Cumbuco is the term for cows where the tips of their horns curve and face each other. The name is also attributed to the curve of long and low waves that mirror the same shape of these horns.
These waves are typical of Cumbuco, a slither of green sandwiched between the sea and the sand dunes in Ceará. It is a sleepy fisherman’s’ village in the Northeast of Brazil and arguably the centre of the world’s best kitesurfing.
Cumbuco sits just 30km west of Ceará’s capital Fortaleza. Ceará was baptised the “Terra da Luz” (Land of Light) for being the first state to abolish slavery in 1884, 4 years before the national law prohibiting the institution passed. More recently the state has been noted for its phenomenal progress in reducing criminality and enhancing overall education levels.
Ceará’s social-economic progress
In 2019, under a three-fold project Ceará achieved the greatest reduction in crime rates in the whole of Brazil. Homicide rates fell from a rate of 56.9 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017, to 24.7 in 2019. Achieved by reorganizing the prison system with the employment of 10,000 new security professionals, shutting vulnerable prisons and transferring incarcerated gang leaders to combat prison privileges.
The state simultaneously rolled out new education projects, the third branch of the initiative. The state invested in education to prevent situations of vulnerability that lead to crime. Schools introduced mandatory classes on socio-emotional skills, national exam preparation and rigorous policies on unexplained absences in school enrollment. The state has 98% of children between ages of 6-14 enrolled in basic education. An incredible achievement for the historically exploited and disadvantaged region of Northeast Brazil.
Ceará is progressive, with a treasure-trove of natural wonders that offers a remarkable, alternative Brazilian tourist destination. Here’s 12 incredibly useful things you need to know before visiting Cumbuco in Ceará.
Cumbuco is the No.1 kitesurfing destination in Brazil
Cumbuco has soured to the top as a kite surfer hot spot because of the of steady winds. In September 2019 the beach entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most kite surfers at one time. 596 kite surfers participated in the event. Even if you decide not to try kitesurfing, the views of hundreds of colourful kites littering the skyline is mesmerizing.
Ceará has a windy and not windy season
From June until December the winds are constant, becoming an extremely reliable destination for kite surfers. This time also coincides with the dry season with winds that reach 19 kilometers per hour.
Sand dune tour prices and duration
Trips into the sand dunes that serve as a backdrop to the village take about 2 – 3 hours. You pay a standard fee, but there are add-on costs. During the trip you will visit spots to sand board, places to zip line down a dune and into one of the lagoons and bars perched at the top of the dunes overlooking the rivers and caatinga forestry. Bring extra cash to the tour to enjoy these extra activities. Wear a lot of sun protection because you will be under the sun for up to 4 hours.
Sand buggies offer 2 speeds
You can opt for a sand buggy “com ou sem emoção,” (with or without excitement). The city carves 2 routes into the dunes. One will hurl you over 45° hills at an adrenalin-spinning speed. The other buggy meanders gracefully through the maze of dunes.
Cashew fruit harvest is January and August
The best period for harvesting caju, which is the pseudo fruit of the cashew tree (the fruit being the cashew nut) is January and August. The rest of the year much of the fruit used will be frozen not fresh. Ceará contains 55% of the caatinga a type of Brazilian biome that features the enormous cashew trees. It is squeezed between the glistening white beaches of the Northeast coast and the sand dunes that separate it from the semi-arid sertão.
No vendors on Cumbuco beach
The beach of Cumbuco has few vendors, uncommon for a Brazilian beach. This is important to know so you position yourself in accommodation that offers drinks, snacks, beach chairs and shade. The sun is relentless in Ceará and the wind can be misleading.
5 great restaurants in Cumbuco
Cumbuco has a few excellent restaurants and they don’t all feature on Google reviews or Trip Adviser. The infrastructure is more basic than popular beaches like Jericoacoara, so avoid disappointment by eating at the following restaurants.
R.I.O – this is a boutique hotel that has a rooftop restaurant overlooking the sand dunes on one side and the sea on the other. The owner is a French chef who founded 16 restaruants around the world. He built this hotel as his retirement plan. You have to call in advance to order your food and make a reservation.
Try the local red snapper fish (pargo)
Ceará has the most reasonable prices in the whole country for the red snapper at half the price of Rio de Janeiro.
Cumbuco is 45 minutes from Fortaleza’s international airport
Rent a car or stay in a hotel that offers airport transportation. If you decide to drive in Brazil read these notes on regulations. In Cumbuco the sea mist will layer the car in a sticky salt so carry a bottle of water to clear the mirrors and windshield.
Take care when swimming
Swimming in Cumbuco is possible year-round, but during the windy season waves are better suited to confident swimmers. Even in the windy season the waves are low in the early morning and as the sun is setting. This is when the winds drop because of cloud cover. There is no dangerous undertow in Cumbuco, but there are also no lifeguards, except in the large hotel resorts.
The all-inclusive Galé resort has the biggest waves, but there is a lifeguard. The waves are more suited to surfers, although the resort does offer numerous swimming pools.
Jangada boat tours are available
Jangadas are a traditional Brazilian fishing boat common in the Northeast. In Cumbuco you can join touristic boat trips to natural pools. A famous jangadeiro of Ceará (a jangada sailer) is Dragão do Mar who led strikes by a group of jangadeiros in 1881. The group refused to transport enslaved people to be sold in other regions of Brazil. Three years later the state abolished slavery entirely.
Jangada trips are more common in the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas.
Buy a handmade jangada model souvenir
A memorable souvenir from Cumbuco we recommend is a handmade jangada model. The craftsman makes the model from recycled wood. Including intricate details of the traditional fishing equipment, local fish and knife tools and a working organic cotton sail. The craftman will also carve personalised names and dates with a fire tool by request. The boat costs R$180 and a percentage goes to charity. José Airton de Sousa Monção sells his product inside restaurants and on the beach front along Cumbuco.
Cautionary note: in 2019 the city of Caucai was enxperiencing disputes with the garbage collecting contractor. The area had issues with littering because the wind was blowing the uncollected light-weight garbage. We will continue to monitor this situation and update the page when the dispute has been resolved.
I enjoyed your article, but Cumbuco has changed rapidly recently. Gang violence gas caught up with Cumbuco. A young woman was murdered … shot in the head while eating pizza with her toddler son. A young man was also shot. There were several nights when patrons were forced to flee as gunshots rang out . But I’m no stranger to this kind of exposure. I’m a product of NYC and Miami. I just returned from Cumbuco a month ago and can’t wait to return. Also, the beaches do have many vendors. And how could you omit Exil, Praça Nossa and Madame Tequila from your list of great restaurants? Their dishes are excellent and they are less expensive than your list. Another excellent, affordable restaurant is Verandah. I love Cumbuco. I own a house there. And I hope the newly elected prefeitura addresses the sanitation and flooding problems. But thank you for bigging up my adopted hometown.
Oh no Lawrence! Let’s hope that after Covid more tourists can visit Cumbuco and pump some money into the economy. It’s going to take off one day, especially for kitesurfers (LOL, that pun came out of nowhere!).
Nice article – I too love Cumbuco and own a place on the edge of town in Vila Cumbuco. Looking forward to getting back after this COVID mess is over. Good restaurant list – my fav is the Korean that used to be Geiko Juice bar.
Hey Steve, I truly hope you get back to Cumbuco later in the year! I’m desperate to go back to Brazil in general. We missed the Korean but we’ll make sure to go on our next trip!