A different kind of holiday from one day to the next
There are few places in the world where you can enjoy such a variety of experiences from one day to the next.
Enjoy twelve months of summer on breathtakingly beautiful beaches. Bathe and relax in the natural lagoons created by reefs along large stretches of the palm tree-lined coast, or get an adrenalin rush if you like surfing, diving, snorkeling and other water sports.
For history and culture lovers, Recife and nearby Olinda are a must. They were among the first cities established by Portuguese and Dutch colonizers in the early 16th century and much of the Colonial architecture remains, especially in Olinda, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Recife, Olinda and Porto de Galinhas all offer great bars, nightlife and world class gastronomy. Long histories and rich cultures are also reflected in many events and festivals throughout the year. The most famous of course is Carnival, usually celebrated in February or March each year.
Do Not Miss
This summer as many people will already know Brazil will be hosting its second ever World Cup, a magical moment for all football fans as the World Cup will return to what many think is the spiritual home of football, starting from 12 June, 2014.
Whilst almost all of Brazil will be swept up in World Cup fever, and spurring on the yellow and green selecao, this is particularly relevant to Recife, as it was one of the 12 chosen host cities for the prestigious tournament. That means if you did not already have enough reasons to visit this summer you will have the opportunity to if not watch a game bask in world cup fever and culture.
The city itself is already steeped in footballing history, being home to three teams; Sport Club do Recife, Santa Cruz Futebol Clube or Clube Nautico Capibaribe. However Arena Pernambuco (pictured below) has been custom built or the tournament.
The stadium will have an overall capacity of 44,218 and will be hosting some group games including Ivory Coast, Japan, Italy, Costa Rica, Croatia Mexico, USA and Germany. This means you will likely run into many fans from these countries, as well as the many football mad Brazilians already there.
If your one of the lucky ones to have a ticket congratulations! You are in for a treat. If not scroll down to find a list of bars or restaurants that will almost surely be showing the games.
If you know deep down that your not a football fan, you should still try to get into the World Cup spirit, as culturally football plays a huge part in the national psyche. If that’s not enough, are of age and need a reason to watch this great spectacle, place some world cup bets on the games you’re going to watch.
With regards to locating tickets and betting, it is best, particularly if you are new to Recife, to sort these up with reputable names before getting there. Particularly you want to avoid people selling expensive but fake World Cup tickets. If you find what you think is a good deal upon arrival, make sure the seller is recommended and the tickets themselves have the appropriate FIFA holograms.
Fernando de Noronha
This group of paradise islands off the North East coast of Brazil are one of the most amazing tourist destinations of Pernambuco. Consisting of 20 small islands and one larger island, the archipelago lies 340km from the mainland coast and covers an area of only 17 km2. It is inhabited by only 2100 residents, but many species of flora and fauna and of course its crystal clear waters are home to some 230 varieties of fish, 5 types of shark, 2 species of sea turtles,15 coral reefs and, unique to here and the South Pacific, the Spinner Dolphin.
Sustainable tourism is the islands biggest source of revenue, but the number of people allowed on the islands at any one time is strictly limited (only 420 tourists on the islands) to ensure its eco-tourism status – the longer you stay on the islands the higher the permit fee (but it is worth staying at least 5 days). Currently a five day stay on the island would cost approx. R$180 per adult in environmental taxes. There is only one paved highway on the main island which is Brazil’s shortest highway, so walking, cycling or hiring a buggy are the best way to get around and to reach the amazing beaches with breathtaking vistas.
There are 16 idyllic beaches to choose from and natural tidal pools to safely bathe in. Of course the islands are a natural location to visit for snorkeling, diving, surfing, underwater photography, fishing, sailing, horse riding and walking.
The beaches (especially those facing Brazil’s Atlantic Coast) are the main focus for surfers with waves between 2m and 5m high. These include Bode, Boldro, Cacimba do Padre, Meio and Conceicao beaches. There are other more remote beaches accessible by bike, on foot, or horseback. Here you will see some of the best views Brazil has to offer. Baia dos Porcos has huge rock sculptures, Praia dos Sancho a beautiful waterfall and Praia do Atalaia a stunning natural swimming pool amongst the rocks.
The highest point on the island and the one offering the best sunset views is the rocky structure of Morro do Pico standing 321 meters tall.
Temperatures remain pleasant all year round +/- 26oC, with the higher chance of rain between February and July
Click the link to see a Tourist Map of the island
The islands are formed as a result of volcanic activity beneath the Atlantic. They were discovered by famous Portuguese navigator Americo Vespucio in 1503 and early settlers built a fortress and Vila dos Remedios which is now just ruins. However this is still the largest village on the island and where most accommodation is offered.
Initially the islands were used as a Prison. Later it was used as a stopover point for transatlantic flights (being the nearest point to Europe). This also lead to it being used as a base for the Brazilian Air Force during the Second World War and is still used by them to this day.
In 1970 most of Noronha was designated a National Maritime Sanctuary aimed at protecting the marine and land environments of the archipelago. This has been extremely successful in protecting the sea turtle populations.
There is a museum on the island (Memorial Noronhense – Espaco Cultural Americo Vespucio) where you will find out more about the history, stories and legends of the islands. Also worth a visit are the many fortresses and chapels (Capela de Nossa Senhora da Conceicao – being well worth a visit).
Do Not Miss
Rent a buggy or mountain bike and go explore! You should be lucky enough to see dolphins and turtles if you time it right. Go to Dolphin Bay (baia do Golfinhos) for the Dolphins (year round) and Turtle Bay (baía do Sueste) or Leão Beach for the Turtles (egg laying and hatching Dec-May). Don’t expect to see pigs in Pig Bay though! Whales can sometimes be spotted as well (Sept-Oct).
Sunset – spectacular wherever you are, but the best vantage point is Mirante Dois Irmãos.
Sancho Bay and Pig Bay vie for the title of best beach on Noronha, but as they are side by side why not do them both in one day and make up your own mind ?
Snorkeling. Head down to praia da Atalaia early as the number of people permitted to participate in this amazing experience is strictly limited to 100 per day. A tidal pool no deeper than 24 inches contains a remarkably diversity of animals – Lobsters, Octopuses, numerous fish species and the possibility of a baby shark or two. To enjoy this spectacle you have to be able to float confidently without putting your feet down (practice elsewhere if possible). You will not be allowed in the pool if you are wearing sunblock to prevent its pollution, and you are only allowed in the pool for 25 minutes. It is well worth adhering to the rules for the experience of looking into an amazing tropical water pool teeming with colour; “like snorkelling in a giant tropical fish aquarium, but it´s the real thing”, as one tourist put it.
Other Top Attractions
Diving courses, Kayaking, Surfing, Swimming, Trekking, Mountain biking, Sailing, Ocean fishing – take your pick – they are all worth doing.
Whether you fancy horse riding along the beach or going out to sea on a kayak or boating excursion, there is something for everyone. Out at sea you are likely to have up close encounters with dolphins playing in the crystal clear warm waters.
Scuba Diving – Nearly 20 spots together offer the best scuba diving in Brazil. Visibility can reach 50 meters (165 feet), and the average water temperature is 26 degrees centigrade (79 Fahrenheit). Coral reefs, sea turtles, sharks, spinner dolphins, barracudas, and shipwrecks count among the attractions.
As a novice you can still dive. After a short instruction session, a professional will take you on an escorted dive called Baptism (Baptismo). They control your pressure gauges etc. This still requires some courage if you have never dived before, and you would be well advised not to dive if you have not fully understood the instruction, if you have any heart or other medical condition that may pose a risk. People who have had any kind of problems with their ears should also seek medical advice before considering a dive. Despite these warnings, if you are able to dive in Fernando de Noronha it is going to be an incredible experience, and one you will probably treasure forever.
Beaches get busy here, but there are plenty of them around the island, so it is just a question of choosing the ones you want to visit. There is a bus that trundles from one end of the island to the other along its only road, so you can hop on this ($R2.85). You could be cheeky and hitch a ride – many locals, taxi drivers and dive truck will happily give you a lift. It is a good idea to speak some Portuguese to them to let them know where you require and to say thank you!
Air France Cultural Center – In 1927 the French airline Compagnie Genérale Aeropostale set up a base for refueling and repair of its transcontinental hydroplanes. In 1934, the company joined with three others to found Air France. The restored building now houses the Noronha Association of Artists and Artisans.
Accommodation on the island covers a wide range of prices. Choose your preference from our listings forBudget accommodations (under R$300 per night), Moderate accommodations (R$300-500 per night) and Luxury accommodations (over R$500 per night). These are guide prices based on the cost of a double room. Fernando de Noronha, that has a limit on tourist numbers of 420 at any time, and makes most of it´s income from sustainable tourism, is not a cheap option, and “budget” is therefore not the same as in other parts of mainland Northeast Brazil where budget would be less. But, for many a trip here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and for all it is a privilage.
A wide variety of tours our available on the island. Our listing, searchable via a variety of criteria, will be available soon
Bars and Cafes
Kiosks and bars can be found near the port for a chilled beer or of course a Caipirinha. Some places have space to have a dance as well. Local hero, singer and composer Ju Medeiros can often be seen and heard in bars and restaurants around the island.
As you would expect from an island with so much fishing, the most popular dish on a menu is seafood. There are a variety of fish based dishes from Sushi and Sashimi, grilled, baked etc, but the most famous here is the banana leaf wrapped fish dish. It goes without saying the fish is caught daily here. Other types of cuisine are also available on the island to suit all tastes and budgets.
Follow the link for our Restaurant Recommendations
Nobody really goes to Noronha for the nightlife, so the relatively sparse offerings don’t matter much to most people. However sundry venues offer a place to have a beer or even dance.
The Tamar Project Visitors Center, which houses the Open Sea Turtle Museum, located on the Alameda do Boldró, hosts nightly talks by scientists and environmentalists. Additionally the island offers special events which can be seen in the event calendar (coming soon)
The information we offer can be found by the following links: Basic Information and Advice (coming Soon)
Due to its tiny size and tightly controlled population measures, shopping is not abundant on Noronha. There are however a few small shops selling locally produced handicrafts made from recycled materials. Of course there are souvenir items such as hats and shirts for sale as well as essential diving equipment.
If you seek souvenirs please select items that support the TAMAR/IBAMA PROJECT from the Open Sea Turtle Museum located on the Alameda do Boldró. This is a very worthwhile cause committed to the conservation of turtles. The Project started in 1980 and its primary task was to protect the nesting areas of the turtles – protecting female turtles and their eggs from the encroachment of developments. Having had great success in this area they are now concentrating on two feeding areas where local fishing techniques lead to accidental capture of turtles and are causing the population to diminish.
The shopping area in Noronha overflows with tropical fruits such as papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, mangoes and a variety of bananas. There are also handcrafted items available at the markets. If you want to take home an authentic souvenir then you can buy these items and you also help the local economy!
Follow the link to our shopping directory (coming soon)
How to Get There
There are connecting flights from Recife or Natal international airports:
From Recife daily flights are offered by GOL or TRIP airlines. The 545km flight by TRIP is flight 5518, departing Recife at 2.30pm daily, and the return flight from Fernando de Noronha, TRIP flight 5519, is at 1.35pm. GOL flight 1708 departs Recife at 2pm daily, and the return, flight 1709, is at 4.35pm daily.
From Natal daily flights are offered by TRIP airlines. The 360km flight 5514, departs Natal at 11.10am, and the return flight from Fernando de Noronha, TRIP flight 5515, is at 5.20pm. This flight can be booked via TAM airlines with whom TRIP has a code sharing agreement.
Boa Viagem beach is one of the most impressive urban beaches in Brazil. It can best be enjoyed on weekdays when it is quieter, and at low tide when reefs along parts of the beach create natural lagoons. Signs warning of shark attacks should be taken seriously, but the lagoons at low tide are very safe.
The historic city of Olinda was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. The colorful Colonial houses, churches and cobblestone streets add to the history and charm of a place that is today home to many artists and artisans. The city also hosts one of the best and most authentic Carnival parties in Brazil.
Carneiros beach is one of the most unspoiled in Brazil. The area has long expanse of palm tree lined beaches and shallow warm waters that offer ideal bathing conditions. There are also natural pools within the reefs, excellent for snorkeling and teaming with tropical fish that feed from your hand.
Other Top Attractions
Recife Antigo island was the birthplace of the city, established by Dutch who invaded in 1637. It has rich and interesting architecture, which is being gradually restored. By day it is a business district, but at night it comes alive, especially on weekends when Carnival bands rehearse. Also on Sunday the main street, Rua Bom Jesus, has a street craft market. The same street is home to the oldest synagogue in the Americas.
Porto de Galinhas is one of the most famous beaches in the area. The beach itself is spectacular, but the town is now very commercial. Nearby are Muro Alto and Macarapaípe beaches, which are both spectacular. It is worth hiring a buggy for a day to go beach hopping from “Porto” as the locals call Porto de Galinhas.
Downtown Recife is close to Recife Antigo. It is the heart of the city still with a mix of historic churches, building, markets, and squares. Most of the area is off the beaten track as far as foreign tourists are concerned, but for the adventurous tourist it is a must. Hear are the real sights, sounds and smells of the city with all the hustle and bustle.
Oficina Francisco Brennand is the workshop and gallery complex of one of Brazil’s most important artists. Brennand is a sculptor and painter, the son of a wealthy industrialist who made commercial ceramics. He has been described as the Salvador Dahli of Brazil. His work, both natural and surreal, can be seen in themed water gardens and in the old factory where tiles are also still made.
Calhetas is a small picturesque beach in a cove very close to Recife. The bay and the rocky outcrops are charming, the waters crystal clear. There are also several bars and restaurants offering fresh seafood.
There are accomodations of every type and quality in the region, from a luxury beach bungalow with its own pool to a charming old pousada (guesthouse) in the historic city of Olinda or a modern luxury beach front hotel. For full details see our listing of Accommodations by category:
Walking Tours of Recife and Olinda are a great way to soak up the history and culture of the cities’ past and a comfortable way to experience authentic city life. They are given by guides who have a real knowledge of the cities.
Day Tours from Recife will help you get to know the real Brazil and enjoy many authentic experiences. They will take you to the beach, the countryside plantations or to historic towns and villages.
Short Adventures are 2-4 day themed itineraries. Like Day Tours, they are designed to show you the real Brazil, past and present. Some are also designed to explore its history and wildlife, or to experience the many sports and activities it offers.
Top 5 Bars
Bar da Praia is the best bar in Aveneida Boa Viagem. This relatively new bar quickly established itself as the best beach bar. The design, atmosphere and food are all excellent. It is also close to several top restaurants, so a good choice for pre-dinner drinks and happy hour. The avenue has several other good bars described in our bar listing.
Biruta One of the few good bars located right on the beach in Pina at the far end of Aveneida Boa Viagem. A large open terrace overlooks the ocean for great views at night and especially on the night of a full moon. It also has a large selection of seafood dishes and snacks.
Casa da Moeda is run by local photographer and artist Sergio Altenkirch and has a Bohemian feel that attracts a loyal clientele of local artists, writers, and journalists. This “alternative” crowd adds to the atmosphere. It is a great place to drink and snack, also to enjoy the frequent live music performances which vary from jazz and blues to rock, with the occasional performance of Brazilian sounds such asChorinho (the weeping guitar).
Bar Central is in Downtown Recife. A small, friendly, professionally-run bar that attracts a loyal group of regulars that are described as the alternative crowd – musicians, artists, writers, poets. Also gay and lesbian friendly. One wall is decorated with a large areal map of Recife; other areas have old photographs. The juke box has a great selection of Brazilian and international music. The food is also good with a selection of Brazilian and international snacks and full dishes.
Buraco do Sargento is in one of the most interesting historic squares of the Downtown area. Tables spill out into the cobblestone square which is dominated by the São Perdro church. The square is surrounded by bars that mostly serve traditional regional dishes and snacks for very good prices. This is a place that locals come to after work. It is not a regular tourist haunt. It is a lot less sophisticated, but more authentic and charming, than some large bars in the rich neighborhoods, which are relatively expensive.
For a listing of all bars by area see Bars in Recife
Top 7 Restaurants
É is a world class restaurant owned by one of Brazil´s top chefs. Douglas Van de Ley is a genius in the kitchen, a really creative artist who mixes fine international ingredients with Brazilian flavors in exotic combinations that are exquisitely presented. The menu experimentale can be requested and highly recommended it if you want an evening of gastronomic extravagance. É is a restaurant we cannot recommend highly enough!
Spettus is the best restaurant in Recife for meat. In addition to the excellent meat selections, this restaurant serves an extensive cold buffet of salads, vegetable and cheeses – a meal in itself. At twice the price of its nearest rivals, it has had to establish a similar gap in terms of quality.
La Cuisine is a French restaurant which consistently serves a high quality menu within all three areas of the restaurant, each with a distinctive atmosphere: Brasserie, Meditarinian beach restaurant and serious gastronomic restaurant. It is perfect for brunch or lunch (soups, salads, sandwiches, and wraps) or dinner.
Fish and other seafood prepared in every imaginable way is a highlight of this restaurant. The quality is consistently high earning Bargaço an enviable reputation that has already lasted many years. For visitors to the city who love fish and seafood, Bargaço is a must.
Parraxaxá The name is of indigenous origin and is pronounced pahashasha. This very popular self-service (pay by the kilo) restaurant serves regional cuisine in a rustic theme restaurant. A very wide selection of savory and sweet dishes. The plates are massive, so make sure your eyes are not bigger then your stomach or it will cost you!
Oficina do Sabor is considered a “must” by most tourists. This restaurant specializes in exotic seafood dishes served in a pumpkin. Most dishes can be shared between two people, making it just about affordable for travelers on a budget. Get there early for a good table with a great view of Recife.
Maison do Bonfim
Here you will find traditional French cuisine with a Brazilian flair. The restaurant consistently achieves positive reviews, but despite the excellent reputation, remains relatively affordable. Readers of Recife Guide have all given excellent reports to date.
Nightlife in the region varies a lot by area. In all areas, there are many bars. Most are open until the last customer leaves, especially at weekends. In several, live music can be enjoyed on most nights, especially in the smaller neighborhood bars and in Recife Antigo. As for clubs, the majority are in Boa Viagem. For full details see our listings see Nightlife in Recife
Carnival is the most important annual event to which we have dedicated a section of the site. There are also a large number of other annual cultural events and festivals of music, dance and cinema. The other annual events and one-off events will be listed in the Event Agenda
When you are travelling as an independent traveller you are going to need a lot of information. Recife Guide will give you as much as we can in two seperate A-Z Lists: Basic Information and Advice (coming soon).
Recife International Airport (REC), also known as Gilberto Freyre International Airport is a very modern airport with all the facilities you might expect.
It is the main means of Arrival to the State of Pernambuco, and the connection point for most other destinations within the state, although some visitors to Fernando de Noronha may connect via Natal International Airport.
Recife airport is located very close to the city. It is just 1 km from Boa Viagem beach and 9 km from downtown Recife. the distance to Olinda is approximately 15km and to Porto de Galinhas approximately25km.