Thinking about visiting Northeast Brazil? Read on to learn about the best cities, beaches, and experiences this region of Brazil has to offer.

Nestled within the heart of Brazil, the Northeast Brazil region is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty. This underrated corner of Brazil offers an authentic and unique experience that sets it apart from the rest. From the golden beaches that stretch along the coastline, to the rhythm of traditional music that permeates the air, to the unique and delicious food that can’t be found in other parts of the country. Northeast Brazil captivates travelers of all types. 

Recently, I traveled to Northeast Brazil with my family (ages ranged from four – 65 years old). We were pleasantly surprised by all of the amazing activities and culture it had to offer. It was truly an unforgettable experience for all of us and left us itching to return and explore more of the magic offered by this region of Brazil. 

Whether you’re drawn by the allure of historic cities like Salvador, the lively rhythm of forró music, or the tranquil beauty of pristine beaches, a journey to Northeast Brazil promises an unforgettable adventure that unveils the lesser-explored facets of this captivating country. 

Continue reading to learn about the best places to visit in Northeast Brazil and the best beaches in the area for tourists to visit.

9 Best Places to Visit in Northeast Brazil

Mom and twin boys posing for a picture with the view of Salvador, Bahia in Northeast Brazil in the background

Northeast Brazil has many beautiful attractions that are full of culture, history, and incredible nature. As a bonus, it’s mostly undiscovered by international tourists – so you aren’t likely to feel cramped and crowded even during peak season. 

The following nine places are some of the best spots to visit in Northeast Brazil. 

Salvador

Tourist exploring the colorful buildings and cobblestone streets of Pelourinho in Salavdor, Brazil
Pelourinho, Salavdor, Bahia

Salvador is the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia, located in Northeast Brazil. It is one of Brazil’s largest cities with a population of over 3 million people. As one of the larger cities in the northeast, it is an easy city to fly into from other parts of Brazil (or another country in South America).

The historical port city of Salvador is known for its rich Afro-Brazilian culture, colorful houses, stunning beaches, vibrant music, and both delicious and unique cuisine. 

One of the best places to visit in Salvador is the Historic Center, which is also referred to as the Pelourinho. This historic part of Salvador is full of cobblestone streets, colorful colonial-style buildings, and the beautiful Catedral Basílica de Salvador. It’s a very picturesque area to visit while in Salvador.

As you walk through the streets of Pelourinho, all your senses will be overwhelmed by the unique culture. You’ll listen to locals play live music and dance in the squares, take in the beautiful sights, and smell traditional food being prepared behind the walls of Salvador’s many restaurants. We were actually lucky enough to be in Bahia, Salvador during a live fashion show! 

One of Salvador’s most unique attractions is the Lacerda Elevator – an urban elevator that connects the lower city to the upper city. It was actually the world’s first urban elevator and has become one of the top tourist attractions in Salvador. 

Salvador is surrounded by some of the most incredible beaches that Brazil has to offer.  Some of the best include Ilha dos Frades, Praia do Porto da Barra, Praia do Forte, Praia Farol da Barra, and Flamengo Beach.

Chapada Diamantina National Park

Chapada Diamantina National Park in Northeast Brazil at sunset
Picture courtesy of canva.com

Chapada Diamantina National Park is a beautiful national park located in Bahia. The park is full of towering mountains with scenic views, amazing hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and lots of mysterious caves.

To explore Chapada Diamantina National Park, you’ll first want to head to the town of Lençóis. Lençóis has a small airport, so flying there from Salvador or other Brazilian cities is possible. Another option is to arrive by bus, which takes around six hours from Salvador.

Since it’s a bit remote from other places in Northeastern Brazil, it is best to stay in Lençóis for a couple of days. It is important to explore the national park with a guide or on a group tour since it’s a very large area and many trails aren’t clearly marked.

One of the best things to do here is to visit the Fumaca Waterfall. Be sure to also include a visit to the beautiful underground caves and pools (such as Poço Azul). Another highlight is hiking the Morro do Pai Inacio, which is an incredibly scenic viewpoint in Chapada Diamantina National Park.

Explore the caves of Chapada National Park
I love that this is an affordable private tour

Jericoacoara National Park

Jericoacoara National Park is an incredible place to visit in the northeastern region of Brazil. Located in the state of Ceará, it is around a 1-hour flight or a 6-7 hour bus ride from Fortaleza. When visiting, you can stay in the small village of Jericoacoara which has a beachy, bohemian vibe and is known for incredible seafood.

Jericoacoara National Park is known for its stunning sand dunes, lagoons, and the famous Jericoacoara Beach. The sand dunes are especially unique, and one of the highlights of visiting is riding in a dune buggy across the dunes. This is an incredibly scenic place to visit, and it is a true hidden gem of the northeast region of Brazil.

✔️ Get Transportation availability and price from Jericoacoara to Fortaleza ✔️

Fortaleza

Picture courtesy of canva.com

Fortaleza is the capital of the Brazilian state of Ceará. Another major city in Brazil, Fortaleza is a great place to fly into from other Brazilian cities or nearby countries. It isn’t as popular for tourism compared to Salvador, but it is worth staying for a day or two before checking out other parts of Northeastern Brazil.

One of the unique things to do in Fortaleza is to explore the Mercado Central de Fortaleza, which is a large market full of all kinds of souvenirs. You can also plan a visit to one of the urban beaches like Praia do Futuro. Make sure to try some local food and drinks while you’re in the area!

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

Beautiufl blue lagoon nestled in between sand dunes in Lencois Maranhenses National Park in Northeast Brazil

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a remote national park in the Brazilian state of Maranhão. The closest town is Barreirinhas, which does have a small regional airport (making it possible to fly there from other Brazilian cities).

This national park has incredible sand dunes that reach up to 40m in height. During the rainy season from January through June, pools of water create lagoons in between the dunes. These lagoons are popular spots for swimming.

✔️ Learn more about a Guided Lagoon Tour ✔️

Recife

Port of Recife. Picture courtesy of canva.com

Recife is the capital city of the state of Pernambuco. The city is one of the largest in Northeast Brazil and is nicknamed the “Venice of Brazil” due to the waterways that wind through the city. As one of the largest cities in the northeast, it’s easily accessible by an airport and several bus connections. 

Recife is known for being a tropical, urban oasis and is full of incredible beaches such as Oa Viagem Beach. It is one of the more popular spots in Northeast Brazil for tourism and has fantastic bars, cafes, and nightlife.

Recife also has a historical old town that is full of 16th-century buildings and is definitely worth a visit. Another favorite with tourists, Marco Zero Square is a colorful square in the heart of the old town. While in Recife, be sure to plan a visit to the Casa da Cultura – a former prison that was converted into an artisanal marketplace.

Olinda

San Francisco Convent in Olinda. Photo courtesy of canva.com

Olinda is a charming historic town that also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco. Since it’s only a short drive from Recife, it’s possible to visit Olinda on a day trip if your time in Northeast Brazil is limited. 

As a colorful and lively town built in the 16th century, Olinda is definitely one of the highlights of the northeast region. Olinda’s historic center is a great place to wander around and enjoy the vibrant architecture and ornate churches. It is a popular town for artists, so there are many art galleries throughout the town as well as unique street art and traditional music.

Serra da Capivara National Park

Photo courtesy of canva.com

Serra da Capivara National Park is an incredibly unique destination in Northeast Brazil. It’s a fairly remote area of Brazil, so I recommend going with a guide or on a tour. Serra has a small airport and the flight from Recife takes only 2 hours. 

Serra da Capivara National Park is a unique national park because it is home to one of the most important archeological sites in all of South America: its prehistoric cave paintings, which are believed to be 25,000 years old. The caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are a fascinating place to visit. There are also many hiking trails in this national park.

Natal

Ariel view of Ponta Negra Beach, including city view and sand dunes in Natal, Rio Grand do Norte located in Northeast Brazil
photo courtesy of canva.com

Natal is a city located on the northeastern tip of Brazil and is the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. Natal is a large city, which makes it possible to access by bus or by flying from other cities in Brazil. 

Natal is best known for its dunes, lagoons, and incredible beaches with crystal-clear water. One of the best beaches is Ponta Negra, which is lined with restaurants and shops. For a more peaceful beach, you can visit Via Costeira. This beach stretches 10km on the coastline with no infrastructure, making it a very relaxing spot for a beach day or a great place to rent a dune buggy.

Another highlight in Natal is to visit the Forte dos Reis Magos – a historic 16th-century Portuguese fort, as well as the historic center of Natal.

Explore the Beach of Turtles- a private area only accessible via this tour

Best Beaches in Northeast Brazil

Husband, wife, and child sitting at the shore of Praia do Rio Vermelho beach in Salvador, Bahia
Praia do Rio Vermelho in Salvador, Bahia

The northeast is widely known for having amazing beaches. At these Brazilian beaches, you can count on soft sand, beautiful blue waters, colorful corals, and plenty of marine life. The tropical climate and the beautiful beaches in Northeast Brazil are the main drivers of tourism in the region. Below are some of the best beaches in Northeast Brazil that are worth checking out during your trip.

Best Beaches in Northeast Brazil Near Salvador

Kid and instructor practicing capeoira at Porto da Barra beach in Northeast Brazil
Practicing capoeira at Porto da Barra


Porto da Barra

Located in Salvador
As one of the most popular beaches in Salvador, Porto da Barra Beach is known for its soft sand, excellent surfing, and lively beach bars. Since it’s such a popular spot, it’s best to get there early in the morning.


Praia do Forte

Located 80km north of Salvador
Praia do Forte is a perfect beach for families since it’s very relaxing and more remote than the other well-known beaches in Salvador. Located along the coastline of a small village, it’s known for its soft, white sand and clear water. This is a common spot to find sea turtles!


Ilha dos Frades

Located near Salvador
Ilha dos Frades is a beautiful island near Salvador that is the perfect spot for a picturesque beach day. Enjoy a scenic boat ride to the island and spend the rest of the day relaxing on a white-sand beach. 

Best Beaches in Northeast Brazil Near Recife

Colorful boat sitting near the shore of Porto de Galinhas in Northeast Brazil.
Porto de Galinhas. Photo courtesy of canva.com


Praia Boa Viagem

Located near Recife
Recife’s most popular beach consists of a lively 7-mile stretch of soft sand. The ocean waters in this area are warm and calm due to the protection of the coral reef, making it an excellent beach for some swimming or snorkeling. Perfect for traveling with kids who love the ocean!


Praia do Pina

Located near Recife
Another popular beach in Recife is Pina Beach. This is a beautiful sandy beach with many hotels, restaurants, and bars in close proximity – making it the perfect area to plan your beach vacation in Brazil.


Porto de Galinhas

Located 60km south of Recife
Porto de Galinhas is south of Recife on the coast of a small beach town. This beach is best known for its bright blue water and beautiful coral reefs, so it’s an excellent place for both scuba diving and snorkeling.

Best Beaches in Northeast Brazil Near Natal

Wooden Natal sign on the beach in Northeast Brazil


Praia de Genipabu

Located near Natal
Genipabu Beach is known for its rolling sand dunes, freshwater lagoon, and relaxing beach atmosphere. The environment here is under protection that bans new development and accentuates the natural scenery. Here, you can rent a buggy and head out to explore the sand dunes.


Praia Ponta Negra 

Located near Natal
Ponta Negra Beach is a popular beach in Northeast Brazil for beach sports such as volleyball and surfing. It’s a very lively area full of hotels, restaurants, and Barracas – which serve food and drinks. On the south end of Praia Ponta Negra is Morro do Careca, a large dune, and landmark of Natal.

Best Beaches in Northeast Brazil Near Fortaleza

Palapas lining the shore of Jericoacoara Beach in Northeast Brazil


Praia do Futuro

Located near Fortaleza
Full of music, bars, and food vendors, Praia do Futuro is a lively and fun beach to visit in Northeast Brazil. In addition to its upbeat atmosphere, there are also chairs and umbrella rentals available – making it the perfect spot for a beach day. 


Jericoacoara

Located 300km west of Fortaleza
Located in a laid-back beach village, Jericoacoara is quite a long distance from Fortaleza – so it’s worth staying for a few days. You can take the bus or drive there, but it’s the fastest to fly. Jericoacoara Beach is known for its incredible windsurfing and kite surfing. You can also tour the sandy dunes and lagoons or rent a dune buggy to drive around the sand.

What to Know About Northeast Brazil

Northeast Brazil is a large region in Brazil that covers an area of more than 600,000 square miles and is made up of nine different Brazilian states. The population is around 53 million people, and it is home to several coastal cities – such as Salvador, Recife, Natal, and Fortaleza. The northeast has a diverse landscape filled with highlands, beaches, mountains, national parks, and more.

There’s no shortage of beautiful natural landscapes to explore here! However, the region is best known for its stunning coastline and beautiful beaches. 

English is common in some areas of Northeast Brazil, like Recife, Salvador, and Fortaleza. However, in the smaller beach villages you are less likely to find English-speakers, so be sure to download a handy translator app before your trip.

Transportation in Northeast Brazil

Since it’s such a large region, transportation around Northeast Brazil can be a little tricky to navigate at times. The most common method of transportation to get to or around the northeast region is to fly or take the bus.

Although taking a bus or driving around Northeast Brazil is possible, it’s sure to be a long journey – especially if you are coming from popular southern cities like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo

In my opinion, the best way to get around the Northeast quickly is to fly. When we visited, we booked flights on a couple of Brazil’s domestic, budget-friendly airlines such as Azul and GOL Airlines. We found it the most effective way to get from city to city since most of the cities in the northeast have an airport. 

FAQ: Northeast Brazil

Q: Is Northeast Brazil Safe?

A: Northeast Brazil, and Brazil in general, has a reputation for being unsafe. While there are some cities with higher than average crime rates, it’s possible to visit the region safely. Using a local guide, staying outside of high-crime neighborhoods, being alert to your surroundings, and avoiding being in unfamiliar areas at night are all necessary precautions for staying safe in Northeast Brazil. 

Q: What is the Climate of Northeast Brazil?

A: Northeast Brazil has a tropical climate, so temperatures remain warm and humid for much of the year. On average, temperatures in the major cities along the northeastern coast are between 72–88ºF (21–31ºC) for most of the year. The Northeast is known for having a lot of sunny days, but the rainy season is typically between February and May.

Q: What is Northeast Brazil Known for?

A: Northeast Brazil is known for its tropical climate, vibrant culture, coastal cities, incredible national parks, and stunning beaches that stretch for miles. It’s not uncommon to see surfers, snorkelers, scuba divers, and windsurfers enjoying the waves and/or marine environment in this region of Brazil. 

Conclusion: Best Places to Visit in Northeast Brazil

Family dressed for carnival in front of Bahia sign in Northeast Brazil

Northeast Brazil is a vastly underrated tourist destination that is worth visiting in South America. This region of Brazil has so much to offer – including coastal cities, breathtaking national parks, historic old town centers, colorful architecture, delicious local cuisine, and some of the best beaches Brazil has to offer. Be sure to add Northeast Brazil to your bucket list so you can experience this incredible region for yourself!

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