I’ve always wanted to swim with wild dolphins, its one of those bucket list items that had somehow managed to escape me for the better part of 38 years.
So when I heard the stories about Praia De Pipa, an unspoiled hippy enclave in Natal, North East Brazil, where one of natures most beautiful creatures were rumoured to swim right up to the shore, I knew we had to go and so made it part of our sabbatical travel plans.
Below is a complete guide to the best hotels in Praia Da Pipa, best restaurants in Praia Da Pipa and the best things to do in Praia Da Pipa.
Best hotels Praia Da Pipa
There is only one hotel to stay at in Praia De Pipa and thats the Pousada Toca Da Coruja.
This place is honeymoon material, I mean big time!
The Balinese style villas are beautifully appointed, coming complete with four poster bed, his and her sinks, outdoor double rain showers and bath, hammock and dining veranda. Throw in the odd humming bird and marmoset monkeys feeding out of your hand and you could well be in paradise…
The pool is small but well formed and the large grounds sit within lush jungle, which adds to the castaway, relaxed vibe.
Breakfast is served in the main restaurant, which has tables outside and you can feast on fresh fruit, cereal, homemade bread and eggs any way, cooked in a wood fired oven.
If budget is an issue (Toca Da Coruja costs around £200-£250 per night) there are plenty of less expensive Pousadas in town but we didn’t take a look at any so I would not want to make any recommendations.
Best restaurants Praia Da Pipa
Praia De Pipa has a lively main strip that reminded me of Koh Phi Phi many moons ago when I first got bitten by the travel bug as a young man.
The town has that unassuming hippy vibe that draws you in and makes you feel like you’ve discovered something that little bit off the beaten track and free from invasion by the Marbella set.
There are plenty of good restaurants in town, serving a variety of treats including traditional Brazilian fare, Argentinian steak, Italian, Sushi, Tapas and more to keep most foodies satisfied and replete.
The good news for anyone staying at the Toca Da Coruja is that our favourite pick in Pipa is Oca Toca which is in the hotel itself. The main restaurant serves up some lovely dishes such as a fried mediterranean seafood platter, pepper crusted tuna and mouth watering fillet steaks with creamy mash.
Outside of the hotel our favourite was Aprecie, which is a great little restaurant up a side street about halfway down the main strip. The beef and Tuna steaks here were excellent and the restaurant has a good wine list and polished decor.
Caxanga is a rustic rasta bar / restaurant right on the beach and serves some great spicy, coconut, seafood casseroles. This is a good spot for lunch with a nice cool beer.
Restaurante Golfinho is a decent no frills option on the main road, has a nice view down onto the beach and out to sea and serves some pretty potent Caipirinhas!
The best place for a sunset cocktail, whilst watching Brazilian beach football at dusk is Orishas beach bar. Plot here with a table on the sand and watch the sun drop behind Pipa as the tide laps in. Some of my best memories were etched here.
Things to do Praia Da Pipa
Pipa is a great place to just kick back and chill in. The town feels really safe, the beaches are great and there are plenty of natural pools to laze around in between Caiprinhas…
We came to see the dolphins and we weren’t disappointed. However, you need to be patient and go at the right time of day to see them – remember, these are wild mammals and they don’t just sit around waiting for humans 🙂
You can only get to Dolphins Bay by foot and you can access the beach at low tide. Fear not, the hotel gives you a tide chart so you know which times to go.
Here is the best advice you will receive if you want to see the dolphins so pay attention…you need to go in the morning before midday, by which time there are too many people on the beach and the dolphins get scared away. We found mid morning between 10:00 and 11:00 am best.
There’s plenty more to keep you occupied in Pipa if lazing around on the beach or by the pool doesn’t float your boat.
You can take quad bike or 4×4 tours on the sand dunes, wind surf, kite surf, sail, dive or just hire bikes and explore yourself.
I had desperately wanted to experience Kart Cross (think of those Mad Max type buggies you race off road) on the sand dunes but unfortunately this wasn’t available at that time of year.
At night Pipa town comes alive (this is Brazil after all) and there are plenty of bars and clubs to keep partygoers happy and dancing long into the night. We really enjoyed Orishas on the beach where they had good live music and a DJ.
On the main strip we drank in Nativos a couple of times and found it a good place to people watch with tasty (and potent) cocktails.
How to get there
Praia De Pipa is about an hour and half drive from Natal airport in North East Brazil. Pousada Toca Da Coruja will arrange a return transfer for you at a cost of around 470 BRL.
We flew into Natal from Brasilia as we were in transit from the Pantanal but if you were travelling internationally Sao Paulo would probably be the best option.