My favorite Things to do in Fortaleza
My favorite Things to do in Fortaleza - Understand
Fortaleza is geographically isolated and it is 200 miles shorter to fly to Cape Verde (off the coast of Africa) than to Sao Paulo from Fortaleza! However you would be hard pressed to say you are in a frontier town - not at all!
While most of us don't know much about Fortaleza it's a major tourist destination for Brazilians and Europeans alike.
The city itself has a long beach which is a bit disappointing and dirty. Pretty much all hotels are located here. Just behind the beach is Aldeota and Varjota which have the best options to eat and drink. Centro is the old downtown and is 'hairy' during the day and to be avoided at night.
South of the city are a number of good beaches that are easy to reach by car or with an organized tour.
At 4:1 dollar against the real the city isn't cheap. A chain hotel will be $80-$100 and decent food $12 per person.
While Fortaleza is just south of the equator it does not feel as hot with the strong Atlantic breeze. The tropical rains often come only late at night so it's perfect for warm, sunny beach days!
My favorite Things to do in Fortaleza - Safety
Fortaleza has a shockingly high homicide rate. The bigger part of Fortaleza is too dangerous visitors to venture into. Within the better neighborhoods Fortaleza is a medium crime city where travel is safest by car. Try to stay in areas you know well or take taxis at all times. Walking around in quiet streets is a bad idea day or night. There are just a few small areas in the city I felt were really safe.
My favorite Things to do in Fortaleza - Get around
Drivers are aggressive in town but traffic is somewhat orderly so it's ok to drive your own car. Taxis are plentiful and have honest and patient drivers. I used EasyTaxi as well which is the 'Uber for Taxis' in many South American cities.
My favorite Things to do in Fortaleza - Sights
Fortaleza isn't blessed with many historic sights like many other cities with a more colonial heritage.
Fortaleza Beach Walk
This is the main pastime of locals and tourists alike - the beach walk may look empty at 2 PM but will be crowded from 5 until late in the night. It is 'wildly illuminated' and a fun activity every day. It's a bit like Venice Beach but there is so much going on - get a beer and enjoy the stroll.
There are a number of piers going into the water. This is another great way to spend the sunset time.
While it isn't exactly super safe it's worth peaking into Centro during the day and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the markets. It will remind you of a Thai wet market. Prices are indeed low.
You will likely end up here for most meals analysts but the Aldeota shopping malls will make for an interesting afternoon. There is also a Regus business center if you need to get work done with faster Internet (like me).
Beaches south of Fortaleza
About two hours south of Fortaleza are a number of picturesque rock formations and beaches. Expect a lot of day trippers going for the (cheap) trip and renting a beach buggy. The water is really dirty (likely sea plants, not pollution) but the huge, empty beaches and the warm water are quite a draw!
I booked an organized tour for R$ 65 to Praia do Morro Branco and Praia de Canoa Quebrada. Praia do Morro Branco offers beautiful red rock formations as part of the dunes. Praia de Canoa Quebrada is a long, sandy beach with beautiful warm water. The drive is about 2-3 hours one-way.
My favorite Things to do in Fortaleza - Food & drinks
Vignoli has two locations in the city and serves fantastic pizza. The location right next to the Hotel Mercure has a lovely patio and it's one of the few spots to enjoy the night safely in Fortaleza. It's not cheap but highly recommended!
La Pasta na Caixa
A pasta food truck that will surprise you with quirkiness and (somewhat) good food. It's really cheap as well.
Self Service Buffets
Almost all Brazilian cities have a number of 'self service' buffets (that's also the name in Portuguese confusingly). These usually have fresh food including fish and vegetables. They are hard to find in Foursquare and the best bet is to walk around or ask the locals for self service and hope that you understand the directions they give you.
Bar e Restaurante O Alemão
Beer tradition in Brazil is often a German affair and so it this restaurant. It serves all the German beers you can imagine and hearty German cuisine.
Chopp do Bixiga
This bar comes to life after sunset. The immediate neighborhood is not safe but the plaza where the bar is located is freshly rejuvenated.
Gelateria Bellucci has made a name for itself with lovely and creative ice cream creations. Eat quick or the heat will melt it quickly!
My favorite Things to do in Fortaleza - Coffee
While Brazil is a big coffee producing nation and also a nation of many coffee drinkers the quality of espresso isn't anything you want to write home about.
I had big hopes for this huge Italian grocer and coffee shop/ convenience store. While the selection of Italian imports is good the pastries and coffee are not what you want.
Amika Coffee House
I was even more hopeful with this place in 'Fortaleza gourmet ghetto' but while it provides a great atmosphere the coffee just wasn't anything you want. It was grey, thin as bitter instead of my favorite, nutty, golden brown product.
Continuing my theme this coffee is in a mall and inside Livraria Leitura - a book store. Believe it or not this is a big sign of quality since coffee is best inside book stores and airports in Brazil - go figure!
Le Pain comes with a lovely French atmosphere but unfortunately the coffee and food quality aren't as great.
My favorite Things to do in Fortaleza - Where to stay
Do yourself a favor and do not book an AirBnB there are too many AirBnB frauds around here which I learned the hard way. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Fortaleza (Review) and Mercure Fortaleza (Review) which were both decent options.