Maceiò is one of those places that look better on Google Images
Hezio confessed during an intercontinental chat.
What place doesn’t?
I replied shrugging my shoulders and punching the buy flight button.
On screen Maceiò is a tropical dream of white sand and crystal water.
In reality you can stick to the strip between the shore and the palmtrees. And come back wondering why this paradise is still unknown to mass tourism.
You do not have to see the struggling city behind the first line of hotels.
Maceiò is the capital of the tiny state of Alagoas, in the northeast of Brazil, the poorest region in the country.
To find it on top of the charts you have to scroll the murders per 100.000 inhabitants where Maceiò really kills it, both nationally and worldwide.
The locals do not believe the numbers, motivating them with some obscure political conspiracy against this virgin coast. Where the sun shines all year long and life seems really easy.
But it is always better to leave your belongings in your room and move with cabs after sunset.
To fully understand this region you need to take a couple of steps backwards.
The interior of Maceiò hosted in 1600 the most important quilombo in Brazilian history, a community of african slaves escaped from the sugarcane plantations. Under the leader Zumbi, Quilombo dos Palmares resisted the portuguese attacks for over 60 years.
Poligamy was the norm and according to the legend and men fought with capoeira, a mix of martial arts, dance and percussions you really need to see live.
The african roots are evident in the popoluation, mostly black and of mixed race. As well as in music and food.
In modern Argentine slang the word quilombo refers to a big mess.
And as of today Maceiò is still a messy place.
Days always begin early and for the following twelve hourse the beach is steaming.
The first to wake up are the fishermen and the mariners of the jangadas. The sailboats wait for customers on the sand. During low-tide the reefs of Pajuçara create natural pools where you can swim with schools of fishes.
Later the guys of the bathhouses with their sleeveless shirts show up. Under the shades you will find plenty of chairs and tables but no sunbeds.
The skilled coqueiros swing their machetes at coconuts while ladies work their portable barbecues. You will not get bored in the urban beaches of Ponta Verde and Jatiuca, the most famous here.
You can surf the neighbouring Cruz das Almas where locals are very nice.
Or just soak up the sun and bath in the calm waters, good for kayak and stand-up-paddle-board.
After a couple of days here you will beg for a more relaxed spot.
Maragogi, two of hours north, gets all the hype.
But you will not have to travel that much.
Forty-five minutes south Praia do Frances is a tourists’ favourite. The water is calm, protected by huge reefs. Just a few yards on your right the Ocean goes wild with one of the best surf-spot of the region. Frances is a friendly beach-break also suitable for beginners.
Another 5 kilometers south Praia do Gunga makes for a postcard afternoon.
The beach lies inside a palmtrees plantation, in a peninsula nestled between the Atlantic ocean and the Roteiro lake.
At high tide the water of the two mix-up in a spectacular emerald green. Walk a bit to get rid of the last vendor and cut a corner of sand just for yourself, possibly building a shelter with palmleaves.
Bring camera and a knife to cut the coconuts open and drink straight from the nut.
Gunga does not have hospitality facilities, just bars and seafood restaurants that shut at sunset when daily travellers travel back to Maceiò or peaceful village of Barra de Sao Miguel.
Walk the boardwalk in Ponta Verde at sunset to end the day like locals do. Hire a three-wheels bike and dribble the joggers under the pink sky. The bycicle path is also the best kept of all roads in Maceiò.
You will feel the passion for fitness, and important feature of Brazilian society. Perv on the ladies in flower-themed spandex and white socks just like in Rio. Walk the slackline, play beach-volley, soccer or just work out at the open air gyms.
Everything is free for all.
The most important thing is to never freeze in the quilombo.
At night the beach loses all its accessories and goes back to its beautiful original state.
For a few hours Maceiò is just a calm piece of paradise.
Where your only concerns should be keeping your beer cold and the music pumping.