The easiest way to envisage the shopping facilities on the island, and what you can or cannot buy, is to understand the market they cater for: primarily Brazilians driving to the island for weekends or holidays and staying in their second homes.
So you can pretty much buy everything you need over a weekend….maybe a week or two, but not, perhaps, for a longer stay. For example, you can buy toilet paper in packs of 4 but not in packs of 32, plenty of meat in freezers but fresh only available in some premises, and there is plenty of variety of fruit and veg towards the weekend.
However the good news is there is always plenty of beer, and there is an excellent fresh fish market in Pilar.
There are several of decent size and quality along the main Fort to Pilar road, including Pan Forte, Sol e Mar and Regente, as well as a few just off the ‘beaten track’ – like the excellent Patricia in Pilar. Just about all bake their own bread several times a day.
Canned, packet and frozen items are plentiful, and there is usually a basic stock of fruit and vegetables. Cereals, savoury and sweet items, soft drinks, water and ice (always mineral), cleaning materials and toiletries are standard. Just off the island are larger supermarkets, and for long term residents a visit to a cash and carry type store in Recife is usual every month or so.
There are many options, again along the main road, and they all have an excellent stock of ‘over the counter’ medicines. Indeed you will find some items that elsewhere you may require a prescription before you can purchase them, and some are of greater strength than you may be used to. The staff are always very willing to help, and hand gestures are widely understood to describe the most common ailments!
Fruit and Veg Stores
There are several roadside stalls and small stores offering fruit and veg produce, with the range dependent on the season. They often have a much wider range than the supermarkets, sometimes at better prices, and they are always helpful and friendly. And, of course, it is all locally grown and organic.
Everywhere sells booze: the convenience store at the petrol station, all supermarkets, a handful of drink outlets, and even off-premises sales from bars are common. Most beers and spirits are available, but a better selection of wines is normally to be found off the island.
Available everywhere, depending on what you want. Try some of the stores around the Fort area, Tony Artes in Pilar town square, plus there are some in Jaguaribe and Vila Velha, plus there are also beach vendors who may be able to help – and they are not at all pushy.
Apart from T-shirts, swimwear, beach dresses, shorts, hats, flip flops, sarongs and other beach accessories, there is not a lot of option on the island. Sunglasses there are plenty of, but you will need to travel to any of the indoor air conditioned shopping centres in Recife for designer wear, shoes or fancy goods.
This largely reflects the dress code on the island – casual beachwear, shorts and flip flops, 12 months a year.
Ice cream parlours, cafes, snack bars, bakeries, locksmith, butchers, hairdressers, gym, pet food, real estate agents, petrol station, car mechanics, garden centres, metal workers, bike shops, builders merchants, etc…
Hospital, ambulance station, police station, town hall, public toilets, several churches...
The second oldest church in Brazil - Vilha Vela, Itamaracá