8 undiscovered Brazilian beach towns that feel like paradise on Earth

Without question, Rio de Janeiro is a must-see destination. But arguably better Brazilian beaches can be found off the beaten tourist path. Discover 8 beach towns in Brazil where lagoons, natural pools and rustic little villages forge a pure seaside paradise — sans crowds. While away the days in shorts and flip-flops, with a coconut in hand and ocean-fresh fish on your plate.


São Sebastião

Located 125 miles from the city of São Paulo, this town has 60 miles of seafront, as well as  tropical forests covering lush hills; it’s best to rent a car to roam here. Thirty beaches can be found between little villages and some more developed commercial areas. Feel like surfing and catching the best parties on the northern São Paulo coast? Head for Maresias (the name means “Sea Mist” in Portuguese), the hometown of world champion surfer Gabriel Medina. Prefer friendly shops and restaurants, and long beaches for leisurely walks? Juquehy is a good choice. Looking for nature? Barra do Una is located at the mouth of the Una River and is a great place to find boat rides to Atlantic islands with emerald green water, like Montão de Trigo, Ilha das Couves and As Ilhas. Or visit the heritage town of São Sebastião, flanking “Beach Street” (Rua da Praia), where you can enjoy an ice cream cone at Rocha’s and check out the local handicraft shops.

Where to stay: In Maresias, this house faces the sea, with a beautiful yard dotted with trees, and a pool, chaise lounges and a verandah with a barbecue grill. Inside, the house has four master bedrooms with fully renovated bathrooms decorated with colorful tiles. In Barra do Una, this house accommodates up to 10 guests, with beautiful natural lighting in the ample living rooms and a mezzanine with hammocks and a pool table. The yard is complete with a pool and barbecue grill.


Ubatuba

This town boasts no fewer than 102 beaches bordered by a blue-green sea and surrounded by hillsides carpeted with Atlantic forest. Itamambuca and Praia do Félix compete for the title of most beautiful beach, with broad stretches of sand dotted with shade trees. Itamambuca, with a choppy sea, attracts surfers, while Praia do Félix has natural pools with little fish to view while snorkeling. A boat ride away is Ilha do Prumirim, a jewel of an island with crystal-clear water and white sand. For those who prefer a little more infrastructure, Praia do Tenório has thatched stands where you can order cold beer and a plateful of fried fish straight from the ocean. The beachfront at Praia do Itaguá features restaurants, ice cream kiosks, bars and shops. (Make sure to take a stroll on Guarani Street.) 

Where to stay: At Praia do Félix, this house, which has five bedrooms, is well equipped with a jetted tub, a swimming pool, and an outdoor area with a barbecue grill and wood-fired stove. Another choice is this house on the beachfront at Praia do Lázaro, with a sprawling lawn, a swimming pool and a sauna.


Ilhabela

Roughly 83 percent of this rugged island is part of a protected state park. The coast facing the continent and the São Sebastião channel have easy-to-reach coves with calm seas, varying from the famed Praia do Curral, with blue green water, to the breathtaking Jabaquara beach at the northern tip of the island, with soft sand surrounded by virgin forests. Visitors trekking inland can enjoy their pick of refreshing waterfalls. Veloso waterfall, a 40-minute hike from the beach, contains three tumbling falls. But the most precious part of Ilhabela is on the east and southeast coast, where you’ll find the stunningly beautiful Castelhanos and Bonete beaches.

Where to stay:  This house, which has four bedrooms, is located 400 yards from Praia do Curral and affords sensational panoramic views of the sea.


Paraty

Paraty is one of Brazil’s most charming Colonial heritage towns, with cobblestone streets lined with colorful homes, artists’ studios, restaurants and artisans’ shops, plus a huge variety of regional cachaça (traditional sugar cane spirits). The little town center hosts a wide variety of festivals throughout the year: jazz in June, literature in July, cachaça in August. To top it all, Paraty is located right on the ocean; you can take a boat to Praia do Sono, with a calm green sea, or to Saco do Mamanguá, an ocean inlet tucked between two branches of a mountain chain, forming dozens of secluded beaches.

Where to stay: One block from Praça da Matriz (the historical town square), this house exudes Colonial charm, with three bedrooms, and a yard with hammocks and a wood-fired pizza oven.


Buzios

Famously loved by Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s, this seaside resort is a treasure. While you’re on Rua das Pedras (Cobblestone Street), the town’s main street, or its extension, the Bardot Seaside Walk, you’ll find designer shops and chic restaurants. The coastline in Búzios is fabulous, with more than 20 beaches. Surfers and beach clubs concentrate on the buzzing Geribá beach. Ferradura (“Horseshoe”), named for the cove’s shape, has calm, clear waters. Accessible by a stairway, Azeda and Azedinha are more secluded. And Olho-de-Boi (“Bull’s Eye”) is a nude beach. It’s a good idea to go by car to visit various beaches at your leisure.

Where to stay: In Ferradura, this house features ample windows looking out on the sea. There are seven bedrooms, plus a huge swimming pool and a wooden hot tub.


Trancoso

This hippie-chic village in southern Bahia State has a rustic yet sophisticated ambiance. Its epicenter, called Quadrado (“the Square”), is a big rectangular piazza surrounded by colorful cottages and the lovely Church of St. John the Baptist. Laidback restaurants set their tables right on the packed sand and decorate the surrounding trees with colored lamps. Strolling down the orange sea cliffs, you’ll reach Praia dos Nativos and Barra, where thatched stands and beach clubs offer enticing lounge chairs and day beds on the soft sand, dotted with coconut trees. Next, Praia dos Coqueiros has natural pools at low tide and the Café de la Musique, home of fabulous sunset parties. With a little more time, take a spin to Praia do Espelho, one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches.

Where to stay: Fifty yards from Quadrado, this adorable house is decorated with wicker furniture, handmade art and a pretty canopy bed.


Jericoacoara

“Jeri” (as it is affectionately known) is a beach destinations loved by locals. The former fishing village features sand streets, live forró music, vast dunes and preserved mangroves. The highlight: lagoons with hammocks hanging from overwater stilts. Another gorgeous attraction is Pedra Furada, a rock formation sculpted by the water and wind that is sure to grab likes on your Instagram.

Where to stay: In Jeri’s little village center, this villa has a beautiful deck with a pool and chaise lounge chairs where you can enjoy a view of the sea.


Pipa

This famed beach destination in Rio Grande do Norte is each to reach from the airport in the state capital of Natal. The charming village center offers a wide variety of cuisine and nightlife, from pizza parlors to tapas. There are wide stretches of sand bordered by sea cliffs covered in well-preserved forests. You can take a jardineira (an open truck with seats on the back) to visit the plateaus, natural pools and dunes nearby. At Praia de Cacimbinhas, hang-glide over the cliffs or practice sandboarding.

Where to stay: Inside a gated community, this triplex house has three bedrooms and is located in a gated community with a pool, a restaurant, a playground, a spa and a game room.