This Bohemian Beach Town Is Brazil’s Answer to Tulum
BY MONICA MENDAL - September 4, 2018
Trancoso’s draw isn’t exactly what you’d expect. There’s nothing fancy about this tiny beach town in Brazil’s coastal state of Bahia. There are no resorts, no Michelin star restaurants, or nightlife. No strip of luxury boutiques, or intimidating marinas with 120-foot yachts. So what is it, exactly, that has made Trancoso the It-destination among a stylish crowd of international celebrities—Naomi Campbell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyoncé—and fashionable Brazilian jet-setters? It’s precisely the lack of trappings that brings people in, says Wilbert Das, Co-Owner and designer of Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa: “What makes Trancoso special is its simplicity.”
Trancoso was once a fishing town. In the 1970s, hippies moved in, living harmoniously with the fishing population. Together, they enjoyed the area’s unspoiled beauty: its stretches of untouched beaches, and the town’s grassy central square. “The hippies and natives that have lived secluded for decades are now banding together to share their tropical haven with the world,” says Das, “by preserving its natural simplicity that makes it so special.” Local hoteliers, artisans, and fishermen have protected their secluded paradise by building intimate pousadas and boutique hotels; maintaining the unpretentious string of restaurants and cafes. The beaches and town square have remained unspoiled by large hotel chains and swarms of tourists who prefer something a little more polished.
Located in its own secluded spot on Nativos Beach just a short five-minute drive from central Trancoso, Villas de Trancoso is a tranquil, effortlessly chic oasis. Offering only a few suites, most of the property’s accommodations are villas a short walk from the hotel’s restaurant, pool, and beach. UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa, brainchild of Wilbert Das (in collaboration with local artisans), former Creative Director of Diesel, is the most well-known hotel in Trancoso, probably because Anderson Cooper, Solange Knowles, and Alessandra Ambrosio are among the celebrity clientele that frequent the property. It’s no surprise why: With its relaxed boho-chic design, UXUA promotes the essence of Trancoso in its restaurant, spa, beach bar and colorful casas. Solo travelers should try Casas da Vila, which is walking distance from the quadrado. The warm colors of Trancoso are manifested in each of the eight suites, and the cozy nature of the property makes for a perfect opportunity to meet other travelers. Casa de Perainda is another tiny guest house with just five bedrooms, a breakfast offering, and a shared pool—its communal feel captures the essence of Trancoso in a nutshell.
Where to Eat
While Trancoso is tiny, there is no shortage of good eats. Start your morning with breakfast at The Coffee Bar just off of the quadrado. Run by a Baiana and her Australian husband, this is an unpretentious coffee joint that serves an inexpensive but hearty breakfast, and fresh fruit juices and smoothies to cure your Caipirinha-induced hangovers. Trancoso’s oldest restaurant, Capim Santo, which opened as a macrobiotic cafe 30 years ago, serves some of the most traditional Bahian seafood dishes in town. Go here for the buffet to indulge in all of the flavors. Il Mercato is both an antique shop and Italian trattoria hidden behind a tiny facade in the middle of the quadrado. Inside is a large space decorated in colorful cushions and lanterns, making it one of the prettiest restaurants in Trancoso. Another romantic dinner spot is El Gordo, a charming Portuguese-inspired restaurant set along a serene pool with clifftop views. With locations in the quadrado and on the beach in Praia dos Coqueiros, Silvana & Ciahas been a local favorite since its opening in the ’80s. The moqueca—Brazilian fish stew—is one of the best in Brazil. For another signature Bahianese restaurant located just beside the quadrado, try Cacau, a favorite among visitors (and locals!) for its easy introduction to the local cuisine. If you need a break from pan de queijo, head to local favorite Restaurante Maritaca for some pizza.
Where to Drink
The unique thing about partying in Trancoso is that you might be dancing among hippies in flip-flops and international visitors in Chanel alike. Whether you choose to dress down or dress up, the atmosphere will always feel warm. The sceneiest bar in Trancoso, Uxua Praia Bar, is naturally on the beach, with an abandoned fishing boat serving as its centerpiece (it’s been transformed into a sustainable bar that serves tropical cocktails). Cabana Do Andrea, located on Praia dos Coqueiros, is another beach bar popular among locals that serves pizza as a departure from traditional Brazilian cuisine. Walking 15 minutes down the beach, you’ll hit Rio Verde Beach, with a variety of casual but charming bars uncluttered by tourists, like Pé na Praia and Bahia Bonita. For a bar closer to the center of town, try Cafe de la Musique, one of the bigger party scenes in Trancoso. Here, you’ll find beautiful people partying on the beach through the early hours. If it’s a chiller, dressed-up cocktail bar you’re looking for, Jacaré do Brasil is one of the trendiest spots in Trancoso, with pops of tropical colors and prints infused in the otherwise rustic outdoor space.
Where to Shop
You might recognize high-end brazilian swimwear labels Adriana Degreas and Lenny Niemeyerwhen you stumble upon their boutiques in town. Start here to get their cheeky cuts and tropical prints for your week ahead. For locally crafted home items and basket bags by the dozen, pop into Divino’s and Marcenaria Trancoso. If you’re prioritizing sustainable shopping, Cheia de Gracas has a collection of plastic artwork by artist Laila Assef, who transforms recycled trash into treasures in the form of colorful plastic chandeliers, jewelry, and other homeware.