The Brazil beaches locals love (and you will too)

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 Brazilian destinations can be found a little further off-the-beaten-path. Pack your swimwear and escape to these not-so-secret marvels.

The crystal clear waters of Bonito will definitely lure you in for a swim © GCestellon / Getty Images

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”. Visitors regularly find themselves spellbound.

Cruise around the lush island to discover your preferred beach. Promisingly, there are more than 40 to choose from. When many say Florianópolis what they really mean is Ilha de Santa Catarina, the name of the entire island.

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 ineffably picturesque locations to while away the days and 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 to Ostradamus.

Jericoacoara is a mix of rolling sand dunes and miles of blue lagoons © Rosie Bell / Lonely Planet

Jericoacoara

It may take you days to learn how to pronounce Jericoacoara (je-ri-kwah-kwah-ra,), but 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, enjoy live music in the evenings, try tapioca and negotiate reality. 

Brazil has countless paradise beaches but this one 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 here are a kitesurfer (or anyone’s) dream. Crash through the sand waves with a dune buggy or explore them on foot; you may not meet another soul for miles.

 There are tour operators aplenty to 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. Purchase a fresh coconut for drinking or as the ultimate photo prop.

 The best place in Jeri to start one’s 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.

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 may 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 would be swimming 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 one needn’t go underwater to meet the abundant aquatic life. Bonito sits within the state of Mato Grosso do Sol on the border with Paraguay and has become Brazil’s eco-tourism capital. 

Turquoise blue waters and an inviting surf make Porto de Galinhas a popular stop © Pollyana Ventura / Getty Images

Porto de Galinhas

It’s easy to see why people like Porto de Galinhas (Port of Chickens) in the state of Pernambuco. Follow the signs to the natural pools, Praia do Cupe, Praia de Maracaípe (a surfer hotspot) or Praia de Muro Alto. All are beguiling options. 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. 

Salvador de Bahia

The spirit of Africa very much lives on in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil’s third-largest city. Bahians eat acarajé bean patties which 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, too many to choose from. 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 “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.

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 in the state of Alagoas is relatively unexplored and famed for the Galés natural pools – crystalline waters with colorful sea life.

Visit Barra Grande when the tide is low. There’s an infinite sandbar where you may 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. 

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