Thinking about taking a trip to Brazil? Consider Lençóis Maranhenses for your next travel destination. Located in Maranhão, a state in Northeastern Brazil, lies over 350 acres of white sand dunes and sparkling lagoons. The nearby towns of Santo Amaro and Barreirinhas provide gateways to the Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses. The park is also accessible from Humberto de Campos and Primeira Cruz.

There is not a lot of available information online in English on how to arrive at the Lençóis Maranhenses. I decided to make this post not only to share with you one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world, but also to provide information for foreigners that are not familiar with the travel and accommodation options.

How to get there

If you are travelling internationally or between states, you are going to want to start your journey in São Luís, the capital of Maranhão. I would suggest flying into the Marechal Cunha Machado International Airport and spending a few days in São Luís before embarking on your journey to the Lençóis Maranhenses.* The airport is about a 30 minute drive from the Historic Center. Your three methods of transportation would be to take a taxi, pay for an uber (Around 10 USD), or to take the bus. I would not recommend taking the bus as you will be travelling with all of your luggage. The bus routes and schedules are available through Moovit. You can access the website online or download their mobile friendly application.*

If you are not originally traveling from São Luís or would like more information on transportation options, click here to access Viaje na Viagem.

If you are not travelling by car, your second best option is to pay for bus transportation. I would not recommend renting a car as you will not need it for most of your trip once you are in the Lençóis Maranhenses. In some locations, such as Santo Amaro, you need to pay for daily parking. It is important to note that only vehicles with certified credentials are able to enter the park. Once you reach your accommodation, you will need to pay for certified transportation to visit the dunes.

 

Cisne Branco offers bus transportation from São Luís to Barreirinhas. The trip is about 5 hours long and around 17 USD one way. The address of their rodoviaria (bus terminal) in São Luís is Av. dos Franceses, 1 – Tirirical, São Luís – MA, 65036-283 and they can be reached at (98) 3243-2847. The address of their rodoviaria in Barreirinhas

 

is 727,, R. Anacleto de Carvalho, 647, Barreirinhas – MA, 65590-000 and can be reached at (98) 99143-6133. They offer trips in the morning from 6am-12pm, in the afternoon from 12pm-6pm, and at night from 6pm-12pm. You can access their official website by clicking here.

You are also able to book transportation through Brtur Locação e Turismo. The pricing options are about the same. Their address is Av. Daniel de la Touche, 2000 – Cohama, São Luís – MA, 65074-115 and they can be reached at (98) 3236-6056. You can access their facebook page by clicking here or you can send them an email at reservasbrtur@gmail.com.

Another option to book your transportation is through Coopcart. They offer taxi services. Their address, Av. Eng. Emiliano Macieira, 709 – Tirirical, is located in front of the São Luís airport. They can be found in Barreirinhas at Av. Joaquim Soeiro de Carvalho, s/n – Centro. Their São Luís number is 98) 3258-9239 / 3012-6122 and their number in Barreirinhas is (98) 3349-1511. They charge around 70 reals per passenger (22 USD) or 350 (106 USD) for a private car. You can email them at transportebhs@yahoo.com.br or click here to access their website.

RotaCombo offers van transportation between São Luís and Barreirinhas for 80 reals. Click here to access their website.

G.I. Conect provides van transportation from São Luís to Barreirinhas or Santo Amaro. They have a lot of useful and detailed information available on their website which can be found by clicking here. The price per passenger is around 70 reals (22 USD).

Murotur, a relatively new tourism agency, offers complete packages for destinations in Santo Amaro. Their prices include transportation and shelter. You can call them at (98) 98717-5357 or find them on facebook by clicking here.

Caetes is a travel agency that offers a variety of complete packages and day trips. They have a 5 day tour available that offers tours of São Luís and round-trip transportation to Barreirinhas. You can book a bilingual guide. The program includes a city tour of historic São Luís, bus transportation to Lençóis Maranhenses, all of the major attractions located in Barreirinhas, as well as lodging accommodations and breakfast. You can find more information about this specific package by clicking here. They offer another 5-day package that begins in São Luís and visits both Santo Amaro and Barreirinhas. Click here if you would like more information, including detailed itinerary outlining the trip. You can contact Caetes by sending them an email at receptivo@caetesturismo.com.br.

The main access to Barreirinhas by car is taking highway BR – 135 from São Luís to Bacabeira and following MA-402. The road is paved with asphalt and has good traffic conditions. The trip is around 180 km or 112 miles.

To get to Santo Amaro it is necessary to cross the MA – 402 highway to Povoado de Pedras. You will need to pay around 10 reals (Approximately 3 USD) per day to park your car at the entrance of the city. The local residences provide lots. There are jeeps available for around 20 reals that will provide you with transportation to your hotel.

When to visit

The eastern region of Maranhão is divided into two distinct seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season lasts from February to May. The best time to visit the Lençóis Maranhenses is from May to October, when the lakes are filled with rainwater. You will get the most out of your trip during these months. It is important to note that while the lagoons remain at a decent water level throughout September and October, this season is almost daily accompanied by rain. The dry season lasts from June to January, reaching a low in November. You will find that most of the dunes are dried up or have very little water during these months. The park is open year-round from 8am to 6pm.

Barreirinhas

Where to stay

I visited Barreirinhas at the end of March. The dunes were filled with water and the rain did not interfere with any of our travel arrangements. I highly recommend the following two lodging accommodations.

Gran Lençois Flat Residence

Aside from having air conditioned rooms, free parking, and a huge swimming pool, the breakfast is what really makes this hotel special. You will find a wide variety of fruits, juices, lunch meats and cheese, pastries and breads, cakes, eggs, amongst other foods. Be sure to grab yourself some tapioca! I recommend it with condensed milk and shredded coconut (leite condensado e coco ralado). They also have a back area that leads right up to rua preguiça where you can take boat tours.

Rates are about 90 USD a night.

Pousada Murici. 

Recommended by a friend. I have heard that they offer great food options and are also located along the preguiça river. I am sure that you will be satisfied in either lodging option.

Rates are about 80 USD a night.

Other great options include Pousada do Rio and Pousada Buriti.

 

Things to do

Passeio de 4×4 – Circuito Lagoa Azul

  1. Take a jeep ride from your original destination to the dunes of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.
  2. Enjoy the adventurous ride as you pass through dirt trails and small lakes.
  3. Marvel at the distinct colors and formations of Lagoa Azul, dos Peixes, da Preguiça, da Esmeralda, and da Paz.

GiConnect offers morning and afternoon trips for 80 reals a person (23 USD)

Traguatur offers 5-hour trips for 100 reals (30 USD)

Passeio pelo Rio Preguiças

  1. Vassouras
    1. Restaurant Dona Graça
    2. Local água de coco
    3. Opportunity to see monkeys that live in the mangrove
    4. Artisan shop to buy souvenirs
    5. Take a nap in a hammock
  2. Mandacaru
    1. Pass the lighthouse of preguiça river
    2. Enjoy a view of the dunes and vegetation
  3. Caburé
    1. Optional destination to have lunch
    2. Take a nap in a hammock
    3. Walk on the beach
    4. Perfect location to schedule a four-wheeler trip
      1. 7 hour trip with GiConnect for 350 reals (103 USD)

You can book a boat tour with GiConnect for a value of 90 reals per person (27 USD).

10 – Day Four-Wheeler Trip

Looking for something a little more adventurous? Begin your journey in São Luis and spend three nights in Barreirinhas. Pass through Parnaíba and Jericoacoara, ending your trip in Fortaleza. This trip requires a minimum group of nine people. You can find more information by contacting Tropical Adventure at tropical.adventure@terra.com.br or by visiting their website here. They offer a variety of other options that are worth looking into.

Santo Amaro

Where to stay

Some people will claim that Santo Amaro offers the most beautiful lagoons out of the three cities located in the Lençóis Maranhenses. I visited Santo Amaro twice — in the beginning of September and in the beginning of December. We stayed in a pousada our first trip and were invited to a private condominium area our second trip.

Pousada Agua Doce

Be sure to take advantage of the hammocks outside of your hotel room! This simple pousada offers air conditioned rooms and has a pool area. They have great lunch and dinner options as well as a buffet-style breakfast. You can find more information about their prices and accomodation by checking out their website.

You will find many other lodging accomodations available through TripAdvisor.

Tour Agencies 

Gleyson Turismo

(98) 98454-0159 or (98) 98877-2703

P. Lulayne Dunas

98) 98879-9438 or (98) 3369-1141

Things to do

Passeio de 4×4 

  1. Take a jeep ride from your original destination to the dunes of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.
  2. Enjoy the adventurous ride as you pass through dirt trails and small lakes.
  3. Marvel at the distinct colors and formations of Lagoa da Betânia, da Andorinha, da Gaivota, and do Espigão.

Skybunda

Skiing down the sand dunes is a must for any adventure-seeking traveler. Be sure to speak with your travel agency in advance, expressing that you would like to “esquiar de bunda na areia das dunas”. Your guide will bring a board with him.

Galinha Caipira 

Be sure to try this regional dish during your stay in the Lençóis Maranhenses. What makes this dish so special is that the chicken is found living in nature, producing a better quality meat without industrialization. Our guide stopped at Restaurante Cantinho da Felicidade where we shared a delicious meal including chicken, pasta, rice, beans, and farofa.

Aside from galinha caipira, be sure to indulge in the great selection of seafood that the Lençóis Maranhenses has to offer. You will also find a wide variety of fruit. I highly recommend trying “caju” (the fruit of a cashew).

Casa do Picolé

I could not exclude this ice cream shop from my blog post. The lady behind the counter let me try every single flavor. I recommend that you stop here after your trip to the dunes and grab some tapioca and coco ice cream. You will not regret it!

Rio Formigas (aka Boia Cross)

A little off the beaten path, take a day trip tubing down the Formiga river. The 3km excursion lasts about an hour. A guide will accompany you, helping to make sure that you stay with your group and do not run into any of the plants along the river bank. Your trip will begin at Povoada Cosa, located in the small village of Cardosa. Grab something to eat afterwards and take a swim.

Pousada do Gaucho, Lagoa do Casso MA

We arranged a day trip here with our guide and enjoyed a lunch together. The food was amazing! As this is a pousada, you can certainly spend a night or two here. Take a swim in the lake and relax in one of the many hammocks on site. This place is great for kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle board, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. You can find more information on their website by clicking here.

Important Tips

  1. Although many pousadas and hotels offer wifi access, it is very unlikely that you will have internet connection during your stay.
  2. If you have the opportunity, choose to visit the dunes in the afternoon so that you will be leaving before dark. Nothing is better than watching the sun set over miles of sand dunes and crystal clear water.
  3. Surprisingly, only about 3o years ago, the area of Lençóis Maranhenses was unknown to tourists. With the improvement of transportation and the evolution of the internet, this area is becoming more well-known. It is still growing it’s fame, with many people from Brazil and all over the globe taking the hike to visit this beautiful destination.
  4. Do not forget sunscreen. The sun is very strong and even on a cloudy day you risk getting sunburnt.
  5. Don’t forget to grab yourself some fresh coconut water!

Gostaria de agradecer á minha host family, nossos amigos que viajamos com, e á minha amiga e família dela por me darem a oportunidade de conhecer esse lindo destino. Foi uma viagem maravilhosa e uma experiência incrível que nunca esquecerei.

I would like to say a special thank you to my host family, our friends that we travelled with, as well as my friend and her family for giving me the opportunity to know this beautiful destination. It was an amazing trip and an incredible experience that I will never forget.

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