First, I believe some introductions are in order. Porto de Galinhas is a major tourist destination in Brazil, located in the state of Pernambuco, northeastern region of Brazil. It’s somewhat close to the state capital, Recife, and know for its natural beauties. With no doubt, the biggest attraction of Porto de Galinhas is its beautiful beaches that, at certain times and days, form natural pools. The place also offers a huge variety of hotels ranging from huge resorts to cozy inns. So there, now you know why this destination is so sought after by tourists from all around the world. Now, let’s get into more hands-on details about what to do in Porto de Galinhas, and how to make the most of your trip there.
1-Visit the natural pools
This is the most famous tour of Porto de Galinhas, hands down. To make the most of the natural pools tour, you should keep an eye out to the tides table and the moon phases. This is because the pools are more beautiful during the full and new moon phases when the tide reaches its lowest levels. In this website, you can see the tide table in a simple and straightforward way.
There are several things to consider in order to catch the best day and time to visit the natural pools. The main tips to keep in mind are:
- Try to go on a day that the tide is at or below 0.5 (at the most). More than that and the tide is already too high and doesn’t give way to the pools to show. The tip for those who still want to try to go even during the high tide is to be there at the exact time of the lowest tide possible and try to enjoy something. But be aware that you won’t see the pools as they really are, and you might be disappointed. The important thing is to always go with your expectations aligned.
- Go an hour and a half before, or an hour after the tide is at its lowest. Ideally, go before, when the waters are crystal clear. If you go at the exact time of the lowest peak, the raft ride becomes more of a “crossing” only, and you won’t be able to enter the pool with the fishes because the water runs out of flow. However, this is a good time for those who prefer to see and take pictures of the pools with no one inside them, and to see the famous mini-pool with the “map of Brazil”.
- Keep in mind that it’s quite difficult to find the perfect day (read: low tide near noon, with open weather and beautiful, natural sunshine), but that’s ok. You’ll plan as well as you can by following the previous tips, and enjoy it as you can.
To take the trip to the natural pools the best is to take a raft that costs R$25 reais per person, and then go into the pools first thing. Then you can go further into the open sea, which has a sandbar and rocks for those who can’t swim and is right next to 8-meters deep spot to snorkel and observe the corals and fish. Oh, and the rafters always have little snacks on them to attract the fish.
Don’t worry about trying to choose a raft or a rafter. The thing here is to arrive at the village square, just in front of where the rafts are, and buy your ticket at a kiosk. From there you head to the beach and enter the next available raft. Keep in mind that long lines can form on holidays and high season, which can delay your ride (you risk missing the best time of day). The crossing from the beach to the natural pools is quite fast, around 10 minutes.
It’s worth mentioning that on days and times of very low tide, it’s possible to go out swimming into the natural pools. But I only recommend going if you have a lot of experience and confidence in your skills because sometimes the current’s strong or you may get tired. Check the sea conditions well before entering, and see if there are any lifeguards nearby. My recommendation is: you’re on vacation, so take it easy and take the raft ride! The extra money on your pocket isn’t worth it…
2- Buggy ride – or car/bus – from end to end (5 beaches)
This is a well-known tour of the region, and it’s possible to book it at most of the many hotels and agencies on the city’s downtown.
As the name implies, the end-to-end tour explores the full length of Porto de Galinhas beaches. The tour is basically a “beach tour”, and goes through the following beaches:
- Muro Alto Beach: corals and rocks form a natural wall, making it possible to always have a pool with calm waters at the edge of the sand.
- Pontal de Cupe: a tiny piece of beach that separates Cupe beach from Muro Alto beach. There are also natural pools here, but to a lesser extent than in Porto de Galinhas beach.
- Porto de Galinhas Beach: where the city center and the most famous beaches are located, as well as the famous natural pools of Pernambuco.
- Maracaípe Beach: a surf beach with big waves and rough seas. The buggy usually doesn’t make a stop here, it just passes by (unless this is requested and agreed to). This is the only stretch of the road where cars don’t pass.
- Pontal de Maracaipe: where the river meets the sea, and a great place to end the day and watch the sunset.
It’s very common to do this ride by buggy, with places for up to 4 people. But you can do it all on your own, whether by your own or a rental car, stopping at the beaches you want.
If you have a car available, you can do your own end-to-end beach tour.
For those who choose to venture by buggy, the price and time options available are:
- 4-hours ride – R$200,00
- 6-hours ride – R$250,00
- 9-hours ride – R$300,00
The path is always the same, passing through these 5 beaches; the difference is in the time and pacing of the tour.
If you choose the 9-hour tour, you’ll have enough time to calmly enjoy each beach. You’ll be able to stop for lunch, have a beer and even go on other tours, such as renting a stand-up paddle in Pontal do Maracaípe. No rushing, and a full-day program.
If you choose the 4-hour tour, you can see a little of each beach, and then come back on your own to your favorite. The most common is the 6-hours one. I did the 9-hours because I wanted to enjoy it all day and we were in 4 people. But measure your options considering your time, availability, budget and taste.
3- Praia de Serrambi
Serrambi is a beach that is outside the end-to-end tour, but beautiful all the same. It’s even further than Pontal do Maracaípe, a little away from the city center, but still easily accessible (around a 20 minutes drive from the village).
On the 9-hour buggy ride, you can negotiate an extra stop with the buggy and ask to include Serrambi in the itinerary (get ready to leave an extra tip). But if you have many days there, leave it for another time so that you don’t cram too many beaches in one day and end up not enjoying them right.
If you haven’t done the buggy ride, do the Serrambi beach + Pontal do Maracaipe combo in the late afternoon to watch the sunset. You won’t regret it.
4- Day trip to Praia dos Carneiros
I recommend this tour to anyone who has at least 3 days or more in Porto de Galinhas and doesn’t plan to go back to Pernambuco anytime soon. Or better yet: I recommend seeing both Porto de Galinhas and Carneiros in one single trip and divide your stay between the two.
But relax, this isn’t impossible or even difficult to do on a day trip. On the contrary, it’s quite easy and very worthwhile. Our recommendation on the previous paragraph is still valid because sometimes we want to do the most things we possibly can and end up not enjoying any of them. In short: if you’ve already been able to enjoy Porto de Galinhas to your heart’s content, throw yourself on Carneiros without a second thought!
Carneiros Beach is beautiful and located 50km from the center of Porto de Galinhas (60km from Muro Alto). If don’t have a car at hand to go on your own, you can hire a closed tour at an agency (the transfer is around R$60 reais per person), talk directly to your hotel, rent a car, or: go by Uber! Yes, Uber was widely available at the time I was there (it’s worth mentioning that it was carnival) and the value was around R$100 for the stretch, a good option for those who are in 4 people.
Other day trip options: Camboa and Calhetas.
5- Watch the sunset from Pontal de Maracaípe
I know I’ve already talked about the sunset on the end-to-end tour topic, but I’ll repeat it here as to really hammer it in.
Be sure to go to the Pontal do Maracaípe at the end of the day for a beautiful sunset, have a bowl of açaí, a dessert made from mashed açaí served with fruits and granola, or practice stand-up paddle. You can also take a raft ride through the mangroves and enjoy the view from the water.
Remember to arrive at least an hour before the sun is scheduled to set, because it goes down really fast and you won’t be able to enjoy anything later on, as the place is a bit more secluded and gets dark really fast.
6- Taking a stroll around the city center at night
The city center has great dining options, a few shops, and is a nice walk to go at night when the beach is no longer an option.
Enjoy this opportunity and look for chickens (real or decorative ones) to really feel at your destination (its namesake, Galinhas, means Chickens). =P
7-Enjoy your hotel
Many people go to Porto de Galinhas to take advantage of the wide range of different hotels. There are all-inclusive resorts, great options for families, luxury and more exclusive hotels, as well as laid-back inns. If you’re also traveling to your destination for the hotel and it offers a good structure, there’s nothing fairer than taking the time to enjoy it.
And there you have it! The 7 best things to do at this beautiful place, to enjoy it to the fullest! And remember to take plenty of dives in the warm sea, eat delicious and affordable seafood, and take photos!