Visiting to the Lençois in the North of Brazil is not a typical thing to do, even for local Brazilians or Brazil "nuts" like ourselves. As such, this means that Lençois Maranhenses National Park is still one of the most astonishingly beautiful and untouched areas of the country. Composed of sand dunes and surrounded by crystal clear water originating from heavy periods of rain during the rainy season. Here's your quick guide to everything you need to know for planning the perfect adventure to Lençóis Maranhenses.
Exploring São Luis
Almost all trips to Lençóis Maranhenses begin with a stop to the city of São Luis, the biggest city in the region with a population of approximately one million. The city is known as the Brazilian capital of reggae and it has French, Dutch and Portuguese influences from the period of European colonization of the country.
You can fly into São Luis directly from Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasilia. Unfortunately there aren't any direct flights from nearby cities like Manaus or Fortaleza, though a road trip from Fortaleza to São Luis makes for a very cool trip (see more below).
When you visit São Luis you should stay by the beach area or in the historical city center. By the beach the best hotels are the Pestana São Luis, located on Atlantica Avenue next to bars and restaurants; the Luzeiro is another great option with its really big rooms and great service. Whilst in the historical city center the best ‘pousada’ is the Portas da Amazonia, very charming, boutique like, good price and location. For me personally staying in the city center at a pousada is probably the best way to experience the city and its unique history.
While in São Luis it's definitely worth visiting the historical city center: Casa do Maranhao (the Maranhao house museum), Museu Historico e Artistico do Maranhao (the Maranhao history and arts museum), Beco Catarina Mina (the 35 stairs from the 18th century).
The most typical local food of Maranhão is fish with ‘cuxá-rice’ – an African origin recipe of rice and herbs – and some of the best restaurants are Cabana do Sol (local food), A Varanda (seafood), Cheiro Verde (seafood) and Maracangalha (local food).
Lençois Maranhenses: Getting There, Where to Stay & What to Do
After a night or two in São Luis, you'll be ready to move toward your final destination. Getting While exploring Lençóis Maranhenses National Park you'll be staying in the town of Barreirinhas, which is a bout a a 3-4 hour car, bus or van ride from São Luis. The town of Barreirinhas is nothing to write home about and is definitely in a bit of an "awkward stage" as it grows to handle the increasing number of visitors it receives. However, there are several decent lodging options that will serve as a good base for your visit. Most of your tours will be operated from within the hotel which makes for easy logisitics.
Two recommendable properties are the Buriti (located near Barreirinhas center) and Grand Solare Lencois. Our personal favorite however is Porto de Preguiças, located by the Preguiça River, as it has a nice authentic feel and better attention to detail. Once inside your hotel you'll begin your excursions to the ‘Big Lencois’ and ‘Small Lençois’ where you'll ride the sand dunes, swim in the lagoons, play with monkeys. You can also visit local villages, take a boat to meeting point of the nearby beach and river and even arrange to drive your own dune buggy.
For most people, 3 nights is the ideal amount to spend in Lençois Maranhenses as it will guarantee you 2 full days to explore the National Park
Lençois Maranhenses: Wrapping up Your Journey
After 2 – 3 days in the Lençóis you get back to São Luis – take a late transfer at around 02:00pm direct to your flight or hotel. Adventurers might stay in the Lençõis and join the ‘route of emotions’ going down South to the Delta river and then Jericoacora.