Brazil’s coastline North of Natal is pretty, and sparsely developed tourism wise, while the coastline to the South is even more beautiful, and more geared towards tourism - in a good way. There are various destinations to choose from, two of the most popular include Pipa and Tibau do Sul - which suits you best?
The Rota do Sol road South from Natal hugs the coast and passes through various scenicly set villages. Buzios was the village that most caught my attention on our drive to Pipa, and had a handful of decent pousadas in town (note that this is not the more famous Buzios in South Brazil that I’m talking about).
About 90 minutes drive South from Natal lies Tibau do Sul and neighbouring Pipa. Both are popular little tourist towns, but neither feels at all tacky. Pipa sees the majority of travellers and has about 30 pousadas in total - the variety is immense and options range from budget guesthouses through boutique style mid range pousadas to top of the range luxury beach front resorts. Having visited about six pousadas, we selected Pousada Rivas as it was the best mid range pousada I found (at R$65 a night, with a great breakfast and lovely pool - recommended for anyone).
Pipa is a smallish beach town - everything is densely packed together, there’s many fine, good value restaurants to choose from, a few decent bars and lots of tourist orientated shops. We visited during the low season - it felt busy and buzzing, but not at all overwhelming. It’s not at all tacky - it has a good vibe about it, but it’s not quite as special as Jericoacoara, where we were about 10 days previously. However, as Pipa is a tourist town, it suffers from lots of locals trying to sell you things you don’t want, beach hawkers on the towns over-crowded plastic chair laiden beach and kids trying to overcharge you for looking after your car if you park it near that beach. There is a slight, rather annoying hassle factor, but it’s not too bad.
Pipa is a good base though - and there’s some lovely, less busy beaches nearby. The road North towards Tibau Do Sul has many beaches off it, though figuring out how to get down the cliffs and steep slopes can be tricky. To the South of Pipa about 8km is the much less developed town of Cibauma which has more lovely beaches and an equally stunning coastline to explore if you have a hire car (or you can pick up a hire scooter in Pipa for $20 a day). There’s only a few hotels that I saw here, though it is a very beautiful area.
Tibau do Sul is a very good alternative to Pipa, which is one of North Brazil’s most popular beach resorts. Tibau do Sul provides equally good access to the beautiful coastline of the region that varies from reddish coloured cliffs to huge sand dune backed beaches. The drive from Pipa to Tibau do Sul takes just 10 minutes.
What are the differences compared to Pipa? Tibau do Sul is less visited and less busy, and has fewer hotels and restaurants to choose from. There’s less pousadas (bed and breakfasts) and more hotel type accommodation here. Accommodation in Tibau do Sul is also a little pricier than in Pipa, where fierce competition keeps prices down. Pipa’s (indeed all of the coastline in this part of Brazil) seas are quite rough (and surfing is popular here), while Tibau do Sul has one small, very sheltered beach that offers calm waters more suitable for children. Tibau do Sul also has a more beautiful, and peaceful setting than Pipa - take a short boat trip across the very large river next to town to walk along huge, long stunning beaches for miles.
Tibau do Sul vs. Pipa - which is better for you on your vacation to Brazil? Choose Pipa for a greater range of accommodation, nightlife and restaurant options, choose Tibau do Sul for a more tranquil experience, in a more scenic setting. Both are great though - just remember that the rainy season in this part of Northern Brazil is from April to August - it rains almost every day, and it’s also sunny almost every day. If you do visit during North Brazil’s rainy season, expect to spend a couple of frustrating hours every day waiting for the rain to stop.