I love the beach.

I know, I know. Shocking, Kara. You and everyone else in the world loves the beach too.

But no, dear friend. Not everyone loves the beach like I love the beach. Sure, I love hiking and greenery and mountains. But, if I were forced to pick a perfect landscape, it would involve an ocean, soft sand, and palm trees. And a pina colada. And James Franco, because while we’re talking about fantasies…

Anyways. 

I love the beach.

I love scratching my head and having tiny grains of sand get stuck beneath my fingernails.

I love licking my lips and tasting the salt from the ocean.

I love playing chicken in the break; feet dug into the sand to keep from getting pulled out, waiting till the very last moment to dive into the wave.

I love surfing**.

I love tan lines and freckles.

I love staying through sunset and beyond, until it gets too dark to see the water and all you can hear are the waves crashing as you lay under the stars.

**AKA I love paddling out. Cuz let’s be real…I rarely actually catch a wave.

Thus, without further ado, here is a post dedicated in honor of the 7 most beautiful beaches and beach towns in Brazil.

1. Praia da Pipa

It’s no secret that I’ve got mad love for this place. Hell, I’ve written an entire post on it. The tiny surfing town of Pipa is home to 4 of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited, including Praia dos Golfinos — a secluded paradise that completely stole my heart.  The photo above really speaks for itself, but if I needed to elaborate on the awesome-ness of this abode, I could do so in just one word: DOLPHINS.

SO MANY DOLPHINS.

Okay, that’s three, but one word doesn’t provide enough emphasis for just how many dolphins there are swimmin’ around this beach. I’m really not one to get overexcited about animals, but the sheer volume and proximity of the dolphins makes the experience very surreal.

Who should go?

  • Water sports enthusiasts.  Surfers, kayakers, paddle boarders, snorkelers, etc.
  • People who like to look at water sport enthusiasts. Mhmmm.
  • Dolphin lovers. See above.
  • 20 and 30-something party animals. Despite it’s small size, the town of Pipa has a very active night life. I am lame and prefer drinking too much beer on the beach to muster up enough energy to rage at night, but from what I’ve heard, it gets wild.
  • Hippies. If reggae music, dreadlocks, and marijuana tickle your fancy, Pipa’s your jam.
  • Anyone who just wants to relax. It’s impossible to be stressed here.

Who should not?

  • I just stared blankly at my screen for 5 minutes. I can think of no reason someone wouldn’t like LOVE this place. EVERYONE SHOULD GO!!

2. Jericoacoara

There’s just no other place like Jeri. When I was researching for beach towns to check out in Brazil, the two that I consistently stumbled across were Pipa and Jeri. Thus, despite the distance, I deemed it necessary to make the trek way up north to visit this hippy dippy little town, famed for excellent kitesurfing and sand streets. It was my getaway after Mia left me alone in Brazil for 2 weeks.

However, I’ll be honest. Of the 7 beaches listed here, Jeri was probably my least favorite. Not because it was lacking in beauty, but because there just isn’t much to do besides sunbathe or kite. And as I had already spent 5 weeks lounging around in the sand, getting my suntan on just wasn’t as appealing as, say, surfing would’ve been.

I know, first world problems.

Still, I highly recommend giving Jeri a chance. It is a magical place.

Who should go? 

  • Wind and kite-surfers. This is THE place to be for either sport.
  • Soul searchers. This place is isolated. Getting to Jeri is not exactly easy, and leaving can be just as hard. I think a lot of people come here for sport, but just as many come to shut out the rest of the world and do some self reflecting.
  • Romantics. Nothing better than finding love while sitting atop the big ol’ sand dune and watching the sunset.

Who should not?

  • Surfers. Expect to be thoroughly underwhelmed by the waves and thoroughly overwhelmed by the number of kite-surfers who will get in your way.
  • The hyperactive. Don’t come to Jeri expecting to do a lot. It’s a place meant for relaxation, reflection, and really great wind.

3. Itacare

Itacare is unique in that the beaches of this town are all backed by Atlantic rainforest. The beach/boardwalk area of Itacare is rather quaint, but the town itself stretches out quite far, making it larger than any place I’ve mentioned thus far. There is a great nightlife and really impressive beaches that are perfect for surfing or sunbathing. The only downside to Itacare is that crime is an issue, and you must be careful with your belongings and be sure not to walk home alone late at night.

Who should go?

  • Adventurers! This seems to be a consistent theme with all the beaches so far, but seriously if you wanted to get your adventure on, no other place offers such an extensive list of activities: rafting, zip-lining, camping, surfing, kite-surfing, etc.
  • People who like the idea of trekking through the rainforest in the moonlight to attend a concert on the beach sounds.
  • Those interested in exploring Bahia. The Brazilian state with the greatest African influence, Bahia is vastly different from the rest of Brazil. I seriously loved Itacare: the food, the people, the culture. If you’re looking for a more rugged or “exotic” experience in Brazil, this would be the place to go. However, it is also unfortunately known for being one of the most dangerous parts of the country, which leads me to…

Who should not?

  • Inexperienced travelers who are easily frightened or intimidated by areas that are less “secure.” In truth, I’m sure every sane person could fall into this category. However, I am more so speaking of those who are unwilling to take that risk. I can’t deny that there were moments (multiple moments) when I felt uncomfortable while traversing around Bahia. I was on my guard there more so than anywhere else in the country. That being said, I never had any problems throughout my entire 2.5 months in Brazil.

4. Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema needs no introduction. We’ve all heard about the girl from there. We’ve all seen Christ the Redeemer overlooking this fine beach. Everyone knows Ipanema.

Which means everyone goes to Ipanema.

Which means it’s crowded as hell.

And there’s nothing that kills my vibe more than a beautiful beach corrupted by endless umbrellas and sunburnt tourists. I like beaches that are low-key and relatively isolated, as evident by the 3 formerly favorited  Thus, when I first stepped foot on Ipanema, I didn’t care for it in the slightest. The water was cold, there was no where to sit, and I couldn’t go even 3 minutes without being asked if I’d like to buy some food or a cold drink.

We left pretty quickly. I scoffed that “Rio was great, but, le sighhhh the beaches suck.”

A week passed. We decided to give it another try. This time it was a Sunday and the street parallel to the beach had been closed off specifically for pedestrians. There were hundreds of people strolling up and down the road, biking, roller-skating, walking their dog. The beach was similarly crowded with volleyball players and sun worshipers. Loud music and the chatter of pedestrians ensured that the scene was no less chaotic than before.

But this time, I was kinda digging it.

Maybe because I came to accept that Ipanema is a beach you visit to socialize and strut your stuff rather than lay out and relax, maybe because I was feeling better outfitted in a cute summer dress amongst the intimidatingly attractive crowd, or maybe because I had actually been to Ipanema earlier that morning to watch the sunrise with a cute Brazilian boy I’d met the night before and the beach looked all the more beautiful blanketed in dawn and when enjoyed with good company……..

I don’t really know. What I do know is that from that day forward, I absolutely fell in love with Ipanema.

Who should go?

  • Socialites. People who like to show off their hot bods while being surrounded by other people with even hotter bods.
  • Athletes and gym rats. There are a number of pick-up games you can play on the beach like volleyball or soccer (or a strange and impressive combination of the two). There is also an actual outdoor gym on one section of the beach. Barbells, bands, the works. I wish I was joking.
  • People looking for some action. Not of the sexual variety, though that’s also definitely a possibility. But people who want some vibrancy and life on their beach, as there’s no shortage of that.

Who should not?

  • People seeking some peace and quiet, or a romantic getaway. Yeah…keep looking.

5. Lopes Mendes on Ihla Grande

The photo above does not do justice to Lopes Mendes, a beautiful and hard-to-reach beach on Ihla Grande. Apparently Vogue voted it as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world some years back. At first I found this kind of strange, but then I figured, meh…Vogue is in the beauty business.

Ihla Grande (translated: Big Island) is located south-west of Rio, and is paradise for beach lovers and hikers alike. The island is mostly tropical rainforest and very underdeveloped. This place is rugged. For example, there was a rain storm the night we arrived and all the electricity went out on the island for 2 full days, leaving us and everyone else unable to contact anyone who wasn’t on the island.

A majority of the beaches can only be accessed by trekking 2+ hours through the wilderness — or you could be boring and take a taxi boat, but then I would judge you. Lopes Mendes, the lovely beach aforementioned is the reward we received after a 3 hour trek through beautiful rainforest, stopping every now and again at little beaches along the way. It was rainy on the day we went and thus not up to its full potential, but the water was still crystal clear.

Who should go?

  • Low-maintenance, outdoorsy types who are looking to combine their love of hiking with their love of water sports.
  • People who don’t mind a little rain and some exotic bugs.

Who should not?

  • People who are high-maintenance and squeal at the thought of flying cockroaches. Okay, I squeal at that thought too, but I can cope if equipped with the proper supplies. i.e. lots and lots of wine.

6. Trinidade in Paraty

I know I’ve said that some of the other places are for hippy dippy types, but if I were to designate one as the hippiest dippiest of all, Trinidade would be it. This was our last stop in Brazil. We’d actually never intended on going. The plan was to spend 2 nights in Paraty, which is the main beach town in that area. However, during the bus ride we met two friendly English guys who were heading to Trinidade and asked if we’d like to split a taxi ride with them there. Having not made any arrangements in Paraty yet (as per usual), we agreed. It was after midnight when we finally arrived in the tiny town. As the taxi pulled up to the boys’ hostel, a shirtless and long-haired English fellow emerged from what looked like a treehouse. His name was George  and he owned the place, having settled here 7 years before. He told us that unfortunately he didn’t have any beds available, but that, if we were willing, we could sleep on mattresses in an open air upstairs room with some people who worked at the hostel. Obviously, we graciously agreed.

And thus followed our stay in Trinidade. A place where there is no crime, no rules, and certainly no pretentions. If your goal is to escape the monotony of corporate life, Trindade would serve you well. I’m even gonna go ahead and link the hostel where we stayed because it was just that awesome.

Who should go?

  • Hippies and hippy wannabes. Drifters. Stoners.
  • People who can appreciate natural beauty, simplicity, and a laid back way of life.

Who should not?

  • Anyone who seriously dislikes the smell of weed. Otherwise, you really should go.

7. Morro de Sao Paolo

Ohhh, Morro. An island located just off the coast from Salvador in Bahia, Morro de Sao Paolo is very different than any of the beaches I’ve mentioned thus far. Why?

It’s posh. It’s luxurious.

Yes, it’s still a beach town and yes, it still offers (somewhat) affordable accommodation and food, but it’s classy.

But most of all, it’s touristy.

Very, very touristy.

There is nothing authentic or “cultural” about Morro de Sao Paolo — at least the resort area of the island. It’s located in Bahia, a state that I described earlier as embodying a rugged authenticity not found in the other parts of Brazil that I visited. However, that description does not apply to Morro.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s beautiful. And I seriously enjoyed my time here. Actually, I visited Morro on two different occasions. Just don’t expect to be surrounded by locals or to leave feeling like you “really got to know Brazil.” That’s not what Morro is all about.

Who should go?

  • Those who are looking for a little bit of luxury during their vacation.

Who should not?

  • Anyone who agonizes over the idea of doing something “touristy.” Everything about Morro is touristy.