For a country that has a long coast filled with picturesque beaches and charming towns, how does one beach town stand out from all of the others? What ever the recipe is, Pipa has perfected it. Not only is it a laidback, adorable town, but it sits on the edge of some of the most beautiful beaches in northern Brazil.
With cobblestone streets leading off in every odd direction, you may find yourself wandering around this little town more than you meant. It is a cute town though, so you probably won’t even mind getting lost and likely will enjoy walking up and down the hilly, narrow streets of Pipa. In addition to the colourfully painted homes and bright street art that line the streets there are several local beachwear and craft shops to keep you busy. Pipa is a very popular Brazilian holiday destination, but it doesn’t feel rushed or over done. In fact, it feels about as laid back as they come.
But of course, the real reason to come to Pipa is for the beach. Or rather, beaches. With 5 perfect coves within walking distance of town, the toughest decision will be choosing which one to visit. We asked someone at our hotel where we should spend our days. He pulled out a map and as he pointed to each beach he said ‘Linda’ (Beautiful), ‘Linda’, ‘Linda’. I asked in my very broken Portuguese ‘They’re all beautiful?’ He said yes, and he was right.
We began our day high on the red cliffs above Praia do Amor (Love Beach). The flat top of the cliffs is called Chapadão (Plateau) and provides the perfect lookout for your first glimpse of this spectacular coast. Looking in one direction and you can see the reason Love Beach got its name. This view of the heart-shaped cove has become an Instagrammers’ favourite. In the other direction you can see far down the southern coast toward the white cliffs of Praia dos Minas.
The plateau is on top of Pedra do Moleque (Stone Kid). Apparently Portuguese explorers first saw this rocky point from the sea and thought it looked like a cask which is what gave the town its name. Pipa translates in English to cask or barrel.
Praia do Amor (Love Beach)
Access to Praia do Amor is via a long, wooden staircase that takes you from the top of the cliffs to the sandy beach below. While walking down the stairs we found it difficult to take our eyes off the stunning scenery.
In addition to the unique shape of the cove, the soft sand, protective cliffs, palm trees and turquoise water make it even better from ground level. We think Praia do Amor is the prettiest beach of the five. Although the waves can be strong it’s a gorgeous spot to spend the day. The staircase access means it’s a bit more quiet than some of the other beaches which is nice but it still has a few food and beverage stalls renting chairs and umbrellas.
Each of the five coves are separated from each other by rocky points making them seem more secluded and special. During low tide you can walk between all of the beaches but when the tide comes in the rocks would be submerged and it would be difficult to navigate around them. Most hotels have the local tides timetable.
Praia do Centro (Centre Beach)
For those not interested in walking too far under the hot Brazilian sun, Centro Beach is located at the bottom of the hill below town. It’s the busiest of all of the beaches in Pipa. The waves are gentle which makes it a popular spot for families. As well there are several beach bars and restaurants with busy patios and umbrellas set up on the edge of the water.
We could really see the difference between high and low tide in this area. At low tide Centro is a huge muddy beach and you have to walk quite a distance to go for a swim. At high tide there’s not much sand at all.
Praia do Porto (Harbour Beach)
Immediately beside Centro is a rocky shored beach called Praia do Porto. It is not used by sunbathers but instead by fishermen. At low tide we walked on the shore beside a small navigational marker and saw many tour and fishing boats sitting on the ocean bottom. When the water came in the boats looked like they were far away from shore and the marker was surrounded by water.
Praia Baía dos Golfinhos (Bay of Dolphins Beach)
This beach is a little more difficult to get to because it’s only accessible at low tide from Centro or Madeira Beaches. During high tide there’s no way to get in or out of Dolphin Bay. For that reason, we knew it would be quieter which sounded perfect to us. We were navigating our way between the large and small rocks on the point when we saw a few vendors pushing their carts through the sand. We realized that they knew the best route between the rocks so we followed their tracks.
When we rounded the point the view of the bay made us speechless. Tall red and white cliffs topped with lush vegetation wrap around the edge of the cove providing the perfect backdrop for the golden sand. Apparently dolphins frequent the waters in the bay and will often swim with you but unfortunately, there were none when we were there. Even without dolphins it is a beautiful spot.
In Brazil there are many different vendors on the beaches selling a variety of goods from beach wear to ice cream. One of the most common ones in Pipa were fully stocked bars selling cocktails on the sand. While you’re drinking your cocktail you can have a chicken skewer from the guy walking up and down the beach with a portable barbeque.
We actually saw someone carrying a portable barbeque in town at night. Not only were people walking on the street buying chicken skewers, but while we were having dinner on a restaurant patio we saw one man with a barbeque approach other customers. He ended up barbequing chicken for them right in the middle of the restaurant patio. The owners laughed at it, but didn’t seem to mind that his customers were ordering food from someone else. This was another reminder that we were definitely not in Canada anymore.
Praia do Madeira (Wood Beach)
At the far end of Dolphin Bay is another rocky point that separates it from Madeira Beach. It is set in yet another long sandy cove backed by gorgeous, tall cliffs. The main road leading to Pipa runs above Madeira and there is a parking lot on the side. The easy access makes this beach a little busier. There were quite a few stalls selling food and drinks and the many chairs were filled with beach goers. The waves in Madeira are higher and longer than at the other beaches which also makes it a popular with surfers.
Praia das Cacimbinhas (Watering Hole Beach)
The final beach in this stretch is Cacimbinhas. This beach is less busy than Madeira and it would be a great spot to spend the day. The main deterrent from being busier is that it can only be reached by foot from either Madeira or the next town, Tibau do Sul. At its far end we could see wide open golden sand dunes. Sandboarding is a popular activity on them and we had intended on doing it but when we saw how short the sand dunes were we changed our minds. Sandboarding is like snowboarding, but on sand.
Getting to Pipa
Pipa is only 60 km south of Natal and 128 km north of João Pessoa. It’s not too far off the main highway between these two cities so is easy to access if you have a car. Taking a bus from Natal is also relatively easy. Hourly buses leave from Natal Central Bus Station (Rodavario). The trip takes 2 ½ hours.
Coming from the south by bus though is a bit more difficult. To get to and from João Pessoa, you have to take one of the large buses travelling between João Pessoa and Natal. They will pass through the town of Goianinha where you have to catch a small bus travelling to Pipa. There is no bus terminal in Goianinha but buses will stop to pick up and drop off passengers at Restarante Mirante. We don’t know if the buses will stop automatically or if they only stop when they know there are passengers so its best to buy a ticket on-line ahead of time.
Where to eat and stay in Pipa
Pipa is a popular tourist town. There are several hotels and resorts for all budgets in town. If you have a car you can also chose between the many hotels and resorts up and down the coast. Finding the perfect accommodation will not be difficult. We stayed in a small, locally run hotel called Pousada Zia Teresa. It has a great location, friendly staff and an excellent breakfast. The main street, Rua Golphina, has more restaurants per block than many cities have in their entire downtown. In addition, there are a few small grocery stores in the downtown area.
To read about our other adventures in Brazil click here.
Coming Next – Seixas Natural Pools, João Pessoa
The small towns in Brazil have the added charm of not having the crowd pressure that makes the big cities so oppressive. Beautiful landscapes of beach and coast.
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Very true, we enjoyed these small cute towns much more than the large cities.
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