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Travel & Holiday

Brazilian appeal

The city of Itajai boasts lovely beaches and a heritage brought over by European immigrants
The Straits Times - March 4, 2012
By: Huang Huifen
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Brazilian appeal The Igreja Matriz do Santissmo Sacramento --PHOTO: LEE SHWU HUEY

There is much more to the port city of Itajai in Santa Catarina state in southern Brazil than its harbourside.

Besides being one of the largest ports in Brazil and an industrial fishing capital for its abundance of tuna, sardines and shrimps, it is also a tourist destination known for its stretches of stunning beaches, clusters of colonial heritage buildings and wide array of seafood delights.

The former Portuguese colony with a population of over 183,000 is now a melting pot of cultures, thanks to the wave of immigration from Germany and Italy in the 19th century.

Singaporean Lee Shwu Huey, 27, has been living in Itajai for a year. She is an accountant at Keppel Singmarine Brasil, a shipyard operated by Keppel Offshore & Marine's specialised shipbuilding arm, Keppel Singmarine.

Ms Lee, who is engaged to Mr Tan Kean Yap, 31, a project manager with Keppel Singmarine Brasil, loves Itajai for its seasons.

'In summer, the beaches are filled with crowds basking in the sun,' she says. 'In winter, there is a change in attire as people get ready for the cold, while in spring, streets are decked out in decorations for festivals. In autumn, the streets are full of flowers.'


Tell us one little-known fact about the city.

During the 19th-century mass migration from Europe to Brazil, many immigrants settled in Itajai, giving the city its German and Italian heritage. Buildings such as the Historical Museum reflect the architecture influence of Germany.

On the commerce front, Itajai is the biggest frozen meat exporter in Brazil and a proportion of Singapore's supply of imported frozen chicken comes from Santa Catarina.

The best time to visit is...

In October, when the city is in a festive mood for Marejada (, the biggest festival in Itajai which celebrates the city's Portuguese roots and its fishing culture with song, dance and traditional dishes such as cod fishcakes. Started in 1987, the Marejada will be held on Oct 11 and 12 this year.

October is also spring season and the temperature is around 21 deg C. But it is also the time of torrential storms, so bring a waterproof jacket along. There may also be floods.

In November 2008, a serious flood affected 1.5 million people in Santa Catarina. Last September, there was also a flood but the city was more prepared, so the damage was less compared to 2008.

What is one item you must take along?

A universal adaptor as Brazil uses mainly flat-blade and round-pin plugs such as those in the United States and Europe.

How do you get from Singapore to your city?

Fly on Singapore Airlines to Sao Paulo, with a stopover in Barcelona, from $2,563 return based on two to go. Then take a one-hour domestic flight on TAM airlines ( for about 280 Brazilian reals (S$204.66) to Navegantes, where the nearest airport is. From there, take a short ferry ride ( which costs 6 Brazilian reals to Itajai.


The best way to explore the city is...

Rent a car from companies such as Yes Aluguel de Carros (, Inova Aluguel de Carros ( and Carrera Locadora ( for about 99 to 170 Brazilian reals a day. If not, call for a taxi from Radio Taxi Itajai (tel: +55-47-3045-4747, It is advisable to go by the meter. A taxi ride within the city centre costs about 15 Brazilian reals. Carry small change as some drivers may not have enough change.

Which places in the city excite you?

Morro da Cruz, the highest point in Itajai at 180m above sea level. From there, you can take in a panoramic view of the city. Another place I like to go to is Praia da Atalaia (Av. Dep. Francisco E. Canziani), a beach destination about 2km from the city centre. You can jog along a footpath leading to a lighthouse or just stroll along the beach to enjoy the sea breeze and catch the sunset.

Do you need to know the language to get around?

You need to know basic Portuguese as it is rare to find people who can speak English. It helps to know a few phrases such as ola (say owe-la) for 'hello', onde fica (say own-dee fee-kah) for 'where is', voce fala ingles (say voe-say fah-lah eng-lace) for 'do you speak English' and quando custa (say kwan-too coosh-tah) for 'how much does it cost'.


Where is the best place for breakfast?

Mercado Publico Municipal (Av. Ministro Victor Konder, S/N, closed on Sundays), a public fish market which sells fresh seafood such as squid, prawns and salmon. You can buy seafood and get the restaurants there to cook it for you. My colleagues and I had brunch there and were charged only 20 Brazilian reals for the cooking. It costs about 15 Brazilian reals a kg for squid, 20 Brazilian reals a kg for prawns and 25 Brazilian reals a kg for salmon.

The coolest place to chill out at is...

Porto da Sereia (Konder Minister Victor Avenue, 592 - Riverside Farm, tel: +55-47-3348-5365,, which serves delicious seafood such as grilled lobster, hake and halibut.

The cosy ambience, created by warm lighting and a homely decor, makes it a relaxing place to hang out with friends. The price of a meal is about 50 Brazilian reals a person.

Do not leave the place without trying...

The meat buffet from Churrascaria Vieira Grill (Rua Raimundo Binder, 80, tel: +55-47-3349-1124). It serves a buffet selection of 20 types of meat such as beef, venison and picanha (a prime cut of top sirloin cap) cut straight from the skewer. It is a typical Brazilian style of eating meat and costs 55 Brazilian reals a person.


What is a big no-no in your city?

Discrimination is unacceptable. Everyone must be treated with equal respect regardless of gender, background or appearance.

What is the one thing you must do in your city?

Visit the beaches such as Atalia beach, Brava beach and Parrot's Beack, and see stunning coastal landscapes and pristine waters. Jog along the coastline, swim or surf.

Do not leave the place without visiting...

Cultural sights such as the Church of the Immaculate Conception (Praca Vida Ramos, S/N, tel: +55-47-3349- 6195), the first chapel in town dating back to 1924, and the Historical Museum (Rua Hercilio Luz, 681, Centro, tel: +55-47-3348-1335), where you can view more than 2,000 exhibits such as military uniform and old radios.

It is housed in a heritage building built in the art nouveau style.


What is worth buying in your city and where is the best place to get it?

Things are generally expensive in Itajai except for beer, which costs 0.99 Brazilian reals a can for local beer, and Havaianas flip-flops, which costs 28.90 Brazilian reals for an average pair. But there is some beautiful handicraft sold at the Mercado Publico Municipal. Prices range from 5 Brazilian reals for a woven bamboo basket to 40 Brazilian reals for an intricate door tag. You can try to bargain up to 5 per cent off if you buy in large quantities.


Are there any festivals that travellers should look out for?

Besides Marejada, the week-long Itajai Music Festival (, usually held in September, is one that music lovers can look out for. It is jam-packed with performances and workshops on Brazilian music.


Are there things to see or do outside the city?

A must-go is Balneario Camboriu (, a popular beach destination a 15-minute drive from Itajai. There are several beaches such as Central and Taquaras with activities ranging from beach volleyball to surfing to diving. It has a vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene.

Florianopolis (, the capital city of Santa Catarina, an hour from Itajai, has 42 beaches. It is dubbed the Ironman City because it hosts the Ironman Brazil, an annual triathlon held in May.



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