information about trancoso

The village of Trancoso has a very pretty colonial heart, set on a bluff overlooking the sea and clustered around a large grassy main square known as the Quadrado. Rectangular and roughly the size of two football pitches laid end-to-end, the Quadrado is surrounded by colourful native houses presided over by a small church at the far end which has dazzling view to the beaches and sea below. In the evening everyone heads to the Quadrado to sip caipirinha and browse in the antique shops, boutiques (which include nearly all of the chicest Brazilian designers) and local stalls. The atmosphere is incredibly relaxed - the very antithesis of Europe’s glitziest resorts – and flip-flops, open shirts and kaftans are the order of the day. Yet many of the best know Brazilian film-makers, models, journalists and singers happily hang out in the bars and restaurants as if they were at home. This mixture of cash and DNA has started to attract a sophisticated international clientele who come for the authentic flavour of Brazil, enhanced by good, unpretentious restaurants, small hotels and stunning private houses.

Evenings in the Quadrado begin by picking over the eclectic selection of Brazilian shops and designers: bikinis at Rosa Cha, Lenny or Salinas or men’s beach clothes at Richards or Osklen before drinks and dinner. Most people will head from dinner at about 9 o’clock and the reliably best food - and the busiest restaurants – are Maritaca (a large white, plantation-style building with large open windows along all sides on the road that approached the Quadrado from the new town), Capim Santo (down a little alley at the top left of the Quadrado as you look at the church) or Cacao (to the right of the church as you look from the front). There are two newer restaurants in the Quadrado that are also worth considering; The Bar and Restaurante da Praça, in the hotel of the same name, has a beautiful and romantic location under the spreading trees of the hotel’s gardens looking onto the Quadrado.

Good bars are surprisingly scarce in the Quadrado, but good spots for drinks and that always attract an attractive crowd in the season are El Gordo – the only reliable place for Sushi in the Quadrado –at the far end of the Quadrado (on the left as you look at the church).

NOTE – Not many of the restaurants in Trancoso take cards so you should armed with a good supply of Reais from Rio or Sao Paulo or (there are ATMs on the ground and first floors of the domestic airport before you go through security to the gates and there is an HSBC machine at Porto Seguro Airport). There are cash points in Trancoso, but they do not always work. The most ‘reliable’ is the Banco do Brasil machine inside the main supermarket (available only when the supermarket is open) and there is another Bradesco machine on the left hand side as you approach the car park before getting to the Quadrado.

The best places for drinks, snacks and lunch on the beach in Trancoso are as follows:

The smartest of the beach hotels, and the only one to have a good beach bar, is Estrela d’ Agua which is a good option for a caipirinha and a plate of calamare. There is also shade there so it is a good option with children. Rather more down to earth are the barracas (beach bars) that are effectively on a level with the Quadrado. The best of these, for grilled fish at least, is Jonas, but with a large fish (to serve 4) cooked in the oven costing towards Rs100 it is more expensive than it should be.

To the Itapororoca side of the beach there is the increasingly popular Uxua beach bar which has been set to one side of the River Trancoso in landed-locked converted fishing boat. It is the beach-bar of the trendy new hotel in the Quadrado so preference for beds and tables are given to hotel guests, but they have a good menu and the barman knows what he is doing. On the other side of the River is the ever popular Tostex bar which pumps out an incessant flow of electronic and trance music all day. Like Marmite, you will either love it or loathe it.

If you feel like a change of scene then head to Espelho and eat at the tiny restaurant run by Sylvinha. There are just 3 tables serving the fish of the day and you must call in advance to reserve. The journey there take about an hour and the roads are very bad so think twice before heading off with the children and I wouldn’t suggest you go there after it has been raining as the road becomes very slippery.

The next village along the coast south from Espelho is Caraiva and this is where the road ends. Park the car and board a dug-out canoe to be punted across the river to the pretty village on the opposite bank. There are no cars or motorbikes and the roads are no more than sand paths that wind through the village linking the river with the beaches on the far side. There is a simple bar – the Boteco de Para (another of our favourites) – that serves good local dishes of Shrimp bobo and light moquecas on tables on the river bank that are shaded by vast almond trees.

Trancoso is a beach town rather than a resort and long may it stay that way. That means that there is a marked absence of water sports and what many refer to as ‘things to do’. There are no motorised water-sports on offer, no childrens’ banana boat rides and no centres of tourist information dishing out maps and local tips. That said we have worked out a number of great ways to maximise visitor’s time in Trancoso.

Tennis – A well-maintained private court and professional coach available on request. In addition you have a discounted rate to use the Club Med court as you are staying on the Terra

Golf – The 18 hole course at Terravista (12 km from Trancoso) is regarded as one of the best courses in South America

Yoga and Massage – We have professionally trained and experienced masseuses / masseurs and Yoga teachers (Hatha and Astanga) will come to your Villa and who speak English.

Surfing – Trancoso is wonderful place to learn to surf with one warm-water bay that has waves that are ideal for beginners (including children) and intermediates. There can be few prettier beaches to learn to surf and novices should be able to get up on a board in a day or so. We work with a great local surf instructor who provides tuition with patience and good humour and is highly recommended to anyone who has ever dreamed of catching waves.

Mountain Bikes are available for rent and – at certain times of day, depending on the tide, can be ridden along the beach all the way to Espelho.

Walking and hikes along the beach – Whatever the time of year, the beaches from Trancoso heading south are always deserted other than at a few points where visitors gather around the bars and beach shacks. This leaves rest of the coast in almost virgin state and ideal for anyone who likes to walk along the beach, exploring bay after bay all of which offer great spots to top and swim. Heading south from the Praia dos Coqueiros (directly below the Quadrado) you cross the River Trancoso to head past the handful of beach hotels and bars at the entrance to Itapororoca, then along Itapororoca as houses become sparse, to Patumirim, past the stunning peninsula that is home to the headquarters of an enormous water-buffalo farm…and on to Espelho some 14km away. The trek to Espelho must be properly organised with your concierge with attention to the tide table and it is important to take water and snacks and arrange transport back from Espelho in advance.