Brazil's Best Beach and Beautiful Olinda
Recife is one of those really big Brazilian cities that most people have never heard of. It might not be as obvious a holiday destination as Rio or Iguazu Falls, but there are still plenty of good reasons to take a trip to Recife: The first being that it’s home to the best beach in Brazil, and the other is that it has one of Brazil’s best-preserved colonial towns right next door.
The city itself is largely modern, but just across the river, the suburb of Olinda was formally Brazil's most lovely colonial town and preserves all its history and tranquility, while to the south the beach resort of Porto de Galinhas offers all the sun, sand and sea you could hope for on a beach holiday in Brazil.
Tours in Colonial Olinda
Recife's Old Town has some very nice colonial architecture and is home to the best of Recife's museums, such as the Museo Estadao Pernambuco, but in terms of showcasing Brazil’s colonial heritage, it's the nearby city of Olinda which really steals the stage. Named as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992 for its stunning colonial architecture, Olinda is one of the best-preserved colonial cities in all of Brazil. Development shifted from Olinda over the water to Recife, meaning that unlike in most Brazilian cities, the colonial buildings weren’t knocked down to make way for concrete. Today, it’s a secluded, tranquil place that attracts artists and people from Recife who value style and culture.
Olinda can easily be visited on a day tour from Recife, but it's a great place to spend a bit more of your holidays as well – generally quiet and peaceful but with lots to see and do. And if you happen to be there during Carnival time, you’ll find yourself at one of the few free major street parties in the country: it's the complete antithesis of the spectacle of Rio, so much more laid-back, no bleachers and no roped off areas means full, unrestricted access to the whole shindig!
Porto de Galinhas
Although the name is somewhat uninspiring (it means Chicken Port!) the beach in Porto de Galinhas is possibly the best beach in Brazil, with its huge arc of white sands; clear, bright waters and natural pools dotting the shoreline. It’s just over an hour’s drive south from Recife, and it has some excellent hotels available if you want to relax and soak up some warm tropical sunshine on your holiday in Brazil. In many ways, the Porto de Galinhas plus Olinda combination of great beach and colonial history is an equivalent to the Salvador plus Praia do Forte combination further south, and to be honest it’s difficult to pick a winner on that particular contest: either offers a great way to enjoy a great beach holiday with a side order of culture and history...
Getting to and from Recife
Recife's international airport offers direct flights to most major cities in Brazil, including Iguazu as well as the usual culprits such as Rio and Sao Paulo. You can also fly internationally to the UK via Miami and Lisbon, which makes Recife great for a multi-centre holiday where you fly into Rio, but then back to the UK straight from Recife.
Recife is also well-placed for overland journeys up and down the coast to Natal or Salvador.