By Tim Anderson, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While not exactly easy to get to, the city of Araruama is 115 kilometers east of Rio de Janeiro city in an area often referred to as the Lake Region. With a population of roughly 100,000 people, Araruama’s proximity to Rio has made it a popular place to invest in recent years and like many parts of Brazil, property prices are sky-rocketing.
Christened Araruama, or “Cradle of Shells”, by the Tupinambá Indians that originally inhabited the area in homage to the shore of Lagoa de Araruama (Lake Araruama), which is made up mainly of broken shells. Along with the highly saline Lake Araruama, the city has a fresh water option, Juturnaíba lake, as well as the oceanic beaches of Massambaba and Praia Seca.
Araruama is the commercial center for many of the smaller nearby communities such as Pontinha, Praia Seca, Iguabinha and Lake View. The city also has a collection of well preserved colonial buildings from the nineteenth century, such as the elegant Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião (completed in 1867).
While not widely recognized as a tourist destination, Araruama ‘s population increases in summer months as people from Rio move to their beach houses for holidays. The rise in temperature sees Praca Antonio Raposo (Plaza Antonio Raposo) fill with people out enjoying restaurants and live music.
Araruama attracts the early-retired and families to its mix of relaxing beach locations and low crime. Founded on a strong fishing and salt industry, it also has good fertile farming land to be found at the northern edge of town. Salt continues to be an important part of the city’s economy though, and it still has over sixty salterns (plots of land laid out in pools for the evaporation of seawater to produce salt).
Surf shops and wind surfing schools are numerous as the steady winds and shallow depth of the lake make it a perfect location for families and beginners to enjoy water activities. Surfing, sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing are all easily accessible from town either in the lake or at the Atlantic coast beach at Praia Seca.
In October 2010, Lake Araruama held the World Windsurfing Championships and is a proposed location for some of the water sports in the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
A competitive construction industry and large pieces of underdeveloped land have created a building boom in the area. Currently, a one-bedroom apartment in Araruama goes for R$500-700 a month. However, a one-bedroom apartment in the summer or during Carnival can start at around R$1,500 a month, and a two-bedroom starts at around R$2,000 a month. Buying a two bedroom house starts around R$90,000, but of course can go much higher.
Araruama is a great location to escape Rio de Janeiro for a few days and enjoy Brazil’s beautiful natural scenery. It’s growth will continue to provide a popular nearby location for many visitors from the city and a playground for outdoor sports.