Brazil is a country full of gems. I know I have written almost exclusively about Brazil lately, but for a good reason – there are just too many incredible places to visit! The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha is the latest addition to the list. The most beautiful beaches, lush trees, perfect waves, wildlife, and a relaxed vibe: Fernando de Noronha is a dream.
The islands of Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha has a long history dating back to the Portuguese colonisation period, early 16th century. Occupied by the Portuguese, French and Dutch, and now belonging to Brazil, the islands in the country’s northeast have served as a military base and even as a penal colony. Thankfully it was recognised that Fernando de Noronha has a lot more to offer, and is now one of Brazil’s top destinations.
The archipelago consists of one main island and 20 smaller ones. The main island (referred to as ‘the island’ from now) is the only inhabited one, and the one where tourists stay.
There are strict rules on the island, including a daily tourist tax (see below), and the archipelago is an official national park for most part. This means that the island is safe, clean and is well-looked after. Quite a difference with some other places in Brazil! It reminded me of the Galapagos islands, where you’ll find similar respect for nature and the environment.
What to do
Fernando de Noronha has so much to offer, and if it weren’t so expensive, I would have definitely stayed longer. Three of the five country’s most beautiful beaches are located in Fernando de Noronha, so those are already worth a visit – but to be honest, all of the island’s 16 beaches are stunning! My favourite beaches were Praia da Conceição and Bahia dos Porcos.
But you don’t want to be laying on your butt all day. There’s also plenty of opportunities for some hiking. Unfortunately this involves a bit of planning. We did a simple hike around Praia da Leão, but for the real hikes in the national park, you’ll either need to go with an official guide or sign up for a specific route the day(s) before, depending on the hike. Don’t make our mistake of planning your stay after you spent the first whole day chilling on the beach. Take some time to do quick research and make a general planning for your stay, so you can see which hike to do when and sign up for it accordingly. We didn’t do this, and wanted to do a boat tour and visit some other beaches, so we missed out on the official hikes.
Wildlife & ocean lovers
There’s also wildlife to see, particularly dolphins. We saw them from the boat, but you can also go to the viewpoint of Mirante dos Golfinhos to see dozens of dolphins in the early morning. Snorkeling is also a great way to see other animals. I saw four sharks during the snorkeling hour of our boat tour and a giant turtle in Baia do Sueste! Bring your own snorkeling gear if you are visiting beaches, or rent it. We rented the gear at Baia do Sueste, which was very well arranged (I was positively surprised). It was cheap (around R$15 per hour) and there were lockers for your bags.
I also highly recommend doing a boat tour because it gives you a great view of (usually) half of the island, and the snorkeling is included. We did the tour with Trovão dos Mares – a bit more expensive than others, but the boats are smaller and you spend more time at sea (around five hours).
For the real ocean lovers, Fernando de Noronha is also great for surfing and diving.
When to go
You can visit Fernando de Noronha year-round, although I would recommend to go in dry season (August-January) but escape the high-season weeks around New Year and carnaval. Fernando de Noronha has been discovered by Brazilian celebrities who particularly go there late December, so prices go up and accommodation is booked months in advance. We went in early February, in between the summer holidays and carnaval, and just before rainy season started, so that was perfect.
How to get around
The main island is not very big and it’s easy to get around. Most accommodation and restaurants are located in the village of Vila dos Remédios, where you can just walk from A to B. To get to other parts of the island, you can take taxis (a 10-minute ride costs around R$35) or rent a buggy for a couple of days. What would be best for you would depend on the size of your travel group and the duration of your stay. We were happy to walk from our pousada to the beaches or restaurants (20 min) but you might as well take your buggy if you rented one. I have to say that I found the buggies incredibly annoying, as they make a lot of noise and really disturb the island’s tranquility.
Ask your pousada for a pick-up from the airport, as it’s best to arrange that beforehand. Our pousada did that free of charge!
Fernando de Noronha is expensive…
Being an exclusive, clean island 350km from the mainland comes at a price. Most foods and goods need to be imported, so they will be more expensive than in the rest of Brazil. Accommodation is not only high-end and you can find very reasonable pousadas, but they will be more simple than pousadas elsewhere and might not include breakfast. Breakfast in Fernando de Noronha is often very simple anyway, so you might want to go for a pousada without breakfast and buy yours relatively cheaply at the supermarket.
Flights to Fernando de Noronha are not cheap, either. You can either fly from Recife or Natal, both offer daily flights. A round-trip will cost you R$800 or more, depending on when you go and when you book (the earlier the better!).
There are additional costs. You pay a daily tax for every night you spend on the island, payable at the airport or online beforehand. The tax per night currently (March 2019) stands at R$73,52, which you can check here. You’ll also have to pay for entrance to the national park, which you will highly likely visit. For the boat tour and several beaches and hikes, you’re going to need this pass, which costs R$212 for foreigners (R$106 for Brazilians). You can either buy it online or on the island.
My favourites in Fernando de Noronha
Here are some of the places we visited and stayed at.
Pousada: Casa Guedes Noronha. A very simple pousada, more like an AirB&B. There are only four rooms and no reception. The rooms are very simple and no breakfast is served, but there’s a common kitchen which can help you save some money. The owners are friendly, give a lot of useful tips and offer free rides to and from the airport. It’s a 15 min walk to the main restaurants, but is next to several supermarkets, so that’s very convenient.
Restaurant: All Natural. Finding a healthy, vegetarian meal for a decent price is difficult in Fernando de Noronha. But All Natural has it all! We enjoyed it so much we went back twice.
Boat tour: Trovão dos Mares.