Skip to Content

This Underrated Beach City In Brazil Is The Next Rio (Except It’s Prettier And Cheaper)

Share The Article

Last Updated

Famous for its upscale Copacabana Beach, unique mix of sprawling concrete jungle and actual jungle, and thriving comunidades, Rio is Brazil's most sought-after tourist destination, but it can be particularly hard on the wallet if you're not willing to compromise on comfort and safety.

Aerial view of Salvador de Bahia

Some of the cheapest four-star hotels in the most touristy parts of town are over $100 in the off-season, a staggeringly-high rate for Latin America, and between overpriced dinners and shopping in dollarized malls, you're easily looking at spending $2,000 in a week on average.

Rio is one of the most expensive cities in the Global South, but lucky for budget-conscious travelers who are keen on experiencing Brazil, it's not reflective of prices elsewhere in the country:

Salvador de Bahia Is Like Rio, But Far Cheaper

Aerial View Of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, South America.jpg

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to the ‘Marvellous City', you should give Salvador de Bahia a whirl.

Located in the Brazilian Northeast, it is one of the country's oldest settlements, founded as early as the 16th century, and is both a cultural and beach hotspot.

Rio gets all the fame and the praise, but Salvador is just as stunning: for starters, it has a far-better preserved historic center named Pelourinho, with Portuguese colonial architecture, colorful houses, and even a UNESCO-listed, Baroque ‘Slave Church' to call its own.

Historic Sao Francisco de Assis In Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, South America.jpg

Pelourinho is one of the most culturally-charged sites in all of Brazil, as it oozes Old World charm, and it has been left virtually untarnished by subsequent developments, unlike Rio: with rare exceptions, the modernism-stricken capital of tourism wasn't so lucky.

One of Salvador's most-prized assets is the Sao Francisco Church, arguably the prettiest in Brazil, with an altarpiece adorned with gold, silver and other precious stones, and frescos are so detailed they rival the Sistine Chapel's.

The Most Beautiful Beaches In Brazil Are In The Northeast

Historic Lacerda Lift In Salvador de Bahia Facing The Bright Blue Atlantic Ocean, Brazil, South America.jpg

Away from the hilly cobbled center, Salvador is a vibrant coastal metropolis straddling the bright-blue Atlantic, fringed by long, Caribbean-like sandy beaches, and boasting a high concentration of resorts (far more affordable ones, at that).

Porto da Barra is one of the best-frequented beaches in town, sandwiched between the azure waters and a series of Portuguese walls, though the most scenic spot, with crystalline waters and the iconic fortified lighthouse for backdrop is Farol da Barra.

Aerial View Of Farol da Barra Beach, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, South America.jpg

Salvador is the most popular destination for Brazilians themselves, who unlike Americans and Europeans, are not exactly big spenders, and we will take a wild guess here and say it might have something to do with its inexpensiveness as a beach getaway.

How Actually Cheap Is Salvador?

There are literally resorts like the Gran Hotel Stella Maris, with winding pools and private beach access, and a sumptuous breakfast spread included every morning, for only $77 a night, while the four-star Iguatemi Business will only set you back by $45.

African Brazilian Woman Wearing An Ethnic Garment As She Stands Smiling With Her Arms Open In Front Of A Historic Fort In Salvador De Bahia, Northeastern Brazil

On average, if you're coming to Salvador, you should plan on spending $48 on hotels per night and an additional $35 on food, or a total of $311 per week (R$1,575), and speaking of all the amazing food you could have here…

The cuisine of Bahia, the state Salvador is a capital of, is an immaterial cultural heritage of Brazil, reflective of the city's rich Afro-Brazilian and indigenous Brazilian makeup, and a fleeting visit to the local Rio Vermelho Market will neither break the bank, nor let down the foodie in you.

Close Up Picture Of Prawn Filled Acaraje Rice Balls, A Traditional Ethnic Food Of The Brazilian Northeast, Bahia, Brazil

We're talking the prawn-based, flavorful bobo de camarao curry, the deep-fried fritter populary known as acaraje, made by African-Brazilian women wearing traditional baiana white skirts, and of course, moqueca seafood stew (can't forget about that one).

On The Safety Issue

Regarding safety, no trip to Brazil is exactly a smooth ride: you'll be required to take certain additional precautions that wouldn't be advised elsewhere.

Colorful Facades Of Colonial Era Buildings In The Pelourinho District Of Salvador De Bahia, Brazil, South America

These include avoiding any signs of wealth, and this includes not taking out your iPhone in public, even to take calls or message, as it is a luxury item in Brazil, keeping valuables in a hotel safe, and your wallet in your front pocket while in public.

Salvador is no exception, and whether you're strolling the lively streets of Pelourinho or lounging by the beach in Farol da Barra, you're urged to keep your wits about you and be vigilant of your surroundings, as pickpocketing and theft are rife.

View of a city in Brazil

That being said, most visitors are not affected by crime when visiting, though they often attribute their stress-free experience to following local safety advice, having kept a low profile, and avoiding critical zones, especially at night.

For the most part, however, you'll realize bahianos are some of the kindest, most humble, friendliest people on Earth, and you're certain to return home with nothing but fond memories of sun-drenched Bahia, its delectable, flavorful foods, and gorgeous coastline.

↓ Elevate Your Travel↓

Sign Up Now For Travel Off Path Premium! No ads, VIP Content, Personal Travel Concierge, Huge Savings, Daily Deals, Members Forum & More!

✈️Join Our Travel Off Path Community Forum: Where travelers unite, ask questions, share experiences and even find like-minded travel buddies!


Enter your email address to subscribe to Travel Off Path's latest breaking travel news, straight to your inbox.

This article originally appeared on

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Wednesday 12th of June 2024

I've been to rio a dozen times. The crime is overrated. Its safe if you're not stupid.


Tuesday 11th of June 2024

Northeast does definitely not have the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, how can you not consider Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo northern coast and Rio? I love Bahia, the coast is beautiful but it's not safe, nor clean.

Alvaro Zerkowski

Tuesday 11th of June 2024

Salvador is horribly dangerous. Rio is not that safe either but better. The northeast of Brazil is generally unsafe.