A unique experience for those who love observing nature and beaches

If you are a lover of cities that provide unforgettable experiences, get ready to witness a natural and unique spectacle when exploring São Luís. The capital of Maranhão offers visitors the chance to experience the largest tidal variation in Brazil and the third largest in the world . A fascinating phenomenon that can only be appreciated on the beautiful beaches that surround the Island.

In a short period of just six hours, the difference between high tide and low tide can reach an incredible eight meters. São Marcos Bay is an example of this natural wonder, providing a unique experience of constant change on the beaches of São Luís. During high tide, the strip of sand on Ilha do Amor, as the city is also known, practically disappears, while at low tide, the expanse of sand extends up to two kilometers towards the sea.

In addition to altering the landscape, the tides also influence the color of the sea waters in São Luís. With a cloudy, moss-green tone, the waters become even more intriguing during the new and full moon tides, when the strength of the Currents drag sediments into the sea, intensifying the hue.

In the first quarter and last quarter phases, the waters become transparent, revealing shades of green and blue. This natural spectacle is the result of the shape of the coastline, the phases of the moon and the proximity to the Equator, providing a dazzling palette of colors.

Therefore, if you are planning to enjoy a nautical trip, it is essential to pay attention to the tide tables. Boat and ferry schedules are directly linked to high tide, ensuring a smooth departure and avoiding strandings. There is no standard time for arrivals and departures; the only rule is that the tide dictates the pace!

Since its founding, São Luís has been affectionately nicknamed with different names, including Brazilian Athens. This title is not only pompous, but a tribute to the city full of writers and poets, who immortalize it through their words.

The nickname Brazilian Athens refers to ancient Athens, the cradle of classical Greek civilization and a center of culture, philosophy and knowledge. A comparison that comes to life on every corner, in every colonial tile facade and in every note of music that echoes through the streets of São Luís.

In this place where past and present intertwine in a continuous celebration of culture, knowledge and diversity, visitors have the opportunity to explore monuments that pay homage to great names in literature and art, as well as places that served as inspiration for them. .

Meet some of our notable writers and poets

Maria Firmina dos Reis

The professor from Maranhão is considered the first Brazilian novelist. Born in São Luís, Maria Firmina dos Reis (1822 – 1917) has as her most famous work the novel entitled Úrsula (1859), which criticizes slavery.

Aluísio Azevedo

Author of “O Mulato”, which denounced racism in Maranhão society in 1881, Aluísio de Azevedo was a writer, caricaturist, journalist and diplomat (1857 – 1913). He is a founding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

Josué Montello

Josué Montello (1917- 2006) is considered one of the great writers of the 20th century in Maranhão, author of a vast work, including “Cais da Sagração” and “Os Tambores de São Luís”.

Nauro Machado 

Considered the owner of an intense and hermetic work, the poet is recognized as one of the most important poets in Brazil in the 20th century.

Bandeira Tribuzi

Born in São Luís, Bandeira Tribuzzi (1927 – 1977) was a journalist, teacher, economist, philosopher, musician and composer. He is the author of the São Luís hymn and is known for having started Modernism in Maranhão with the poetry book ‘Some Existence’. Currently one of the most important bridges in the city is named Bandeira Tribuzzi.

Ferreira Gullar

Poet, playwright, translator and visual arts critic, Ferreira Gullar (1930 – 2016) is the author of works marked by different phases of aesthetic research, from experimentalism and lyricism to cordel poetry. He was one of the founders of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, and is also considered one of the founders of concretism and neoconcretism in Brazil.

Graça Aranha

Considered a pre-modernist author in Brazil, Graça Aranha (1868-1931) was one of the organizers of the 1922 Modern Art Week and one of the founders of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

São Luís is a city rich in history and culture, but it is also the scene of several legends and stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, taking root in the popular imagination. Among the most striking narratives, the legend of Ana Jansen’s carriage, that of the Serpent, the legend of Manguda and that of Olho d’Água beach stand out. Find out more about them.

Legend of Ana Jansen’s carriage

The most famous legend, without a doubt, is that of Ana Jansen’s carriage. According to myth, Ana Jansen, known as Donana, was condemned to eternally wander the streets of the historic center of São Luís in a ghostly carriage, due to her past cruelties. The carriage, driven by a bloodied slave and pulled by decapitated horses, leaves the Gavião Cemetery on Friday nights. Although the legend focuses on Ana Jansen’s supposed cruelty, it is interesting to note that she was a respected political leader in the 19th century, in fact heading the Liberal Party in imperial Maranhão.

Legend of Manguda

At the end of the 19th century, the legend of Manguda haunted the Praça Gonçalves Dias region. Described as a ghost with light emanating from its body, Manguda caused fear among residents. However, the truth came out when they discovered that the apparitions were, in reality, smuggling bandits dressed in bedsheets, using local folklore to hide their criminal activities.

Legend of Olho D’água beach

It is said that, a long time ago, an indigenous village occupied where Olho d’Água beach is located. The daughter of chief Itaporama fell in love with a young man from the tribe, but the boy also won the heart of the mother of Water. The entity seduced the young man, taking him to his enchanted palace at the bottom of the sea. Itaporama’s daughter, desolate, cried until she died and from her tears emerged two springs that flow into the sea to this day.

Thus, São Luís reveals itself not only as a place of beauty and history, but as a setting rich in legends that, permeated by mystery and the supernatural, reflect fascinating aspects of the culture and popular imagination of the island’s residents.

Over four centuries ago, São Luís has played a significant role in Brazilian history. A journey that began on September 8, 1612. At that time, a French expedition led by the conqueror Daniel de La Touche, Lord of La Ravardière, set sail from Saint-Malo in Brittany, France, with the support of Queen Regent Maria de Médicis. The goal was to establish a French colony in the tropics, the “Equinoctial France,” an action that gave rise to the city, named São Luís in homage to the King of France. Over four centuries ago, São Luís has played a significant role in Brazilian history. A journey that began on September 8, 1612. At that time, a French expedition led by the conqueror Daniel de La Touche, Lord of La Ravardière, set sail from Saint-Malo in Brittany, France, with the support of Queen Regent Maria de Médicis. The goal was to establish a French colony in the tropics, the “Equinoctial France,” an action that gave rise to the city, named São Luís in homage to the King of France.

However, fate took a different turn, and in 1615, São Luís came under Portuguese control, ending the French project. The Kingdom of Portugal, however, faced challenges in consolidating its control over this island surrounded by many waters and tides with large variations. In 1641, the Dutch, who were revolting against Spanish dominion in various parts of the world, arrived in São Luís in an attempt to conquer the newly formed Colonial State of Maranhão. They created the first detailed map of the city and increased the number of sugar mills in the region, expanding and improving production quality. However, in 1644, after a violent battle, the Dutch were expelled from São Luís, initiating a process to encourage its colonization.

This effort by the Portuguese crown had its starting point in the Historic Center of São Luís, which witnessed the colonizers’ efforts to build a grand and prosperous city through the labor of enslaved Africans. At the same time, it is important to note that here, French, Dutch, and Portuguese encountered the first inhabitants of this land: the Tupinambá Indians, whose culture still influences the city’s identity today.

In the following centuries, the city received, as part of the European colonization process, African people enslaved by the Portuguese. Thus, over the centuries, the city developed as a convergence point of French, Dutch, Portuguese, African, and indigenous cultural influences, which now blend harmoniously, making São Luís a treasure to be discovered by its visitors.

In 1997, the city was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In 2019, it received the title of Brazilian Capital of Culture, and in 2023, it was named the National Capital of Reggae. Today, São Luís do Maranhão is a vibrant city that keeps the traditions of the past alive while embracing modernity. With quality tourist infrastructure, the capital of Maranhão attracts visitors seeking a unique experience that combines history, culture, gastronomy, and natural beauty.

Photograph: Biné

Municipal Guard of São Luís

São Luís has a municipal guard made up of security agents trained to enhance the experience of tourists during their stay by guaranteeing effective combat and prevention of crime and public disorder.

Contact: (98) 99186-6348 / 153

Batalhão de Polícia Militar do Turismo do Maranhão (BPTur)

The Tourism Military Police Battalion of Maranhão (BPTur) is the specialized police force tasked with ensuring the security of the community in areas with high tourist traffic in São Luís.

Contact: (98) 98883-0820 / 190

1st Batalhão de Bombeiros Militar São Luís

Operate the Fire Department in case of fires, traffic accidents with victims, injuries resulting in injuries, drownings or domestic accidents (burns, poisoning).

Contact: 193 / (98) 98866-7628

AN ISLAND ON THE OCEAN

São Luís is an island in the Atlantic Ocean that holds a breathtaking wealth of history, culture, and natural beauty, even for those who call it home.

Even being a capital, the city maintains a less hurried pace compared to other Brazilian capitals. This adds a charm that, combined with all its attractions, provides a tourist experience like no other.

Located in the Northeast region of Brazil, the city is situated at the northern tip of Maranhão, occupying a significant portion of a territory formed by the cities of São José de Ribamar, Raposa, and Paço do Lumiar, together forming the so-called metropolitan region of São Luís.

São Luís is 24 kilometers from São José de Ribamar (MA).
São Luís is 28 kilometers from Raposa (MA).
São Luís is 24 kilometers from Paço do Lumiar (MA).
São Luís is 89 kilometers from Alcântara (MA).


Distance from São Luís to Brazilian capitals

São Luís is 436.9 kilometers from Teresina (PI).
São Luís is 891 kilometers from Fortaleza (CE).
São Luís is 1,170 kilometers from Belém (PI).
São Luís is 1,251 kilometers from Palmas (TO).
São Luís is 2,915 kilometers from São Paulo (SP).
São Luís is 3,141 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro (RJ).
São Luís is 1,996 kilometers from Brasília (DF).
São Luís is 1,581 kilometers from Salvador (BA).
São Luís is 1,559 kilometers from Recife (PE).
São Luís is 2.458 kilometers from Belo Horizonte (MG)
São Luís is 3.316 kilometers from Curitiba (PR)

Find out how to get to São Luís do Maranhão

By the road

By land, access to São Luís is via BR 135 highway, connecting this city directly to the mainland and passing through states such as Minas Gerais, Bahia, and Piauí.

São Luís has an intercity bus terminal from which regular bus lines depart and arrive at various cities in Maranhão and the country. The São Luís Bus Terminal features ticket counters, taxi stands, urban bus stops, commercial shops, pharmacies, convenience stores, restaurants, a bank branch ATM, a police station, a Juvenile Court unit, and a rotating parking lot.

By Airplane

There are direct flights to São Luís, as well as connecting flights arriving and departing daily from Marechal Cunha Machado International Airport. Located at the city’s entrance, the airport operates with airlines such as Azul, Gol, and Latam, connecting this destination to major capitals and cities across the country.

By Train 

It is possible to arrive in and depart from São Luís by railway as well. The city is served by a passenger train through the Carajás Railway, operated by Vale do Rio Doce company, connecting the capital of Maranhão to Parauapebas in the southeast of Pará. Along the route between the two cities, the railway makes a total of 15 stops in municipalities of Maranhão and Pará.

Ticket purchases can be made online through the website or in person in São Luís at the Anjo da Guarda Railway Station. 

By Ocean

The city has two waterway infrastructures that operate maritime vessels with regular arrivals and departures to São Luís:

Ferry Boat: Operating daily passenger, cargo, and vehicle transportation, this service connects São Luís to Baixada Maranhense and the northern region of Brazil. Access in São Luís is through the Ponta da Espera Terminal, and in Alcântara, through the Cujupe Terminal.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the Terminals (Ponta da Espera and Cujupe) or online on the websites of the companies operating the ferries.

Hidroviário Terminal da Praia Grande (Rampa Campos Melo): Located at Cais da Praia Grande, in the Historic Center of São Luís (in front of Casa do Maranhão), the ferry terminal operates with fishing vessels and offers domestic trips directly to the city of Alcântara (MA), with an average duration of 1 hour and 15 minutes. The departure and arrival times of the vessels vary depending on the sea level at the beginning and end of the day.

The schedule with the daily travel times and more information can be checked on the official communication channels of the two companies operating at the Terminal: Lancha Bahia Star (@lanchabahiastar) e Iate Luzitana.

Weather

In this tourist destination where architectural, cultural, and natural heritage stand out as elements that differentiate, enchant, and embellish visitors’ experiences, the climate is tropical with two well-defined seasons and varying levels of sun and rain throughout the year. In December, rainfall is typically low, escalating in the subsequent months and reaching its peak in February, March, and April.

These climatic conditions ensure that outdoor activities, including tours, can be enjoyed year-round, contributing to the city’s consistent tourist flow.

Throughout most of the year, the capital records minimum temperatures of 24°C (mainly at night) and maximum temperatures ranging between 30°C and 34°C. Due to its coastal location and proximity to the Equator, the city experiences winds that help dissipate high temperatures consistently. In December, rainfall is typically low, escalating in the subsequent months and reaching its peak in February, March, and April.

The period of increased tourist activity in São Luís is between June and December. In June and July, the city celebrates the pinnacle of its popular culture. This is when the best festivities in honor of São João take place, featuring performances by Bumba meu Boi groups, Cacuriá, Tribos de Índio, Dança do Côco, Dança Portuguesa, Tambor de Crioula, among others, in “arraials” scattered throughout the capital.

Electric current for household appliances

As in much of the northeast, the domestic electrical voltage in São Luís do Maranhão is 220v.

Public transport in São Luís

São Luís’s public transportation is powered by two systems operating urban (São Luís) and semi-urban (Metropolitan Region) bus lines. The city does not have a subway or rail vehicles available for passenger transport, but it features five Integration Terminals capable of connecting all lines in this system.

Buses run throughout the day, starting their routes around 5 a.m. and continuing into the early morning. After this period, the city is served by the so-called ‘corujões,’ which are lines that run overnight, serving specific regions of the city.

The fare for bus use can be paid in cash, student cards, or transportation vouchers. There is no specific card for visitors to use on buses; they must pay the fare upon boarding or at the integration terminal where they embark.

In the Praia Grande neighborhood, located in the Historic Center of São Luís, there is the integration terminal of the same name as this neighborhood. Through this terminal, tourists can access all regions of the city, including beaches, parks, shopping malls, universities, bus stations, airports, and commercial centers. In São Luís do Maranhão, passengers board through the front door and exit through the back door.

Bike rental

The most beautiful beaches for you to experience and explore on two wheels. Bike rides in São Luís are a great attraction for those who value well-being, natural beauty, and a sense of freedom.

Commonly practiced by island residents, the shared bike service (for adults and children) is offered by private companies strategically located to provide safe rental services on the Espigão Costeiro (Ponta d’Areia) and along Avenida Litorânea, spanning the waterfront of Praia de São Marcos, Praia Litorânea, Praia do Caolho, and Praia do Olho d’Água.

Throughout this entire stretch of the boardwalk along Avenida Litorânea, tourists will find lighting, security, signage, and a bike path close to kiosks, restaurants, snack bars, pubs, bars, and hotels.

On Sundays, part of Avenida Litorânea is completely closed off, allowing tourists and the population to freely use the entire space for sports and leisure activities.

Where to park my motorhome in São Luís do Maranhão?

For fans of the lifestyle who adopt the motorhome as their home, São Luís offers public parking in its Espigão Costeiro, one of the main gateways to the tourist destination.

The Tourist Service Center offers personalized guidance for the best experience in São Luís

The Hospitality and Support for Tourists that Transform their Experience in the Capital of Maranhão

The hospitality of São Luís is what guarantees tourists who visit the capital of Maranhão a differentiated experience in addition to the monuments, landscapes and cultural events that visitors find here throughout the year. And to ensure maximum enjoyment during your stay, the city has a Tourist Assistance Center, a service whose purpose is to provide official information to tourists so that they can enjoy the city of São Luís in the best possible way.

The service is free and can be accessed by any tourist who wants to enhance their trip to São Luís and needs help figuring out where to stay, what to do and where to go. Through the Tourist Service Center, for example, it is possible to purchase maps and itineraries that include the city’s main tourist attractions, as well as a schedule of activities, opening hours and even guidance on where you can stay according to your tourist profile, considering your intentions and preferences, as well as your length of stay in the World Heritage city.

Through CAT you have access to:

São Luís tourist information: Schedule of cultural activities, calendar of special, seasonal events and more.

Guidelines: Guidance on how to get to certain locations inside and outside the Historic Center, the best means of transport and times to visit.

Personalized itinerary suggestions based on the length of stay and the tourist’s preferences.

Promotional Material and Support.

Materials such as maps, tourist guides and other information are available to help tourists save time without running the risk of missing an important place. In addition, the Tourist Assistance Center has a specialized team that works to resolve doubts and provide guidance on local guidelines, thus guaranteeing everyone who arrives on the island a safe tourism experience.

In-person and Online Service | Languages: PT/EN

The Tourist Service Center maintains a physical service point located in the heart of the Historic Center of São Luís, at the Museu da Gastronomia Maranhense (Rua da Estrela, N° 82).

The Tourist Assistance Center of the City of São Luís maintains a physical service point located in the heart of the Historic Center of São Luís, at the Gastronomy Museum (Rua da Estrela, No. 82), open from Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. Additionally, the City Hall, through its Tourism Department, offers the so-called CAT Itinerant, an initiative that visits various points of the destination, events, festivals, markets, and fairs that welcome tourists on the island.

On Sundays from 9am to 3pm, tourists can find the Tourist Assistance Center at Feirinha São Luís. At this regular event, the CAT team offers tourist information, guidance, service and provides details about artisanal products, typical cuisine and other goods available at the fair. .

CAT Maranhão

In São Luís, there is also a Tourist Assistance Center service in operation, which can be found at the Airport, Bus Station, Ceprama, Cujupe, Espigão Costeiro and in the Historic Center, at Praça Pedro II. Open every day of the week, including holidays and weekends, from 7am to 7pm.

Smart Route

Anyone visiting our city or even those preparing to arrive in São Luís as their next tourist destination can access CAT services online.

This service is provided through the WhatsApp application via the number (98) 99158-4947, where tourists can send a message

Furthermore, the city has other communication channels aimed at promoting the island’s natural, historical, cultural and gastronomic attractions. It’s worth checking out other sessions here on the website and on Destino’s social network on Instagram: @turismo.saoluis