A few summers ago, Paulo and I went to Maranhão to take a gastronomic tour and were delighted with the beauty of the cities we visited. It’s amazing how Brazil is full of amazing places and we don’t know about half of them, right?
Maranhão offers several different tour options with incredible landscapes. In addition, the city of São Luís is full of historical points and the culture is very rich. The visit to the state is well deserved and that’s why I set aside some cool tips for you to know before you go there 😉
When to go
It is essential to know the weather of the season that you plan to travel. Between November and January the weather is very hot, but between January and June it rains constantly. June and December are great months to go because, in addition to being hot, it doesn’t rain so much and has that nice breeze that refreshes, you know?
Now, if you like to know a lot about the culture of the place, it is interesting to go in June or July, which is when the Bumba-Meu-Boi party and the São João party take place. I love this type of tour mainly because I can learn more about the region.
In the case of São Luís, the best place to stay is close to the historic city center. In addition to being easier when getting around, you are also close to the main tourist spots. If you prefer a more lively part of the night, it’s nice to stay in the Ponta d’Areia and Lagoa da Jansen region.
As for Lençóis Maranhenses, there are several hotels and inns nearby. These accommodations are located in cities that serve as the gateway to Lençóis. Two of the most popular cities are Barreirinhas and Santo Amaro – both are great to stay and you also end up getting to know other places in the area!
Maranhão food is extremely delicious and very diverse. A very typical food there is yellow hake; it is very tasty and with a super tasty seasoning. Another very typical food of the city is cuxá rice, made with dry shrimp, vinegar, ginger and manioc flour. For me, the main differential of the region is the mixture of spices that transform the taste of food.
Ah, you must have heard of guaraná Jesus, right? There you can try this famous soda! Its flavor is very different from the guarana we are used to, so it’s worth a try. In addition, be sure to eat the kind sweet, which is very common especially in the city of Alcântara.
The best way to get around São Luís and other nearby cities is by car. However, make sure that you have a GPS or some application that will show you the way, as the signaling is a bit confusing. Another option is to hire a guide team that can help you make the tours, especially those that are outside the city center.
São Luís is the capital of Maranhão and was our stopping point there. We know the historic city center which is amazing! You can’t miss going to Rua Portugal, where there are buildings covered with wonderful tiles. I was impressed with the richness of details of that, it is very beautiful. Other cool places to visit are the Casa de Nhozinho, the Igreja da Sé, the Cristo Rei Palace and the Historical and Artistic Museum of Maranhão.
NOTE: most places are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so better to program properly so as not to miss any attractions 😉
The beach that is closest to the center is Ponta d’Areia. It is the most frequented in the city and has a great infrastructure, with several options of kiosks and restaurants. It is not very good for those who want to go into the sea, but it is great for taking pictures and spending the afternoon!
Besides it, Praia do Calhau is super nice and is one of the best in the city. It is very busy and sports activities like running are very common there. If you are willing to go somewhere further away, pay a visit to Araçagi Beach. It is great for those who want to relax and eat something typical while enjoying the sea view.
Lençóis Maranhenses is one of the most popular destinations in Maranhão – and rightly so. The place has an incredible landscape with dunes and lagoons that will leave anyone enchanted. The entrance to this Brazilian desert is made through the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. Ah, wear very comfortable clothes and be sure to apply sunscreen.
The park region is full of attractions beyond the dunes, so if you have time, spend a few days there to see everything. Among these attractions are the speedboat ride on the Preguiça River, float in buoys on the Rio Formiga, ride an ATV and visit the beaches and villages close to the place.
This was the other city that Paulo and I visited and it is a very interesting place to visit. Alcântara is considered a national historical heritage and was once one of the richest cities in the state. The coolest part of it is the ruins of old buildings, like those of a Church, as well as colonial houses and squares. The journey to the city is also very pleasant, see? Leaving São Luís, you go by boat from Praia Grande pier.
Chapada das Mesas
For those who like waterfalls and trails, Chapada das Mesas is ideal. It is located in the city of Carolina, in the south of Maranhão. The region is full of mountains, rivers and waterfalls – everything is wonderful! To enjoy this region well I recommend that you stay there for at least 4 days. So you don’t have to be in a hurry to do the walks and trails.
The main waterfalls are São Romão and Prata and those of Itapecuru and Santa Bárbara. Another tour tip is to climb Morro do Chapéu. It is the symbol of Chapada das Mesas and, if you reach the top, you will have a unique view of the place. Just don’t do the trail alone, okay?
The city of Tutóia is approximately 320 km from São Luís and has been increasingly sought after by tourists. The main attractions are the beaches, dunes and mangroves that make up incredible landscapes. One of the best beaches there is Praia do Amor, which forms an incredible natural pool. Besides it, Praia da Barra and Praia Pequenos Lençóis are also great, with clean water and without much movement. The place is perfect for those who want to get a little out of the hustle and bustle of São Luís and visit more peaceful regions.
Our trip was very short, but we had a good idea of the beauty of the place. You can see how our days there were by clicking here.