The beaches in Brazil that locals love – and you will too

Aerial of the Porto de Galinhas beach in Pernambuco state.
Find your sandy paradise at one of Brazil's many beautiful beaches © AdrianoAquino / Getty Images

No other country conjures images of paradise amid a backdrop of samba, riotous festivals and breathtaking nature quite like Brazil.

While Rio de Janeiro tends to get the lion’s share of adoration, some of the best beaches in Brazil can be found a little further off the beaten path. Pack your swimwear and escape to the best beaches in Brazil.

Surfers and swimmers at Barra da Lagoa beach in the late afternoon in Florianópolis, Brazil
Surfers and swimmers take to the water at Barra da Lagoa beach  © Ines Sacramento / Shutterstock

Florianópolis

Florianópolis has long enjoyed favor among Brazilian, Argentinian and Uruguayan travelers, but word has since spread further afield. The capital of the state of Santa Catarina is a coastal city with many monikers: Floripa, the Ibiza of Brazil and the Magic Island. When many say Florianópolis, what they really mean is Ilha de Santa Catarina, the name of the entire island.

Cruise around the lush island to discover your preferred beach: there are more than 40 to choose from. Novice and experienced surfers are welcome here, as are lovers of paragliding, windsurfing, kite surfing and hiking. Lagoa do Peri and Lagoa da Conceiçao are picturesque locations to while away the days. When the sun goes down, you’ll be grooving – there are countless pulse-pumping opportunities for a night out. Florianópolis is also the oyster capital of Brazil, so don’t leave without a stop at Ostradamus.

Person walking over a sand dune in Jericoacoara, Brazil
Jericoacoara is a mix of rolling sand dunes and miles of blue lagoons © Rosie Bell / Lonely Planet

Jericoacoara

It might take you days to learn how to pronounce Jericoacoara (je-ri-kwah-kwah-ra), but it takes only seconds to fall in love with it. “Jeri” is a riot of color, a bohemian beachside village with trees dressed up in dangling dream catchers. Stroll along the sand streets and enjoy live music in the evenings. 

Brazil has countless paradise beaches, but Jeri is special as the meeting place of rolling sand dunes and miles of blue lagoons to accompany your beach vista. The dramatic landscapes on offer are a kitesurfer's (or anyone's) dream. Crash through the sand waves with a dune buggy or explore them on foot. You might not meet another soul for miles. Tour operators can take you on day trips in and around the area including stops at the Pedra Furada rock formation and the nearby lagoons. Don’t miss Lagoa do Paraiso (Paradise Lagoon). The roads to get there are bumpy but worth it.

The best place in Jeri to start your evening is atop Duna do Pôr do Sol (Sunset Dune), where sunset gazing is a strictly observed pastime. Like magic, what appears to be the entire village migrates to the dune just before the sun leisurely descends into the horizon. Once you see the mobile caipirinha vendors wheeling themselves up the dune, you’ll know its time to find a perfect spot.

Crystal clear waters of Bonito, Brazil, surrounded by lush trees and plants
The crystal clear waters of Bonito will lure you in for a swim © GCestellon / Getty Images

Bonito

The name says it all. Bonito (Portuguese for "pretty") and its surrounding areas are a winning blend of natural wonders. Buraco das Araras in nearby Jardim is South America’s largest sinkhole. Witness flying rainbows in the form of hundreds of scarlet macaws. More than 150 other bird species also roam within the curious geological formation.

Within Bonito, thrill-seekers can rappel down a truly hidden paradise in the form of Abismo de Anhumas (Anhumas Abyss), a cave filled with spectacular stalactite formations. The descent requires prior training and is not for the faint-hearted. A more casual pursuit is a swim in the untold depths of Jardim’s Lagoa Misteriosa (Mysterious Lagoon) or visiting Bonito’s Balneário Municipal, a natural swimming pool teeming with large fish. Waters are so clear that you don't need to go underwater to meet the abundant aquatic life.

A small boat with a large colorful sail is moored in the shallow waters at Porto de Galinhas, Brazil
Turquoise blue waters and an inviting surf make Porto de Galinhas a popular beach stop © Pollyana Ventura / Getty Images

Porto de Galinhas

It’s easy to see why people like Porto de Galinhas (Port of Chickens). Follow the signs to the natural pools, Praia do Cupe, Praia de Maracaípe (a surfer hotspot) or Praia de Muro Alto. Along Porto de Galinhas’ beaches, street food takes new meaning. Hail down a roving seafood cart to serve you juicy shrimp, lobster and crab meals right on the sand. Many visit with hopes of turquoise blue waters, sun and surf, but even more leave with saudade – a simultaneous joy for what was and a yearning for what no longer is. 

Tropical beach with palm trees and white sand in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Find your own personal paradise on the beaches of Salvador da Bahia © Christophe Schmid / Getty Images

Salvador da Bahia

The spirit of Africa very much lives on in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil’s third-largest city. Bahians eat acarajé bean patties that Yoruba Nigerians know as akara. The Afro-Brazilian martial art dance of capoeira was also born in Bahia. Woven into the ebbs and flows of life here are surfing, sunning and swimming at the beautiful beaches. Praia Porto da Barra and Praia do Farol da Barra are popular sandy spots. 

For a quieter beach experience, listen to advice from the great Vinicius de Moraes, and head to Itapuã. In the song “Tarde em Itapuã”, Brazil’s beloved lyricist earmarks the neighborhood as a serene locale to spend an afternoon, listen to the sea and talk about love. While many travelers sequester themselves in Rio, Salvador is well worth the detour.

Crystal clear waters lap against a wide expanse of light brown sand dunes in Maragogi, Brazil
Spend a day walking the vast stretch of sand dunes in Maragogi © Marcelo Guerra Fotos / Shutterstock

Maragogi

If you harbor dreams of endless sandbars, make it your business to visit Maragogi. This beach town is relatively unexplored and famed for the Galés natural pools that have crystalline waters with colorful sea life. Visit Barra Grande when the tide is low. There’s an sandbar where you can walk right into the middle of the Atlantic. Praia de Antunes is also distractingly good looking while Praia Central is the main beach. Each locale boasts perfect snorkeling conditions. 

This article was originally published in October 2019.

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