THE GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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Covering nearly 570,000 square kilometers (220,000 square miles) of eastern Brazil, the state of Bahia is hilly and dry. The vibrant capital of Salvador sits on the Atlantic Ocean about 1,649 km (1,024 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro and 1,962 km (1,219 miles) north of Saõ Paulo. The coastline, with its beautiful beaches, gets most of the attention. The 900 km (560 miles) of coastline is about a third of that in the entire country.
On the southern tip of a triangular peninsula, Salvador sits at the mouth of the Bahia de Todos os Santos. The peninsula forms a natural harbor and shelters the city from the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Salvador is a hilly city, with the Cidade Alta (Upper Town) quite a bit higher than the Cidade Baixa (Lower Town).
460 km (286 miles) south of Salvador, the Cocoa Coast combines charismatic surf towns and chic beach resorts with cocoa plantations and mineral springs, surrounded by one of Brazil's only remaining sections of primary Mata-Atlantic rain forest. The faded town of Ilhéus, a famous setting for Jorge Amado's romantic novels of Bahian life, was the bustling heart of Brazil's once-booming Cacau region.
Located 723 km (450 miles) south of Salvador, Porto Seguro provides the gateway to some of Bahia's best beaches, from happening Trancoso to the more remote Caraíva. As idyllic beach villages absorb development, wandering Robinson Crusoes are traveling ever farther south in search of the ultimate deserted white-sand beach.