Enchantment Under the Sea
Welcome to Maracaípe: a beach paradise where surfers, families and sea-horses meet.
Sun, sea, sand, palm trees, beautiful people and a landscape that couldn’t be further removed from Brighton or Cornwall. All these elements make up Maracaípe, on the southern coast of Pernambuco, one of the best places to visit for anyone fleeing the Northern Hemisphere in search of a tropical summer. Situated 65km from the capital, Recife, Maracaípe is already on the tourist map, thanks to its neighbour, Porto de Galinhas, some 2km away. The sheer natural beauty of Maracaípe’s coral reefs, tropical forestry, estuaries and vibrant mangroves attracts visitors from all over. The beach itself is known for its conservation, and as a surfer’s paradise.
The history of this coastal region in Brazil’s northeast has been marred by the trafficking of slaves: it was here that African captives were off-loaded and forced into manual labour. Porto de Galinhas, for example, got its name – meaning Port of Chickens – because the slaves were hidden in crates marked “Angolan Chickens”. The arrival of the “goods” was announced by the code “There are new chickens in the port!”. The name Maracaípe, of Tupi origin, means “the river that sings”, owing to the sound the water makes against the roots of the mangroves.
The huge palm trees, white sands, and clear blue waters of the beach town are enchanting. But Maracaípe (or ‘Maraca’ to those in the know), is as a good a destination for those looking for fun as it is for those who just want to unwind; you’ll find completely deserted areas and others where each square metre of sand is hotly coveted, plus loads of bars,restaurants and hotels.
Some people say Maracaípe reminds them of Pacific islands like Tahiti, or even surfing havens such as Hawaii. With its strong waves, which can reach over two metres, this Pernambucan paradise is also part of the national and international surfing calendar and hosts the Super Surf and Hang Loose Pro Contest events each year. The wave conditions also make it good for another sport practiced by tourists and enthusiasts: kite surfing. But, for the same reasons, bathers should take care when having a dip.
The most frequented part of Maracaípe is Pontal, where you can witness the meeting of the River Maracaípe with the Atlantic Ocean, and where natural swimming pools of warm water form. A good place to take the kids, Pontal has calm waters which are perfect for swimming, kayaking, boating. Around the same area there are also walking paths and snack bars. From the mangroves you can walk to Oiteiro, where you’ll find the Nossa Senhora do Oiteiro church, from where you can enjoy fantastic views and unforgettable sunsets and moonrises.
The preserved mangroves are a regional treasure and there is even a Save Maracaípe campaign to protect them, led by locals, surfers, and other lovers of the beach town, who want to stop the rampant urbanisation and the construction of resorts, which destroy its natural beauty.
There are also two conservation projects, TAMAR and Hippocampus, which protect turtles and sea horses, respectively. A good day-trip tip is to hire a ‘jangada’ raft, and boat around the area where the river meets the sea, taking in the mangroves and seeing the sea horses which rafters often catch in clear glass bottles to release back into the sea. Their colours blend into the water depending on their environment, a natural defense mechanism against predators.
You can get to Maracapé by car along the road which follows the coast all the way down to Vila de Todos os Santos, where the bars and restaurants are almost in the sea.
If you’re going there to surf, there are numerous shacks set up on the sand, ready to serve your every need for a day on the beach, from generous portions of açaí sorbet to fresh seafood. What’s more, this is where the young and beautiful come to hook up and watch live shows on the beach at night. In the summer you’ll find really good, often famous musicians playing here.
The nightlife in Maracapé is great, especially for lovers of reggae and Pernambucan forró. Because of its proximity to Porto de Galinhas, visitors can also enjoy great nights out dancing in the nearby town, from electronica to funk in the clubs, to acoustic, live music in smaller bars.
Almost everyone falls in love with this little piece of paradise, whether owing to its natural beauty, the kindness of the locals, the delicious local cuisine, the surf, or the nightlife.
By Alexandra Menezes & Mirella Carapeba