When people talked to me about Brazil, the first 2 things that used to come to my mind were paradise beaches with turquoise waters and the Amazonas rain forest…
Since I’m traveling around the country, after visiting the Northeast of Brazil, things change. In the Maranhão State you will be amazed with the Lençois Maranhenses National Park, hundreds of kilometres of dunes and turquoise lagoons… Just breathtaking.
The main Gateway to visit this indescriptible landscape is the small town of Barreirinhas, located near the National Park, across the River Preguiça. This town offer a lot of accommodation possibilities and for all kind of budgets. There is also a nice promenade “Beira Rio” next to the river where you can find restaurants, bars and enjoy the sunset while having a drink. All over the town center you might find a lot of travel agencies that offer the trip with the 4×4 to visit the national park. The town is not that big and its safe enough to go out for a walk for dinner or just to go for a stroll. Apart of the promenade next to the river there is not much more to see in Barreirinhas.
Visiting the Lençois Maranhenses National Park
There might be a few reasons why people arrive to Barreirinhas but the main one is to visit the Lençois Maranhenses National Park.
There are many agencies that offer the possibility to visit the park (you can’t go by your own), and they all do more or less the same trips.
Option 1: Passeio Lagoa Azul, 1/2 day trip by 4×4 (5/6 he)
You can take the 4×4 Toyota tour in the morning or in the afternoon (afternoon includes sunset!), and you will go in a group of maximum 12 persons. To get there first you cross the river with a balsa (in the trip included), and then you drive through the dunes and small lagoons until you arrive to the beginning of the National Park, where the Lagoa Azul and other lagoons are. Here you leave your flip-flops in the car and start walking barefoot through the dunes into the lagoons. Even though is very hot, the sand doesn’t burn, because is always moving due to the constant wind! You can take a bath in the non-salty water lagoons to refresh yourself and keep on walking through this breathtaking place. Each tour takes around 5/6 hs, including the driving time to reach the dunes. You can book the trip from your hotel or go directly in one of the agencies located in town. The price is around 60/80 R$ depending on the season and they all pick you up from your accommodation and bring you back there. In the morning they start around 8:30 am and in the afternoon around 2 pm.
Option 2: day trip with quads
Another really great way to get to know the Lençois Maranhenses park is with quads. You can also book this hole day trip from your accommodation. It will be a little bit more expensive that the Option 1 though (around 130/160 R$ per person/day), but it’s worth doing it. They will also pick you up and bring you back the place where you are staying.
Option 3: boat day trip from Barreirihnas to Cabure through the Preguiça River
Another nice day trip is to take the boat to Cabure beach. This day trip also leaves in the morning and you arrive to Cabure for lunch. On the way there you stop @ the Mini Lençois in Vassouras where you can refresh yourself with a nice coconut water. Then you go to the light house in Mandacarú (really worth walking up, the view is very nice) and finally you arrive to Caburé where you can go to the water in the ocean side with the waves, or in the river side. The beach is huge here. They offer you the possibility to rent a quad to go around if you feel like. For lunch here you can have amazing fresh fish for a nice price. Really worth trying it!
Option 4: Trekking around the Lençois Maranhenses (2 or 3 days option)
If you have time, the best way to visit the Lençois Maranhenses is doing a trekking tour around the National Park. You can book it from Barreirinhas or from Atins. The 2 days trip includes one day on the boat until Atins (stoping @ Vassouras, Mandacarú and Cabure) and another day to walk back over the dunes to Barreirinhas. The 3 days trip starts in Atins and goes to the Oasis where you spend the night there, sleeping in hammocks. The prices are around 120 R$ per day. Before booking ask if they include accommodation, transfers or food (normally they don’t, the 120 R$ are just for the guide that goes with you!).
Option 5: Overflying the Lençois Maranhenses with a small plane
If your budget allows it, don’t miss the opportunity to fly over the Lençois Maranhenses National Park. There is one company that offer this trip from around 1000 R$: AVA, the office is located in Barreirihnas where you can do your booking. You can also contact them through their webpage to ask for prices and availability. They start with the sunrise and finish with the sunset so you can choose your best choice.
Tips before booking any of the trips:
- book your trips at least 1 day in advance (they might be fully booked the same day)
- always ask the price before, and if you can, ask in one or two places more to compare (normally the trips that the pousadas offer are very good)
- try to negotiate the price if you get it direct from the agency. In low season you can get a lower rate (around 10 R$ discount)
- if you want to do the trekking tour (which is 100% recommended) try to get a guide which is known in town, or one that the pousada suggests!
Another way to get to the Lençois Maranhenses National Park is directly from Saõ Luís, with a day trip. These are organised through your pousada: normally they pick you up @ 5 am, drive to the National Park, spend a couple of hours there and drive back to arrive around 9 pm to Saõ Luís. This tours cost around 120/150 R$ the hole day, but I only recommend this option, if you are really short in time and can’t spend more time visiting the National Park area.
Due to the fact that many people all over the world arrive to Barreirinhas to visit the Lençois Maranhenses, they offer a full range of accommodation possibilities. (These 3 options offer free WiFi)
Backpackers, Solo travellers:
This was my case, I was traveling alone so I decided to stay in the best hostel in town (and kind of the only one!): Casa do Professor 35 R$ per night with breakfast included. Rodolfo “the professor”, used to be an english professor, and around one year ago he opened this charming hostel located in Barreirinhas. The house is really cozy, with a nice living room where you can find a TV with movies in english and a conformable couch. There is a very complete and clean kitchen where breakfast will be offered, and where you can cook your own meals. There is also a garden with a hammock and the smoking area. They have 2 big rooms with bunk beds, one of them also has a hammock!!! If you are planning to arrive during the weekend you better book in advance. “The Professor” is really helpful, he will be ready to answer any question regarding the National Park tours, getting you a pousada in Atins, or trying to find you a guide to do the trekking through the park! (he also plays the guitar very well! 😉
Quiet low budget option:
If you are traveling alone, with a friend or with your partner, and you are looking for a local quiet experience, you can try the Pousada: Cama, Cafe e Aventura (35 R$ one person, 70 R$ double room). This house converted in to a little bed & breakfast is quite far away from the town center (20 minutes walking), but the house is over the river Preguiça, where you can go for a swim after a very nice breakfast or even use their Stand Up Paddle boards to go into the river (they have a dog, Mel, she loves SUP, too!). They also have bikes to ride into the town (when I was there only one was working… from 5! hope they repaired them). The owner has his own small boat, so they also offer boat trips or alternative options. Staying here is a very local experience, because you will be staying with the family, who lives in the house, too.
Comfortable and central located:
If you don’t have any budget problems this is the place to go in Barreirinhas: Pousada do Buriti (from 210 R$ per night). They offer private rooms with your own terrace, a big garden, pool and super buffet breakfast, tropical way!
Restaurants & Bars
Barreirinhas is really a small town, and doesn’t offer many options regarding restaurants. Most of them are located in the promenade “Beira Rio” next to the river Preguiça. For lunch most of the restaurants offer a buffet where you can get a full plate and they weight it (around 30 R$/kg), which is typical in Brazil (but you need to be veeeeery hungry to choose this option!). The other option is the “prato feito” which is one dish for around 12 R$, and they serve it for you with rice, feijão, pasta and a piece of meat, chicken or fish. There also a few pizzerias: Pizzeria Barlavento and Restaurant O bambu.
How to get there
From Saõ Luís there are two ways to get to Barreirinhas. You can get a transfer door to door from you pousada in Saõ Luís to Barreirinhas (4 hs ride, around 60 R$ per person, and they arrange it directly in your pousada, they normally leave every morning). You can also take the bus that leaves from the main bus station: Cisne Branco (it takes around 5hs, they charge 44 R$ and it leaves at 6am, 8:45am, 2pm and 7:30 pm). You can buy your ticket directly at the main bus station the same day, a couple of hours before the bus leaves. If you are coming from Jericoacoara to the Lençois Maranhenses, you will be arriving to Tutoia, and from there you go to Barreirihnas over Paulino Neves with a 4×4 toyota (around 3 hs trip).
Brazilian Real exchange rate today (09/09/2015):
3,79 R$ = 1 U$
4,23 R$ = 1 EUR
Some words in Portuguese that might be useful during your stay in Lençois Maranhenses and the map of the area as well as from Barreirinhas.
cafe d’amanhã: breakfast
Lençois Maranhenses: the national park with dunes and turquoise lagoons
prato feito: a typical Brazilian dish with rice, pasta, feijão and meat or fish
Rio Preguiça: the river next to Barririnha
sorbete: ice cream
toyota 4×4: the 4×4 cars that take you to the national park and can drive over the dunes
põr do sol: sunset