How do you decide which beaches to visit in a country with almost 7500km of coast? With such variation it can be hard to decide what kind of beach you would most enjoy. In Brazil, there is everything from untouched “paradise island” beaches to tourist hotspots with day parties and international DJs. Here we give you 3 of our favourite, based on beauty, activities and accommodation. Now, when booking a Brazil vacation package, you can be sure that you are well informed about the best destinations for 2020!
Ilha Grande – The true paradise island
Ilha Grande is a tropical island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, belonging to the coastal city of Angra dos Reis. You get there by taking a ferry from Angra dos Reis for approx. 30 mins – 1 hour. When you are arriving towards the island, which is located 15 kilometres off the famous “costa verde,” you are greeted with an intense feeling of awe. The panoramic view of the jungle pouring down the hills into the sea reminds you that some places on the planet are better left as untouched by modern human activity as possible. Ilha Grande is one of those places. However eco-tourism allows the island to be enjoyed by tourists in a way that is environmentally sustainable and brings a level of income to the 6000 inhabitants who live here.
The history of the island is not to be outmatched by its beauty. Modern cinema and literature may fantasize the lives of pirates, explorers and indigenous people, their interactions, wars and customs but here, on the island of Ilha Grande (and also with the rest of the costa verde) this history is very real. Ilha Grande was first discovered (by Europeans) on 6th of January of 1502 when the Portuguese explorer Gonçalo Coelho sailed here. The 6th of January was known as “Dia dos Réis” (the day of kings). Back then it was inhabited by the native “Tupinamba” people who called the island “Ipau Guass” meaning “the big island”, from where the island gets its Portuguese name “Ilha Grande” also meaning “big island.” After its discovery Ilha Grande became a hideaway for pirates and treasure hunters. In the 1800´s the first colonizers began to come to the island and brought with them the slave trade. From then on, the island was colonized by fishermen who built the settlements. There was also a prison on Ilha Grande until 1994. It is said that Ilha Grande is so well preserved thanks to the prison which deterred people from coming to live on the island.
A fantastic rule on Ilha Grande is that there are no vehicles allowed on the island. The average annual maximum temperature is 21.5°C (70.7°F) and the minimum is 17.0° C (62.6°F).
What to do on Ilha Grande
The hub of the island, where most of the inhabitants live and where you will first arrive is the village of Vila do Abraão. This is where there is a concentration of tourist infrastructure – small restaurants, accommodation and tourist services are all to be found here. From Abraão, you can explore the hundreds of beaches on the shores of the island. A good idea is to hire bikes so you can get yourself around the island quicker and enjoy more of the natural landscapes it has to offer. Ilha Grande is also popular for scuba diving and other water sports such as surfing. A pleasant day time can be spent visiting Igreja de Santana. This church was built on a small peninsula in 1796. The best way to get there is by taxi – boat from Abraão. It is beautiful and well preserved, but note it is difficult to get inside and you will likely only be able to see it from the outside.
Praia de Lopes Mendes is one of most famous beaches on Ilha Grande. It is the dream of many Brazilian surfers to one day surf its perfect waves. This is the beach where the surfers visiting the island will be concentrated. We recommend getting a ticket from Abraão for a boat trip to the other side of the island to visit Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, two other worldly snorkelling spots. Parnaioca Beach is excellent for those interested in the history of the island, from there you can see the ruins of old buildings and the surroundings usually have little tourists. Swimming here can be risky because of the currents so leave that to the other beaches such as those at Abraão cove near the village.
Cost of a beach vacation on Ilha Grande in 2020
Ilha Grande is not the cheapest destination in Brazil. It is exclusive and this is reflected in the price. For a few nights here, you can expect to pay upwards of $500 per person for your accommodation and transport from Rio de Janeiro.
Jericoacoara – The jewel of “Nordeste”
Jericoacoara, the prized possession of Brazil´s Northeast coast. It was once a quiet fishing village with no electricity, lost in the sand dunes and only the local fishermen and their families lived there. It is now one of the most popular beach vacation destinations in Brazil and is sure to continue to be so in 2020. Why? Because “Jeri” has an extraordinary ability to develop its tourist infrastructure whilst still keeping the magical atmosphere of a small fishing village lost in time. The village of Jericoacoara has come to be a hub for excellent dining. There are quality restaurants serving Brazilian and international food, and no shortage of places for a night out. Here you can find a romantic and quiet candlelit dinner by the ocean with no one around, as well as lively parties enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
The town was made famous by an article in the Washington Post entitled “Beauty and the Beach” by Cal Fussman. In it he describes how he met his future partner on the shaky bus to this sleepy little village. Fussman later described Jericoacoara
“It was as if the most beautiful sand dunes of the Sahara had been set next to the crystal waters of the Caribbean.”
Similar to other Brazilian beach vacation destinations, you are not allowed to drive your car in Jericoacoara. You must get transport to Jijoca de Jericoacoara, usually from Fortaleza, pay a small tourist tax and take one of the jeeps from there into the town.
What to do in Jericoacoara
Here, the most popular activity is definitely wondering the sandy streets looking at the various gift shops, little boutique clothes stores and eating at the excellent restaurants. Something special about Jericoacoara is that you easily forget what time it is, one of the characteristics of a place so separated from the outside world is that you plan your day with the sunrise and the sunset as your only indicators of time. There is a reason that Jericoacoara is of the most sought after Brazilian beach vacation destinations.
One of the most enjoyable excursions you can do from Jericoacoara is the beach buggy trip to a huge freshwater lagoon hidden in the dunes. You will pass the small settlement of Tatajuba and the seriously impressive Funil sand dune to reach your glorious destination. Here, you can relax and have a fresh lobster lunch (we recommend Didi´s) with your feet in the water before relaxing in one of the hammocks that are suspended just above the surface of the lagoon. We recommend getting back in time in the evening to head to “duna do por do sol” or “the sunset dune” near the main beach. This is where most people go to watch the sunset and is one of the only places in Ceará where you can watch the sun go down directly over the sea.
On another day you could ask one of the “buggeiros” to take you to the Azul lagoon or the Paraíso lagoon. Both are highly recommended, gorgeous and worth the trip. Two of the best beaches for water sports are Prea and Malhada where you will find mostly kite surfers from all over the world. There are snorkelling and diving schools and the occasional wave for surfing is known to appear at Malhada if you go at the right tide. A beautiful and classic walk is to the “Pedra Furada” ask around to get someone to point you in the right direction around 4.30 p.m. You should get there just in time to see the sunset through the famous pierced rock. Also, for sports fans, after the sunset you can go back to the main beach where there will be a Capoeira “roda.” The athletic martial artists release blinding kicks in games of two people accompanied by traditional Capoeira music – clap along as you observe this vital part of Brazilian culture.
Cost of a beach vacation in Jericoacoara in 2020
A little more expensive than other beach destinations, a stay in Jericoacoara for a few nights will cost upwards of $600 per person including your transport by road from Fortaleza. Eating out here in the best restaurants is expensive but it is possible to save a little by choosing cheaper accommodation and choosing cheaper dining options. If it was in the past, Jericoacoara is no longer a budget travel destination.
Morro de São Paulo – 5 heavenly beaches and unmatched nightlife
Our last selection for our top Brazilian beach vacation packages in 2020 is another paradise island. This time off the coast of Bahia. Morro de São Paulo is on the very northern tip of Tinharé Island. It is characterized by its five beaches with splendidly fine sand. The beaches are simply named from 1-5, beach 1 being the most popular and beach 5 being normally almost deserted. With this, each beach attracts a certain type of crowd. Those who prefer a busier lively beach head to beach 1 or 2 and those who prefer more peace and quiet will prefer beach 3 and so on. Again this part of the island has few inhabitants but has a fantastic tourist infrastructure that is geared towards relaxing in the day and partying by night. Again, you aren´t allowed to drive private cars on the island which adds to the magic, the exclusiveness and the “secluded paradise” feeling this island gives you. A favourite method of transport here is by horse and cart, a charming and relaxing way to get around.
The geography of Morró de São Paulo is one of the reasons it is so popular. It is covered with coconut trees and huge stretches of white sand which are bordered by almost mythical looking mangroves. As well as its relaxing beaches, festive evenings and wonderful surroundings, Morró de São Paulo has an interesting history. It was one of the first Portuguese settlements in South America when it was inhabited by Alfonso de Souza in 1531. It´s original name was “Tynharea.” It became a check point for ships that were heading to Baía de todos os Santos. With this is came to be a battle ground between French, Dutch and Portuguese forces in the colonial past. Much later, this abandoned little area was involved in WW2, being one of the sites were German submarines would attack during the war years.
What to do in Morro de São Paulo
Morró de São Paulo has some historical sites that are well worth visiting. Firstly, the baroque style Fonte Grande de Morro de São Paulo. This was a large fountain built in 1746 by the then viceroy of the area. It is said to have been the most advanced water supply system in colonial Brazil and it supplied water up until the 1970´s. (It was only in 1985 that the area got its first electricity supply.) Fortaleza de Morró de São Paulo is a lighthouse built to guide the ships usually on their way to Baía de todos os Santos. The lighthouse is difficult to visit because of its position and the surrounding vegetation but if you continue past it you can get an excellent viewpoint at Tiroleza.
During the day you can enjoy water sports in magnificent surroundings especially for snorkelling or diving. There are surf and stand-up paddle boards available to rent by the beach and you could also explore the coast by kayak. There are gorgeous and secluded nature walks that you can enjoy. They snake through the coconut plantations towards the majestic waterfalls and natural springs in the Atlantic forest! Take a boat trip to the island of Boipeba and go swimming in the peaceful natural pools. Tapirandu fort is the ideal place from which to see the sunset. The town is the best spot to have a fine meal in the early evening on a balcony with a gentle coastal breeze. As the night gets later you will hear the sounds of local music beginning to excite locals and tourists alike – the nightlife here is fantastic. Totally deserving of a top spot on our best Brazil beach vacations for 2020 review!
Cost of a beach vacation in Morró de São Paulo in 2020
This selection is a little cheaper than the rest. To stay a few nights in Morró de São Paulo you are looking at $350 and upwards. A big factor influencing your total spend is how you get there, you can go by airplane by ferry or by plane. Taking the ferry takes the longest but is the most scenic route. You can fly from Salvador de Bahia airport in 20 minutes.