The most exciting time to be in Bahia is during the summer festival season (January to mid-February). If you'd rather avoid the crowds, go between September and November for the frequent (but much less raucous) candomblé saints' festivals.
Bahia is not particularly dangerous, but petty theft can be a problem. It's best not to wear jewelry or even a watch; and if you want to bring a camera, consider one that's disposable.
Bahia Othon Palace 2456 Av. Presidente Vargas, Ondina, Salvador da Bahia; 55-71/247-1044, fax 55-71/245-4877; doubles $165. An upscale high-rise with 268 pleasant, airy rooms, some with ocean views, about 10 minutes' walk from the Pelourinho.
Best Value Hotel Catarina Paraguaçu 128 Rua João Gomes, Rio Vermelho, Salvador da Bahia; phone and fax 55-71/247-1488; doubles $70. A lovely 29-room inn, converted from a private house, with elegant tiled walkways and cozy breakfast nooks.
Praia do Forte Resort Praia do Forte; 55-71/876-1111, fax 55-71/876-1112; doubles $225. A true eco-resort, built on eight miles of pristine Atlantic beach. All the usual amenities, plus rain forest tours.
Bar Banzo 61 Largo do Pelourinho; no phone. The Pelo's bohemian hot spot, a dark bar/café crowded with African sculpture and textiles. The second-floor terrace overlooking the main plaza is a great place for caipirinhas on a Tuesday night while you watch the band Olodum rehearsing below.
Encontro dos Artistas 15 Rua das Laranjeiras; 55-71/321-1721; dinner for two $12. Locals love this modest café for its Portuguese/Brazilian home-style cooking. The best dish is garlicky shrimp sautéed with potatoes in oodles of olive oil.
SENAC Largo do Pelourinho; 55-71/371-8700; lunch for two $30. The Bahian state cooking school's all-you-can-eat lunch, served by serious, white-jacketed waiters, is a great introduction to the wonders of the region's cuisine.
Tempero da Dada 5 Rua Frei Vicente, Pelourinho; no phone; dinner for two $50. The lines stretch out the door at this hole-in-the-wall, which serves enormous portions of local specialties like shrimp stewed in coconut milk (moqueca de camarão).
Instituto Mauá 2 Praça Azevedo Fernandes; 71/331-5440. Crafts from all over northeastern Brazil: crocheted rugs; lace dresses, napkins and tablecloths; simple, almost primitive, earth-tone pottery.
Shopping Barra 2992 Av. Centenário Chame-Chame; 55-71/339-8222. Vendors at the Mercado Modelo, the crafts market in downtown Bahia, sell recordings of Bahian music, but the selection is better in the handful of record stores at Bahia's mall. Look for CD's and tapes from local bands E.O. Tchan and Ata Ketu. —D.M.
Brazil Up Close by Pamela Bloom (Hunter Publishing)—A comprehensive, opinionated guide, with detailed descriptions of hotels, restaurants, and shops.
The Brazilians by Joseph A. Page (Addison-Wesley)—A lively and penetrating assessment of the contrasting elements that form the Brazilian character.
Travelers' Tales: Brazil (O'Reilly and Associates)—A sampler of the best and most interesting writings on the country.
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands—This ribald fable of a Bahian woman coping with two spouses—one living, one dead—is faithfully based on Jorge Amado's acclaimed novel. —Martin Rapp
On the Web
Bahia On-line —Listings of bars, clubs, and major hotels, as well as information on cultural attractions.
Embratur —Brazil's official tourism site provides basic travel facts, maps, and contact information. —Nicole Whitsett
The ex-voto room of the Church of our Lord of Bonfim, hung with petitions for miracles: letters, bridal gowns, wax limbs—even a résumé or two.