The beaches of Northern Brazil between Sao Luiz and Fortaleza are rarely visited, but nonetheless extremely beautiful, with many small fishing villages retaining a traditional Brazilian lifestyle. The area remains quite untouched by tourism and is characterized by huge long beaches backed by equally enormous sand dunes.
The beaches of Northern Brazil between Fortaleza and Natal are often remote and beautifully bleak. As one heads away from the resorts near Natal and Fortaleza, the area becomes progressively less visited. First, we’ll mention the beaches heading east from Fortaleza, then we’ll discuss the beaches heading West / North from Natal.
Lencois National Park
Sao Luiz is a major city in North Brazil – there’s an international airport with flights to various destinations in Brazil, including the relatively nearby Manaus in the Amazon. Sao Luiz has some interesting colonial architecture, however, most tourists would only spend a night or two here before traveling onwards.
The beautiful Lencois National Park, east of Sao Luiz, has 150,000 hectares of beaches and shifting sand dunes scattered with freshwater lagoons. The beautiful landscape is like no other and the beaches almost entirely completely deserted – great if you don’t want to see others on your vacation to Brazil. It takes a few days to visit the Lencois area, but visitors are richly rewarded with immense beauty and small hamlets rarely visited in northern Brazil. Shifting sand dunes stretch for about 150 km between Tutoia and Primeira Cruz, just west of Barreirinhas. The rainy season of June to September is the best time to visit as the sand dunes fill with water and the reflections are quite beautiful. There are many birdlife and other wildlife, including giant turtles.
Lencois National Park is visited by overland travel from Sao Luiz to Barreirinhas (8 hours in a bus), where there are numerous small hotels and pousadas. From Barreirinhas, it’s easy to arrange boat tours and other excursions into the sand dunes.
A handful of tour operators offer long packages to the area which usually involves traveling large distances by dune/beach buggy and staying in basic accommodations – there’s no doubt that this is the best way to explore if you can afford the costs.
Parnaiba, Tutoia and Ilha do Caju
Further east lies the Delta do Parnaiba which has 70 small islands covered in forest, palms, and dunes. The area around Tutoia is particularly rich in birdlife – good for birdwatching in Brazil. The nearby island of Ilha do Caju is an island of lakes, forests, and marshes that also has some fine beaches.
Travel further East (see map) to find Jericoacoara, a fishing community nestled amongst the sand dunes. Jericoacoara is a tranquil and charming town that is popular for beach vacations in Brazil. The beaches of Jericoacoara are empty and beautiful. Buggy tourism is popular in this small Brazilian beach resort but is environmentally destructive. Jericoara is six hours’ travel by bus from Fortaleza. Some of the best beaches around Jericoacoara are to the west, including the area of Nova Tatajuba.
Beaches west of Fortaleza
Fortaleza has an international airport, cheap charter flights and is a popular gateway for vacations to northern Brazil’s beaches. The best beaches are found outside of Fortaleza itself – the coast to the northwest has many wide beaches backed by sand dunes and coconut palms – these are the Brazilian beaches you’ve been dreaming about. Access to many of the beaches and small fishing villages can be difficult, and as such many retain a traditional Brazilian feel to them. 60 km northwest of Fortaleza lies the village of Pecem, which has a wide beach and good surfing. Travel 20km to find Taiba and it’s a 15km palm-fringed beach and the nearby colonial village of Siupe. Both Pecem and Taiba have a few small hotels.
105km west of Fortaleza lies Paracura, a fishing port that also has one of Northern Brazil’s most important carnivals. They are some lovely deserted beaches near Paracura, in addition to a few hotels in the center of town. Travel west of Paracura to find Lagoinha which also has lovely beaches. Hotels in the area of Paracura and Lagoinha include Monalisa, O Milton, and Ondas do Mar.
Further northwest, and 135 km from Fortaleza, and one finds great beaches that have only recently been touched by tourism – the areas of Flexeiras, Imboaca and Mundau have lovely beaches and sand dunes.
Beaches East of Fortaleza
Travel East from Fortaleza (to where there are cheap charter flights) to find beaches characterized by impressive sand cliffs, lobster fishing, and rivers that need to be crossed by boat (see map). 31 km west of Fortaleza lies the colonial town of Aquiraz, while a further 6km east one finds the fishing village of Prainha, a popular weekend beach resort. The 10km beach is empty and good for surfing. Travel a further 20km west to Praia Iguape, another beautiful small fishing village with a lovely beach, and sand dunes where skiing/ dune-boarding is possible. 60km east of Fortaleza is the villages of Caponga and Aguas Belas, an area popular with Brazilians seeking weekend beach homes.
80 km east of Fortaleza is Beberibe, which is the access point to Morro Branco and Praia das Fontes, some of the better known beautiful beaches on this section of Brazil’s coastline. Morro Branco can get crowded during Brazil’s peak tourism season. There’s luxury resorts, holiday homes, beach buggy tourism and beautiful beaches in the area. Travel a few kilometers south of Praia das Fontes to find less crowded beaches.
120km east of Fortaleza is Prainha do Canto Verde, a small fishing village that has an award-winning community ecotourism project – a great place for experiencing the coastal Brazilian way of life, in addition to relaxing on the nearby beaches.
Traveling further east, Canoa Quebrada, near Aracati, is a popular Brazilian beach resort, with lots of bars, restaurants and laid back nightlife. Just south / east is Porto Canoa, a resort town with apartments, hotels and lots of nightlife. It’s more laid back to travel further along the coast to Majorlandia or Quixaba, both of which have a few small hotels and pousadas. Further along, the coast lies Ponta Grossa, a fishing community characterized by fair-haired locals (of dutch origin – due to a shipwreck) that’s a good place for spotting manatees. There’s more fine beaches further south at Redonda and Barreiras, a popular area for surfing that also has a few hotels.
Beaches North / West of Natal
Like Fortaleza, Natal has an international airport, again popular for charter flights, and is similarly a gateway for travel to Brazil’s fine beaches. The coast to the north of Natal, as if one was traveling towards Fortaleza, has many light-colored sand dunes and beautiful beaches. While Genipabu is a beach resort popular with the Brazilians, beyond it is off the beaten track in terms of tourism. The dramatic terrain is that of huge beaches backed by salt lakes – numerous biblical films have been filmed in this remote part of Brazil. We’ll mention the beach resorts traveling North / West from Natal.
The first beach resort, that of Redinha, is 15km from Natal. It’s an urban beach resort. 30km north of Natal is Genipabu, one of the most popular (busiest) beaches resorts near Natal – there’s lots of nightlife, restaurants, bars, buggy rental and micro flights available. Upmarket hotels in Genipabu include Genipabu Hotel, Pousada Sinos do Vento, Do Gostosos, Mar Azul and Pousada Villa do Sol. There are further beaches and small fishing villages just north at Pitangui and Jacuma, an area popular for holiday homes. Traveling onwards the area is scattered with small villages and lovely beaches, including those of Muriu, Prainha, and Coqueiro until you come across Touros, a resort town popular with package holidays to Brazil. See our guide to the beaches North of Natal for further travel tips and suggestions on this area.
As on continues to travel North / West from Natal, the area becomes increasingly less visited and more laid back. The dramatic terrain is scattered with vast beaches and coves, with small little villages such as Galinhos, Areia Branca, Ponta do Mel, Tibau and Rosado Beautiful and off the beaten track, if you want to get away from other tourists and find Brazil’s empty beaches for yourself, this is a great area to visit. Traveling South From Natal, there’s plenty of lovely small beach resorts between Natal and Recife.