The Island of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Said by most Brazilians to have Brazil’s most beautiful beaches, Fernando de Noronha is an odd, undeveloped island, and probably not what you’d expect. Here’s some extensive travel tips. 

Visited: May 31 - June 3 2008

Fernando de Noronha is a small volcanic island found a few hundred kilometres off the coast of Brazil. One feels like you’re in the middle of the tropical Atlantic here - volcanic rocks jut into the sky and the scenery is of cliffs, pounding waves and beautiful beaches. The beaches of Fernando de Noronha are dramatic and stunning, ranging from cliff backed coves to long beaches popular with surfers. Fernando de Noronha has some of Brazil’s best surfing, and also some of the best scuba diving in addition to the country’s best beaches. Much of the island is a National Park as it’s full of endemic birdlife, and many of the beaches are important turtle nesting sites. All in all there’s many reasons to visit Fernando de Noronha.

Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha is said to have Brazil’s best beaches.

Flights to Fernando de Noronha

Varig has flights to Fernando de Noronha from Recife, while Trip has flights from both Recife and Natal. Trip flights are code shared with Tam - useful if you’re purcasing a Tam Brazil airpass. Trip flights can’t be booked without a Brazilian credit card (utterly absurd in my opinion), so you’ll have to book the flights either with Tam, or get  a Brazilian travel agent to book them for you (at an extra fee). There are just three flights per day to Fernando de Noronha - tourist numbers are deliberately kept low. We had to pay R$35 (about $25) per person per day in tax, at the airport upon arrival, just to visit the island.

Everything is inexcusably overpriced

Everything is ridiculously overpriced in Fernando de Noronha. Fair enough that some foods, drinks and petrol has to be imported, but I kind of got the feeling that the price hikes had gone too far. 

Hotel prices are ridiculous and inexcusably high. Only locals can own hotels (or land for that matter - hence no holiday homes on the island), and it’s almost as if all the locals have all grouped together and decided to charge two or three times more than a reasonable price. Similar standard pousadas and accommodation cost at least half the price on Brazil’s mainland. Resign yourself to the fact that you will definately not get good value for your money when it comes to accommodation on Fernando de Noronha.

Budget and better value accommodation

We stayed at Pousada Del Mares as it was the cheapest option I could find that was pre-bookable. With hindsight, for those travelling on a vaguely low to reasonable budget my advice would be to not pre-book anything but simply turn up in Vila Dos Remedios and find a cheap pousada when you arrive. You cannot pre-book the cheap, good value options. Many families have converted a couple of rooms of their houses to accommodate tourists - just turn up and hunt around for deals as low as R$40 a night, but you probably will get a room only. This is easily done - Villa Dos Remedios, the main village on the island, has well over a dozen pousadas. I was told that in total,there’s over 100 different accommodation options in Fernando de Noronha, though in honesty I didn’t see anywhere near that many.

Upmarket Pousadas & Luxury Hotels

If you’ve already resigned yourself to the fact that accommodation in Fernando de Noronha is thoroughly overpriced, but you still want to splash out, here’s some advice. Pousada Maravilha is described by the Brazil Footprint travel guidebook (I’m getting increasingly disappointed with this guide) as ‘one of the finest beach hotels in South America’, but it fails to point out that the beach nearby is one of the islands less appealing - Fernando de Noronha’s best beaches are on the other side of the island, so you’ll need a costly hire buggy for the whole of your stay (more on the beaches in a moment). Pousada Maravilha is the islands most expensive hotel, but I wouldn’t book it due to it’s location.  On a similar note, Solar dos Ventos is located next door, it’s another of Fernando de Noronha’s supposedly top hotels, but it’s location isn’t ideal for the beaches, and those bungalows aren’t so pretty. Instead, Ze Maria would probably be the best luxury hotel in Fernando de Noronha in my opinion.

Exploring Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha’s top draw is it’s fantastic, beautiful and dramatic beaches - almost all of which are empty of development. Almost all the islands buildings, and tourist infrastructure, is set inland, meaning that the beaches have a very unspoilt feel to them. Watch out for stingrays, and where you put your feet - we saw stringrays close to the shore on many beaches.

The islands best beaches are found on the North coast, but Praia do Leao on the South coast is dramatic and well worth a visit. Also on the South coast, Praia do Sueste is very scenicly set, but the beach and it’s immediate waters are not comparable to the beauty of those on the North coast.

Villa Dos Remedios is almost next to the North coast beaches of Cachorro and Biboca, and Meio is less than 10 minutes stroll from the centre of the village. Meio has a scenic beach front restaurant. Conceicao beach is next door - this is one of Fernando de Noronha’s most beautiul beaches, set below the towering volcanic peak of Morro do Pico. From Conceicao you can walk West along the slightly tricky route that has a path at times and just rocks the rest of the time - easiest at low tide - to Boldro beach where there’s another restaurant. The route along the coast further West is much easier from here - the next beach is called Americano, it was completely empty when we were there, and utterly stunning. Walk further West to the lovely beaches of Bode, Quixaba and Cacimba do Padre, which kind of merge into one beach, and is popular for surfing. A little further West is the dramatic cove of Baia Dos Porcos and it’s azure waters. All these beaches along the North coast we comfortably visited by walking in a day, then hitched a lift back to Villa Dos Remedios.

It’s also worth hiring a beach buggy vehicle for the day to explore Fernando de Noronha a little more - normal cost is R$100 a day, but haggle. The sections of the coast where there are no beaches are very dramatic and well worth a visit. Be sure not to miss out on Sancho beach, Fernando de Noronha’s most beautiful in my opinion. You can only really get there by vehicle, followed by a climb down ladders through the cliffs. The nearby coastal walk takes you to Baia Dos Golfinhos, a beautiful look out point from where dolphins are frequently spotted.

Boat tours around Fernando de Noronha are also possible, but they struck us as being rather pointless as you can visit the same places without the need of a boat.

Restaurants & Eating

Restaurants overcharge, but not too much. The best food we ate on the island was self service, buffet style weigh your plate food. This was also the cheapest - the self service restaurant on the corner as one enters Villa Dos Remedios (the main village on the island) has great, home made food that’s far better than many of the regular restaurants nearby.

A final note on Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha is a special, dramatic and beautiful island. It’s heavily controlled development and tourist industry means it should stay that way for many years. I still cannot get my head around how ridiculously overpriced all the accommodation is. And while Fernando de Noronha does have Brazil’s most beautiful beaches, it definately doesn’t have Latin America’s most beautiful beaches - better are found in Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Mexico.

For further travel advice, see our Brazil travel guide, or the article on Pipa & Tibau do Sol, nearby alternative beach destinations in North Brazil.

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