The North East of Brazil has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world but is a hugely under-privileged area where hunger and poverty are the everyday reality for many. The big cities have largely trashed their beaches but if you go a little way out there are villages that largely survive on weekend tourists and fishing.
Olinda is one of the most scenic places in the world and is a UN World Heritage Site. This is a town of old colonial architecture as you always imagined it and is also a happening place with a good arts and music scene. Nearby Recife has a good music scene too but can be pretty dangerous.
The large towns of Maceio, Joao Pessoa and Forteleza are okay is you know people who live there. Otherwise they’re sleepy as hell despite their nice beaches.
Then you have a few beach towns spread out along the coast where there’s something of a scene. Fishing villages suddenly found themselves host to hundreds of well-off Brazilians come to party. In these you can find interesting characters who have opted out of the rat race to live the simple life.
Pipa is one such funky village just south of Natal where you can swim near dolphins – something that never loses its magic.
Jericocoara and Canoa Quebrada further North are again trendy beach spots but with red sand dunes and sunsets over the sea.
Capoeira in Jericocoara
Further south in Bahia there’s Trancoso and Arrial de Ajuda where European and Israeli travelers gather to party in Brazil.