Featuring colonial architecture, stunning beaches, and a laid-back vibe, the coastal town of Trancoso may be one of the sexiest and most singularly beautiful places in Brazil – just ask Beyoncé, Anderson Cooper and Naomi Campbell, a few of the jet-setters who have flocked there to enjoy glorious vacations.
But what makes Trancoso -a tiny fishing village just south of Salvador, Bahia- stand out among the hundreds of picturesque beaches along Brazil’s 7,500-mile coastline, while attracting so many bon vivants?
Because it’s remote. Even as word of its charm has spread out, it remains an insider’s spot, one that’s typically reached by taking an hour-long flight from São Paulo to Porto Seguro, Bahia, followed by a 50-mile drive along back roads. There wasn’t even a paved highway in the area until 2000, which is probably one of the reasons it’s been able to resist many of the pitfalls of development.
“Plenty of places have nice beaches and good restaurants, but the Quadrado is what makes Trancoso incredibly unique,” says CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, in an interview to Travel + Leisure. Cooper is building his own eco-friendly property in the Quadrado, the town’s historic long grassy main square, which is crowned with the small whitewashed 17th-century church of São João Batista and colorful cottages, many now transformed into cafés, galleries, boutiques, and pousadas, or small inns. Prices are pitched high to keep the area from becoming too mainstream.
In the past few years, Trancoso has made its name as one of the so-called hippie chic destinations, those 21st-century answers to Goa or Bali that are luring tuned travelers. However, many of such places never manage to get either the “hippie” or the “chic” part quite right, but Trancoso scores high on both counts. Yet despite recent incursions, Trancoso is curiously glamour-resistant, where high-end shops are usually empty, and besides, nobody wears heels there anyway.
If you embrace simplicity as the ultimate sophistication, Trancoso is for you. Check out our tips for an unforgettable experience.
Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa
Former Diesel creative director Wilbert Das, who is also designing Cooper’s Trancoso house, upped the town’s style quotient when he opened Uxua (pronounced OO-shwa) in 2009. Comprising 11 houses on the Quadrado, this unique inn epitomizes Trancoso’s rustic but refined sensibility.
In 2014, Beyoncé’s sister Solange Knowles and her husband Alan Ferguson chose the hotel, where Beyoncé also shot part of her Blue video, as their honeymoon escape in Brazil. Suites from US$400. Visit their beautiful website uxua.com
Pousada Estrela D’Água
A 28-room hotel that was once the vacation home of Brazilian iconic singer Gal Costa. You’ll want to spend most of your time dozing on a palm-shaded Atlantic-facing hammock or swimming in one of the two beautiful pools; the rooms are also inviting with canopied beds and wicker furniture. Suites from US$422. Visit estreladagua.com.br
Private Beach House
Looking for a super exclusive place? Contact The Brazilian Beach House Company, dedicated to renting fully staffed private properties in Trancoso, which rank among the most luxurious accommodation available in Brazil today. That’s what celebrities such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss do when they head to the village for the popular New Year’s Eve beach parties. Prices upon request. Visit brazilianbeachhouse.com
Considered the best pizza in Trancoso, Maritaca also serves great caipirinhas, the country’s quintessential cocktail. Jessica Alba and Anderson Cooper have tried and approved. Be prepared to hit the wallet with higher prices. facebook.com/maritacatrancoso
Rated as one of the best restaurants in town, their menu ranges from delicious appetizers like Brazilian grilled cheese and croquetes to fantastic local recipes like shrimp stroganoff. Visit ocacautrancoso.com.br
With great seafood and a stunning view, El Gordo has one of the most appreciated cuisines in the village. Go for lunch or to watch the sunset by the pool. More information.
In the Quadrado (almost everything is there!), it’s hard to find an available table without reservation. Ensure your place at Cantinho Doce and indulge yourself with their delicious crab in a shell and artisanal cachaças, a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane.
Silvana & Cia
Owned by native Silvana, this place serves authentic local food, such as moqueca and grilled fish. Prices are reasonable and it’s located in the heart of the Quadrado. More information.
With a casual atmosphere, this airy restaurant serves an excellent variety of local food, buffet-style. The best bet if you are looking for a quick and inexpensive lunch. Visit portinha.com.br
Cafe de la Musique
Located at Praia dos Coqueiros, Cafe de la Musique is considered one of the trendiest and most elegant beach clubs in Brazil. Enjoy a fantastic ocean view, day beds on the sand, and fresh local food flowing from the kitchen. Top national and international DJ’s attract a young and up-to-date crowd looking to see and be seen. Soccer player Neymar is an habitué. Visit cafedelamusiquetrancoso.com.br
Café Cultura Kitsch Bar
This small and charming cafe brings together locals and visitors through intimate concerts of distinct Brazilian rhythms such as forró and samba. More info.
Festa do Taípe
If you’re planning to hit Trancoso on New Year’s Eve -the trendiest celebration in town-, Festa do Taípe should be on your list. And come prepared to spot top models such as Alessandra Ambrósio, Naomi Campbell, and Kate Moss. The party happens on a 25,000 sq ft sand area of Taípe beach, with DJs playing different beats all night long. The sunrise on January 1st, awaited by loud visitors, is a sideshow. Tickets range from US$ 300. More information.