The sun comes up early every morning in Northeastern Brazil. Even more so in João Pessoa, the capital of the state of Paraíba. There, at the easternmost point of the Americas, the first rays appear around 5 a.m., lengthening the daylight by the sea. To enjoy the warmth, follow this sunny itinerary in João Pessoa and its surrounding area.
Day 1 – Sun and saltwater
5 a.m. – Welcome the day
João Pessoa will convince you to get up early. The city is home to Ponta do Seixas, the beach at the easternmost point of the continental Americas. There, tourists can admire the first sunrise on the continent at around 5 a.m. The great ball of fire emerges from the sea and displays its golden rays across the entire landscape. It is a spectacle that is always visible in the Paraíbaian capital.
9 a.m. – Nice neighborhood
If you're in the mood for beaches, head for municipal Conde, 18 miles [30 km] from João Pessoa. There, atop the cliffs you will find the Mirante do Urubu [literally “Vulture Overlook”], which offers a privileged view of Praia do Coqueirinho, an ideal place to lie on the sand and take a dip in the calm ocean waters. Praia de Tambaba, in the same region, is one of the most famous naturist beaches in Brazil, where amazing photo ops are guaranteed. For lunch, stop by the restaurant Tropicália, at Coqueirinho, where they serve shrimp and lobster dishes at great prices.
4 p.m. – I love Jampa
Browse the Paraibano Artisan Market at Praia de Tambaú, which contains 125 shops that sell sculptures, 100%cotton clothing (one of Paraíba's main products), hammocks, cangaceiro hats and tasty treats like mangaba jam. Afterwards, you can go to the place where Avenida Epitácio Pessoa meets Avenida Almirante Tamandaré on foot, and take a selfie with the Eu <3 Jampa sign, a declaration of love for the city displaying its affectionate nickname.
(Located at Avenida Senador Ruy Carneiro, 241)
8 p.m. – Where Paraíba and France meet
Set aside a night to stop by Cozinha Roccia restaurant, run by chef Onildo Rocha. The recipes call for a blend of techniques from classic French cuisine with Peruvian touches, using local Paraíba ingredients. The menu features options such as tartare of carne de sol (sun-dried beef) with tapioca and seared duck breast and sugar cane rôti. “Around 75% of our ingredients are from here in Paraíba, and many are grown by small farmers,” says Rocha.
Avenida Antonio Lira, 536
Day 2 – Around town
9 a.m. – Urban paradise
João Pessoa has an advantage over the other capitals in Northeastern Brazil: the best beaches are in the urban area. Just follow the avenue along the shore that leads to the coves of Bessa, Manaíra, Tambaú, Cabo Branco and, a little farther down, the delightful Camboinha, located in municipal Cabedelo. There, when the tide is low, a sandbar takes over the landscape allowing you to sunbathe in the middle of the ocean. To get there, just hire the services of a local boatman.
2 p.m. – Historic city center
The tour kicks off at Centro Cultural São Francisco, which contains Baroque-Rococo churches. From there, head to the houses on Avenida General Osório, then Praça Antenor Navarro which is lined with bars. Finally, venture to Largo de São Frei Pedro Gonçalves, where you'll find Hotel Globo, now a cultural landmark. The best part is you can do it all on foot.
4 p.m. – Ravel's Boléro
The most famous sunset in the region can be seen in the neighboring town of Cabedelo, at the riverside beach of Jacaré. It's there that every day around 5 p.m., Jurandy do Sax gets in a boat and floats down the river playing Ravel's Boléro on his saxophone. The spectacle attracts tourists – who at 4 p.m. start to board water vessels in order to get a closer look. And why Ravel's Boléro? According to Jurandy, “It's a song whose beauty and cadence match the sunset.”
9 p.m. – Propose a toast
At night, go back to Praia de Manaíra, home to the Tramonto Wine Bar.The locale has an intimate, dimly lit ambiance, a good wine list and a menu that offers dishes such as breaded camembert. From Thursday to Saturday, the house features live bands playing jazz and blues.
Day 3 – In the surroundings
12 p.m. – Traditional flavor
Hit the road for Cabaceiras around 10:30 a.m. and on the way there, make a pit-stop in Campina Grande, 75 miles [120 km] from João Pessoa. There, the place to eat is called the Bodódromo, which offers a “bodízio” (all-you-can-eat goat meat). The “bodízio” is served Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. At all other times, you can order à la carte.
Rua Manoel Tavares, 1055 – Campina Grande.
3 p.m. – Land of cinema
Stop by the center of Cabaceiras, 155 miles [250 km] from João Pessoa, known for serving as a location in countless Brazilian movies, earning the nickname “Brazilian Hollywood.” Seu Zé da Cila, 71, appeared as a priest in the movie A Dog’s Will (Guel Arraes, 2000) and is happy to don his priest outfit and share some behind-the-scenes stories. You can find him at his cachaça shop at Avenida 4 de junho, 16.
4 p.m. – Stone backdrop
In Cabaceiras, it is best to spend the night at the Hotel Fazenda Pai Mateus, located right next to Lajedo de Pai Mateus, one of the most magical places in Northeast Brazil. The hermit healer for which it's named lived here in the 18th century. It's a granite formation that supports rounded rocks standing over 13 feet [4 m] tall. One of them, known as the helmet, is partially hollow. Plan ahead so you get there a little before sunset, when nature puts on the best show.