Got 48 hours to spare in Brazil‘s Praia da Pipa? Lucky you! Two days in this paradisiacal beach town will leave you wishing for more but, for starters, here’s a run down of the best beaches to hang on, activities to take up and places to go out. Enjoy.
Wake early, bounce out of bed and make your way like a hatching turtle to the beach. Praia do Amor, on the south side of town, is rugged and wild and almost always deserted at first light. As the sun rises across the Atlantic bask in its warming, golden glow. Take a moment to breathe it all in, daydream and perhaps move through a few downward dogs before heading along the shore to the town and back to your pousada. At breakfast, try the pão de queijo (balls of cheese bread) and a tapioca pancake filled with cheese, tomato, ham or whatever else takes your fancy.
Spend the afternoon on a buggy tour. Book with one of the tour operators in town and set off down the coast, riding the back of the little roofless cars. You can tailor your itinerary to take in the biggest cashew tree in South America, lagoons and sand dunes or you can just enjoy the thrill of speeding down the shoreline, kites zipping along the sea beside you and the sun beating down. Have lunch at one of the traditional restaurants along the way and persuade your driver to stop in at the cachaça shop and bar too.
Arriving back in Pipa, make the daily pilgrimage to Praia Baía dos Golfinhos. Every night a small pod of dolphins pop by the huge scoop of a bay to play in the shallows as the sun goes down. On the shore a few people laze around but otherwise it is almost total tranquility. Wander back, wash and scrub up and head to Tapas for dinner. It is a long-standing restaurant, serving Spanish-inspired international small plates. By this stage of the night in the high season and at weekends the main road will be filling up with revellers. Grab a table at Mikroponto for shots and rock music, or linger on the street buying drinks from the cocktail carts that appear. It’s likely that you will be pulled by the sound of live music into Tribus or by the thud of beats to Calangos.
Shake off your hangover (you will have one) with a dip in your pousada’s pool and settle down to a leisurely breakfast. Get your walking shoes on and pack your water, as today you should go to Pipa’s eco-reserve, the Santuário Ecológico. Just on the outskirts of town but in thick Mata Atlântica forest with endangered Brazil Nut trees, it has a handful of relatively easy trails that take you close to the animals – monkeys, iguanas, egrets, hummingbirds and much else – and to stunning lookout points over the coastline. Brazil has five of the world’s seven species of turtles, and between October and May they breed and hatch eggs on Pipa’s beaches. Projeto TAMAR works to keep the sand free of litter and light (which confuses hatchlings) and helps as many babies to reach the sea as possible.
Praia do Madeiro is close to the eco-sanctuary so descend the 150 steps and flop onto the beach. It is a huge sweep of bay that feels almost entirely cut off from modern life. There are some basic beach bars and surf and stand-up paddle-boards to rent, but kicking back is the best way to pass the time here. Don’t stay beyond dusk, but head back to Pipa for a sundowner (or three) and some snacks on the famous Garagem Barco Bar, a grounded ship on the town’s beach.
Most hotels and pousadas will be able to arrange a masseuse to visit, and a good back rub will loosen you up nicely for another night on the tiles. Before dinner is also a good time to have a look around the shops. Pipa has some expensive (but tempting) boutiques as well as small artisanal shops and market stalls. Bags full, go for an authentic taste of north-eastern food at the cosy O Tal do Escondidinho. Their speciality is a gratin made with either meat, fish or vegetables baked under a crust of pumpkin, potato or cassava mash. Afterwards head back to the main drag for a repeat of last night’s fun, friend-making and dancing until the sun rises.