One of the most consistently underrated cities in Brazil, Fortaleza offers travelers on a South American cruise the opportunity to explore a beautiful, historic, laid-back city before heading to some of the best beaches in the entire country.
If you look at Brazil on a map and see just how much of the massive country borders the Atlantic Ocean, you can surmise that the country has its fair share of beautiful beaches. Fortunately for you, many of them are centered right around the city of Fortaleza. Frommers writes: "What sets Fortaleza's beaches apart from Brazil's other 8,000km (4,960 miles) of coastline is the combination of colorful cliffs and huge sand dunes, best seen in nearby communities such as Morro Branco, Canoa Quebrada, and Jericoacoara."
Another recommended beach to visit is Cumbuco. There's a restaurant and bar right on the beach, so local specialties like chilled coconut water are never far away. If you visit as part of a shore excursion, you'll get a free dune buggy ride. Many locals will also charge small fees for horseback riding on the beach or riding in a carriage.
Yet if you simply stick to the beaches, you'll miss a good chunk of what Fortaleza has to offer. At the beachside bar, you'll likely encounter a beverage called Cachaca. The museum and distillery that produces this spirit, made from sugar cane, is not too far from the city. Tour the museum and learn about the history behind the beverage, and be sure to take back a complimentary bottle of this delicious drink.
Back in Fortaleza proper, there's a lot to see. There's a planetarium and Museum of Contemporary Art housed in the same complex, known as Centro Cultural Dragao do Mar. Another sight to see is Fortaleza's beautifully-restored Cathedral, which features some stunning stained glass windows.