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Praia da Pipa, a hippie-luxe beach hangout on Brazil‘s north-eastern coast, is a heavenly place to spend three days or even three months. As well as a buzzing town centre, it has beautiful beaches, dramatic cliffs and rainforest, and sparkling waters. When it comes to what to see and do, here are ten of the best activities.
The Beach of Love is so-called because of the heart shape that the natural swimming pools form at low tide. Mostly, however, it is washed by the tumbling waves that are loved by surfers. You can reach it along the shore at low tide, or by walking out of town when the tide is high. Station yourself on a sun bed and watch the surfers cutting across the bay and people playing volleyball and bat-and-ball on the sand.
Bikes are available for rent in the town if you want a leisurely potter on two wheels. For those after something a bit more challenging, then there are two good routes to do with a guide. One, a 24km (14.9 mile) round trip, goes up and down along the cliffs and the shore. Another goes in the direction of Lagoa de Guaraíras and takes in some of the sand dunes (16km / 9.9 miles).
One of the funnest tours you can do from the town is to take a buggy down the coast and over the dunes. Open-topped and all-terrain, the little cars accommodate four passengers and can be driven miles down the seemingly endless beaches. The best trips take a day and will stop off at inland lagoons, at the largest cashew tree in the world, will pause to see monkeys and dolphins and pit-stop for lunch at a simple restaurant on the beach.
Given the scale and abundance of slippery sand dunes around Pipa, it is hardly surprising that various sports have sprung up on them. Strap a snow-style board to your feet and throw yourself down the sandy hills, or perhaps you prefer to go on your bottom in a style the Brazilians call “esqui-bunda“. It will have you clambering back up for more.
Along Avenida Baía dos Golfinhos, Pipa’s main tourist street, there are fancy boutiques, jewellery shops, bikini stores and places that sell souvenirs, art and knick-knacks. Some boutiques stock quality Brazilian brands like Osklen and Richards, while the surf emporiums have international labels like Quicksilver, Billabong and Rip-Curl. Cruising the shops is a good rainy day activity or else something to be done in the evening, when the heat of the sun has subsided.
Whether you’re looking to get a pedicure, have your hair cut or indulge in a full day of pampering, Pipa has it all. There are salons in town and many of the pousadas, such as Sombre e Agua Fresca or Toca da Coruja, have their own dedicated spas and offer Ayurvedic treatments, reiki, reflexology and various forms of massage to really put you in the holiday mood.
Taking a boat out to sea to admire Pipa’s chalky white cliffs and to go in search of the resident dolphins is a special way to spend the day. Speed boats, fishing boats, schooners and catamarans are all available to take out either on the ocean or lagoons. Larger boats tend to fill up with smaller groups before setting sail, whereas speedboats can be hired individually and the day’s itinerary tailored to you taste.
Just a short distance from the town centre is the Santuário Ecológico de Pipa. It has 16 trails of varying length and difficulty that run through native Mata Atlântica rainforest. Walk the 150 steps down to the rural Praia do Madeiro or between January and June its often possible thanks to conservation project TAMAR to see turtles and their hatchlings. Dolphins, monkeys and birds are also not usually far away.
If Pipa is a little snoozy by day it certainly perks up at night. Small bands play live music in the street and a roster of bars will lead you eventually to the town’s club, Calangos. Mikroponto is a slip of a bar with a large tree at its entrance that serves excellent cocktails and cold beer while surf films play and rock music is pumped out. Just next door is Tribus which almost always puts on a live music show and which draws a huge happy crowd.
Undoubtedly the most magical experience you can have in Pipa is to make your way over the rocks and round the cliffs to Praia Baía dos Golfinhos as the sun is starting to set. The beach itself is a large curved crescent of toasted sand and gently rippling waves. There are usually only a few people about, sitting on the shore or bobbing in the water, when a pod of dolphins make their daily pilgrimage to the bay. They frolick around in the sea, appearing and disappearing, seemingly unbothered by their human companions on the beach.