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Arriving

By Plane -- Azul (tel. 085/3003-2985; www.voeazul.com.br), Gol (tel. 0300/115-2121 or 0800/704-0465; www.voegol.com.br), TAM (tel. 0800/570-5700 or 085/4002-5700; www.tam.com.br), and Webjet (tel. 0300/210-1234; www.webjet.com.br) have daily flights to most major cities in Brazil. Flights arrive at Aeroporto Internacional Pinto Martins, Av. Senador Carlos Jereissati 3000 (tel. 085/3392-1030). Taxis cost about R$30 to the beaches or downtown.

By Bus -- Long-distance buses arrive at the Rodoviaria São Tomé, Av. Borges de Melo 1630, Fatima (tel. 085/3256-2100).

City Layout

Located just east of the Ceará River, the commercial heart of Fortaleza -- called Centro -- is small and quite walkable, though the traffic and sidewalk vendors can make the area seem a little hectic. Starting from the waterfront Fortaleza N.S. de Assunção, Centro stretches inland in a grid pattern. Following the Avenida General Sampaio or Rua Barão do Rio Branco will lead you straight into Fortaleza's main shopping area, centered on a large city square, the Praça José de Alencar. Smaller but lovelier is the Praça dos Leões, just 1 block east of the Rua Barão do Rio Branco at the corner of Rua São Paulo.

An easy stroll to the east of Centro leads to the ocean-side neighborhood Praia de Iracema, the first of a long string of beaches that line the waterfront, linked together by the Avenida Beira Mar. (Unfortunately, none of the urban beaches is recommended for bathing.) Iracema isn't so much a beach as an ocean-side party place. You'll find lots of restaurants and bars along the sea wall, and the Rua Tabajaras that runs parallel to the beach is packed with nightlife and restaurants. A kilometer (1/2 mile) or so east of Iracema you come to the next beach neighborhood, Meireles. From here onward, the beachside boulevard becomes a pleasure to walk. It's wide and shaded with plenty of kiosks for a drink or snack. The nightly crafts market always attracts large crowds. Mucuripe is the next neighborhood to the east of Meireles. At the end of Mucuripe beach there's a small colony of fishermen and a seafood market where the catch of the day is sold fresh off the boat. Farther east, the coastline curves south. The bend contains an industrial area of little interest to visitors, but once around the bend you come to Praia do Futuro, the only urban beach where the water is clean enough to swim. The beach becomes quite lively on Thursday evenings and on weekends but can be deserted during the week.

Getting Around

By Bus -- Most visitors use the bus to go between the beach neighborhoods and Centro. In Meireles or Mucuripe you catch the bus on the street parallel to the beach (Av. Abolição). Look for buses marked MEIRELES, CAÇA E PESCA, or GRANDE CIRCULAR. Fare is R$1.80.

By Taxi -- Taxis can be hailed almost anywhere. To order a taxi, call Disk Rádio Táxi Ceará (tel. 085/3243-8111), Taxi Fortaleza 24 Horas (tel. 085/3254-5744), or Rádio Táxi Cooperativa (tel. 085/3261-4181). Fare from Meireles to Centro is about R$20, and from Mucuripe to Praia de Iracema about R$24.

By Car -- Within Fortaleza a car is more a nuisance than a pleasure: Traffic is chaotic and parking a challenge. However, to explore outlying beaches on your own, a car is ideal.

Visitor Information

The state tourism agency Setur has a Portuguese-only website at www.setur.ce.gov.br. Fortaleza's airport has a tourist information center (tel. 085/3477-1667) in the arrivals hall, open daily 6am to 11pm, where you can pick up a good free map of the city. The state tourist information center (Centro de Turismo do Ceará) is downtown at Rua Senador Pompeu 350 (tel. 085/3101-5508), open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm, Sunday 8am to noon.

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.