The beaches of Northern Brazil between Natal and Recife are more visited than those further North, but development remains low key. The Rota do Sol is scattered with small beach resorts and beach front hotels, while further South, Pipa is one of Brazil's finest small vacation resorts. The area around Joao Pessoa offers further possibilities, and much of this coastline is good for surfing. Just north of Recife is the beautiful colonial town of Olinda, which has one of Brazil's best carnival celebrations. The travel highlight (in terms of beaches) of this region is undoubtedly Fernando de Noronha, which Brazilians will tell you has the best beaches in Brazil.
Fernando de Noronha
The volcanic island of Fernando de Noronha is one of Brazil's most beautiful and romantic beach destinations. In addition to being popular for honeymooners, Fernando de Noronha sees it's fair share of surfers, divers, turtles and migratory birds in addition. It's not cheap, but it is stunningly beautiful. Airlines that fly to Fernando de Noronha include Trip, Varig and Tam - there are flights from both Recife and Natal.
See our very extensive Fernando de Noronha guide & trip report for a wealth of useful information if you're planning a trip to this wonderful island.
Brazil's Beaches & Resorts South of Natal: Rota do Sol
The beaches and small resorts to the south of Natal are known as Brazil's "Rota do Sol" - a popular vacation spot with long remote beaches in parts. The development remains quite small scale generally, and many species of turtles can be spotted along the coastline. There are numerous small resorts just south of Natal - Praia do Cotovelo, at 21 km, offers camping; Pirangi do Norte, at 25 km, is popular for waterports and has the worlds largest cashew nut tree; Buzios, at 35km, has a fine setting and many sand dunes and beaches (not to be confused with the Buzios near Rio); Barra de Tabatinga, at 45km, is popular for parasailing and surfing; Camurupim is at 46km; Barreta is 55km from Natal. All these are small beach resorts, laid back and relatively uncrowded. There's various expensive hotels on Brazil's Rota do Sol, including Colinas Chales, Barreira do Sol, Portal do Kutuvelo, Pousada Esquina do Sol, and Varandas de Buzios.
Tibau do Sul and Pipa, Brazil
Two of the more frequently visited beach resorts along this section of Brazil's coastline include Tibau do Sul and Pipa, both of which still remain low key and stylish resorts. Tibau do Sol has cobbled streets, and good surfing beaches, in addition to a lake full of manatees. From Tibau do Sul, there's various lovely beaches along the coastline before you reach Pipa, one of Brazil's loveliest small beach resorts. Pipa's town beach is a little overdeveloped, but there's some great beaches just outside of town, and a scattering of luxury hotels throughout the area.
See our Tibau do Sul & Pipa guide (& trip report) for extensive suggestions if you're planning to visit.
Joao Pessoa & around
Further South, Joao Pessoa is the capital of Paraiba state. It's a smallish town with some colonial architecture, and various restaurants and bars along the 30km beach front - the further from Joao Pessoa centre the cleaner the beach is. The Paraiba coastline has numerous beautiful beaches and coves surrounded by cliffs and coconut palms. Tambaba, 50km south of Joaoa Pessoa, is one of the best known beaches - and one of the few official nudist beaches in Brazil. There's other beautiful beaches nearby including Jacuma, Tabatinga (popular for holiday homes), Coqueirho (good for surfing) and Pitimbu. This coastline has a range of cheap to mid range pousadas and hotels.
Some of the best beaches along this stretch of Brazil's coast are found near the fishing village of Campina, which is just north of Joao Pessoa. Nearby Baia da Traicao is another small fishing village with access to numerous other lovely beaches. Barra de Camaratuba, 20 km further north, is a great surfing beach.
Beaches & Resorts North of Recife
Just north of Recife (in reality it is one of Recife's suburbs) is the colonial town of Olinda, which arguably has Brazil's best carnival celebrations. Olinda, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a colonial town whose cobbled streets are great for exploring - it's worth spending a couple of days if you are travelling north or south (if only because it has more than just beaches to look at on your Brazil vacation!).
Travelling North of Recife, Itamaraca Island is where Adam and Eve spent their vacations (at least according to the Brazilians locals). Itamaraca has some some charming small colonial villages and lovely wide beaches and the area is good for birdwatching (migratory birds). Travel further north from Recife to the fishing village of Pontas de Pedra, which has some lively nightlife and is a good spot for diving.
Travelling South from Recife, there's many more beaches and resorts between Recife and Salvador .....