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South Coast of Pernambuco Travel Guide

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The Costa Sul (South Coast) encompasses all of Pernambuco's beaches from Recife to Maceio, extending from Cabo de Santo Agostinho beach (home to the port of Suape) to Tamandaré, near Alagoas.

This stretch of coast is often referred as the Costa dos Arrecifes (Reef Coast) for its abundance of coral reefs. Most of the beaches are within a two-hour trip 6'om Recife along PE-060, with the farthest beach roughly 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.

To reach Cabo de Santo Agostinho's best beaches, including Gaibu, Calhetas, Pedra do Xareu, and Camboa, drive along PE-028. From Porto de Galinhas, take PE-038 to visit Muro Alto, Praia do Cupe, Praia da Vila, and Maracaipe beaches.

To get to Tamandare's best beaches, Carneiros and Tamandaré, take PE-076. Alternatively, try beach hopping near the hotels, restaurants, and resorts of Cabo de Santo Agostinho or Porto de Galinhas. In addition to its often crowded beaches, the Costa dos Arrecifes offers quiet retreats and such activities as reef-pool diving, walks, dune buggy trips, surfing, and water sports.

Map of South Coast of Pernambuco

Map of South Coast of Pernambuco

SANTO AGOSTINHO CAPE

About 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Recife, Cabo de Santo Agostinho is the easternmost point in Pernambuco. It was a point of reference for the first European ships that arrived in the country and in the 17th century its fort resisted the Dutch invasion.

Spanish navigator Vicente Pinzón is said to have landed here in January 1500, three months before Cabral arrived in Bahia and "discovered" Brazil. A bust in Praҫa Vicente Pinzón honors this early arrival.

As the military ruins on the beaches attest, the first colonial settlement witnessed clashes between Indians, the Portuguese, and the Dutch for control of this strategic cape locale.

The city grew to prominence in the sugar era, and the surrounding landscape is still dotted with plantations. Chief among these is the Massangana, once home to abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco and now a cultural center.

Vila de Nazaré, the highest point in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, boasts the tiny 16th century church Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Nazaré as well as the ruins of a 17th century Carmelite convent.

PORTO DE GALINHAS

The most popular beach destination in Pernambuco was once a busy port of entry for slave ships.

When ships continued to unload here illegally (after slavery was outlawed), they referred to their cargo as galinhas d'Angola (guinea fowl), thus earning the port its name. The area was a sleepy fishing village until the 1970s, when its beaches and warm waters began to attract hordes of visitors.

Travelers looking to venture beyond the beach can enjoy surfing, exploring in buggies, chartering jangadas (rafts) to dive sites at natural pools and coral reefs, and hiking through mangrove forests.

At rlight, you can check out the bars, restaurants, and shops of Rua da Esperanҫa and Praҫa das Piscinas Naturais, a lively square by the sea.

Porto de Galinhas is 60 kilo meters (37 miles) from Recife along clearly marked roads. To get there, take BR-101 toward the south coast, then the PE-060 from Cabo de Santo Agostinho to Ipojuca. From there, take the PE-038 to Nossa Senhora do Ó, and connect to PE-09.

BOAT TRIPS ON THE MARACAÍPE RIVER

The Rio Maracaípe is actually an arm of the sea. The mangroves on its banks form a rare sea horse habitat that is protected and monitored by the Hippocampus Project. Rafts from Pontal de Maracaípe depart from Boca na Botija restaurant for 40-minute trips to the area.

Numerous ocean species reproduce in the river before returning to sea, among them crabs, oysters, and even rays.

The "floating restaurants", which sit atop rafts, are great spots to enjoy a fresh lunch of fried fish, salad, crab broth, coconut juice, and beer.

BUGGY TRIPS

Delightful half- and full-day buggy trips run from Praia da Vila to the beaches north and south of Porto de Galinhas.

Visitors call rent and drive dune buggies themselves, but hiring a driver is recommended; drivers are more adept at fixing buggies stuck in the sand, and are better at navigating through detours that may be necessary in bad weather.

The trip known as ponta a ponta, offered by the local buggy association, lasts two and a half hours and drives from Muro Alto beach to Maracaípe (with the option to continue on to Serrambi).

Other trips run to the beaches of Cabo de Santa Agostinho to the north and to Carneiros in the extreme south.

NATURAL POOLS

Rafts to the natural pools depart Praia da Vila at low tide. Once you're at the pools, you can snorkel and feed the fish with the urchins supplied by the rafts men. You can also explore the coral pools by foot, but wear shoes to protect your feet from the sea urchins that feed there.

SANTO ALEIXO ISLAND

Boats run from Praia do Vila to tiny Ilha de Santo Aleixo, near Serrambi beach.

The trip includes a 1 hour stop on the island for taking a Stroll around or snorkeling in the ocean pools. After stopping at Santo AIeixo, the boat continues on to Carneiros beach, in Tamandaré, where it makes a stop for lunch and a swim in the calm waters.

A raft ferries visitors from Praia do Vila to the 25-person boat, which departs around 8:30am and returns around 5pm.

NIGHTLIFE

Porto de Galinhas has nightlife that caters to all tastes, from funk, pop, rock, and electronic music, to local styles such as forró, axé, and MPB (Música Popular Brasileira). In high season, the different venues in town take turns supplying the entertainment, with each spot responsible for a specific type of music one night a week.

The hotspot Palhoҫão features traditional forró on weekends. Young audiences dance until dawn at the raves and local rock shows held most nights at the beach at Maracípe.

TAMANDARÉ

Tamandare's 16 beautiful kilometers of beaches lie along a pure blue sea, and are gene rally less crowded than those in Porto de Galinhas (though facilities such as hotels and restaurants are better in Galinhas).

The town's six beaches are Boca da Barra, Baia de Tamandaré, Pontal do Lira, Praia de Tamandaré (the most popular), Campas, and Carneiros. Carneiros is particularly beautiful and relatively noncommercial.

Tamandaré is in a federally protected conservation area, near one of the region's largest swaths of Atlantic forest, the Reserva Biológica de Saltinho.

A major attraction of the reserve is Cachoeira da Bulha, a 10-meter (33-foot) waterfall. Among Tamandare's historical attractions are Capela de Santo Inácio, a chapel built in 1780, and Forte de Santo Inácio, a fort dating from 1691.

A bust of naval hero Admiral Tamandaré, the father of the Brazilian navy, stands guard over this town where he spent a short time. To reach Tamandaré from Recife, take PE-060 to PE-076 highways.

South Coast of Pernambuco and Porto de Galinhas travel guide and tourism information such as accommodation, festivals, transport, maps, activities and attractions in Pernambuco, Brazil - Brazil Travel Guide 

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