Ilhéus, the largest city in the southern coast of Bahia, was founded by Portuguese colonisers in the 16th century and grew quickly as a centre of cocoa production. Though the cocoa industry declined during the 1980s, the surrounding areas still produces 65 per cent of all Brazilian cocoa. Ilhéus port is consequently kept busy shipping this famous Brazilian export.
Ilhéus is also the birthplace of one of Brazil's most celebrated authors, Jorge Amado, and the city is the setting of his novel Gabriela, Cravo e Canela - ‘Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon'. For these reasons, Ilhéus is an interesting place to explore before heading out into the surrounding area to join local cocoa tours and visit some of Bahia's famous beaches. The beaches of Marciano and Barra, to the north, offer some excellent surf breaks and, like many of the beaches in this area, are largely deserted.