Protected by an offshore coral reef, Maceió’s ocean waters are calm and a deep emerald color. City beaches include the popular Praia de Ponta Verde, Praia de Pajuçara, Praia dos Sete Coqueiros and Jatiúca – a pair of lounge chairs and a rental umbrella will run you about R$20 to R$30 for the afternoon. Be forewarned that Praia do Sobral and Praia da Avenida, closer to the city center, are polluted.

The nicest beaches north of the city are thought to be Garça Torta (14km) and Pratagi (17km), but Jacarecica (9km), Guaxuma (12km) and Riacho Doce (17km) are also tropical paradises. The Riacho Doce bus, which you can pick up in several spots along the coastal road, runs up the coast to these northern beaches.

Worth a Trip: Praia do Gunga

Praia do Gunga, near the village of Barra de São Miguel, is considered one of the finest beaches in Alagoas and is a popular day trip destination from nearby Maceió. The shores are protected by a huge offshore reef, leaving the waters calm for bathing or kayaking. Especially compared to the nice, but hectic, city beaches it's a true paradise. If you'd like to stay longer Brisamar Pousada is one of the better options in the area.

During high season on Praia do Gunga, dune buggies (R$50 per person) take tourists on an hour-long adventure: you'll speed along the sands, stop to photograph the rocky dune-lined landscape, and go for a dip in a natural pool. You can also hike to a lookout (R$3) for stunning views of the surrounding areas.

Note that in Praia do Gunga, dining options are infamously overpriced: be aware that most of the barracas (food stalls) insist on a minimum consumption of at least R$80–100 per person. Many beachgoers prefer to bring their own picnic from Maceió, or buy simple snacks and sandwiches from the stands set up around the gigantic parking lot. There is also an entry fee (R$5 per person), or a parking fee (R$15 per vehicle) which covers your entrance if you are arriving in your own car.

Barra de São Miguel and Praia do Gunga are located 35km from Maceió. Brazilian tourists usually arrive in their own cars, while most foreigners visit Praia do Gunga on a day trip with a travel agency in Maceió (R$35).

To arrive independently from Maceió, you can get one of the municipal buses from the main bus station (R$5.20, 40 minutes). There are many departures, with a slightly reduced schedule on Sundays.