The rodoviária (t 83/3221-9611) in João Pessoa is conveniently near the city centre. Any bus from the local bus station, opposite the rodoviária’s entrance, takes you to the city’s one unmistakeable, central landmark: the circular lake of the Parque Solon de Lucena, which everybody simply calls the Lagoa, spectacularly bordered by tall palms imported from Portugal. All bus routes converge on the circular Anel Viário skirting the lake, some en route to the beach districts, others heading further afield: to the northern beaches, the neighbouring town of Cabedelo and the village of Penha to the south of the city. Buses for the beach can also be caught directly from the rodoviária; look for the ones marked “Tambaú”.
The Presidente Castro Pinto airport (t 83/3041-4200) lies just 11km west of the city centre and is connected to the rodoviária by regular buses; taxis into town cost around R$30.
João Pessoa’s centre is just to the west of the Lagoa. To the east, Avenida Getúlio Vargas leads out of town towards the skyscrapers and beachside bairros of Cabo Branco and Tambaú. At the city’s core is Praça João Pessoa, which contains the state governor’s palace and the local parliament; most of the central hotels are clustered around here. The oldest part of the city is just to the north of Praça João Pessoa, where Rua Duque de Caxias ends in the Baroque splendour of the Igreja de São Francisco. The steep Ladeira de São Francisco, leading down from here to the lower city and the bus and train stations, offers a marvellous tree-framed view of the rest of the city spread out on the banks of the Rio Sanhauá.
The two sweeping bays of Cabo Branco and Tambaú are separated by the futuristic, luxury Hotel Tambaú – more commonly known as the Tropical Tambaú Center Hotel – and the nearby Centro Turístico Tambaú shopping centre. This area is also where the highest concentration of bars and clubs can be found. The southern boundary of the city is the lighthouse on Ponta de Seixas, the cape at the far end of Cabo Branco. Locals claim it as the most easterly point of Brazil, a title disputed with the city of Natal to the north – though the pessoenses have geography on their side.
Official tourist information is available from the state tourist board, PB-Tur, at the rodoviária (daily 8am–6pm; t 83/3222-3537), the airport (daily 9am–4pm) and in the Centro de Turismo in Tambaú, opposite the Tropical Tambaú Center Hotel at Av. Almirante Tamandaré 100 (daily 8am–7pm; t 83/3247-0505). You can also find a post office and a posto telefônico here.