FLY: Airlines TACV, GOL, Azul, TAM, Avianca and TAP taxi into Pinto Martins-Fortaleza International Airport, located four miles from the downtown area. (Airport code: FOR)
SEE: The capital city of Fortaleza (“fortress”), in the state of Ceara, is a coastal beauty with over 21 miles of beaches to explore. Praia do Futuro, or Future Beach, is known for its barracas, kiosk restaurants serving fresh seafood on the sand. Although the ocean can be rough at times for swimmers, the beach is known for kite surfing and wind surfing. Fishermen can be seen on Mucuripe Beach using their jangadas, handmade wooden boats, and along the coastal Beira Mar thoroughfare, craftsmen sell traditional Brazilian merchandise while revelers search for the top spots to dance forro, a typical rhythm from the northeast of Brazil. Fortaleza has invested in numerous projects to improve tourism such as Centro Dragao do Mar de Arte e Cultura (Sea Dragon Art and Culture Centre), which is a hub for cinemas, museums and a planetarium, while thrill seekers can ride fast-paced slides at Beach Park, Brazil’s largest water park.
STAY: Only two blocks from Fortaleza’s coast and Future Beach, is the 110-room Praia Mansa Suite Hotel offering comfortable 1- and 2-bedroom suites with a living room and balcony. Internet access is available in public areas and guests are served a complimentary breakfast each morning at the hotel’s onsite restaurant; the hotel’s pool is a good place to unwind from the beach crowds. (bhg.net)
WORLD CUP VENUE: Castelao Stadium (capacity: 58,704); will host the second group match.
FLY: Augusto Severo International Airport, located 10 miles from the city, services domestic flights to and from major cities in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Sao Paulo) on TAP, Avianca, GOL, and TAM airlines. (Airport code: NAT)
SEE: Natal is the capital city to Rio Grande do Norte and also a province with miles of beaches to explore and outdoor adventure experiences such as surfing, dune-buggy riding, and sand surfing (sitting on a board and sliding down a dune). The city’s beautiful beaches can be found both north and south—for thrilling dune-buggy rides take a trip to Genipabu and Buzios, while an hour north at Maracajau snorkelers will appreciate the natural pools of shallow waters where reefs are in abundance. The most famous tourist spot in Natal is Ponta Negra, a clean and cozy neighborhood beach with shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. For a day away from the sun and sand, visitors can appreciate the collection of archaeological, geological and paleontological (an impressive collection of dinosaur bones) discoveries on display at Museu Camara Casudo.
STAY: Pestana Natal Beach Resort, located only 11 miles from the airport, offers 182 rooms and six suites, including Presidential and Family suites with ocean views and jacuzzis. With two restaurants on site, guests can taste the best in Portuguese cooking; a spa, fitness center, Pestana Kids’ Club, and three swimming pools can also be found at the all-inclusive property. For adventure seekers, the resort provides buggy riding, snorkeling, wind and kite surfing. (pestana.com)
WORLD CUP VENUE: Arena das Dunas (capacity: 42,086).
FLY: American Airlines flies direct from Miami to Recife International Airport, located 20 minutes from the city-center. TRIP, Azul, GOL, and TAM airlines provide domestic flights to Natal, Fortaleza, Brasilia and many other cities in Brazil. (Airport code: REC)
SEE: A major beach city, Recife (“reef”), is the capital of the northeast state of Pernambuco, which stretches along 112 miles of beautiful coastline with populated and quiet beaches to explore. The area’s most recognized spot is the 4-mile-long Boa Viagem Beach—a mix of the metropolitan with hotels, shops and restaurants dotting the shoreline and seaside relaxation that is popular with tourists. Considered the “Brazilian Venice” because of its layout of connecting rivers, bridges, and islands, Recife is one of the largest cities in Brazil with over 1.5 million inhabitants. Aside the beachside fun, visitors can go shopping at Casa da Cultura, a centuries-old former prison where each cell was converted into a small shop selling local goods and crafts. For a day trip, head north to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Olinda, a charming cobblestone town of baroque-style churches, gardens, old mansions, and historic architecture.
STAY: Only two miles from the airport and located at Boa Viagem Beach is Golden Tulip Recife Palace, featuring a fitness center, sauna, pool, 24-hour room service, and two restaurants with a poolside bar/lounge. Guests receive complimentary breakfast daily and all 297 rooms are ocean view with standard amenities such as a mini-bar and safe, Internet access, and 32-inch LCD TVs. The Golden Tulip Recife is near local attractions like Igreja Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem and Parque Dona Lindu. As of press time, the Sheraton Reserva do Paiva Hotel and Convention Center in Recife is scheduled to open April 1, 2014. (goldentulip.com); (starwoodhotels.com)
WORLD CUP VENUE: Arena Pernambuco (capacity: 42,849).
Salvador da Bahia
FLY: American Airlines offers nonstop service from Miami to Deputado Luis Eduardo Magalhaes Airport; daily flights to Salvador from other Brazilian cities are available. The airport is 18 miles from the city-center. (Airport code: SSA)
SEE: Once the capital of Portugal’s New World colony and now the capital of the state of Bahia, this birthplace of Brazil is a living museum, brimming over with 17th and 18th century buildings and gold-laden churches. Travelers to this part of Brazil will be immersed in an ambiance that looks and feels more Afro-European than Latin; to truly get into the vibe, recommend clients hang out during one of the city’s many colorful festivals. The city is divided into Cidade Alta (Upper City) and Cidade Baixa (Lower City), connected by the beautifully restored Art Deco Elevador Lacerda (elevator). Both areas are home to varied must-see sights, including the lower town’s 18th century Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, a popular shrine with the locals, and Mercado Modelo, chock-full of crafts including characteristic musical instruments, hammocks, woodcarvings, religious items and the popular ribbons from Senhor do Bonfim. In the upper town, visitors will find the Pelourinho district, the city’s historic center and a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s full of charming boutiques and colorful mansions and buildings. Museums abound such as the Museu Afro-Brasileiro, exhibiting crafts that link the Brazilian and African traditions.
STAY: The Sheraton da Bahia Hotel opened May of this year in a historic building that was completely renovated and is located within easy access of theaters, museums and Pelourinho. It offers 284 guestrooms and suites with amenities such as WiFi, 40-inch LED flat-screen TV with cable channels, and acoustically designed windows. Recommend guests book the Club Rooms or suites, which offer Sheraton Club Lounge access with complimentary breakfast and a variety of beverage options. Onsite, guests will find a family-friendly pool with an adjacent bar, as well as the Spa Vitalita by L’Occitane. (starwoodhotels.com)
WORLD CUP VENUE: Arena Fonte Nova (capacity: 52,048 spectators); will host four group matches, three of them featuring top-seeded teams, as well as a Round-of-16 match and a quarter-final tie.