233km (145 miles) NW of Fortaleza

The pearl on the Ceará coast, Jericoacoara's attraction is partially its isolation. Visitors can only arrive by 4WD, preferably driven by someone who knows what they're doing; the 18km (11-mile) drive from Jijoca through the constantly shifting sands is not for the uninitiated. The payoff for those who persevere? Miles and miles of gorgeous white-sand beaches, most completely unspoiled, many completely untouched, plus rock formations, lagoons, mangroves, palm trees, and a Sahara desert landscape of towering, beautiful sand dunes, some over 30m (100 ft.) tall.

In recent years this formerly sleepy fishing village has gotten, if not exactly crowded, certainly much more visited. The region is now an environmental protection zone, with laws forbidding the construction of new hotels and pousadas within the protected area and guidelines for garbage and recycling. These rules have preserved the laid-back charm of the area. Streets are still made of sand; local transportation is by foot or buggy. Still, in high season it can be busier than you'd expect in paradise, so plan your travel for the shoulder season (Aug-Nov and late Mar to June).

For visitors, Jeri (as locals call it) offers buggy tours, hikes, sand boarding, and visits to freshwater lagoons. Beyond that, there's the wind; Jeri is one of those places -- like the Gorge in Oregon -- with the kind of consistent near-gale beloved by top-notch windsurfers and kite surfers, especially from June until November. A useful tourism website is www.jericoacoara.com.br.

Getting There

Jericoacoara is 300km (186 miles) west of Fortaleza. There are essentially two ways to get there -- the cheaper and quicker way is by bus or minibus along the state highways, with the last short stretch across the sand. The trip takes 6 to 7 hours. The agencies listed in "Tour Operators in Fortaleza," above, all offer this kind of transfer. The other way is to travel by Land Rover, traversing the many beautiful beaches that lie between Fortaleza and Jeri. For this kind of tour, contact Jeri Off Road (tel. 088/3669-2268 or 9958-5457; www.jeri.tur.br), which offers both 1-day or 2-day transfers that include a lot of off-road driving and scenic beaches such as Cumbuco, Lagoinha, Mundaú, and Baleia (R$650 for three to four people). Tip: We don't recommend renting a car if you are going to Jeri. The road from Fortaleza is bad, and stops before reaching Jeri in any case. For those who do opt for this route, from Fortaleza take the CE-085 west to Barrento and then connect to the BR-402 to Jijoca. In Jijoca you will have to park and leave your car. The last 23km (14 miles) from Jijoca are completed by 4*4 as regular cars are not able to handle the sand dunes and poor road conditions.

Tip: Jericoacoara has no banks. Most hotels, restaurants, and shops take credit cards, but bring enough cash to pay local tour guides and cover small purchases. In high season, Jeri gets absolutely packed, which may well affect your experience. If you do come in high season make sure you reserve accommodations and transfers well ahead of time. Finally, allow plenty of time for your return transfer, especially if catching a flight from Fortaleza on the same day. The moving dunes, tides, and changing water levels may affect transfer times.

Getting Around

The village of Jeri only boasts a handful of sand-covered streets, and all hotels, restaurants and shops are within easy walking distance. Make sure you bring flat shoes.

Exploring Jericoacoara

Jeri's attractions all involve the outdoors, be it on land, lagoon, or sea. Two of the top attractions, the Sunset Dune and Pedra Furada Rock, are within a short walk of the village. Every day, about half an hour before sunset, visitors and residents walk up the 30m-high (100-ft.) dune on the edge of town for a spectacular view of the setting sun. To reach the town's other landmark, Pedra Furada (a large rock with a hole in the center), requires a 30- to 45-minute walk (depending on the tide). Alternative modes of transportation include horseback or dune buggy .

The two most popular day trips around Jericoacoara are Tatajuba and Lagoa Azul. Both destinations can be reached only by dune buggy as there are no roads. Make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen. The visit to Tatajuba takes you over some impressive large sand dunes, across river estuaries and long stretches of mangrove and beach, and it includes a stop at a small lagoon to observe sea horses in their natural habitat. The day trip to Lagoa Azul covers less terrain (or sand) but in compensation takes you to several beautiful lagoons where you can enjoy a swim and a delicious lunch. In some of the smaller dunes your driver will be able to show off his car-handling skills in the deep sand. You will also drive along Praia do Préa, one of Brazil's top beaches for kite surfing (high season for kite surfing is July-Nov). A day trip costs R$160 to R$200 for a buggy and driver. Each buggy can take up to four people, but you will have more fun with three people so that everybody can sit in the back. Contact Jeri Off Road or the Buggy Association (tel. 088/3669-2284) to reserve.

Outdoor Activities

Jeri Off Road (tel. 088/3669-2268 or 9958-5457; www.jeri.tur.br) is one of the outdoor specialists offering a variety of sightseeing buggy tours and expeditions from Jeri to other destinations.

Horseback Riding -- Jericoacoara's unpaved streets and dune trails are perfect for horseback riding. However, tours are best suited for more experienced riders. There are no organized tours, only local guides (who don't speak English) with a couple of horses. A perfect late afternoon tour takes you along a narrow trail above the steep cliffs to Pedra Furada and then across the village to the Sunset Dune. There is nothing more amazing than galloping at full speed through the deep sand to the top of this huge dune to be rewarded with a fabulous sunset. Guides and horses gather outside the Vila Kalango. A 2-hour ride costs R$40 per person.

Kite Surfing -- Clube dos Ventos (tel. 088/3669-2288; www.clubedosventos.com) is kite-surfing central in the heart of Jericoacoara. The facility has new, top-grade gear for rent. Price (with prebooking) is R$140 per day, R$725 per week. Their website has loads of details on gear and wind conditions (including a daily wind report). Private lessons start at R$125 for 1 1/2 hours, including equipment. Staff are avid surfers themselves and can put together a customized package according to your level, interest, and time availability.

Where to Stay

In many ways Jeri remains a rustic spot -- no paved streets, no bank machines, but that doesn't mean you need to suffer. A number of excellent small hotels have set up shop recently. One of our favorite hotels in town is Vila Kalango, Rua das Dunas 30 (tel. 088/3669-2290; www.vilakalango.com.br; R$235-R$270 double, R$345-R$425 bungalow). This idyllic hotel is located on the beach, right on the edge of the village overlooking the sunset dune. The best accommodations are the rustic (but very comfortable) round bungalows on stilts that make the most of the breeze and the view. Those who prefer a more traditional hotel will enjoy the Mosquito Blue, Rua da Farmacia s/n (tel. 088/3669-2203; www.mosquitoblue.com.br; R$330 double). In addition to luxurious accommodations, the hotel also features an outstanding spa and restaurant. Less expensive but still comfortable is Pousada do Capitão Thomáz, Av. Beira Mar 202 (tel. 088/3669-2221; www.capitaothomaz.com.br; R$140-R$200 double). For the ultimate romantic getaway there is the brand-new Chili Beach Hotel, Rua da Igreja s/n (tel. 088/9909-9135; www.chilibeach.com; R$460-R$750). With only six rooms, this hip boutique hotel combines Miami chic with Brazilian hospitality. Rooms feature the latest gadgets and deluxe amenities, such as an iPod docking station, flatscreen TV, Wi-Fi, light dimmers, and 1,000-thread Egyptian cotton sheets. The restaurant is fabulous and the deck (which you will have practically all to yourself) overlooks an almost deserted stretch of beach.

Where to Stay

Jeri is small enough that you can set out on foot (no heels please, the streets are made of sand) and explore the various restaurants. The variety and quality is surprisingly high. Mosquito Blue's Oceano Restaurant, Rua da Farmacia s/n (tel. 088/3669-2203), has one of the best locations right on the beach. The kitchen serves international cuisine with an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood. At night the candlelit tables by the beach make for pleasant outside dining. On Jeri's main street you will find Leonardo Da Vinci, Rua Principal 40 (tel. 088/3669-2222). The kitchen prepares excellent steak and fish dishes and the stuffed pastas are made from scratch. The scrumptious desserts come from the outstanding bakery next door. For a snack or a light meal try Naturalmente Creperia, Rua da Praia s/n (no phone). This small eatery on the beach, next to the Kite Center, prepares delicious sweet and savory crepes, as well as juices and salads.

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.