Fernando de Noronha
This group of paradise islands off the North East coast of Brazil are one of the most amazing tourist destinations of Pernambuco. Consisting of 20 small islands and one larger island, the archipelago lies 340km from the mainland coast and covers an area of only 17 km2. It is inhabited by only 2100 residents, but many species of flora and fauna and of course its crystal clear waters are home to some 230 varieties of fish, 5 types of shark, 2 species of sea turtles,15 coral reefs and, unique to here and the South Pacific, the Spinner Dolphin.
Sustainable tourism is the islands biggest source of revenue, but the number of people allowed on the islands at any one time is strictly limited (only 420 tourists on the islands) to ensure its eco-tourism status – the longer you stay on the islands the higher the permit fee (but it is worth staying at least 5 days). Currently a five day stay on the island would cost approx. R$180 per adult in environmental taxes. There is only one paved highway on the main island which is Brazil’s shortest highway, so walking, cycling or hiring a buggy are the best way to get around and to reach the amazing beaches with breathtaking vistas.
There are 16 idyllic beaches to choose from and natural tidal pools to safely bathe in. Of course the islands are a natural location to visit for snorkeling, diving, surfing, underwater photography, fishing, sailing, horse riding and walking.
The beaches (especially those facing Brazil’s Atlantic Coast) are the main focus for surfers with waves between 2m and 5m high. These include Bode, Boldro, Cacimba do Padre, Meio and Conceicao beaches. There are other more remote beaches accessible by bike, on foot, or horseback. Here you will see some of the best views Brazil has to offer. Baia dos Porcos has huge rock sculptures, Praia dos Sancho a beautiful waterfall and Praia do Atalaia a stunning natural swimming pool amongst the rocks.
The highest point on the island and the one offering the best sunset views is the rocky structure of Morro do Pico standing 321 meters tall.
Temperatures remain pleasant all year round +/- 26oC, with the higher chance of rain between February and July
Click the link to see a Tourist Map of the island
The islands are formed as a result of volcanic activity beneath the Atlantic. They were discovered by famous Portuguese navigator Americo Vespucio in 1503 and early settlers built a fortress and Vila dos Remedios which is now just ruins. However this is still the largest village on the island and where most accommodation is offered.
Initially the islands were used as a Prison. Later it was used as a stopover point for transatlantic flights (being the nearest point to Europe). This also lead to it being used as a base for the Brazilian Air Force during the Second World War and is still used by them to this day.
In 1970 most of Noronha was designated a National Maritime Sanctuary aimed at protecting the marine and land environments of the archipelago. This has been extremely successful in protecting the sea turtle populations.
There is a museum on the island (Memorial Noronhense – Espaco Cultural Americo Vespucio) where you will find out more about the history, stories and legends of the islands. Also worth a visit are the many fortresses and chapels (Capela de Nossa Senhora da Conceicao – being well worth a visit).
Do Not Miss
Rent a buggy or mountain bike and go explore! You should be lucky enough to see dolphins and turtles if you time it right. Go to Dolphin Bay (baia do Golfinhos) for the Dolphins (year round) and Turtle Bay (baía do Sueste) or Leão Beach for the Turtles (egg laying and hatching Dec-May). Don’t expect to see pigs in Pig Bay though! Whales can sometimes be spotted as well (Sept-Oct).
Sunset – spectacular wherever you are, but the best vantage point is Mirante Dois Irmãos.
Sancho Bay and Pig Bay vie for the title of best beach on Noronha, but as they are side by side why not do them both in one day and make up your own mind ?
Snorkeling. Head down to praia da Atalaia early as the number of people permitted to participate in this amazing experience is strictly limited to 100 per day. A tidal pool no deeper than 24 inches contains a remarkably diversity of animals – Lobsters, Octopuses, numerous fish species and the possibility of a baby shark or two. To enjoy this spectacle you have to be able to float confidently without putting your feet down (practice elsewhere if possible). You will not be allowed in the pool if you are wearing sunblock to prevent its pollution, and you are only allowed in the pool for 25 minutes. It is well worth adhering to the rules for the experience of looking into an amazing tropical water pool teeming with colour; “like snorkelling in a giant tropical fish aquarium, but it´s the real thing”, as one tourist put it.
Other Top Attractions
Diving courses, Kayaking, Surfing, Swimming, Trekking, Mountain biking, Sailing, Ocean fishing – take your pick – they are all worth doing.
Whether you fancy horse riding along the beach or going out to sea on a kayak or boating excursion, there is something for everyone. Out at sea you are likely to have up close encounters with dolphins playing in the crystal clear warm waters.
Scuba Diving – Nearly 20 spots together offer the best scuba diving in Brazil. Visibility can reach 50 meters (165 feet), and the average water temperature is 26 degrees centigrade (79 Fahrenheit). Coral reefs, sea turtles, sharks, spinner dolphins, barracudas, and shipwrecks count among the attractions.
As a novice you can still dive. After a short instruction session, a professional will take you on an escorted dive called Baptism (Baptismo). They control your pressure gauges etc. This still requires some courage if you have never dived before, and you would be well advised not to dive if you have not fully understood the instruction, if you have any heart or other medical condition that may pose a risk. People who have had any kind of problems with their ears should also seek medical advice before considering a dive. Despite these warnings, if you are able to dive in Fernando de Noronha it is going to be an incredible experience, and one you will probably treasure forever.
Beaches get busy here, but there are plenty of them around the island, so it is just a question of choosing the ones you want to visit. There is a bus that trundles from one end of the island to the other along its only road, so you can hop on this ($R2.85). You could be cheeky and hitch a ride – many locals, taxi drivers and dive truck will happily give you a lift. It is a good idea to speak some Portuguese to them to let them know where you require and to say thank you!
Air France Cultural Center – In 1927 the French airline Compagnie Genérale Aeropostale set up a base for refueling and repair of its transcontinental hydroplanes. In 1934, the company joined with three others to found Air France. The restored building now houses the Noronha Association of Artists and Artisans.
Accommodation on the island covers a wide range of prices. Choose your preference from our listings for Budget accommodations (under R$300 per night), Moderate accommodations (R$300-500 per night) and Luxury accommodations (over R$500 per night). These are guide prices based on the cost of a double room. Fernando de Noronha, that has a limit on tourist numbers of 420 at any time, and makes most of it´s income from sustainable tourism, is not a cheap option, and “budget” is therefore not the same as in other parts of mainland Northeast Brazil where budget would be less. But, for many a trip here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and for all it is a privilage.
A wide variety of tours our available on the island. Our listing, searchable via a variety of criteria, will be available soon
Bars and Cafes
Kiosks and bars can be found near the port for a chilled beer or of course a Caipirinha. Some places have space to have a dance as well. Local hero, singer and composer Ju Medeiros can often be seen and heard in bars and restaurants around the island.
As you would expect from an island with so much fishing, the most popular dish on a menu is seafood. There are a variety of fish based dishes from Sushi and Sashimi, grilled, baked etc, but the most famous here is the banana leaf wrapped fish dish. It goes without saying the fish is caught daily here. Other types of cuisine are also available on the island to suit all tastes and budgets.
Follow the link for our Restaurant Recommendations
Nobody really goes to Noronha for the nightlife, so the relatively sparse offerings don’t matter much to most people. However sundry venues offer a place to have a beer or even dance.
The Tamar Project Visitors Center, which houses the Open Sea Turtle Museum, located on the Alameda do Boldró, hosts nightly talks by scientists and environmentalists. Additionally the island offers special events which can be seen in the event calendar (coming soon)
The information we offer can be found by the following links: Basic Information and Advice (coming Soon)
Due to its tiny size and tightly controlled population measures, shopping is not abundant on Noronha. There are however a few small shops selling locally produced handicrafts made from recycled materials. Of course there are souvenir items such as hats and shirts for sale as well as essential diving equipment.
If you seek souvenirs please select items that support the TAMAR/IBAMA PROJECT from the Open Sea Turtle Museum located on the Alameda do Boldró. This is a very worthwhile cause committed to the conservation of turtles. The Project started in 1980 and its primary task was to protect the nesting areas of the turtles – protecting female turtles and their eggs from the encroachment of developments. Having had great success in this area they are now concentrating on two feeding areas where local fishing techniques lead to accidental capture of turtles and are causing the population to diminish.
The shopping area in Noronha overflows with tropical fruits such as papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, mangoes and a variety of bananas. There are also handcrafted items available at the markets. If you want to take home an authentic souvenir then you can buy these items and you also help the local economy!
Follow the link to our shopping directory (coming soon)
How to Get There
There are connecting flights from Recife or Natal international airports:
From Recife daily flights are offered by GOL or TRIP airlines. The 545km flight by TRIP is flight 5518, departing Recife at 2.30pm daily, and the return flight from Fernando de Noronha, TRIP flight 5519, is at 1.35pm. GOL flight 1708 departs Recife at 2pm daily, and the return, flight 1709, is at 4.35pm daily.
From Natal daily flights are offered by TRIP airlines. The 360km flight 5514, departs Natal at 11.10am, and the return flight from Fernando de Noronha, TRIP flight 5515, is at 5.20pm. This flight can be booked via TAM airlines with whom TRIP has a code sharing agreement.