Praia do Pipa: Rocking the Famed Day Trip from Natal to Pipa


Hang gliding at Cacimbinhas Beach
Incoming! Hang gliding at Cacimbinhas Beach en route to Pipa.

When a tour van arrives to pick you up at 7:40 a.m. on a Saturday — even when the trip is to somewhere amazingly purty, like Praia do Pipa on Brazil’s northern coast — I wouldn’t judge you for acting groggy, or dozing off. Oh, hell no. My ass would be in bed at 7:40 a.m. on a weekend if I had my druthers.

But don’t expect a bus full of Brazilians to be sympathetic to those inclinations. Why? Because even at 7:40 in the morning, as far I could gather, Brazilians are still looking for a good time. Itching to burst into song and dance. And by 8 a.m., they had. And it RULED.

Yes, I was in for a doozy of a day trip when I hopped aboard the Buggy Brazil tour van. It’s not so much that the tour was a wild one, but that our tour group of 6 couples was an absolute blast.

Despite my pathetic understanding of Portuguese, we managed to communicate and laugh and generally enjoy each other’s company. Of course. The spec-freaking-tacular setting didn’t hurt, either. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights, shall we?

Tibau do Sul

The coastal village of Tibau do Sul is home to this stretch of shore, where these rocky outcrops form sparkling tidal pools as the water recedes. A smattering of beach bars line the sands, while tour boats lie just offshore, waiting to take tourists to explore the further reaches. Walk past the beach bars to find looming cliffs and a mostly deserted swath of sand, above which looms my dream home.

Tigua do Sul
Peeking into the crevices of tidepools at Tigua do Sul.

Cacimbinhas Beach

It’s funny, we didn’t even head down to the beach here, but rather took a photo opp from the top of the cliffs which loom above the shoreline and sand dunes.

Valerie Conners Cacimbinhas Beach
Ayaz and I on the cliffs above Cacimbinhas Beach.

[I should mention here that region is famous for its sand dunes and going dune buggying is what all the cool kids wanna do.

Well, I’m not cool. So, no, I didn’t find the idea of gas-guzzling dune buggies that left you exposed to the blinding sun for 6 hours while making a rattling ruckus and subsequently destroying the peace and beauty of the region’s natural dunes seemed like a fun way to spend the day. So, harumph. I didn’t go.]

But…anyway. At Cacimbinhas, there was hang gliding along the cliffs as well as brilliant views of the sprawling coastline between Tibau do Sul and Pipa, and man, it was just gorgeous. Orange cliffs dotted with green shrubs, yellow sand beaches, turquoise water, blazing sun. Ahhh.


Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale … Madeiro was the Gilligan’s Island of beaches. Except, well, it wasn’t an island. But, that aside, this curving coastline felt blissfully untouched despite the smattering of beach bars along its palm tree-lined shore. Set beneath enormous cliffs, Madeiro is a bit of a hike to reach from the road, but well worth every (sweaty) step.

Madeira Beach
Madeira Beach

Praia do Pipa

People rave endlessly about Pipa. Its reputation has grown to mythical proportions as some sort of motherland of Brazilian beaches for the travel set. I’ll admit I wasn’t enamored by the beach here, chiefly because when I arrived in the late afternoon, well, there was no beach there.

Praia do Pipa
Praia do Pipa

Turns out when the tide is high, the entire main beach of Pipa disappears underwater. That said, the town itself is a lovely little backpacker haven. Small shops, cute restaurants, affordable prices, excellent laid-back vibe.

The town itself certainly remains a great little outpost for exploring the coastline, which truly is among Brazil’s more remarkable.

Praia do Amor and Chapadão de Pipa

Ah, the Love Beach. Praia do Amor is so-named because the beach itself is allegedly heart-shaped. Now, I say “allegedly” because while I visited Chapadão de Pipa (the cliffs above the beach), Love Beach looked absolutely stunning, buuuut, not exactly heart-shaped. And so, Ayaz and I made our own heart.

Praia do Amor
Praia do Amor … but where’s my heart-shaped beach?

Also worth noting, Chapadão is amazing! The cliffs are endless and beautiful and awe-inspiring in their vastness. Pry yourself from the views of Amor and take a wander along the cliffs’ edges, beyond which you’ll see Praia do Mina and more stunning landscape views.

Praia do Amor
Imma gonna make my own heart!

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