From Maceió, seven buses a day run to ARACAJU , capital of the neighbouring state of Sergipe , a little-visited and rather unexceptional place. Although the Portuguese founded a colony at Aracaju in 1592, the capital of the infant state was later moved to nearby São Cristóvão. Then, in the mid-nineteenth century, there was a sudden vogue for purpose-built administrative centres (similar to the urge that led to the construction of Brasília a century later), and the core of modern Aracaju was thrown up overnight, with the city becoming the state capital again in 1855. Aracaju is – to put it mildly – something of an architectural desert, built on an American-style grid layout. Oil wealth has stimulated a lot of recent building and given the city council enough money to keep everything clean and tidy, but there is a very un-Brazilian dullness about the place. However, some of the beaches are passable and the charming colonial towns of Laranjeiras and São Cristóvão are only a short bus-ride away.
The new rodoviária (Tel:79/3238-2900) is quite a way out of town, linked to the centre by frequent local buses; the old rodoviária (Terminal Velha; Tel:79/3214-2578), which serves mainly local destinations, is five blocks north of Praça Olímpia Campos. The airport (Tel:79/3212-8500) is also out of town (12km); buses marked "Aeroporto" will get you into the centre. Sergipe's tourist office (Tel:79/3214-1940; Mon– Sat 8am–6pm) has its headquarters at Tr. Baltazar Gois 86, in the centre, while the SEBRAE office is at the Centro de Turismo (daily 8am–8pm; Tel:79/3214-8848), in the shopping centre known as Rua 24 Horas, just next to Praça Olímpio Campos. Rua 24 Horas is actually a very pleasant place, set in a restored nineteenth-century building, with cafés, restaurants and a stage where shows are sometimes put on.
The cheaper hotels are as usual in the city centre, several of them near the municipal bus station, the Rodoviária Terminal Velha. For a real budget option, you could stay at the Sergipe Hotel, Rua Geru 205 (Tel:79/3222-7898; R$41-70), which is perfectly adequate for the price. One comfortable mid-range hotel in the same area is the Amado, at Rua Laranjeiras 532 (Tel:79/3211-9937; R$71-120).
The two main beaches are Atalaia Velha and Atalaia Nova. Atalaia Velha lies about 5km south down the road from the city centre and is the more developed of the two. It's easy to get there by bus, but the whole area is rather soulless and uninspiring. There are, however, a huge number of restaurants and hotels , including the Nascimento Praia, Av. Santos Dumont 1813 (Tel:79/3255-2090; R$121-180), which has a small pool, and, for total luxury, the Del Mar Hotel, Av. Santos Dumont 1500 (Tel:79/2106-9100, Web: www.delmarhotel.com.br ; R$351-500). Atalaia Nova lies on an island in the Rio Sergipe, accessible by boat from the hidroviária in the city centre (every 10min; R$1.50); you can then get a bus to Atalaia Nova from the ferry terminal. Although the beach itself isn't great, the island is a pleasant place to stay – hotels are expensive, but there are plenty of rooms for rent.