Brazil; unfortunately, in this country, there are other considerations that must be taken into account before planning a trip to one of them. Brazil has a very wide gap between those that live comfortably and those that barely get by. This, along with the concentration of population in the urban areas can and does create very hazardous conditions for visitors that are generally viewed as rich foreigners by the poor local population. This necessitates careful research when planning to visit a metropolitan area in the country.
One city that has, so far, escaped the pitfalls of most large Brazilian cities is João Pessoa, the capital of the state of Paraiba. Founded in 1585, it is the most eastern city in the Americas. It is often referred to as the city where “the sun rises first”. The city ranks second in the world for green areas, with 2.7 square miles (7 square kilometers). Only Paris, France has more. It is the third oldest city in Brazil. The population is 770,000, which is small compared to São Paulo’s 24 million or Salvador’s 3 million. Though it is smaller and safer than the larger urban areas, it is still advisable to take reasonable precautions when moving about the city. Top end smart phones draw a lot of attention and should be carried inconspicuously. Their use in public should also be kept to a minimum; the same with expensive watches or jewelry. Avoid dark places and stay where others are. If you rent a car, park along the coast and avoid other areas. Use common sense if you are confronted with a mugger. Do not do anything to aggravate the situation. Always carry some money, muggers may get violent if you have nothing to give them. Getting from one place to another is best done by taxi, not by walking.
Despite its size, João Pessoa is relatively undiscovered. You will find very few foreigners there and a large variety of things to do. The Tambaú (north) and Cabo Branco (south) beaches are 4.3 miles (7 km) east of the city center along Presidente Epitácio Pessoa. Cabo Branco is where most of the city’s tourism infrastructure is located. The road parallel to the beach has three designations; Avenida João Mauricio, Avenida Cabo Branco, and Avenida Almirante Tamanderé.
João Pessoa has 12 miles (20 kilometers) of beachfront. With average high temperatures in the 80’s and average low temperatures in the 70’s, it is a great vacation spot year round. The main difference between the seasons is the amount of rainfall. It is still possible to find yourself a secluded spot on the beach, a luxury that most popular seaside resorts can no longer offer.
In addition to the beaches, there are two large parks; Solon de Lucena Park, located in the center of the commercial district of the city and Arruda Cãmara Park, which features a zoo, botanical gardens and ample leisure areas. The second largest shopping mall in Northeastern Brazil, Shopping Maneira, is located here.
The city has an abundance of historical structures, many of which are being restored. Signs will guide you along the tourism route. The Igreja do San Francisco which took over 200 years to build (1589-1779), is on the north side of the city center.
Picãozinho Reef is great for snorkeling and Areia Vermelha is a small sandy area located offshore. Both require low tide to access, so times will vary. A boat to take you there is about R$25 ($6.25 U.S.). Snacks and drinks are sold on the boats.
Ponta do Seixas is the easternmost point in the Americas. The unusually shaped Cabo Banco Lighthouse can be found here, from which, the entire Ponta do Seizas beach can be seen. The impressive wheel and spoke shaped Tropical Tambaú Resort Hotel is located on Av. Tamandaré, overlooking Tambaú Beach. The hotel, like the city has large green areas, providing a very relaxing atmosphere for guests.
The city is home to 4 museums: The Museu Sacro e de Arte Popular; Espaço Cultural José Lins do Rego; City Museum; Museu Fotográfico Walfredo Rodrigues.
President Castro Pinto International Airport provides access to both João Pessoa and nearby Bayeux, connecting them to other major cities in Brazil. TAM Linhas Aéreas, GOL Linhas Aéreas, Azul Linhas Aéreas, Avianca Brasil, and 12 regional airlines serve the area. The airport is 15.5 miles (25 km) out of town. A taxi to town costs R$60 (at present, $15 U.S.). This price is negotiable. The airport at Recife is a better option for international travelers. Taxi fare from here is R$260 (negotialble) ($65 U.S.)
Buses and taxi’s are available to transport you around the city. Buses to the beaches run R$2 .65 ($.48 U.S.). Buses run every hour to Recife and cost R$20 ($5 U.S.). Buses to Campina Grande run every hour 5 am - 8 pm and cost R$30 ($7.50 U.S.).
Hotels abound with a wide range of pricing to fit most budgets.
For those who like to really get back to nature, Tambaba (a nudist beach) is located 25 miles (40 km) to the south on Highway PB-008.
The current currency exchange rates, make vacations to Brazil an exceptional bargain. For those who have dreamed of vacationing in the country, there may never be a better time!