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The 22 best beaches in Brazil

April 10, 2013 5 Comments

It is a little insane – and maybe unfair – to name the best beaches in a country with a 7,500 km coast. But certain wonders of warm white sand and sweet breeze are definitely top of mind,  included in several lists produced by travel specialists and the media.

Below, you will find a list of the best stretches of sand that appear over and over in Brazilian beach rankings. Note that it is a mix of isolated, coconut flanked paradises with limited access and urban beauties, surrounded by skyscrapers. The two first ones, Lopes Mendes, in the state of Rio, and Baía do Sancho, in Fernando de Noronha island, in the Northeast, are hors concours, mentioned by both international and national tourism experts.

travel nature  The 22 best beaches in Brazil

Baía do Sancho, by Alberto Perdomo/ Flickr

These are the main sources used to produce this list: the 2013 Travelers’ Best Choice Award (elaborated by one of the main tourism sources on the web, Trip Advisor), the 2011 CNN network ranking of 50 best beaches in the world, the 2009 The Guardian ranking (a special feature by the British daily paper), Frommer’s Brazil guide and, of course, a couple of Brazilian sources: Guia Praias 2013/2014 (published by Guia Quatro Rodas, a very traditional tourism guide, in the spirit of the Michelin guide) and a ranking produced by 2012/2013 Prêmio O Melhor de Viagem e Turismo (award created by Viagem e Turismo, one of the main tourism magazines published in the country).

  • Baia do Sancho (in Fernando de Noronha island) – Everyone’s favorite.  The Travelers’ Best Choice Award points out that by boat or by the tricky ‘stairs,’ this beach is just perfect. The white sand and the green water are an amazing ensemble.It was also included in the CNN ranking: “Steep, rocky cliffs covered in vegetation form a backdrop to the clear waters that are accessible only via ladders attached to the cliff face. Or by boat”. And the The Guardian quotes Douglas Vieira, São Paulo journalist, that recommends Baia do Sancho and two close-by beaches: “Baia dos Porcos, a place of astonishing beauty and great for swimming; and Atalaia, a natural saltwater pool with abundant sea life”. Finally, both Baia do Sancho and Baia dos Porcos are praised by Guia Praias, which also includes another beach in Fernando de Noronha in its Top 10: Praia do Leão.

travel nature  The 22 best beaches in Brazil

Lopes Mendes, photographed by OsvaldoROVE/ Flickr

  • Lopes Mendes (in Ilha Grande island, state of Rio) – Included in the Travelers’ shortlist and also in The Guardian ranking, it’s “the beach of your dreams, a sweeping 3km of the whitest, finest sand that stretches out to a calm, crystal blue ocean” (according to Nadia Nightingale, Rio resident interviewed by the Guardian). Frommer’s guide also considers it a must: “unspoiled by any development, and features fine soft sand, clear clean water, and excellent waves for surfing.” It must be added that, unlike many beaches in this list, Ilha Grande is halfway between the two biggest Brazilian metropolis, Rio and São Paulo. It is also one of the suggestions of Guia Praias 2013/2014.
  • Taipu de Fora (in Barra Grande, Bahia state) – According to The Guardian, “the long sweep of beach ends at a headland where beautiful reef pools are exposed by the receding tide, revealing a huge naturally sheltered pool, offering wonderful snorkeling and tropical fish”. It also impresses the folks at Guia Praias , that recommend spending the afternoon in one of the little bars along the coast or to rent a snorkel and swim in the natural pools at low tide.
  • Bonete (in Ilhabela, the biggest island in São Paulo state) – “You pass waterfalls and walk in the shade of the Mata Atlântica, Brazil’s dwindling virgin coastal forest. Half an hour before the end of the 15km walk you’ll see it”, informs The Guardian. Guia Praias also considers it a must:  “a little fishermen community keeps this treasure of São Paulo coast, with blue ocean and a preserved forest”.


travel nature  The 22 best beaches in Brazil

One of the many waterfalls at Bonete. Photo by Leonardo Pallotta/Flickr

  • Lagoinha do Leste (in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina state) – As a whole, Florianópolis disputes with Fernando de Noronha the trophy of best cluster of beaches in the country. Among the many options, Lagoinha do Leste seems to be the one that gets most stars. “A deserted beach on the south of the island, an hour’s hike away”, describes The Guardian. “The soft white sand, almost always peaceful, separates the ocean with wild waves from a lagoon great for baths. It is surrounded by preserved nature”, says Guia Praias 2013/2014. As an alternative, Frommer’s suggests Praia Mole, “perfectly white fluffy sand, lush green vegetation, and rocky outcrops give the beach an isolated, paradisiacal feel. Yet, the strand is anything but quiet, packed with a bohemian crowd of locals from Floripa, yuppie tourists, surfers, gay and gay-friendly sunbathers, and families”.
  • Praia do Toque (in São Miguel dos Milagres, Alagoas state) – The Guardian quotes Ricardo Freire, a Brazilian tourism expert and author of the guide “100 Praias Que Valem a Viagem” (100 Beaches You Must Visit), who says that “São Miguel dos Milagres fringes 15km of beaches protected both by reefs and the lack of a highway – the main coastal road turns inland, and only those in the know take the local road that leads to a forest of coconut trees and scattered villages”. Another option in the same municipality would be Praia do Patacho, recommended by Guia Praias 2013/2014, thanks to the huge area covered by coconut trees, the coral reefs, the lagoons and the peaceful atmosphere.

The previous six beaches or groups of beaches are recommended by several sources. Now, the following locations are highly praised, but don’t necessarily make all short lists.

  • Alter do Chão (in Pará state) – An unexpected suggestion, since the Amazon region is not frequently considered a good coastal resort. A suggestion by Tom Phillips, The Guardian’s Brazil correspondent:  “Around 30km from the rainforest city of Santarem, Alter do Chão is the jungle’s answer to the Caribbean. After a week holed up in the jungle, Alter do Chão is the perfect place to relax: you can lounge on the river beaches in the morning, gorge yourself on a local grilled fish in the afternoon and retreat to one of the area’s many charming pousadas by night”. Another option might be Ponta Negra, in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, right in the heart of the Jungle. “Not an ocean beach but a river beach, Ponta Negra, on the shores of Rio Negro, is the most popular tanning spot in the dry season”, informs the Frommer’s guide. “All the standard beach accouterments are present, including vendors plying food, drinks, and souvenirs. Beach kiosks serve up snacks until the wee hours”.

travel nature  The 22 best beaches in Brazil

Arpoador in a photo by Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr

  • Arpoador (in the city of Rio) – This one is perfect for those that visit Rio and cannot stretch their trip to include some isolate paradise. Plus, they want to go a little beyond the most obvious Rio beach destinations. Tip by Gavin McOwan, from The Guardian Travel: “at the end of Ipanema when the traffic curves round to Copacabana, pedestrians can carry on walking to Arpoador. A continuation of Ipanema beach, Arpoador ends with a tall rocky headline, an easy 60m climb, offering stunning views of the whole length of Ipanema, Leblon and the famous Dois Irmãos mountain”. But if you want to stick with a more traditional tourism destination, follow Frommer’s tip and visit Ipanema: “Yes, this is one of the most urban beaches in the world, but it’s still one of the country’s prime tanning spots. The long stretch of white sand is perfect for observing the tan and lovely (male and female alike)”.
  • Praia da Fazenda (in Ubatuba, São Paulo state) – “Halfway between two of Latin America’s biggest cities, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, but truly a world apart, lies one of Brazil’s great natural jewels, where protected, heavily forested coastal mountains drop vertiginously into beaches and azure sea”. says Simon Heyes, Latin American Travel Association, interviewed by The Guardian.
  • Porto de Galinhas (in Pernambuco state) – Another favorite among Frommer’s writers.”No high-rises mar the unpretentious town of Porto de Galinhas, which has perhaps four streets — enough for a dozen restaurants, a bank, some surf shops, and a beach side bar or two”. It is also among the favorites of Viagem e Turismo magazine.
  • Jericoacoara (in the state of Ceará) – the small fishing village that attracts windsurf and kite surf aficionados is recommended by the readers of Viagem e Turismo magazine.
  • Praia da Pipa (in Tibau do Sul, in Rio Grande do Norte state) – a hippie-chic paradise favored by Viagem e Turismo magazine’s readers.

And last, but definitely not least, a few options in the Northeastern state of Bahia:

travel nature  The 22 best beaches in Brazil

Porto da Barra. Photo by Manu Dias/Government of Bahia/Flickr

  • Porto da Barra (in Salvador, Bahia state) – Another good urban option. “In many ways, Porto da Barra is to Salvador what Bondi is to Sydney and Venice Beach is to Los Angeles”, compares the CNN. “You’ll find something happening on the beach around the clock — tiny fishing boats bringing in the day’s catch, beach volleyball and bustling activity at the Fisherman Colony Manguinhos, a traditional fish market in Buzios”.

travel nature  The 22 best beaches in Brazil

Caraíva by Nathalia Resende/ Flickr

  • Boipeba (in the south of the state of Bahia) – According to Frommer’s, the perfect island getaway, Boipeba makes Morro de São Paulo seem busy and hectic. Just south of Morro, Boipeba offers glorious empty beaches framed by rows and rows of palm trees. At Boca da Barra, where the river Inferno meets the ocean, huge sand banks appear at low tide. You can choose whether to swim on the freshwater side or play in salty ocean”. In the same island you could try Moreré beach, a suggestion by Guia Praias 2013/2014. Going further to the south of the state, look for Caraíva.  Steven Chew, contributing editor do Conde Nast Traveller, interviewed by The Guardian, notes that “no motorized transport is possible in Caraiva so the sounds that prevail are the breeze in the high almond trees and the exhaling of a dozen mules that pull the little carts that are the only alternative to walking. The beach stretches uninterrupted for more than a day’s walk in either direction”. Then, continue even further to the south of Bahia, to reach Praia do Espelho. Guia Praias 2013/2014 considers it the star of that portion of Bahia, thanks to the “transparent ocean and spectacular landscape”. Note that it is next door to former favorites, now overly crowded Trancoso and Porto Seguro.

Do you agree with this selection? Please, do add your own favorites to this list. What are, in your own opinion, the best Brazilian beaches?



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