Trancoso: A Gem of a Town

I spent an entire day making the 250 mile (400 km) journey from Itacaré to Trancoso, a darling beach town known for counting Anderson Cooper among its residents. Arriving there at night, I was again reminded of people’s kindness as I struggled to find my pousada (pousada refers to a small guesthouse or inn in Brazil). A local walked me the entire way there.

I spent my first morning in town at the Quadrado, which is the main historical square here. It is a wide square with one story buildings on both sides each painted a different pastel color. Alongside the small buildings are trees and flowers adding to the color palate. Although stores and restaurants catering to tourists fill most of the buildings, they are reserved and maintain the quaint, fairytale-like atmosphere of the square. On the other side of the square is a historical, tiny church that almost never opens. Behind the church, I got my first glimpse of the sea. A perfect blue color with my name on it.

However, the beach would have to wait. At 1PM on my first day in Trancoso, a new set of tickets to the Olympics were released. I had decided a few weeks ago to stay in South America longer than initially planned and attend the Olympics. I raced back to my pousada and bought my first tickets to the games!

Now I was finally ready to go to the beach in this town famous for its beaches. There are two beaches located in town; Praia dos Coqueiros and Praia dos Nativos. They are separated by a river and surrounded by palm trees. To reach them, one must walk on a raised platform through mangrove trees. During high tide, this area is a small pond full of spiny trunks whereas at low tide it becomes a mud sanctuary. I spent the next few hours relaxing at Praia dos Coqueiros and enjoying the tranquility. High season had just ended so there weren’t many people at the beach. I went for a swim in nature’s giant swimming pool. After the strong waves of Itacaré, it was a nice reminder of how friendly the ocean can be. Going to the beach in the early afternoon was perfect because the day is long and the sun is strong. I had time to swim and relax in the shade and then go for a long walk once the sun had cooled down.

My stroll felt amazing. I was so happy. I felt blessed to be in this place – peaceful, quiet, and beautiful. The ocean is blue, the sand is soft, and I was one of a few people there to witness it.

My days in Trancoso followed the same routine – I would arrive at the beach in the afternoon, relax, swim, read, and then go for a long walk. I found peace in this solitude because everything seemed so special. This type of inner peace and happiness is a feeling hard to describe and rarely felt. I felt like it was meant to be for me to be in this place at this time feeling this way.

I went for another long walk on the beach and left my unimportant items behind as others had told me that it was safe. The longer I walked, the less people there were. A crab poked its head out of its hole to watch me. A few fallen coconuts were pushed around by the waves. By the time I returned to my spot, the sun had started to set. I found almost everything where I had left it – except my book and sunscreen were missing. I began the walk back to town wondering who would take a book in English when a family saw me looking around and asked if I was missing anything. They told me to ask the man at the path exiting the beach about my things. It turns out, this man had picked them up thinking that they were forgotten. It was such a different story from other places I have been. I went for a 1-2 hour walk and returned to find my stuff being watched. I felt elated and relieved that my rose-colored glasses had not been shattered.

That evening, I sat behind the historical church – Igreja de São João Batista – in the Quadrado and watched the moon rise. Above the blue ocean, the clouds turned pink and purple as the moon made its entrance. Trancoso truly is a special place.

Thoughts and Observations

I believe Trancoso is what you want it to be and can vary greatly depending on when you go. Lining the Quadrado are extremely expensive (for Brazil) restaurants and hotels. On my long walks, I passed fancy beachfront hotels and lounges. The stores in the Quadrado catered to clients with money and a sense of style. But it wasn’t pretentious. I felt welcomed. It was easy to enjoy the charm of the Quadrado without spending money or frequenting any of these places. I don’t know if this is because it was offseason, but Trancoso doesn’t seem like the type of town to get too crowded or too loud. I do know, however, that there were a lot of beautiful people there and I’m sure it’s even more so during high season.

Like Itacaré and other touristy towns in Brazil, Trancoso’s tourist area is just a small part of the town. Down the street from the Quadrado are local restaurants and stores. What makes Trancoso different is that the expensive shops continue to dot even the local part of town. Perhaps in high season, there are more foreign tourists, but when I was there I rarely heard English.

Trancoso was one of my favorite places I visited for many reasons. In addition to the beautiful scenery, on my first day there I discovered some foods from home that I had unknowingly missed at the grocery store. I ended up feasting on a mix of American peanut butter, lox & cream cheese, olive tapenade, chocolate, cheese, prosciutto, and wine. It sounds unimportant, but I felt freer and happier after Trancoso – I had my own room, the foods of home, and a perfect beach. It was a hard place to leave.

Observations:

  1. Offseason is a great time to visit Trancoso.
  2. Although I only spent three days there, I would meet people one day and run into them again the next. Even for visitors, it has that small town feel.
  3. Peanut butter exists in Brazil! In fact, Brazil sells both peanut butter and paçoca, a popular Brazilian treat that tastes like a dried piece of peanut butter. It is delicious!
  4. Finding decent cheese is difficult in South America.
  5. Wine is uncommon and usually expensive in Brazil.
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