Praia da Pipa itself is very attractive, but pretty urbanized due to numerous barracas, fishing boats, and bronzing bodies flaunting the latest in bikini wear. It gets very packed in the summer, but is quite tranquil during off-season. The water is a mesmerizing blue-green and when the tide goes out, natural pools form amidst the coral reefs.
Within walking distance are more unspoiled and enticing beaches. Most are only accessible on foot during low tide—otherwise you’ll need to take a van, buggy, or boat.
Heading north, a 30-minute walk will bring you to Praia do Curral, followed by Praia do Madeiro. Both are splendid white-sand beaches set against towering red cliffs, whose emerald waters are known as the Enseada dos Golfinhos (Bay of Dolphins) due to these mammals’ fondness for feeding here. Although Curral is completely secluded (so bring water and snacks), you’ll find barracas on Madeiro’s beach, which is also popular with bodyboarders.
South from Pipa is the beautiful Praia do Amor, which can be reached along the beach at low tide as well as from the a road leading down from the scenic clifftops above, known as Chapadão. While Amor’s heart-shaped beach is popular with sunbathers, its waves are revered by surfers and bodyboarders. The surfista scene is at its fever pitch and the beachside barracas are filled with ripped dudes and their lovely ladies.
In contrast, neighboring Praia das Minas is wide, long, and empty. Excellent for walking, it’s also a hatching spot for the region’s sea turtles. Also tranquil is Praia de Sibaúma, a tiny fishing village that was originally a quilombo community formed by runaway slaves. On the other side of the Rio Catu from Sibaúma, Barra do Cunhau also has a fine beach and lots of great local fish and seafood restaurants.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition