Fernando de Noronha is an impossibly beautiful secret island just an hour’s flight from Recife in northern Brazil. A pristine National Marine Park, it was once visited by Charles Darwin and is so eco-orientated that on some beaches no sun cream or flip-flops are allowed. It has long been a hideaway for the Brazilian jet set, and is all the more alluring because the number of visitors is limited to just 400 a day. Mention the island to any Brazilian and they will sigh with longing. UNESCO has measured the air as the second purest in the world after the Arctic.
Until recently, the island’s only weakness was the lack of a decent hotel. So if you like your luxuries the Pousada Maravilha, owned by the scions of some of Brazil’s wealthiest families, is reason to rejoice. There are just eight white, bright rooms, very contemporary, and all with billowy curtains and bouncy beds. Views stretch out onto a brilliant peacock-green ocean, and you can enjoy outdoor jungle showers, a private Japanese hot tub and lazy-time hammocks. If you can bear to leave your room, the sleek infinity-edged pool is rock-star cool, with funky low-level day beds and more of those awesome views.
During the day your best bet is to hire a beach buggy, bomb around the quiet roads and discover the most breathtaking deserted beaches – many of them lurking at the end of bumpy, dusty tracks, and some with cavorting dolphins. Divers will delight in the gin-clear water – visibility up to 50m – and ridiculously rich marine life; those who prefer to stay on shore can watch baby green turtles hatch on the beach in the dead of night. Showtime runs from December to May.
Returning to the hotel is the ultimate treat. Candlelit massages are knock-out; suppers waist-expanding. The staff are so accommodating that they even check you in for your flight out, so you have to face the airport only minutes before departure. Heaven.