Wander through sun-drenched streets which smell of cocoa, watching little monkeys scamper along power lines overhead on your way to one of four beautiful white sand beaches or the gloriously green surrounding jungle. Itacaré in Brazil would meet anyone’s idea of paradise. If you’re already in that neck of the woods (or jungle) on your ayahuasca retreat, you really need to stay a while. Itacaré seems to have escaped the gaze of most people who are looking for a getaway from the “real” world. At least, it has so far.
In many ways, visiting Itacaré helps you to connect with a simpler way of life. This is something which your ayahuasca experience may have led you to consider seeking out. I know it did for me. But it’s by no means a boring place to be! You will not be left without things to do on your visit here. Unless, of course, a bit of quiet relaxation with nothing to do but experience the natural beauty from a strictly seated or horizontal position is exactly what you had in mind…
1. Check out the Capoeira
In Itacaré and the surrounding Bahia area, Capoeira – Brazilian martial art dancing – is huge. In addition to being massively impressive to watch, it promotes mind-body connection as well as moving in harmony with music. If you don’t fancy trying it out yourself, you won’t have to go far to find some being practiced or performed. All you need to do is find one local person who is “in the scene” – a.k.a. a capoeirista – and they’ll know all of the local hangouts where it’s currently happening. These change regularly, so any written guide you find will probably not be helpful.
2. Go canoeing
There are plenty of local companies offering kayak, stand-up paddle and canoe hire. To my mind, the best route is the Rio das Costas. After you’ve wound your way through mangrove trees, perhaps stopping at one of the little restaurants along the way, this river ends in some stunning waterfalls where you can take a dip. You can do the rowing yourself, but hiring a local guide is better if you want to get some more details of the stunning local flora and wildlife. The locals also tend to have the completely natural dugout canoes which make for a more pleasant experience than anything made of plastic.
3. Try the food
Bahian cuisine is brilliant. Well it is if, like me, you like Caribbean food, Thai curries or paella. If so, you’ll be a very happy diner. There are some delicious vegan and vegetarian options as well, apart from the delicious meals served during the ayahuasca retreat.
One of the local signature dishes, moqueca, is always my go-to choice wherever it’s being served. Moqueca is perhaps where all those lesser dishes go to party. Sometimes it’s made from shrimp, sometimes fish and in some places you can get a vegan option with plantains or jackfruit (also called jaca). If you haven’t heard of this last, it’s fruit that tastes a little… meaty? Perhaps similar to hearts of palm? In any case, it’s unusual but delicious. This is cooked in coconut milk with spices and served with Pirão, one of the most traditional of traditional Brazilian foods. It’s essentially rice in broth mixed with manioc flour. Manioc has been vital to the Brazilian diet for hundreds of years.
There’s also tapioca, a sort of vegetarian crepe or very light calzone. This is more of a snack or light lunch food rather than an evening meal, but you won’t struggle to find lots of options. There’s a particularly good restaurant a few kilometers out of Itacare called Casa da Tapioca which does very tasty tapioca and natural acai juice and ice cream.
The best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in town are Naturalmente, Alamaim, and Aqua. In short, it’s all natural, it’s all healthy. You definitely need to give it a try.
4. Go surfing
Itacaré has a good reputation amongst Brazilian surfers and also hosts a yearly international surf championship. I don’t do it much myself, but I’m reliably informed there are at least four local beaches of note (three are walkable, one you’ll need to take a bus then walk) if you’re a keen wave rider:
Engenhoca – because it’s so good, this beach can get crowded even though it’s a bit of an effort to get to. This is one of the beaches where the competition is hosted. It’s a 20 minute bus ride from Itacaré followed by another 20 minute walk through a beautiful path in the jungle. The destination is entirely worth it.
Resende – is a small cove only available at low tide. But, at the risk of hyperbole, it’s perfect. It’s merely a short walk away from Itacaré, plus there are very affordable cocktail and coconut stands along the edge to reward you for your very mild exertion.
Tiririca – is only a short walk further on from Resende. It can get much busier as it has more consistent waves, I’m told. The downside, on top of that more crowded nature (which comes with the occasional territorial local surfer), is higher drinks and snacks prices and less peace than neighboring Resende.
Praia Prainha – many local people will insist that you can’t get to this stunning, secluded beach on your own. That’s not true, but you might want to consider a guide the first time as the trail is obvious once you start… but not something you will immediately feel confident of. That said, all you need to do is follow the footpath from Ribiera beach for 45 minutes. Be wary of a local reputation for thieves on the trail despite the beauty of the Mata Atlántica (the Atlantic rainforest) all around you.
Each of these beaches makes an equally worthwhile destination if all you have in mind is sipping a cocktail or coconut drink on your beach towel. All except Prainha have their own little food stands and drinks for refreshments. For Prainha, take your own and be aware that there is very little there in the way of shelter if it looks like there could be a tropical shower.
5. Rest, relax and meditate after your ayahuasca retreat
Many people come here for a ayahuasca retreat and you will almost certainly want to spend some time relaxing and contemplating the natural world on your retreat.. Itacaré is the ideal place for this. There is natural beauty wherever you look, either out towards the ocean or in towards the rainforest.
The local way of life is one of calm. You will find yoga instructors, spas and many places to get a massage. All told, Itacaré in Brazil is the perfect way to end and extend your ayahuasca experience.
About The Author: Silvia Polivoy, PhD, ayahuasca retreat founder
A doctor of clinical psychology, Silvia has been investigating modified states of consciousness for over three decades. After operating her private psychotherapy practice in Buenos Aires for twenty years, Silvia began to run ayahuasca retreats in the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon. She has been doing so since 1996 and is a co-founder of the Spirit Vine center in Brazil where she hosts ayahuasca retreats every month for people who feel the call to connect with their essence at a deeper level.