Atins is a fishermen's village in Maranhão turned kitesurfing hotspot nestled on the estuary of Rio Preguiças (to the east) into the Atlantic Ocean (to the north), a few km away from the dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (to the west).
At the core, the village maintains a rustic feel, with small houses on sand streets. At the beachfront, the hotels are reminiscent of Southeast Asia's bungalow affaire and have a less authentic atmosphere.
The village has virtually no mobile signal, but most places have Wi-Fi, so Whatsapp is the way to go for instant communication.
Overland, the connection with Barreirinhas is assured by private but regular 4x4 truck services doing Atins-Barreirinhas-Atins. To Atins, trucks leave from 1 Rua Major Galas in the morning, first service at 10:00, and occasionally in early afternoon. From Atins, passengers are picked up at their door (therefore advanced booking is necessary) roughly at 05:30. The trucks don't charge extra for luggage, boxes or kitesurf gear bags. M-Sa, 1½ hour, R$ 25 (April 2019).
Sailing, boats leave Barreirinhas for Atins at midday, and go back at 14:00. M-Sa, 1 hour, R$ 50. It's also possible to join the sightseeing river tours and ask to be dropped at Atins beach before the boat returns to Barreirinhas. These boats depart between 08:00 or 09:00 and call at Vassouras (around 10:00-11:00), Mandacaru (around 10:30-11:30) and Caburé (leaving for Atins between 13:00 and 14:30). On this direction, the total transit time from Barreirinhas is 5 hours, R$ 80. From Atins to Barreirinhas, when the boat tours are going back nonstop, the trip takes the normal 1 hr, R$ 50 (April/2019). Hiring a private boat is possible and easy, R$ 300-400 per boat (September 2016).
- 1 Port of Atins (Porto de Atins). Although the locals refer to it as a port, it's merely the point on a deserted beach where boats drop and take passengers. There is no structure at all, no sun shelter, no jetty, not even a sign. Do not leave for Atins before organizing your transit from the port to your accommodation, since Atins has no mobile signal and the way is not walkable. Most pousadas organize free pickups if you prevent them in advance.
From São Luís, the straightest way in public transit is to get an early morning van, ask to be dropped at the toyota stop to Atins in Barreirinhas, reserve your spot and then leave with the first car, usually at 10:00 (1½ hr R$ 25), arriving in Atins a little before noon. It's possible to do all that starting from the airport, even on the wee hours, as there's a van service after the last flight of the day (04:00 - 3½ hr R$ 60 + R$ 10 commission to the airport middleman, April 2019).
From Jericoacoara, the straightest way is a combination of land transport up to Caburé (7 hours), followed by the crossing of Rio Preguiças to reach Atins (10 min). Hired 4x4 trucks for up to 4 people with enough space for luggage or kitesurf gear: R$ 1,000, river crossing: R$ 45 (September 2016).
Atins is small, but do not underestimate the distances as all the streets are made of soft sand and walking them is tiring. The sand is too hot for barefoot existence from 10:30 to 14:30 - if you need to walk around at this time, you'd be better be on boots.
Tours from Atins are better and more expensive than the ones from Barreirinhas for exact the same reason: there are fewer people to form groups. On a same week in August 2018, the two most popular tours from Barreirinhas (Lagoa Bonita and Lagoa Azul) would receive 25-30 pickup trucks each, while those from Atins (Lagoa das 7 Mulheres and Lagoa Tropical) would receive 3-7 trucks each.
- Lagoa das Sete Mulheres (Seven Women Lagoon). The most common offer picks up clients at their accommodation at around 09:00, visits Lagoa da Capivara from 10:00 to 11:30 and Lagoa das Sete Mulheres from 11:45 to 12:30. From there it stops for lunch at Canto do Atins (see Nearby section below) and returns to the village at around 15:00. Apart from the lagoons themselves, there are beautiful viewpoints overlooking the prairies nearby. Reportedly, tours leaving from Atins depart in the morning to avoid daytrippers from Barreirinhas (which would crowd these sites in the afternoon). R$ 65 to 80 depending on where you book, and if you book multiple trips or not.
- Lagoa Tropical (Tropical Lagoon). The most common offer picks up clients at their accommodation at around 15:00 and stays at Lagoa Tropical from 15:40 to sunset. Considered by many the most beautiful lagoon in Lençóis Maranhenses, its waters go from transparent to turquoise to deep blue. It's a great place for contemplation, and there's plenty of time for exploring the dunes around. Reportedly, tours leaving from Atins depart in the afternoon to avoid daytrippers from Barreirinhas (which would crowd these sites in the morning). R$ 65 to 80 depending on where you book, and if you book multiple trips or not.
- Revoada dos Guarás (Red ibises in flight). The most common offer sails clients from the Port of Atins to the mangrooves on the east side of the shore (10 min away), where one can walk around, pick up fresh cashew fruits if in season, and see the ocean. Shortly before sunset, people congregate on a little dune and wait for the red ibis to fly over their heads. It's common to then hop on the boat to watch the sunset from the water (but honestly that's a bit pointless since the view differs very little from the one that can be seen everyday for free from the beach). Compared to the similar tour done on the Paraíba delta region, this one is nice for the increased sense of proximity with the birds, but the flocks are much bigger on the delta. Local fishermen might offer to take you on this trip if you linger on the beachfront long enough - that's a great deal since for the same price you will have a private tour and can choose exactly when to move. R$ 30 to 40 depending on where you book, and if you book multiple trips or not.
Atins is the preferred departure point for crossing the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park because then you'll be moving East-West, or on the same direction of the wind, avoiding the nuisance of sand blowing on your face. Trekking, the crossing usually takes 3 days, but there's a good variety of itineraries on offer, including short walks. Guides usually charge R$ 200 per day (August 2018). Overnight at local homes on the way usually include simple meals and sleeping in a hammock. Water is very expensive on the stops, and a water purifier will come in handy if you have one.
Some operators in Atins specialize in horseback riding or bicycle tours. Itineraries are tailor made and can range from half-day trips to multi-day expeditions.
- 1 Yoga classes, Convento Arcádia. Everyday at 07:00. Virtually the only activity available in Atins that's not water- or sand-related
Between July and December, the conditions are ideal in Atins: the vast and sparsely populated beaches are met by constant cross onshore winds of 15 to 30 knots.
Beginners can practice in the 2 huge lagoon formed where river Preguiças meets the sea, in calm and flat waters sheltered by two natural sandbanks, whilst the more experienced can venture out to the open sea, which has 1.5–2.5 m waves at the right tide.
It's also possible to kitesurf on the calm waters of the Preguiças River or on the inland lagoons in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (it is however forbidden - and widely ignored by locals and surfers alike - to sail in all but one lagoon). The lagoons are temporary, and their size and duration depend on each year's rainy season (January-June), but they are usually full from July to October.
The kitesurfing community in Atins is proportionally big and composed by a noticeable number of foreigners. English, French, Italian and Spanish are spoken, as well as Portuguese. Beginners' instruction usually takes the form of 10-hr or 12-hr courses priced by the hour, which is R$ 150-250/hr depending on the instructor. It's common to start the course in one location (say, Jericoacoara) and continue it along the many kitesurfing spots on the region.
It's easy to organize equipment rentals and guided adventures, such as downwind trips. Some repair service is also available in town.
Often advertised as the point on Lençóis Maranhenses area where one can have both beach and lagoons, this is unfortunately only true for those sailing, since the distance between the river shore and the seaside is not easily covered otherwise. The going fee for hiring a boat to cross the river (towards Brasilia's seashore, for example) is R$ 40 return (August 2018).
The river beach, the one at walking distance from the village, has strong currents most of the time, and the steady winds that are Atins claim to fame make the water uncomfortable for bathing from August to December.
Atins is remote and small, the type of place that makes one grateful for the convenience of big cities. Basic goods can be found, but there's no variety and prices are no bargain.
If you are on a budget, definitely do your groceries (in Barreirinhas or anywhere else) before arriving, as neither the boat nor the truck charge extra for luggage or boxes and you'll be left at your destination's door. Consider buying a pack of big water bottles as well.
- 1 Conveniências. The closest thing to a supermarket around. Also doubles as a stationery shop.
- 2 Nonata Variedades. Dona Nonata is a smiling old lady who sells materials for artesanato (handcrafts) as well as hats, sous-plats and other objects made by her. Her shop also doubles as a pharmacy.
- 1 Churrasquinho Caminho da Praia (take the street just right of the supermarket). Evening service only. The cheapest meal in town: three types of skewers for R$ 5 each, including a portion of rice, salad or bread free of charge.
- 2 Restaurante Sarnambi (around the corner from Pousada Nativa). 10:00-15:00 and 18:00-22:00. The prato feito of churrasquinho (barbecued chicken or beef) with rice, mashed potatoes, farofa and salad costs R$ 20.
- 3 Restaurante da Sesé, ☏ (Whatsapp them a few hours prior to organize a free hotel pickup). 11:00-15:00 and 18:00-22:00. Considered the best place for shrimps in Atins village, the most popular plate is a shrimp risotto-like dish served inside a pinapple, R$ 90 for two.
- 4 Restaurante da Pousada Maresias. Last order: 21:00. Once you get tired of eating rice, beans and farofa, come here for some real Italian fare. Dishes are made inhouse with fresh, natural ingredients. The owner and cook is an Italian man who helped put Atins on the kitesurfing map. They do not accept large groups. Mains for R$ 50-60.
Rumor has it that pousada owners make pressure to drive away any noisy nightlife that could disturb their guests (unfortunately they still did not manage to quiet down the very noisy church cults on the main Atins intersection).
Only the beachfront bars occasionally hold live music nights - ask around.
- 1 Urra! Artesanal Beer, in front of Pescador Hostel. Serves burgers and homebrewed beers on tap (Pilsen and beer of the week). R$ 16 for a pint, credit cards accepted.
If on a budget, it's very important to make sure your accommodation provides drinking water and a place to cook, as water and meals are expensive in Atins due to its remote location. It's wise to shop for groceries in Barreirinhas before arriving.
If you get to Atins by boat, remember to give advanced notice to your accommodation so they can send you a free pick-up service. Walking in Atins is complicated due to its fluffy sand streets.
- 1 Pescador Hostel. Rooms are spacious and have independent shower, sink and toilet rooms. Breakfast is not included, but it offers drinking water and free use of wifi, guest kitchen and washing machine. It has an açaí stall and is across the road from the most popular bar in town. R$ 50 for a bed in 4-bed dorm.
- 2 Pousada Nativa. Nice breakfast, free drinking water and a nice collection of hammocks under the shades of jambo trees. The showers are simple but seem like waterfalls, which is great to wash away the sand that inevitalby sticks to the skin and hair in this dunes region. There's a kitchen they use to prepare breakfast, but if you ask nicely, they allow you to cook. The pousada building is on the same land of the owner's house, which gives it a family vibe. Seu João, the owner, is a longterm inhabitant of the area and loves to tell tales of how Atins became what it is. R$ 90 for ensuite double room.
- 3 Rancho do Buna. A huge property with bungalows dotted on the lawn, among the many animals that justify its ranch name. Everything is spotless clean and the decoration has a nice albeit kitchy attention to detail. If you want to join a tour, even if you're not staying there, it's possible to whatsapp their manager around 08:00 and inquire what is being organized for the day: +55 98 9190-9646. Prices range from R$ 250 (apartment for 1) all the way to R$ 400 (a/c bungalow for 4).
- 4 Convento Arcádia, Rua Esperança 3, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. Stylish boutique hotel, close to the beach and geared towards kiters, individual travelers as well as families (larger chalets), couples and groups of friends. Yoga facilities, a restaurant set at a fish pond, and view towards the beach. Prices range from R$ 250 (apartment for 1) all the way to R$ 780 (chalet for 6).
Canto do Atins
A tiny settlement inside Lençóis Maranhenses National park, known for the two family-run restaurants in it. The older is Luzia's, who made its fame with divine barbecued shrimps. After 8 years working with Luzia, her sister-in-law broke up with her and opened her own restaurant, named after her husband and Luzia's brother, Antônio. Hopefully, there are enough tourists to keep both businesses busy. Overnight at their rooms cost R$ 50 (as with all settlements inside the park, there's no electricity).
Canto do Atins is about 1.5 km trek from Atins village. To get there, follow the beach Westwards until the first dune, and then climb it. From its top, it's already possible to see the settlement. Most people take 90 minutes to walk there. It's also easy to arrange transport by 4x4 trucks or quadbikes.
- Restaurante da Luzia. The most popular dish, and the one that made it famous, is the barbacued shrimps, which comes with the usual rice, beans, farofa and salad. Also delicious is the camarão cremoso (shrimps in creamy coconut milk sauce). Remember people go there for good food, not for kind service. Portions are hearty. R$ 40.
- Restaurante do Antônio. Offering a similar menu and reportedly a much kinder service, this restaurant is more popular with Brazilian tourists and tends to be busier at lunch time. Locals say it occasionally affects food quality. R$ 55.