By Lauren Hogan, Contributing Reporter
RIO GRANDE DO NORTE, BRAZIL – A day at the beach in Brazil isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but discover a gem like Praia da Pipa and a formerly favored ocean oasis could be blown out of the water. From swimming side-by-side with dolphins or kite-surfing, the twelve beaches that make up the area each offer a unique experience and much more to do than just sitting and soaking in the sun.
Located in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, the easiest way to get to Praia da Pipa is by bus (R$9.75) or car from Natal, located 80km to the north. The route winds along the northeastern coastline, offering glimpses of adobe-colored cliffs bordering mesmerizing turquoise waters dotted with surfers – a brilliant preview of what’s to come.
Out of the sandy hotspots, three in particular are popular because of their easy accessibility from the center of town. At Baia dos Golfinhos (Dolphins’ Bay), one can swim or kayak right alongside the wild, carefree creatures that swim practically up to the shoreline. Sightings of sea turtles are also possible, but are more commonly spotted further south, where monitored sections are devoted to nesting and preservation.
With waves rolling all year round, Praia do Amor is a surfer’s paradise, while the more secluded Praia do Madeiro, lined with coconut palms, rocks gentler waves better for stand-up paddle boarding. For those who want to see it all, jeep, ATV and buggy tours can be booked in town, taking visitors on excursions to a variety of points where options such as sand surfing, horse riding, snorkeling and more.
Yet for those with their heart set at sea, Passeio de Barco Solemio runs all-day boat excursions, providing stops for swimming, tours of the fishing village Georgino Avelino and sightings of native sea life. The six hour trip also includes skewers of meat to curb appetites until a lunch of fresh seafood is served – essential for lining stomachs against the freely-flowing caipirinhas and caipiroskas, which are also included.
Back on shore, the food is just as exotic, with culinary diversity ranging from regions of Brazil to international cuisine. In fact, every October, a food festival is held, highlighting local flavors and offering culinary workshops. An extra treat, especially after a full day of adventuring, is a stop into Sorveteria Real de 14, an artesanal ice cream shop that makes all of it’s many flavors in-house, to include original offerings like whiskey and caipirinha.
To paint a picture of a sleepy sea village where locals retire once the sun sets couldn’t be further from the truth. While the town itself isn’t large, the nightlife would suggest otherwise. A cool breeze carries rhythmic beats, beckoning visitors into the bars and restaurants lining the central cobblestone road.
As the evening rolls on, live bands are replaced by DJs and the crowds flood into the streets to dance, drink and soak in the magical spirit of Praia da Pipa, carrying well into the evening until it’s almost time to head back to the surf and sand.