Maragogi, a chilled alternative to Porto de Galinhas, North-East Brazil
We’ve heard some bad things about the infrastructure and beaches of Maragogi, but for us, it was a pretty thumbs-up break after spending a while in the city of Salvador. We found Maragogi beaches to be clean – perhaps not postcard perfect immediately in front of the town, but a short walk to some very relaxing, litter-free sands with greeny-blue water. There are a few well-known things to do in Maragogi, such as visiting the nearby natural pools, or ‘Gales’, which has in recent years made it more and more popular with domestic tourists, who flock to the North-East for their summer and winter holidays. In all honesty, working out how to get to Maragogi and out again was a tiring process that almost had us giving up, but we’re very glad we persevered! This guide is going to cover how to get to Maragogi from Maceió, and how to get from Maragogi to Porto de Galinhas or Recife afterwards, as well as things to do, where to stay, and a little info about Barra Grande, Maragogi’s neighbouring town.
People are right to say that tourism infrastructure isn’t well developed in the Maragogi area yet, but for us it was nice to not be totally surrounded by the typical Brazilian style of tourism, which can be a little overwhelming at times. Don’t stress too much about trying to find a place to book any activities in Maragogi, though – just walk towards any beach and you’ll have at least 3 people waving laminated photos at you. You should be able to barter on prices if it’s low season or the day before/of the tour, and always check with your accommodation what the ballpark figure should be so you know they’re not starting negotiations too high to rip you off (God loves a trier).
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Getting to and from Maragogi
What a palaver. Truly. We spent so so much time researching how to get to Maragogi, and then even more time trying to work out how to bloody leave. There’s not a huge amount of info online that feels trustworthy, so we’re going to lay out everything we found for you about how to get to and from Maragogi. Hold on tight, this section is going to be about as long as the journey itself.
How to get to Maragogi from Maceió
This is the easiest way to get to Maragogi. From Maceió bus terminal, you need to go to the general ticket desk outside the toilets next to the main entrance and get a ticket for 1R$ to gain entry to the platforms. Then head to the back of the terminal where there will be an employee to scan your ticket through the turnstile, and from there you need to take two left turns until you reach Deck 10. Buses/vans from Maceió to Maragogi leave fairly frequently (the 6:15pm worked perfectly with our day-bus from Salvador), cost 22R$ per person and they look a little something like this:
The bus from Maceió to Maragogi takes around 2 and a half hours. It’s not horrendously comfortable, but it does the job.
Getting to your accommodation from Maragogi bus terminal
Non-tourist agency vans will drop you off at the Maragogi ‘terminal’, which is actually just a length of pavement that vans happen to wait along. It’s just a short walk into the centre of town or beach from there.
If your accommodation is outside of Maragogi centre, taxis will no longer be running after 7:30pm, at which time you’ll need to take a mototaxi from Rua Albert C. Branco, near the Bradesco bank, so factor that into your planning if you have a wheely suitcase – although arguably it would be quite funny to watch a suitcase being wheeled behind a motorbike at 50mph.
Even with our backpacks, we found it very difficult to keep balanced and not get dragged back when the mototaxi got up to speed. Luckily, they provided helmets! Mototaxis to Barra Grande cost 7R$, anywhere within Maragogi should be a little less. There is a price list stuck up inside the key box of the mototaxi rank, so make sure you’ve defined a price before hopping on the back of a bike – we got ripped off a little the first time.
How to get from Maragogi to Porto de Galinhas
Well, it’s more complicated than looking at a map would suggest. There currently exists no public bus (ônibus) route between Maragogi and Porto de Galinhas. If you were to take the vans that leave from the Maragogi bus terminal, you would need to first go to Barreiros, then change vans to go to Ipojuca, then to Porto de Galinhas. When we shopped around along the beachfront of Maragogi, private taxis arranged through tourist agencies would cost between 250 and 280R$ per car.
So, how did we get around this without taking 4 public buses?! We took a tour! One of the key things we wanted to see from Porto de Galinhas was Praia dos Carneiros, the iconic beach with a little white and green church on it. Turns out, it’s right in the middle of Maragogi and Porto de Galinhas, and so we would have had to get a tour out of either town to see it anyway – why not kill 2 birds with one transfer? Using the company company ‘Agência Maragogi Receptivos Viagens & Turismo’ , which has an office right at the end of the Maragogi beachfront (next to a lady who cooks some BANGING espetinhos), we managed to negotiate the 100R$ tour down to 85R$ per person for the next day. This included a hotel pick-up at 8am, minibus transfer to Praia dos Carneiros, a 2-hour catamaran tour (more on this later), bottled water and the onward transfer to our hotel in Porto de Galinhas. For £17 each!
A cheaper way to do this if our days had matched up would have been to take the Real Alagoas van, which goes from the Maceió bus terminal to Ipojuca once a week – Wednesday 6:30pm – and passes through Maragogi, but doesn’t have an official stop there. On this van, it costs 20.10R$ to get from Maragogi to Ipojuca, and then (late at night) you would need to transfer from Ipojuca to Porto de Galinhas.
Our hotel manager reckoned he could get us a regular taxi direct to Porto de Galinhas from Maragogi for 120R$, but we were already sold on the Praia dos Carneiros tour by the time he told us. Worth keeping in mind, but you’ll probably need a local to arrange it for you to get those sorts of prices!
How to get from Maragogi to Recife
This route is also best served by private vans. Real Alagoas vans do offer direct van transfers from Maragogi to Recife – BUT it’s only on Wednesdays at 8:30pm. The Real Alagoas van costs 32R$ terminal to terminal.
If you’re not needing to leave Maragogi on a Wednesday, check for tours with the tour agencies along the Maragogi beachfront. You may find something of interest that you can use as a bus transfer.
Weather in Maragogi: when to visit
HAWWWWT. Average temperatures are at their highest in July (31 degrees Celsius) and lowest in July & August (26 degrees), but that probably just makes winter more pleasant. Rainfall is at its lowest in August/September, and highest in May/June.
Remember though that tourism in North-Eastern Brazil gives a punch in July and January, when lots of companies give their employees the whole month off.
Things to do in Maragogi
1. Visit the Maragogi natural pools
One of the top things to do Maragogi is its natural pools, or ‘Galés’. Maragogi is located on the Costa dos Corais, or Coral Coast, which is what forms the pools in the sea. These natural pools aren’t right next to Maragogi, you will need to take a boat tour, but on a clear day they can be absolute beauts. Boat tours will cost around 50R$. Lots of people take this as a day-trip from Porto de Galinhas, so expect it to be busy on a weekend or during holiday periods (notably July & January).
2. Sail on a tour to Praia dos Carneiros
Ok, maybe not sail. Sit in a 90-man boat with a beer and speed past the beach might be a better way of phrasing it. As mentioned before, we used the Praia dos Carneiros tour from Maragogi as a transfer to Porto de Galinhas, which saved us both money and a travel day. Praia dos Carneiros is famed for Capela de São Benedito, the church that sits right on the beach, surrounded by blue water and palm trees. The boat tour will stop at the church for you to queue for a photo op, but if you want to avoid this indignity make sure you walk down to the church before the boat tour starts; most will give you a waiting period in the hopes that you pre-order a lunch from the restaurant there (all lunches need to be pre-ordered at this point in time, by the way). There will be far fewer people there during this time, and a greater chance of maybe even having the place to yourself for like, 15 seconds.
Praia dos Carneiros typical tour itinerary
Once loaded onto the catamaran, other than the iconic church of Praia dos Carneiros, the boat tours typically also include a stop at a nearby sand bar (a different one to that of Barra Grande). The sand bar is quite cool in the breathing time between some boats leaving and others arriving, but prepare yourself for the possibility that it can get pretty busy and it’s really not that large at high tide. You can buy drinks and snacks during any of the stops. We suggest a few beers and caipirinhas to take your mind off the crowds – a strategy that worked nicely for the overcrowded beaches of Arraial do Cabo, too.
There are natural pools nearby, but at the time that we went the tide was already up by 9am, covering them. 7am was apparently the best time to go and see them!
We’re not even gonna include the last beach stop as a real tour activity, because we’re not exaggerating when we say we couldn’t see the sand. Beach chairs and tables were actually put in the sea to make way for all the visitors walking. Frustratingly, the beach they take you to is literally a coxinha’s throw away from an empty paradise beach 5x the size, separated by some big rocks. We needed a hell of a strong caipirinha for this one, but others seemed happy to while away the time covering themselves in mud which we guess is a thing there. In hindsight, maybe they’d just found the super-strong caipirinha stall.
After the tiny beach, the boat takes you back to the first beach, where you’ll have about 45 minutes to have the lunch you pre-ordered. Except you didn’t pre-order lunch, because you’re smart and you didn’t want to spend double the going rate for a plate of meat and rice, and you knew that while everyone else is eating you’d have the beach ALL TO YOURSELF. YAAAASSSSSS. Seriously, this is your time to relax and enjoy this gorgeous paradise.
After that, the bus is loaded up and you head to Porto de Galinhas. Those actually doing the tour for the tour’s sake will have 2 hours in the town before being taken back to Maragogi. Those using this as a means of transport will be dropped off at the door of their accommodation. Not bad, actually!
Visiting Praia dos Carneiros without a guide
If you had access to a car and didn’t mind skipping the other stops of the boat tour (you’re not missing out on much), you could drive to the entrance of the park in (near Tamandaré), pay a minimum of 15R$ per person and walk down the beach to check out the famous church yourself. Get there early though; organised tours start pulling up their minibuses at around 9am.
3. Walk the Visgueiro Trail
Vilha do Visgueiro is a hike through an ecological park, with the climax being a 500-year old tree that takes nine adults in a chain to get their arms around. Pretty impressive if you’re into that kind of thang. It’s also a great chance to spot some wildlife in the forest, and finish off with some waterfalls. This is an approximately 6km hike (3-4 hours), and is actually closer to São José da Coroa Grande than Maragogi.
4. Buggy beach-hop
Both speedy and novel, these buggies are one of the best ways to get around in the Maragogi area. They are all-terrain, which allows you to park up on any beach that takes your fancy.
5. Chill in Barra Grande
Portuguese town names often don’t leave much to the imagination 😉 Barra Grande, meaning ‘big [sand] bar’ is famous for its…. Big sand bar. To get to it, you can either get a boat tour from any man who shouts at you in the vicinity of Meraki Beach Bar, or you can hire a buggy to beach hop for the day, or you can just walk about 25 minutes north along the beach. The sand bar is only visible when the tide is out (early morning or late afternoon), and to be honest it’s way more impressive when seen through the eyes of a drone (have a wee google). Nonetheless, it’s a cool thing to walk along, and at the end the locals have taken the initiative to place a floating inflatable obstacle course to have something to upsell to all the boat tours.
Getting to Barra Grande from Maragogi
To get to the town of Barra Grande from Maragogi, ask around at the bus terminal to see who is heading in that direction next. Ask them to tell you when to get off; they’ll drop you on the main road. The distance between Maragogi and Barra Grande is not far – some 2km. If after 7:30pm, you’ll need to get a mototaxi from the marquee on Rua Albert C. Branco.
To return to Maragogi, stand at the petrol station on the main road outside Barra Grande and flag the next bus – this should cost around 3R$ to Maragogi terminal. Note that there aren’t many late night options from Barra Grande to Maragogi, and it doesn’t have its own taxi or mototaxi rank.
Visiting Maragogi vs Barra Grande
We ended up staying in Barra Grande instead of Maragogi, which was both good and bad. The bad was that we had to get mototaxis if we wanted to return home late (after 7:30pm), and Barra Grande itself doesn’t have a taxi or mototaxi rank so flagging a bus down from the main road is the only option to leave the town. Most of the roads in Barra Grande aren’t paved, so if it rains prepare to get muddy! Barra Grande is a lot smaller than Maragogi, so it doesn’t have an ATM to withdraw cash and has far fewer options for eating, sleeping and arranging any tourism activities. It doesn’t even have a supermarket, so if you’re cooking for yourself, be aware that your ingredients may be limited to whatever’s in the cornershop.
However, the tranquillity of Barra Grande was just what we needed after almost a week in the vibrant city of Salvador. Walking for miles and miles with turquoise waters on one side, palm trees on the other and white sand beneath our feet was the absolute bees knees. Maragogi is a lot more populated with both locals and tourists, so it feels like less of a peaceful escape from the world. The beaches at Barra Grande were slightly better than Maragogi, below.
Where to stay in Maragogi/Barra Grande
We stayed in a fairly new hotel called Pousada Barra Grande, and despite its freshness causing some confusion with the first mototaxi, once we found it we absolutely LOVED IT. Two refreshing pools, quiet road, excellent breakfast, very clean, plus we got a double room with ensuite for £20 a night (~100 R$). The manager went out of his way for us several times, including ordering a pizza for us when it was raining. The hotel is just 2 blocks from the main road where you get the bus, and 2 blocks from the beach. We really did love our stay there!
All-inclusive hotels in Maragogi
If you’re searching for a little more luxury (ok, a lot more luxury), check out the Salinas Alagoas resort. It looks INSANE and truly caters to everything.
Comparing Maragogi to Porto de Galinhas
This might be a matter of taste, but for us, in a competition of Maragogi vs Porto de Galinhas, Maragogi would win every time. We unfortunately visited the North-East during July, which is when school holidays and Brazil’s love of setting all their employees 30 days of annual leave at the same time ensure that every part of Porto de Galinhas is crowded. On the beach, this ain’t too pretty. Rows and rows of deck chairs span all the way up to the shore, and there were some restaurants so over-worked that the wait to be served was so long we ended up just leaving before ordering.
If, however, you’re looking for that typical holiday vibe, where you can step into a clean, sparkly world with excellent tourist infrastructure and hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants to slink into, Porto de Galinhas is your place. The centre is beautifully designed, and you can easily forget you’re in a developing nation known for its high crime rates.
Maragogi has not been on the tourism radar for so long, so it hasn’t had time to really get the most (or least, however you see it) out of its tourism potential yet. Along the beachfront you’ll still see many mid-level restaurants aimed at a tourist audience, but just one block back from the beach it feels just like any other town. Take things even farther out to Barra Grande, and tourism infrastructure is almost nil, with just 2 or 3 restaurants and a handful of accommodation options.
The beaches are relatively clean, the sea is clear, there are tourist boats (mainly on day trips from Porto de Galinhas!) but they’re often outnumbered by little 2-man fishing boats, and there are stretches of white beach in which there are no parasols, no deck chairs, and no vendors. For us, it was the perfect balance.
Costs in Maragogi vs Porto de Galinhas
Despite Porto de Galinhas being a tourism powerhouse, we didn’t actually feel that much of a sting on the cost of visiting when compared to Maragogi. Both places had cheaper and mid-level options, with Porto de Galinhas being the only one to really offer high-end options too. Accommodation could also be found in around the same price range for decent quality hotels. There isn’t so much hostel-style accommodation in either place, mostly hotels, apartments and B&BS.
To be honest, whether you stay in Barra Grande, Maragogi or Porto de Galinhas, it’ll be hard to ignore what this part of Brazil has to offer. There’s the reason the North-East is the most popular destination for Brazilians. There’s always something to do, foods to try (if you missed it in Bahia, these towns will also do a great moqueca or bobó) and palm trees to watch swishing in the breeze.
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