Fortaleza's main attractions are the beaches outside of the city, including Morro Branco with its multicolored cliffs, the sand dunes of Canoa Quebrada, and the idyllic and stunningly beautiful Jericoacoara. Fortaleza itself has a small historic center that's worth a visit if you have a day to spare, but it's certainly not worth the trip by itself. The beaches of Cumbuco, Canoa Quebrada, and Morro Branco make for a pleasant day tour. Only a short distance from Fortaleza, these beaches offer buggy tours, sand boarding, sand tobogganing, parasailing, boat rides -- you name it and you can experience it, all under a hot tropical sun. But unless you are a kite surfer, these beaches also don't justify the trek to Fortaleza. What is worth the trip is Jericoacoara, one of the jewels on the Brazilian coast. This isolated beach community features Sahara-like sand dunes, stunning white beaches, plus a steady wind that makes it Brazil's windsurf and kite-surf capital.

The Top Attractions

Canoa Quebrada -- Canoa Quebrada offers miles of soft white sand and green-blue waters framed by low red cliffs. The symbol of the town is a half-moon and star, representing fertility. Hippie heritage aside, locals have expanded their businesses to include horseback riding for R$30 per hour, sand boarding for R$3 per trip, and especially buggy rides either along the beach or into the vast sand dunes piled up behind the city. The full 2 1/2-hour buggy tour, which includes a passage along the beach and up into the dunes, costs R$180 per buggy (buggies seat two or three comfortably, four if you squish). Shorter tours ride along the cliff top overlooking the beach, usually with a stop at a rainwater lagoon that looks like an oasis in the desert, the perfect stop for a swim or a cold beer. On the beach, barracas (stalls) rent out chairs and umbrellas, and food and drink is always close at hand, while local women offer scalp and shoulder massages for R$10.

Canoa Quebrada is located 156km (97 miles) east of Fortaleza. For tourism information, see To reach the community, take CE-040 east to Aracati. Just past Aracati there will be a turnoff for Canoa Quebrada. The easiest way to visit is to book a day trip from Fortaleza. By bus, the bus company Viação São Benedito (tel. 085/3272-1232 or 088/3421-2020) has departures from Fortaleza's central bus terminal at 8:30am, 1:40pm, and 3:40pm. Alternatively, there are six daily departures to the city of Aracati, located 9km (5 1/2 miles) from Canoa. Either trip costs R$18. From Aracati it is possible to get a cab or local bus.

Cumbuco -- Located just a 45-minute drive from the city (37km/23 miles east), Cumbuco is where many Fortalezans come to spend a day at the beach. The big attraction? Beach and dunes. The main activity? The dune buggy ride. Drivers are able to take you on a roller-coaster ride over the shifting sands, dropping down steep inclines, swerving over piles of sand as if they were minor speed bumps, and skidding and sliding at almost vertical angles off the face of the taller dunes. Buggy rides cost R$100 per hour for a buggy that fits two or three people comfortably. Gentler beach activities include horseback riding at R$20 for 30 minutes and boat rides on the jangada fishing rafts for R$10 per 30 minutes. Cumbuco is also one of the best places on the coast for kite surfing. Optimal kite-surfing conditions occur from late June throughout November (check conditions on The Dutch owners of Windtown, Rua das Cavalas 6 (tel. 085/8819-7887;, have created a facility that offers top-notch windsurfing and kite-surfing lessons, plus a spa and resort that pampers and accommodates surfers and nonsurfers alike. Rooms cost R$160 to R$230. A 3-day basic kite-surfing course (9 hr. of instruction) costs R$650. If you want to come out early and make a day of it at the beach, the Aldea Brasil restaurant (tel. 085/3318-7541) makes a good base. The restaurant has a pool, sun deck, beach chairs, and bar, all of which are available to customers on the understanding that you'll order drinks and snacks and likely lunch at the restaurant. Open daily 9am to 6pm.

To reach Cumbuco, follow the signs for CE-085. The turnoff for Cumbuco is 11km (7 miles) past Coité.

Morro Branco -- Most visitors come to see the maze of colored sand cliffs that line the beach. Local guides (who work for a donation, anything from R$5-R$10) will take you through the maze of cliffs, showing off the spots with the best colors. A close-up look at the sand reveals incredible variations in color, ranging from almost pure white to yellow, gold, pink, orange, red, and purple. At the top of the cliffs there are usually artisans working on the region's best-known souvenir, sand-filled glass bottles with intricate designs of colored sands. The beach in itself is not significantly different from other beaches in the region. Allow an hour for a tour of the sand cliffs.

Morro Branco is 85km (53 miles) east of Fortaleza. Take CE-040 to Beberibe, then take the turnoff for Morro Branco (it's approx. 4km/2 1/2 miles from the main junction to the beach).

Just for Kids: Splish Splash

Beach Park (tel. 088/4012-3000; is located 29km (18 miles) outside the city on Praia do Porto das Dunas, and is the largest water park on the Northeast coast. The park features four pools -- including the earthquake wave pool with 2.5m (8-ft.) waves -- and a number of water slides. The largest, the Insano, boasts a 41m (135-ft.) vertical drop. There are also restaurants and tennis courts for adults. Open 11am to 5pm. Admission is R$95 adults, R$85 children 12 and under.

Downtown Fortaleza

Downtown Fortaleza has some worthwhile sights if you want to take a day off from the beach. Just a short stroll from the Praia de Iracema is the area that the locals call Casario, a lovely collection of restored 19th-century colonial buildings, located primarily on the Rua Dragão do Mar and Rua Almirante Tamandaré. The area really comes to life at night, as most of the historic buildings house nightclubs or cafes. The new centerpiece of this area -- built in a contrasting but somehow complementary contemporary style -- is the Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar, Rua Dragão do Mar 81 (tel. 085/3488-8600; Tues-Fri 8:30am-9:30pm, Sat-Sun from 2:30pm). This modern cultural center is built in the shape of a mosque with a white spiraling walkway that rests on an arcade over the historic buildings on the street below. At night, the structure glows with a faint blue light. For the full range of programming at the cultural center, see

On the waterfront, there's the Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora da Assunção, Avenida Alberto Craveiro (tel. 085/3255-1600; daily 8-11am and 2-5pm). Built by the Dutch in 1649 (as Fort Schoonenborch) in a five-point-star shape, the fort was rechristened after the Dutch were driven from Brazil in 1654.

If you are shopping for clothes, Fortaleza is one of the cheaper cities in Brazil. One main shopping area lies on Avenida Monsenhor Tabosa. From Avenida Dom Manuel 6 blocks down to Rua João Cordeiro, this street is devoted almost exclusively to locally made purses, shoes, and clothing. The other shopping area is on Rua General Sampaio, Sen. Pompeu, and Barão do Rio Branco, and particularly the side streets around the Praça José de Alencar.

The highlight of the square is the Teatro José de Alencar, Praça José de Alencar s/n (tel. 085/3101-2583), open for visits Tuesday to Friday 8am to 5pm, Saturday 8 to 11:30am. At R$4, it's worth a peek. Built in 1908, the theater is a marvel of colorful high-Victorian cast-iron construction, shipped in from Scotland. The gardens, added in 1974, were designed by Burle Marx.

It's July, So It Must Be Carnaval? -- Fortaleza's biggest event is Fortal, or Carnaval Out-of-Season. The event takes place beginning on the Thursday of the last weekend of July, and attracts over two million revelers. If you plan to be in town, book your accommodations well in advance. Most of the events take place in Meireles on the Avenida Beira Mar, which gets closed to traffic and covered in bleachers for spectators. The event is similar to Salvador's Carnaval. Each night there are blocos, often with the same well-known artists who perform in Salvador -- Olodum, Chiclete com Banana, Timbalada, and Ivete Sangalo. You can either purchase a T-shirt and follow a bloco or buy a seat in the bleachers to watch all the blocos file past. For exact dates and a list of who's playing, see or call tel. 085/3261-4050.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.