4 days in Pernambuco:

summer, beaches, and fun in Recife

Leonor Macedo

Anna Carolina Negri

Four days to discover the history and natural beauty of the Pernambuco capital and its surroundings


Day 1 - In the city

9 a.m. - Where it all starts

Start the day at Marco Zero, close to famous cultural centers. Spend a little extra time at Cais do Sertão, the museum that pays homage to life in the backlands. You can also visit two spaces dedicated to regional classics: Paço do Frevo, which tells the story of the musical genre, and the Embaixada dos Bonecos Gigantes de Olinda, where you can see the giant puppets featured in the Olinda Carnaval. After, go to Boa Viagem and dig in to the buffet of traditional food at the restaurant Parraxaxá.



2 p.m. - Art in the family

At age 90, Recife native Francisco Brennand presides over his own museum, the Oficina, in the neighborhood of Várzea, some 9 miles [14 km] from the city center, with hundreds of his unmistakable sculptures, paintings, and totems. Right nearby is the Instituto Ricardo Brennand, owned by the sculptor's cousin, inspired by medieval castles. In one of the most popular areas, you can see displays of weapons and armor.


8 p.m. - A beer at Central

Bar Central is one of the options on Rua Mamede Simões, a spot for nightlife. The cold beer there is served in the indoor hall, but there are also some tables on the sidewalk and in the parklet filled with plants.


Day 2 - Day trip to Olinda

9 a.m. - Across the hills

The small city of Olinda is less than 6 miles [10 km] from Recife. Portuguese cobblestone streets and colonial houses comprise the scenery on this excursion that starts with the view from Alto da Sé. At the overlook, you'll enjoy a colorful view with the ocean in the background. It's also there that you'll find Zeinha, the oldest tapioca cook in Olinda. At age 87, she's still serving those tasty discs made from manioc starch. From there, get lost in the charming streets.



12:30 p.m. - Local flavors

In Olinda, you can stop for lunch at Oficina do Sabor. Here's a tip: for dessert, ask for the 'Sabores de Pernambuco,' which features five types of regional sweets.


4 p.m. - By water

Back in Recife, at the Santa Rita Docks, in the neighborhood of São José, board a catamaran and sail the waters of the Beberibe and Capibaribe rivers. Tourists are encouraged to make a wish every time they pass beneath one of the (many) bridges.  


Day 3 - Sun in Porto de Galinhas

9 a.m. - Wind in your hair

It's the tires of the dune buggies that leave their tracks on the soft sands of the beaches in Porto de Galinhas, some 31 miles [50 km] from Recife. Hire a driver at one of the hotels in order to see it all with lots of wind in your face. The excursion starts at Praia de Muro Alto, home to the largest natural pool in Latin America. After, enjoy some coconut water at Coqueiral de Maracaípe, where you can also take flight over the water in a paramotor.


12 p.m. - Manioc fever

One of the most popular dishes in Pernambuco is the manioc with jerky or sun-dried beef. At BarCaxeira, it's served steaming and au gratin. 



1 p.m. - The bottom of the ocean's right there

Getting to swim in the natural pools that take shape on the beach in Porto de Galinhas is the main attraction to the city. Low tide is the time to take a raft, put on a face mask, and marvel at the colors of all the fish and coral under water.


3:30 p.m. - So much nature

There's more to Porto than just the ocean. Tourists can go boating in the Maracaípe mangrove and see how other creatures, like crabs and seahorses, live. From there, ask your raftsman to drop you off at the tip of the beach, a great place to watch the sunset around 5 p.m.


6 p.m. - Hubbub in the village

After dark, the main hangout for tourists and locals is Vila de Porto de Galinhas, filled with little shops, bars, and restaurants. One of the most popular places is La Crêperie, where they serve great crepes and salads. The backyard, well-lit and filled with trees, is the perfect setting for a light meal.


Day 4 - The beauty of Carneiros

9 a.m. - Good vibes

Spend a good few hours just admiring the scenery at this, one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil. Carneiros is located 70 miles [113 km] from the capital and, to get there, you'll need to hire transportation, available from the airport and a few hotels in Recife. Walk far from the inns and restaurants, lay a towel down on the white sands, and make memories of that deep-blue sea that will last forever. When the tide is low, it's time to take a catamaran out to a sand bar in the middle of the sea. The excursion continues on to a shore where you can bathe in rejuvenating clay.



12 p.m. - Caribbean style

Bora Bora has a Caribbean atmosphere, where tourists can store their belongings in lockers, use the showers, have a refreshing drink served inside a pineapple, and feast on the lobster a la Mozambique. The dish, made with vegetables and nearly 2 pounds [900 g] of lobster, is one of the house specialties.


4 p.m. - Small and historical

A symbol of Carneiros, the small Church of São Benedito was built by the edge of the beach in the late 18th century. It's located just under 2 miles [3 km] from Bora Bora. When the sun goes down there, the last rays wrap up your tour with the vision of the landmark reflected in the Pernambuco waters. 


LATAM has direct flights to Recife from São Paulo, Miami, Buenos Aires, and five other destinations.


Special thanks to: Rede Pontes de Hotéis - Atlante Plaza and Mar Hotel, Luck Receptivo, Secretaria de Turismo de Recife, AHPG - Associação dos Hotéis de Porto de Galinhas, Catamarã Tours