There’s No Need to Fish For Compliments Here

Update: I expanded this article from 2011 to twice the size. Enjoy!


Midway up the coast of Pernambuco, less than 40 miles south of Recife, lies Porto de Galinhas (literally, Chicken Port), one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches. Since 2001, the Brazilian magazine Viagem & Turismo has held an annual contest for its readers to elect the best Brazilian travel options and Porto de Galinhas dominated in the beach category for the first ten years straight, making it the paragon of paradise.

Aside from being located on the Northeast’s serene coastline, with its abundance of beaches, Porto de Galinhas isn’t just pretty to look at. When the high tide pulls out, natural tidal pools are created around the reefs that are both warm and transparent, making them perfect for catching an eyeful of tropical fish. Other activities include either sunbathing or riding dune buggies on the white sands of any of the 10 local beaches, and taking canoe rides through the mangroves.


The founding of the tourism hotspot is perhaps as interesting as the destination is beautiful. It starts with the fact that the largest Brazilian tract of massapê soil (which is very fertile and rich with a reddish-brown color) can be found in the Ipojuca municipality of Pernambuco, within Brazil’s tropical, coastal region. One of the neighborhoods that makes up Ipojuca happens to be Porto de Galinhas. It’s the unique soil, as well as the region’s port, that made Ipojuca the perfect place for the European colonizers to start cultivating and selling sugarcane. In fact, the previous name of Porto de Galinas was Porto Rico, not only due to the wealth it made the local sugarcane barons but also to the large amounts of brazilwood that left the country from its shores, en route to Europe.

So, how did such a pretty place receive such a strange name as “Chicken Port”? Well, there are two theories [1]. The most oft-repeated one says that with slavery in Brazil being abolished in the late 1800s, some slave traders saw a big part of their livelihood being taken away thus they continued importing slaves, albeit in secret. The port soon served as the main point of arrival for illegal slaves in the northeast of Brazil. It is said that the slaves were frequently hidden below the crates of chickens (more specifically, helmeted guinea-fowl, known as galinhas d’Angola, or Angolan chickens, in Portuguese), which were favored for consumption by the Pernambucan upper-class. Upon the arrival of new “merchandise”, one would hear the phrase “tem galinha nova no porto!” (“there’s new chicken at the port!”). This was code for announcing a new shipment of slaves and, with time, the name of the beach eventually changed. The second theory says many of the first African slaves brought to the region were of the Fula people, also known as Pheul, which in French sounds like Poule (chicken).


These Days

Today, the chickens are hand-painted, made of coconut shells and tree trunks, by local artisans to later be bought by the purchasing power and for the viewing pleasure of the many tourists to the region. This wasn’t always so, though, as it was only a few years ago that the local artists decided to find a marketable image that would serve as their golden egg, so to speak.

Chickens are definitely not the only thing being sold in Porto de Galinhas. Aside from the endless beauty of the barrier reefs and the natural pools, there are now resorts, nightclubs and refined restaurants that have moved in and exist side by side with the rustic charm that helped to make this old fishing village so popular in the 1990′s. With all the “development” and changes, I can’t help but wonder where the locals go to “get away from it all”.

Mosqueiro Island – Great in the late summer

Ilha do Mosqueiro is about 40 miles from Belém and can be reached via the BR-316 and the PA-391 highways and finally by crossing the Sebastião Oliveira bridge. By car, it’s no more than an hour away and buses leave Belém daily to the island (with a comparable arrival time). To get an idea of where it is, check out these maps on the official site.

Altogether, there are 16 beaches and in the month of July, around 300,000 people from all over Brazil visit the island for its non-salty waters and summer parties. The original holiday-goers were foreigners which, while taking advantage of the Rubber Boom at the end of the 19th century, found value in the island and started to build summer mansions there.

Judging by the photo up top, if you want peace and quiet, Praia do Farol is not what you are looking for, so try the maps to see where other beaches are on the island. I’ll leave you with a little piece of the peaceful part.

(the original song is from Jorge Drexler, called La Edad del Cielo)

Salinas – The way to go for weekend fun


Salinópolis (or simply Salinas, to locals) lies 130 miles up the coast from Belém. It’s the place to be during the month of July (a month off for university students). All in all, there are 12.5 miles of salt-water beaches. The most frequented beach is Atalaia (pictured below), the best for surfing is Marieta, the oldest is Maçarico (although not used for taking a dip), and the most peaceful ones are Pilão and Maria Baixinha.


Throughout the area, one will find rivers (both large and small), lakes, sand dunes and mangroves. One famous lake is called Coca-Cola Lake (pictured below, with people ‘snowboarding’ down the side) due to the sweet, dark and cold water found within. As for the beautiful views, ask around town for where to rent ultraleves (airborn crafts) and bugs (buggies) to take advantage of the area while you’re there.


How to arrive/Where to stay

Picture 4
(Here, you can see Belém in the corner and Salinas marked by an “A”)

As far as how to get there, there are a few options for the 3 hour trip. On wheels, whether by bus, van or car, it’ll cost you about $10. In the case you don’t have your own car, tickets can be bought at the main bus depot in Belém. Once there, you have a choice of hotels and pousadas (bed & breakfast) as well as renting a flat and even staying on a local farm. Important to note, be careful where you park your car, as the tide can change suddenly and you’ll find your car in the water.

The source for most of my information was found at ORM, although translated by me.

Ilha do Marajó – Getting away

“Even for Brazilians, who have left almost no nook or cranny of their vast country unexplored, the island of Marajó, at the mouth of the Amazon River, seems a distant and exotic destination.

The size of Switzerland, Marajó abounds with exotic wildlife, jungles, beaches, lagoons, mangrove swamps and flood plains, but has few permanent human inhabitants and is permeated with an end-of-the-world feeling. No wonder then that “At the Limit” – the Brazilian equivalent of the television reality show “Survivor” – was once shot on Marajó.

For the adventurous or curious, though, Marajó and the group of smaller islands that surround it have an almost irresistible appeal. Rarely does nature in all its intimidating majesty seem so close at hand: Two gigantic bodies of water, the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon River, confront each other offshore and together shape human life onshore into a battle of another sort, against the stifling exuberance of the tropics.

Which is not to say that conditions on Marajó are necessarily spartan. Yes, luxury is hard to obtain, but in three trips over the last five years, what has impressed me most is how much more welcoming to visitors the archipelago is today than at the time of my first sojourn, in 1978. With the construction of several hotels in recent years, it is now possible to sample the wilds and then return to the comfort of an air-conditioned room and a cold drink.

That’s exactly the routine I followed on my most recent visit, in October. After strolling along an isolated beach, where waves lapped the white sands, I would return to my hotel, the Ilha do Marajó, and relax poolside or play table tennis. After the tide had changed, I would return to the same spot on the beach, only to find that as a result of the eternal struggle for supremacy between the Amazon and the Atlantic, what had earlier been salt water was now fresh water, or vice versa.”

The rest of the entertaining three-page article is at NYT.

According to Notícias da Amazônia, the boat ride to Marajó has been shortened (from 3 hours to 2 hours) thanks to a new departing point and a new boat company (Álamo). Now, one can depart from Estação das Docas on any day (except Wednesday), leaving at 8:30 AM and coming back from Salvaterra (on Marajó) at 4:30PM. Tickets can be bought at the kiosks at the Terminal Fluvial in Estação das Docas or if you find yourself already in Marajó, at the Terminal Hidroviário de Camará as well as commercial centers of Soure and Salvaterra on the island.

Ilha dos Papagaios – Parrot Hotel?

(cc-by Philipp Weigell)

Not too far off the coast of Belém, there’s an island where tons of papagaios (parrots) flock every night. The trip to the island is sometimes used by tour operators to promote eco-tourism in the region. Even though the parrots are a threatened species, their beautiful colors have made them somewhat of a main attraction to conservation programs.

The parrots of Belém are known in English as Orange-winged Amazons and in Portuguese as Papagaios-do-Mangue (Mangrove Parrots). During the night, they create a collective dormitory on the island and sleep on the tops of the trees. Below, you can get an idea of what it would be like to see the early morning phenomenon on the Ilha dos Papagaios in the Baía de Guajará (the bay surrounding Belém).

Ilha de Algodoal – Pará

“Its name is Maindeua Island, but everyone knows it as Algodoal Island. Maindeua has its origin from Tupi which means “Mother of Earth”. The island is also called Algodoal due to the abundance of a native plant called algodão de seda (cotton silk) still found in the region. The fishermen who arrived there in the 20’s were the first to nickname it Algodoal.

Algodoal is also the name of the biggest of all four villages existing in the island. The three other ones are Fortalezinha, Camboinha and Mocooca. Because it’s the biggest, the Island of Algodoal is the main village, the one with the best accommodations and infrastructure for tourists and consequently the one which receives more visitors and tourists. These four villages are separated by portions of marshy ground sectioned in some points by tide grooves.

The island’s 19km² is characterised by the tranquility and its marvelous scenery which attracts tourists from all over the world which are never disillusioned with its beautiful nature. The island’s community is formed by simple and receptive people which live mostly from fishing, subexisting agriculture and lately from tourism. Eletric energy was just introduced to the island in January 2005 and water supply is made through artesian wells which provide exellent quality water.

The existing means of transportation are bicycle, boat (motor or rowing boat) and horse and buggy. No motorised vehicle is allowed in the island.”

Excerpt taken from although I altered the translation to make more sense.

Praia da Princesa (above) – Furo Velho (below)

Here’s a presentation done by a Brazilian television show, in parts, however it seems not all of the show was recorded.

Part 2, Part 3…not available)