Plan your visit to Fortaleza, Brazil: find out what to do, where are the best beaches, hotels, where to eat and several travel tips!
Located in the northeast of Brazil, Fortaleza is the capital of Ceará state and the fifth most populated city in the country, with more than 2.6 million people. A big and charming city with several beaches, cliffs, palm trees, dunes, lagoons and a lot of history.
My first time in Fortaleza was in 2007, it was also my first solo trip, first time on an airplane and my first lost luggage (a person took my luggage by mistake but I found it later). Then, in 2018 I had the opportunity of reviving some of these memories and making new ones, it was really special.
In this article you will find everything you need to know to plan your trip: what to do in Fortaleza, where is it located, how to get there, when is the best time to visit, what to bring in your suitcase, where to stay, where to eat, and much more.
Where is Fortaleza, Brazil?
Fortaleza is located in the Northeast region of Brazil. The city belongs to the state of Ceará that is located between Rio Grande do Norte and Piauí, about 3.150 km from São Paulo.
Where is Fortaleza on a map
How to get to Fortaleza, Brazil
The quickest and easiest way to get to Fortaleza is to fly, but you can also drive or take a bus depending on where you are in Brazil.
If you choose to get to Fortaleza by plane you will arrive at Pinto Martins International Airport (Airport Code: FOR), which receives daily flights from several regions of Brazil.
All of the Brazilian airlines operate at this Airport (Azul, Gol and Latam). If you come from southeast Brazil on a direct flight, it will take about 3 and half hours to get to this city.
A trip by bus from São Paulo to Fortaleza takes more or less 2 days and some hours, it depends on the chosen itinerary, some routes go straight to Fortaleza, others have a stop in Rio de Janeiro, or Natal and some other places.
Real Expresso and Itapemirim are some of the companies that travel this route, click here for more information about buying bus tickets to Fortaleza.
If your choice is to travel from São Paulo to Fortaleza, you should know that this journey will take around 3 or 4 days, depending on how much you can handle driving each day, after all, there are 3.000 km to be covered. A direct trip, without breaks, is estimated between 40 and 43 hours.
You can choose between two different routes. You can go around the state of Minas Gerais, passing through Brasília, and crossing the states of Bahia and Piauí until you reach Ceará through BR-020, in this way the amount of money that you will spend with tolls is estimated at R$ 130. Another possible route is to cross the state of Minas Gerais, then Bahia and Piauí through BR-116, in this option the cost with toll will be around R$ 50. It is important to remember that if you choose to go by car you will have to consider the cost of gas and hotels.
Getting around Fortaleza
To get around Fortaleza, you can choose between renting a car, taking public transportation (bus), Uber, a taxi or taking day trips with a travel agency. However, to define which alternative is best for you, you first need to define your trip itinerary.
If you like autonomy and intend to go around Fortaleza on your own, renting a car can be a good option (find car rental options in Fortaleza here) but it is important to know that Fortaleza is a big city, with traffic and you will have to worry about parking.
Another point to be considered is that the most popular attractions and the most beautiful beaches are around 160 km away, so before renting a car make sure that you are willing to drive long distances to go and come back without drinking any beer or caipirinhas at the beach, after all, if you have an alcoholic drink you can’t drive.
The most popular option for tourists is to book day tours with travel agencies like Murano Turismo, this way you don’t need to worry about anything.
To have dinner or to hang out around the city you can take a taxi, uber or local bus. If you stay in a hotel on Beira-mar Avenue, you can do everything else on foot.
Frequently asked questions about Fortaleza
As in any other big city in the world, you need to be careful. Our advice is to stay alert, don’t walk with valuable objects and don’t walk in areas far from Beira-mar Avenue at night. Ah, also don’t leave valuables unattended at the beach.
Fortaleza is full of attractions as you will see below in this article, so the number of days is up to you, according to the attractions and the nearby beaches that you would like to visit. We recommend at least 5 days, but 7 or a little more is the ideal to get to know the region very well.
The weather in Fortaleza has an average temperature of around 27°C, which allows a visit all year around. But besides the temperature, it is necessary to analyze the season with more chances of rain, because this could mess up your trip.
Annual temperature and rain season in Fortaleza:
To avoid rainy periods the best time to visit Fortaleza in Brazil is between August and December, which is the season of wind, with August being the best month to practice windsurf and kitesurf.
What to pack for Fortaleza
It is always hot in Fortaleza, so choose lightweight clothing and breathable fabrics. Here is a checklist of what to pack:
- windbreaker jacket (to use at night if you feel cold)
- backpack (to take on tours)
- UV protection T-shirt
- cap or hat (preferably that holds tight on the head, because it is often very windy in Fortaleza)
- sunscreen (preferably biodegradable)
- personal hygiene products
Where to stay in Fortaleza, Brazil
Before deciding what is the best place to stay in Fortaleza you first need to define which region you would prefer to stay in.
In case you prefer to stay in the urban area of the city, with bars and restaurants nearby and to be able to walk to the arts and crafts fair at night, our recommendation is to book a hotel at Beira-mar Avenue.
If you want to stay in the city but not in a crowded area, choose Futuro Beach.
But, if the idea is to stay in a resort or a beachfront hotel, you can stay in amazing places around 30 Km away from Fortaleza like Porto das Dunas (near Beach Park), Iguape or Cumbuco Beach.
Check out some suggestions of hotels in Fortaleza:
Hotels near Beira-mar Avenue
Seara Praia Hotel
Located in Meireles Beach, Seara Praia Hotel is close to the place where the arts and crafts fair happens.
Sonho de Iracema Hostel Boutique
If you are looking for a hostel in Fortaleza, you should check out Sonho de Iracema Hostel Boutique, located in Iracema Beach, near downtown and Beira-mar Avenue.
Hotels near Futuro Beach
Vila Galé Fortaleza
Only 10 minutes from Beira-mar Avenue, in Futuro Beach, is located Vila Galé Fortaleza, one of the most popular hotels in town.
Gran Mareiro Hotel
High standard accommodation, pet friendly, and rooms with sea view, Gran Mareiro is highly rated by guests.
Hotels near Beach Park
Beach Park Resort Acqua
The Beach Park Resort Acqua has an artificial river named Acqua Link that provides access directly to Beach Park. It also has a kids area and an infinity pool facing Porto das Dunas beach.
Located in Aquiraz, only 300 meters away from Beach Park, Palm Beach has rooms with air conditioning, wi-fi and excellent service, a great pool and free parking.
Beaches in Fortaleza and the region
If you are a beach lover you will love Fortaleza. See below the best beaches in Fortaleza and region.
Urban Beaches in Fortaleza
Iracema is the closest beach to downtown Fortaleza, right at the beginning of Beira-Mar Avenue. It has a busy boardwalk, with bars and restaurants in the surroundings and it is where the Iracema Statue and the Ingleses Bridge are located. By the way, the Ingleses Bridge (Ponte dos Ingleses), which is actually a pier, is an excellent place to watch the sunset.
Meireles Beach is in the middle of Beira-Mar Avenue, it is the region that concentrates the largest number of hotels, and consequently the largest movement. It has beach kiosks in all extension, places to practice sports and it is where the arts and crafts fair happens.
With a calm sea, it can be a good alternative to enjoy the beach.
An the end of Beira-Mar Avenue, Mucuripe Beach is an excellent place to eat fresh fish. There you can find the famous Fish Market, a nice spot to go at the beginning of the evening.
With a lot of fishing boats and calm waters, this is the region where the sailboat tours depart.
Futuro Beach is the best urban beach in Fortaleza, it is located a short distance from Beira-Mar Avenue. You can get there by cab/uber or by joining a day tour with a travel agency.
The beach avenue (Clóvis Arrais Maia Avenue) has, in all of its extension, several beach kiosks with a lot of infrastructure, chairs and tables, pool, playground for the kids and live music. Some well-known kiosks are:
- Chico do Caranguejo
Important: Before jumping in the water of any urban beach in Fortaleza, consult this website, because there are times when some of them may not be suitable for bathing.
West Coast Beaches
Only 30 km from Fortaleza, Cumbuco Beach offers buggy and quadricycle tours, and you can even choose to go to Cumbuco Beach by buggy from Fortaleza city.
From August to December is the wind season, so the ocean is painted with the colors of the sails of kitesurfers who love to stay here for several days and enjoy the resorts of the region.
This is one of my favorite beaches on the coast of Ceará. 110 km from Beira-mar Avenue in Fortaleza, the sea breeze, the coconut trees and the green ocean paint the tranquility of Lagoinha Beach.
Besides enjoying the beach, at Lagoinha you can take a buggy tour for around one and half hours that takes you to Almécegas Lagoon, some dunes and the Jegue Lagoon, considered the best of Ceará to swim and which is a common spot for kitesurfing.
This tour costs R$60 (Feb/21) with Murano Turismo.
Flecheiras is an amazing destination around 140 km from Fortaleza and it is still little known by tourists. With natural pools during the low tide and great restaurants like Maré Alta Flecheiras Restaurant, this is a good choice for a relaxing day on the beach.
It is important to know that during the high tide people should check with locals the right point to get into the ocean without taking any risks of falling into a hole.
This destination is quite far away (around 3 hours to go and 3 to come back), you can choose to stay some nights in the region. But if you want to have a tour as we did, through Murano Turismo it costs R$ 65 (Feb/2021).
Next to Flecheiras, and also a lesser known paradise, is Mundaú, where it is possible to take a boat tour to enjoy the beauty of Mundaú River and enjoy the natural pools during the low tide.
It is possible to find day tours to Mundaú and Flecheiras on the same day.
This destination deserves a long stay, for about 4 to 7 days as we show in this complete guide about Jericoacoara. But, if you are really short in terms of time, you can take a day trip from Fortaleza to Jeri (it is really hard, but possible). Murano Turismo offers this tour for R$199 per person (Feb/2021) and it has a stop at Lagoa do Paraíso and another one to watch the sunset at Pedra Furada.
East Coast Beaches
Porto das Dunas (Beach Park)
Located about 26km from Fortaleza, Porto das Dunas is the beach of Beach Park (Water Park) and its hotels. This beach is frequented basically by hotel guests and those who like the Beach Park’s tent next door.
At 66km from downtown Fortaleza, with beach kiosks and great natural pools that are formed where the river meets the sea, Águas Belas is an excellent option to go with kids. A day trip costs R$50 per person with Murano Turismo (Feb/21).
Morro Branco and Praia das Fontes
Morro Branco is the beach where the colorful walls that form the Monumento Nacional das Falésias are located, about 85 km away from the capital of Ceará. Here you can walk around a maze of cliffs, where it is possible to extract up to 12 different sand colors and the local community uses the sand to make handicrafts.
We took the 3 beaches in a 1 day tour with Murano Turismo for R$70 (Feb/21). On this tour you go to Morro Branco, it starts from the beginning of the arts and crafts fair where there are some lace makers, from there you will walk through the Falésias (cliffs) and after that, take a buggy to Praia das Fontes, Praia do Diogo and Lagoa do Uruaú to then pass through the Dunes that will take you to Canoa Quebrada. On the way back to Fortaleza they make a quick stop at a mill.
One of the most important postcards of Fortaleza, Canoa Quebrada, has a lot of restaurants with beach service. You can spend the day there, and enjoy the sea breeza.
You can find tours to stay in Canoa Quebrada for the whole day, or mixed tours that take you to Morro Branco and Praia das Fontes, as we mentioned before. Another option is to stay in a hotel in Canoa Quebrada and enjoy the place calmly.
What to do in Fortaleza (besides going to the beach)
Important! Because of the pandemic some attractions may have a different schedule or can be temporarily closed.
A city tour at the beginning of your trip can help you with an overview of the city, and give really good information about the history of the region, things you wouldn’t be able to get to know by yourself.
Walk through Beira-Mar
Walk through Beira-Mar Avenue, a wide boardwalk that has around 3km of extension, you can opt for doing it during the day or at night. But for your safety, make sure you leave your valuable objects in your accommodation!
In front of the Forte de Nossa Senhora de Assunção, it is the Central Market, a place that has an infinity of craft stores, besides typical fruits and nuts of the region.
The Ceará Museum has a large collection that tells the history of Ceará. The content of the museum is very objective, which makes the visit enjoyable, it leads us to compare the present moment with past events like slavery, armament, among others.
There, you will find some interesting stories like the one about Ioiô, the popular goat that used to freely walk around the bohemian region of Iracema Beach in mid 1915. Well known to everyone, many people used to offer him alcohol, and because of that, he would get drunk and raise the skirts of the girls. During the 1922 election, the population was dissatisfied with the politicians of Ceará and during the voting (it was still on paper back then), the Goat Ioiô won the election as a city councilor.
Visit Ceará Museum for even more stories. The museum has free admission and is open from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, with the last entry time at 4h40 pm, and on Saturdays from 9 am to 4 pm.
Dragão do Mar Center
At Iracema Beach is the Dragão do Mar Center of Art and Culture, a cultural space with a movie theater, an amphitheater, museums, a planetarium and a busy calendar all year around.
At the end of Beira-Mar Avenue is the Fish Market. There you have an option of buying fresh fish to cook at home, or after 11 o’clock you can choose your fish, lobster, shrimp and any seafood in general in one of the many stores and ask them to cook it for you and to deliver it to your table. Besides that, some fishermen often pass by the tables selling oysters. I paid R$ 11 for 6 fresh oysters back in 2018.
This paradise for seafood lovers works daily from 05h30 am to 10 pm. There you will find a kids playground, beachfront tables, and even live music in the late afternoon, which in my opinion, is the best time to go.
Sailboat on the Waterfront of Fortaleza
The sailboat tour in Fortaleza allows you to see the shore from another point of view. It starts from Mucuripe Beach, passes by Meireles Beach and Iracema Beach, and anchors in Jacarecanga’s Beach, at Marina Park Hotel, where the sailboat stops for around 20 minutes. From the sea you can see some touristic monuments like Catedral Metropolitana (Church), Ponte Metálica, Ponte dos Ingleses e o Forte de Nossa Senhora da Assunção.
You can choose between taking the tour in the morning (from 10 am to 12 pm) or in the evening to watch the sunset (from 4 pm to 6 pm).
The tour is organized by the Sailboats Association of Fortaleza, at Beira-Mar Avenue, #4.293 in Mucuripe. Ah, you should book it with a travel agency in advance since there is a high demand and limited spots.
The most famous water park in Brazil, Beach Park, is located in Aquiraz, 26 km from Fortaleza and has a lot of attractions for all ages. There you will find Insano (it means Insane), a 41 meter free fall water slide where you can reach a speed of 105 km/hour and travel through in just 5 seconds. Are you brave enough? Access the Beach Park website for more information.
Fortal is the best out-of-season Carnival party in northeastern Brazil, it happens normally at the end of July. If you have an interest in this type of event, schedule your trip for the right period, but, if the idea is to be far away from agglomerations, avoid visiting Fortaleza during this period.
Tasting typical food
An experience that we love to have on any trip is to try the typical food of the places we visit. Below there are some of the foods that you should try when visiting Fortaleza:
- Guarana juice with peanuts and chestnuts
- Sun dried meat
- Baião de dois
- Paçoca (sun-fried meat in butter, shredded with onion, flour and manioc)
Things to do in Fortaleza at night
Arts & Crafts Fair
Everyday after 5 pm on the boardwalk of Beira-Mar Avenue, around Meireles Beach, happens the open arts & crafts fair, which is an excellent option for purchasing some crafts, nuts and souvenirs.
Forró at Pirata Bar
If you are in town on a Monday night, you should enjoy the best forró at Pirata bar. Located around Iracema Beach, the bar is known as “The Craziest Monday in the World”.
O Ceará Show Theater
This is a super tip for you in case you speak at least a little bit of Portuguese! “O Ceará Show” is a very well-designed musical that tells about the history of Ceará in a fun way.
Like the story of Dragão do Mar, a sailor that used to take slaves to large trafficking vessels. Disgusted by this, he organized a rebellion with other sailors to stop this type of activity, and he even went from Ceará to Rio de Janeiro on a jangada to demand the release of the slaves.
The show happens in a theater in Meireles Beach, next to the arts & crafts fair, from Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm and on Sundays at 5 pm.
People from Ceara are popular for being funny. In Fortaleza, there are many humor shows around the city that happen daily.
One option is the Theater of Humor and Culture of Ceará, which has a relaxed atmosphere, and tables for you to enjoy delicious pizza while watching a stand-up show.
Attention, you need to make a reservation in advance.
Thursdays in Fortaleza are considered the “crab day”, so you can choose one of the restaurants at Futuro Beach to enjoy the evening. The most traditional one is Chico do Caranguejo, which offers live music and humor shows besides the traditional crab.
Where to eat in Fortaleza
If you like craft beers, Brazilian Food and live music, the Cervejaria Turatti is a good choice and is located at Meireles Beach.
Zoi – Colosso Fortaleza
At the edge of Colosso Lagoon is the Zoi Restaurant, perfect for those who like more refined options with a beautiful view, especially during the sunset.
Trendy bar located on Beira-Mar Avenue, with a famous crab “coxinha”. As it is very popular, there is usually a waiting line to get in at Boteco Praia.
Considered one of the best restaurants in Brazil, CocoBambu is super traditional in the northeastern part of the country, only in Fortaleza there are 3 restaurants.
50 Sabores (50 flavors) is a traditional Ice Cream parlor in Fortaleza. The franchise can be found in different corners of the city, it offers very well served portions and an incredible variety of flavors.
Sustainable Tourism in Fortaleza
As in any other destination, we shall practice more sustainable tourism in Fortaleza too. Find some tips below:
- Avoid generating trash during the trip;
- Carry a reusable water bottle, straw and cup with you – unfortunately the usage of disposable plastics is very common in the region;
- Remember to order a caipirinha without a straw, otherwise they will already bring the plastic straw in it;
- Use biodegradable sunscreen and repellent, preferably;
- Do not go on donkey rides;
- Leave the shells, rocks and other things on the beaches. Take with you only good memories =)
Note: Our 2018 trip was an invitation from Murano Turismo, a travel agency which organizes trips around Brazil and the world, but don’t worry, all opinions expressed here are sincere and based on our experience.
Important: The tour prices we mentioned are from February/2021 and may vary over time and according to the season.
What to do in Jericoacoara, Brazil