Overshadowed by big Bahia to the south, the tiny state of Alagoas has long been overlooked by travelers. But it's a tendency that's changing – in the past few years, the thoroughly likeable coastal city of Maceió has emerged as a buzzing vacation destination for Brazilian tourists. There are towering modern hotels on its waterfront and a small, but eclectic, restaurant scene that combines world cuisine with Brazilian flavors.
Still, despite the influx of eco-friendly pousadas (guesthouses) and stylish restaurants, there remain plenty of isolated, paradise-like stretches of white sand, emerald waters, swaying palms and quaint villages along Alagoas' coast. In towns like Praia do Francês and Maragogi you'll find natural pools created by expansive offshore reefs to explore. Inland travel appeals to history-minded travelers: Penedo is a charming riverfront town with picturesque colonial churches and hilly cobblestone streets.