Salvador and the Bahia Coast

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Salvador and the Bahia Coast - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Cachoeira de Buracão

    Considered by many to be one of the most stunning waterfalls in Brazil, Buracão may not be easy to get to, but it is defintitely worth the effort. Located 195 km (120 miles) south of Lençóis, it is recommended that you stay overnight in the nearby town of Mucugê before undertaking the one-hour trek from the start of the trail through verdant forest. The final stretch of the journey involves passing through a canyon and swimming to reach the entrance to the waterfall. Life jackets are obligatory and will be provided by your local guide. It is impossible to enter the park without a local guide. Most tours that originate in Lençóis also include a visit to the brilliant-blue pools of Poço Encantando (141 km [88 miles] south of Lençóis) and Poço Azul (81 km [50 miles] south of Lençóis), formed by a combination of minerals and reflections in the water from the surrounding caves. Between August and November, beams of sunshine light up the water, maximizing the brilliant color and enhancing visibility.

    46750–000, Brazil
  • 2. Casa do Rio Vermelho

    Rio Vermelho

    Dedicated to the life and work of Salvador’s favorite son, author Jorge Amado, this museum is one of the city’s star attractions for both literary aficionados and first-time explorers of Amado’s poetic world. Expert curation by artist-architect Gringo Cardia and its gorgeous location in the writer's former private home make this a must-see. Through his 32 novels, Amado did much to bring Bahia’s rich history to life and preserve its traditions through the most colorful of characters. This state-of the-art, interactive museum breathes life into the author's residence, where personal objects are coupled with short films and interviews with prominent Brazilian creatives that capture the essence of Amado and his important role in the country’s cultural development. Note that credit cards not accepted.

    Rua Alagoinhas 33, Salvador, Bahia, 41940–620, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$20, Tues.–Sun. 10–5
  • 3. Catedral Basílica

    Terreiro de Jesus

    Recognized as one of the richest examples of baroque architecture in Brazil, this 17th-century masterpiece is a must-visit. The masonry facade is made of Portuguese sandstone, brought as ballast in shipping boats; the 16th-century tiles in the sacristy came from Macau. Inside, the engravings on the altars show the evolution of architectural styles in Bahia. Hints of Asia permeate the decoration, such as the facial features and clothing of the figures in the transept altars and the intricate ivory-and-tortoise shell inlay from Goa on the Japiassu family altar, third on the right as you enter (it is attributed to a Jesuit monk from China). The altars and ceiling are layered with gold—about 10 grams per square meter.

    Salvador, Bahia, 40020–210, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$3, Daily 8–11:30 and 2–5:30
  • 4. Igreja de São Francisco


    One of the most impressive churches in Salvador, the Church of St. Francis was built in the 18th century on the site of an earlier church that was burned down during the Dutch invasion in the early 1600s. The ceiling was painted in 1774 by José Joaquim da Rocha, who founded Brazil's first art school. The ornate cedar-and-rosewood interior is covered with images of mermaids and other fanciful creatures bathed in gold leaf. Guides say that there's as much as a ton of gold here, but restoration experts maintain there's much less. At the end of Sunday morning Mass, which begins at 8 am, the lights are switched off so you can catch the wondrous subtlety of the gold leaf under natural light. Mass is held Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 7:15 am.

    Salvador, Bahia, 40026–260, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$5, Mon.–Sat. 7–6, Sun. 8–noon
  • 5. Morro de Pai Inácio

    The icon of Chapada Diamantina, this tabletop mountain sits at 1,120 meters (3,675 feet) above sea level and provides a spectacular 360-degree view across the Vale do Capão and Morro do Camelo. Access up a steep, short path is easy and can be undertaken without a guide. Orchids, bromelias, and cacti flourish on top of the rocky plateau. Local legend goes that the mountain was named after a black slave and local hero, Pai Inácio, who fell in love with the ruling colonel's daughter. In order to escape the colonel's men, he ran up the mountain and jumped off, breaking his fall with an umbrella and disappearing into the valley, where he was reunited with his true love.

    Lençóis, Bahia, 46750–000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$5
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  • 6. Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia (MAM)


    When Italian-Brazilian modernist architect Lina do Bardi set about transforming this 17th-century private fazenda overlooking the sea, she created one of the world's most picturesque modern art museums. Original white and blue Portuguese tiles lead up to the former casarão (mansion), which houses a permanent modernist/contemporary collection, while the former chapel plays host to a rotating schedule of individual shows. Walk through the sculpture garden, with works from artists like Bel Borba and Mario Cravo, before taking a break in the atmospheric basement restaurant, a magic spot for watching the sunset. JAM no MAM, the Saturday evening alfresco jazz shows that kick off at 6 pm, are something not to miss.

    Av. Contorno, Salvador, Bahia, 40060–060, Brazil
  • 7. Parque Nacional Marinho de Abrolhos

    One of the best scuba-diving spots in Brazil, Marinho de Abrolhos marine reserve, 856 km (532 miles) south of Salvador, was created to protect these remote gigantic coral reefs teeming with marine wildlife. Charles Darwin's expedition made a stop here in 1832, and noted the abundant bird, whale, turtle, and fish populations. The archipelago, 36 km (23 miles) off the coast of southern Bahia, is made up of five islands, four of which are within the park. Ilha Santa Barbara is a naval base with a lighthouse run by the Brazilian Navy. The shallow waters on the continental shelf are the Abrolhos Banks, containing one of the major coral formations in the Atlantic. Water visibility for scuba diving is best from December to March, while whale-watching season runs July to November. Only accredited boats are allowed inside the park, so look to hire a catamaran from one of the agencies in Caravelas. Excursions normally last 1–3 days.

    Caravelas, Bahia, 45900–000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$360 for a day\'s catamaran hire, By guided tour only
  • 8. Ponta de Mutá

    Make for one of the beach bars that line the sand to watch Barra Grande's legendary sunset. The calm waters also make this a good choice for families to spend the day. Amenities: food and drink; toilets. Best for:partiers; swimming; walking.

    Ponta de Mutá, Barra Grande, Bahia, 45520-000, Brazil
  • 9. Ponta dos Castelhanos


    Named in honor of a Spanish galleon that sank off the coast in 1535, this postcard-perfect deserted beach fringed in coconut palms offers good snorkeling (take your own masks) in calm crystalline waters framed in coral reefs. Access is by boat from Velha Boipeba, Boca da Barra, or nearby Moreré. Bring your own water as there are no beach vendors. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; swimming; walking.

    Ilha de Boipeba, Salvador, Bahia, 45420-000, Brazil
  • 10. Praia de Algodões

    This breathtaking beach is said to earn its name from the cresting waves that look like balls of cotton—algodão means cotton in Portuguese. Aside from a handful of sophisticated beachfront restaurants, you'll find the long curved bay all but deserted. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); toilets. Best for:surfing; swimming; walking.

    Praia de Algodões, Barra Grande, Bahia, 45520-000, Brazil
  • 11. Ribeirão do Meio Waterfall

    A visit to this waterfall, set within a verdant valley 3½ km (2 miles) from the center of Lençóis, is one of the most pleasant ways to spend half a day. The trail is accessible from the west of town, next to Pousada Canto das Aguas, and winds through the forest, with a number of small barracas set up along the way selling water and agua de coco. This is a local favorite for basking in the sun, swimming in the pools, and playing around on the waterfall's naturally crafted slide. The easy hike takes approximately 40 minutes each way and can be done without a guide.

    Lençóis, Bahia, 46960–000, Brazil
  • 12. Vila Rosa

    A visit to this impeccably restored 1930s fazenda is like stepping back in time to the golden age of the cacao boom. The cocoa plantation hosts daily experiences where visitors learn how cacao is cultivated and processed during a dynamic and interactive tour that includes exploring the grounds, sampling fresh cacao, and a hands-on demo in the chocolate factory. The four-hour tour includes transport from Itacaré. Don't miss staying for a delicious farmhouse-style lunch at the villa's historical pousada and restaurant, where you can also stay overnight in one of the nine rooms (starting from R$495 for two, including breakfast and dinner). Visits can also be arranged via Vila Rosa's chocolate store on Rua Pituba in the center of Itacaré

    20 km (12½ miles) along the road from Itacaré to Taboquinhas, Itacaré, Bahia, 45530–000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$50, Daily 9–4
  • 13. Barra do Jacuípe

    A river runs down to the ocean at this long, wide, pristine beach lined with coconut palms, where the beachfront snack bars provide the perfect turf for watching the surfers and kitesurfers, although swimmers should be wary of strong tides. The Santa Maria/Catuense bus company operates six buses here daily. Amenities: food and drink; parking (fee); toilets. Best for: surfing; walking.

    Barra do Jacuipe, Arembepe, Salvador, Bahia, 42833–000, Brazil
  • 14. Boca da Barra


    The closest beach to Boipeba's small town, Velha Boipeba, is also the island's busiest, dotted with pousadas and beachfront restaurants serving Bahian seafood and ice-cold beer. Although the turquoise waters are calm enough for swimming, they get rougher when the tide comes in, swallowing most of the sand and making sunbathing a challenge. Where the sea joins with the Rio do Inferno is one of the island's best spots for watching the sunset. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: sunset; walking.

    Salvador, Bahia, 45420970, Brazil
  • 15. Cachoeira da Fumaça

    One of the most popular hikes in the national park leads to the country's tallest waterfall, 1,312-foot Cachoeira da Fumaça (Smoke Waterfall). Most of the falling water evaporates before reaching the ground, hence the odd name. A 6-kilometer (3-mile) path from the village of Caeté-Açú takes you to the canyon's rim, where you can marvel at the smoke rising from above. Visiting the waterfall from Lençóis takes the best part of the day and should be done with a guide.

    Lençóis, Bahia, 46940–000, Brazil
  • 16. Cachoeira de Tremembé

    One of the best ways to explore the peninsula is to join a boat trip or hire a private boat to explore the tropical islands, verdant coastline, and mangroves that line Camamu Bay down to the Tremembé Waterfall—one of the only freshwater waterfalls in Brazil that falls into saltwater, it's an impressive sight. Local kids act as guides to help the adventurous traverse it, and there are small pools for bathing at the top. Don’t miss lunch at Ilha de Venezia, a little restaurant set in the forest to the left-hand side of the waterfall, where you can feast on locally grown palmito (palm heart) roasted in butter, pitu (crayfish), pitu moqueca, and pitanga cherry caiprinhas. It's pricey but well worth it.

    BA 001, Km 25, Maraú, Bahia, 45520-000, Brazil
  • 17. Centro Cultural da Irmandade da Boa Morte

    Restored in 2014 after a R$900,000 investment, this small museum located inside the Sisterhood of Good Death's headquarters displays photos and ceremonial dresses worn during their rituals and festivals. You can also meet some of the elderly, energetic women whose ancestors protested slavery. The best time of year to visit is in August, during the monthlong festival that celebrates Bahia's black heritage.

    Rua 13 de Maio, Cachoeira, Bahia, 44300–000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: By donation, Daily 10–6
  • 18. Centro Cultural Dannemann

    Cross over the rustic wooden bridge to the small town of São Félix set across the water to pay a visit to Centro Cultural Dannemann. This cultural center is housed in a stunning colonial building that acts as both a working vintage-cigar factory and a contemporary-art space.

    Av. Salvador Pinto 29, São Félix, Bahia, 44360–000, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tues.–Sun. 8–noon and 1–5
  • 19. Convento de São Francisco


    With an interior glittering in gold, the church here is considered one of the country's most impressive. Along with intricately carved woodwork, the convento has an impressive series of 37 white-and-blue tiled panels lining the walls of the cloister that tell the tale of the birth and life of St. Francis of Assisi. It is worth attending Sunday morning Mass for the atmosphere alone.

    Largo do Cruzeiro de São Francisco s/n, Salvador, Bahia, 40020–280, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$5, Mass free, Mon. and Wed.–Sat. 9–5:30, Tues. 9–3:30, Sun. 10–3
  • 20. Elevador Lacerda


    For a few centavos, ascend 236 feet in about a minute in the world's first urban elevator, which runs between Praça Visconde de Cayrú in the Lower City and the Paço Municipal in the Upper City. Built in 1872, the elevator originally ran on hydraulics. It was electrified when it was restored in the 1930s. Bahians joke that the elevator is the only way to "go up" in life. Watch out for pickpockets when the elevator's crowded.

    Salvador, Bahia, 40015–900, Brazil

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: R$0.25, Daily 5 am–midnight

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