Fortaleza (or fortress) is Brazil’s 4th largest city (with about 4 million people) that sits in the Northeast of the country. The main claim to fame of Fortaleza is as a major domestic tourist destination hub. At this stage, it does not draw large numbers of international tourists but is a Mecca for the locals.
Hopping off the boat we got sick of the idea of haggling with the overpriced taxis that infested the port. The taxis were trying to charge $20-30USD (96-144 Brazilian real) to get a lift to town. So we did our usual and walked out of the port area to get an Uber.
Jill’s map showed that there was a lighthouse just outside the gate so we aimed for that.
At this point, we were met with a police blockade telling us that the nearby neighbourhood was too dangerous to walk through and that they would only let us leave in a vehicle.
We met another couple who wanted to walk along the nearby beach but they were also discouraged due to the perceived danger. We also met a Canadian couple who were equally as eager to explore but equally oblivious as to where to go.
So we perched on the side of the road and ordered our Uber. Having no idea where to go we aimed for the Cathedral, figuring it would be pretty central and we could roam about from there. So a 37 real ($7.70) Uber ride and we were delivered direct to St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
This is the main Cathedral in town and can fit up to 5000 inside. The main towers reach 75 meters. Perched on the top of the hill it is a mere block or so from the circular Fortaleza Central Market (Mercado Central de Fortaleza). Originally a meat and fish market, it has now been converted to a crafts market with about 500 shops.
The streets around the markets were full of pop-up market stalls with virtually anything you could imagine on offer.
But the main thing about Fortaleza is the foreshore. To the north of the city is a long, scenic and highly accessible Atlantic Ocean. Leaving the Central market I led the way and marched down the road, around the corner and through some pretty dodgy areas until we eventually turned left and found ourselves at the suspect end of the Avenida Beira Mar.
The Avenida Beira Mar is a wide beachfront promenade that runs along the oceanfront. Our entry point was closest to town which was pretty sketchy at best. While the beaches offer emerald green seas, the neighbourhoods were not quite as salubrious. Not quite favelas , but certainly not very tourist friendly.
But the more we walked, the nicer it got. The dodginess eased and the tourist staples started to appear. The Avenida Beira-Mar sidewalk kicked in revealing the expected cafe’s, restaurants, Japanese garden, beach volleyball courts and the rest of the tourist elements. In fact, the range of shoreline activities are almost unending.
We (including the Canadian couple that we met) found ourselves at a funky little beachside cafe that offered good (if tough to understand and communicate with) and cheap service. Really nice, cold, big beers, by the beach and surrounded by cheeky bikinis made for a tough afternoon. Even more so when the bill came back at under $10 for 4 really large beers. Add to this the random lobster and prawn salesman who was offering 3 for $10.
Futuro Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Fortaleza. Stretching for 8km along the city foreshore it is a great beach and the local touts offer fresh lobster, shrimp, crab and fish.
As we walked away from town the beach kept getting better and better. They were obviously setting up for the upcoming New Year’s celebrations and stages, generators and makeshift toilets were all finding their way to the foreshore. We were due back to the boat before 5pm which sadly saw us having to leave the area early.
I got the sense that the area that we were in would be absolutely amazing for sundowner drinks and into the early evening. I would probably stick more to the tourist end rather than the town end but the beach promenade would certainly be the place to be.
The Uber back to the ship was even cheaper and we ended up getting transport in both directions and 4 big beers for less than the cab drivers were charging for a one way fare.