For an island getaway: Cacimba do Padre, Fernando de Noronha, Pernambuco
Fernando de Noronha island is a pinnacle of crumbling granite fringed with pristine coral reef and set in deep ocean an hour’s flight off Brazil’s northeastern coast. The entire island is ringed with fabulous beaches – many of them protected as turtle-nesting sites – but Cacimba do Padre is the most spectacular, a kilometre long broad stretch of downy soft sand, set between craggy headlands and pounded by powerful, tubing surf.
For fresh-water wading: Pequeiro beach, Ilha do Marajó, Pará
Not all Brazil’s beaches are salt-water. Pesqueiro sits on Marajó island – a sandbank the size of Denmark in the mouth of the Amazon river. It’s mind-numbingly vast – running the length of a European country to the north, broken by tiny fishing villages with stilt houses, caiman-filled mangrove swamps and towering Amazon rainforest. And it’s washed by a gentle, fresh-water river-sea which flows broad and deep into the Atlantic and a distant horizon, turning the ocean mineral-water sweet for almost a hundred kilometres offshore.
Image by Alex Robinson
For mountainous backdrops: Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro state
The mountains of southeastern Brazil’s Atlantic forest drop into an emerald green ocean in a run of verdant ridges, rising again offshore as a ripple of islands. The most beautiful of these is Ilha Grande, or Big Island – a few hours bus ride south of Rio. As it's covered in tropical forest and has no roads, transport to the island’s myriad marvellous beaches is by brightly-painted fishing boat or walking trail. Lopes Mendes is around two hours' trek from the island’s only village Abrãao, on a path that cuts up into monkey-filled trees, then dropping onto the sand through a series of tiny, balmy bays, and finally cutting into Lopes Mendes itself – a wild, three kilometre strand sitting in the heart of the island’s protected state park.
For lavish luxury: Trancoso, Bahia
Trancoso is a boho beach village clustered around a square of old Portuguese cottages and a tiny church, sitting on a high sandstone cliff between the rainforest and tens of kilometres of long, empty golden beaches. Over the last decade it’s become the playground for Brazil’s off-duty jet set. Supermodels and their sun-kissed celebrity cohorts flock here for New Year, staying in barefoot luxury at a string of effortlessly cool boutique resorts. You can spot them in the evenings – fine-dining al fresco under the stars and dancing samba into the small hours at beach bars. Or you could ignore them altogether and find an empty beach all to yourself. There are plenty to go around.
Image by Alex Robinson
For sand dunes: Jericoacoara, Ceará
Strong prevailing Atlantic winds have swept sand off the broad pink-and-white beaches into towering dunes, which roll far inland, enclosing shallow salt water lagoons and marshes. The views from the dune crests are stunning, with golden sunsets fading over the sands into shades of brilliant red and pink. And the reliable winds, placid sea and myriad lagoons have made Jericoacoara a favourite spot among kite- and wind-surfers weary of the crowded Mediterranean. Surfing here is easy – the town has a string of board rental shops, almost all of which offer classes for kite- and wind-surfers of all levels.
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