People go because its beautiful, calm, bohemian chic and very relaxed. There really is no other place like Trancoso. The pedestrian-only Quadrado punctuated by the white-washed church Sao Joao Batista and, beyond, pristine Bahian beaches give Trancoso a mystical other-worldliness. Since being discovered by creative emigrants over thirty years, Trancoso over time has been settled by people who have opened with style and passion beautiful little pousadas (inns), shops, restaurants and cafes. The result is a place that defines simple luxury, but in the Bahian spirit.
THINGS TO DO
Go to Praia Espelho and eat at Silvinha’s. Hire a car and driver to take you to this remote beach about an hour from Trancoso. There are a few small pousadas and places to eat, but the highlight is lunch at Silvinha’s. Run by Silvinha, who has been here for decades, there are two small tables in a beautifully decorated rustic beachside shack. The food is simple but delicious. We had a freshly caught fish, fried rice with small local shrimp and peanuts, and a variety of home made chutneys. An unforgettable find, although by now well known in the area and written up by the New York Times and many travel blogs. You must call and reserve in advance.
Have a beer on the Quadrado at sunset. Browse the shops. Have dinner at one of the restaurants, lit with lanterns.
Adriana Degreas. This is one of the best bikini designers in Brazil
Divinos for artesinal home wares and jewelry
Sunset behind the church overlooking the ocean in Quadrado
Uxua beach bar for lunch and drinks
Estrela d’agua for lunch or drinks by the beach. Must reserve.
Osklen, a successful Rio fashion brand with casual beach wear
WITH THE KIDS
If you are with kids, it is better to stay at the beach at either Estrela d’Agua or Etnia. If you want activities for children there is a Club Med. There are a lot of kids living in Trancoso who play on and around the Quadrado, so this is not a bad option.
WHERE TO STAY
When you come to Trancoso you have to make a fundamental decision whether to stay at the beach or on the Quadrado. It is a 15 minute walk down to the beach and you need a car at night, so if you stay at the beach you will spend less time wandering the Quadrado, especially at sunset when it is its most magical. That said, there are some exceptional hotels at the beach and it might be a better option with kids.
We stayed at Uxua, a stylish and rustically luxurious pousada on the Quadrado. The hotel is owned and was designed by the former creative director of Diesel. Everything is based on local culture and materials, and it is beautifully done. I especially recommend the Irenio suite, which is a small house right on the Quadrado. It is living like a Bahian fisherman if the fisherman had modern amenities, luxurious sheets and incredibly good design sense.
Other good pousadas on the Quadrado are El Gordo, which has an exceptional restaurant. For more of a budget option, Capim Santo, also with a very good restaurant.
On the beach, the two best hotels are Estrela d’Agua and Etnia Clube de Mar. Estrela is a Relais et Chateaux with large luxurious rooms spread over manicured lawns and sand. Etnia is a smaller place, very charming and cosy.
BEST PLACES TO EAT
Trancoso has a large number of excellent restaurants, both free standing, in the pousadas that line the Quadrado and at the top hotels on the beach. The best restaurants are at New York prices, although you don’t have to wear shoes to get in. Very simple options from food stalls and little cafes are also good and inexpensive.
The most casual option is to get an Acaraje at the entrance to the Quadrado from the food stall. This bean cake is fried in Dende (palm) oil and filled with peppers, onions, small shrimp and hot pepper sauce. A Bahian tradition.
Maritaca, on the road right before the Quadrado, has a wood burning oven and very good pizza for reasonable prices.
El Gordo, at the pousada, is known for its restaurant that surrounds the hotel pool. It serves gourmet versions of local specialties. Get the grilled shrimp served over fried Tapioca cubes.
Cantin Doce has good Bahian specialties with tables on the Quadrado. We had Bolinho de Aipim, a cake made with Manioc flour and covered in shrimp. We were too full to have moqueca here but it is supposed to be good.
O Cacau. Considered for many years the best restaurant, it has very good moqueca’s (fish and shellfish cooked in tomato, milk and dende oil) and other Bahian specialties. This is on the Quadrado next to the church.
Jacare is the newest restaurant and considered by many the best restaurant, if the most expensive, in town. The menu is limited and the food is modern urban; we had a grilled pizza and a local version of carpaccio. While good we thought it was expensive for what it was.
Our best dinner was having the hotel prepare a camarao (shrimp) bobo and serve it on our table outside the Irenio suite on the Quadrado. Listening to the live Brazilian music from the neighboring cafes and watching people walk the Quadrado while having a top quality bobo with the good Argentinian chardonnay was special.
A real treat is to come after dinner to the bar at Uxua that opens up on the Quadrado. Like the rest of the pousada, it is like a Bahian fisherman’s living room in the 1950s. They make their own sorbet which is as good as any you will find in France or Italy. Ask for the Acai, the Amazon berry with healing properties, or the mango. Wash it down with a fresh caipirinhia.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Porto Seguro from any major Brazilian city. Its a one hour taxi from there. You don’t need a car or want one. There are plenty of taxis.
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO GO
All year the weather is good. May and October are the rainy seasons but besides that it is generally 75-80 and dry.
Bikinis, shorts and havainas are all your really need. It is super casual. Tips are automatically added to restaurant tabs (10 percent). Small tips appreciated for service like most places.
WHAT TO BRING
Sunscreen, a hat and a relaxed attitude. The food will come when it comes.
FOR YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE
Jorge Amado, Capitaes da Areia. One of the most famous Brazilian writers, from Bahia. This is his most well known novel about Bahian culture.
Silvinha’s | Praia do Espelho | +55 73 9985-4157
Divinos| Praça São João Batista| +55 73 3668-2372
Uxua| Porto Seguro| +55 73 3668-2277
Estrela d’agua| Estrada Arraial D Ajuda| +55 73 3668-1030
Osklen| Praça São João, 5| +55 73 3668-1090
Etnia | Rua Principal, 25| +55 73 3668-1137
El Gordo| Praça São João, 7 | +55 73 3668-1193
Maritaca| R. do Telégrafo, 388 | +55 73 3668 1702
Cantinho Doce | QUadrado de Trancoso| +55 73 3668 1410
O Cacau| Praça São João Batista| +55 73 3668-1266
Jacare| R. Carlos Alberto Parracho| +55 73 3668-2158