Fernando de Noronha is in a league of its own. The tip of a submerged volcanic formation, Fernando de Noronha lies 350 km (271 miles) off Brazil’s northeast coast and is made up of 21 islands. Only one is inhabited with a population of 5,000 people – the rest are home to seabirds, reptiles, and several endemic species. With pearly white beaches, turquoise waters, and dramatic rock backdrops, the islands seem to be the picturesque scene of a Hollywood film set and are considered Brazil’s most paradisaical retreat. Here are 10 things to know before visiting Noronha.
Paradise comes at a premium price and Fernando de Noronha is often much more expensive than mainland Brazil, even when comparing it to the bigger cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The cheapest hotels start around R$550 (US$170) a night and the prices can get much higher. You won’t want to go all the way to Noronha and miss out on its incredible activities such as diving, snorkeling, and boat trips, so factor these into your budget.
There is a bus that goes back and forth on the one main road that runs from the north to the south of the island, which is the cheapest option for getting around. Alternatively, you can hire a car but as most of the driving around the island is off-road, it’s better to hire a beach buggy. It’s common to hitch-hike along the main road and most locals stop to give people a lift.
During some months – in particular the turtle nesting season – some beaches either close to visitors or the access becomes heavily restricted. Between January and June, Praia do Leão – one of the island’s most beautiful beaches – closes from late afternoon to early morning to allow the turtles to nest in peace, so double check at your hotel if any of the beaches have restrictions before you head out. However, even if one beach is closed, there are dozens more to explore so you won’t miss out.
To help preserve the island’s natural landscapes and conserve the delicate ecosystem that thrives there, the number of tourists that can visit Fernando de Noronha is about 450 to 500 people per day. Because of this, it’s important to plan your trip and book your flights in advance to make sure you can go on the day you want.
There are two main ways of getting to Fernando de Noronha: by air or by sea. There are direct domestic flights that operate daily to Fernando de Noronha that go from Recife, Natal, Rio de Janeiro, Maceió, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, and Aracaju. Between October and February, some cruises stop at Fernando de Noronha. You can also go to the island on a private or chartered yacht for those with a much larger budget.
All visitors must pay a taxa de preservação ambiental (environment preservation tax) to visit Fernando de Noronha, which starts at around R$45 (US$14) for one day and increases per number of days you spend there. You can find the charges here but double check with your travel agency before you go in case of any changes. You must pay the fee either online, at the airport, or upon arrival. In addition to the nature tax, you must pay a taxa ecológica (ecological tax) to enter the island’s national park which must be paid even for the briefest of trips and will be valid for 10 days. It costs R$65 (US$20) for Brazilians and R$130 (US$40) for foreigners.
Be prepared for flight schedule changes or delays as the planes can’t always land when its raining on the island. If your flight is delayed, just sit back, keep calm, and wait for the update.
Mosquitoes exist in swarms on Fernando de Noronha and seem to make the most of the limited number of tourists that visit per day. To avoid these ankle-biting creatures, use plenty of mosquito repellent, but try using environmentally-friendly brands in keeping with the conservation regulations on the island.
There are some cash machines dotted around the islands but they are far and few between, as are money exchange houses so avoid being in a tricky spot where you can’t get money out and take plenty of cash with you. Most places accept credit cards but the signal isn’t always that great to let the card go through.
This tip may not help you especially during your stay but it’s an interesting fact to know. During the Beagle five-year expedition 1830s, Charles Darwin stopped at the Fernando de Noronha islands and his observations there inspired further research there from other biologists and ecologists.