Do you have a scheduled trip to the capital of Pernambuco, Brazil? Then check out our tips on which region to stay in Recife. There are suggestions for those who go touring, those who go during the Carnival, and much more.
When I travel, I like to stay as close to the main attractions as possible, because these places are often well-served by public transport and eating options, and by staying in these central regions I save time by exploring on foot a lot.
However, in big cities, this “rule” of mine falls flat due to several factors. The price of lodging closer to the attractions is usually more prohibitive; there may be several areas of interest spread around the city; the main attractions’ location may not be the safest place to stay, especially for those who enjoy going out at night; or simply because you won’t be able to escape getting some sort of transportation.
Recife is a big city that falls into this rule: there are several areas to stay, and not necessarily downtown is always the best. To try to help you pick, I will list here some pros and cons of the most common regions of lodging in the capital of Pernambuco: Boa Viagem, Downtown and Olinda. As such, you can make the best decision according to your travel priorities.
Boa Viagem Beach
The main beach of the city concentrates a large number of hotel options, so when you’re searching, variety surely won’t be lacking in this area. Besides, you’ll be close to the beach and the neighborhood is very beautiful and pleasant, with several delicious dining and outings options. It’s an excellent place to stay.
Boa Viagem is very close to the airport, so if you’re just passing through the city, you can quickly get to the hotel and still be able to see at least a little bit of Recife.
The biggest con is traffic. Like every big city in Brazil, traffic in Recife is heavy, and the traveler can come across it when going downtown, especially during rush hour.
Another problem faced by the travelers staying in Boa Viagem is the prices. Boa Viagem houses the most luxurious hotels and the largest concentration of tourists, but as there’s a wide variety, it’s also possible to find more affordable options.
This is the region that best meets the criterion of proximity to tourist attractions, as I said at the beginning of this text. The region of Recife Antigo (Old Recife) and Boa Vista is home to Marco Zero (the town’s founding place, or Ground Zero) and some of the major museums, so you’ll get around easily, probably without the need for public transportation or taxi to get to most attractions. There’s also a good range of hotels and hostels options there and in the neighboring Boa Vista neighborhood.
The biggest issue that needs to be considered here is that, like almost every Brazilian city center, this neighborhood is no reference in the safety department. Going out at night, for example, may require extra care. Walking around the neighborhood in the evening is also not recommended, and caution with pickpocketers during the day is required. Give preference to a taxi or Uber to get around if you decide to stay around here.
*An exception is made during Carnival, when the streets get more police officers and a lot of people are out and about waiting for the shows at night, but even so, stay alert.
Staying in Olinda makes more sense for those who go to the carnival and, as such, will spend more time there than in the actual city of Recife. Staying at the center of the partying saves you a lot of time and money on transportation (we once faced more than 1 hour of traffic at the entrance to Olinda from Recife during the Carnival) and you can easily return to your hostel in the middle of the day if you want to take a rest, eat or use the bathroom, for example.
While staying in Olinda, a good tip is to look for houses to rent on Airbnb or similar sites, especially for those going in groups.
For those not going to party in Carnival, the city offers several options of Inns, the most famous being the Pousada dos Quatro Cantos.
The Pousada do Amparo is part of the Roteiros de Charme (a prestigious national hotel association aiming to select, in their own words, ‘hôtellerie that combines quality of service and social and ethical responsibility’) and is also a great luxury option when staying in Olinda.
On the other hand, even those going for the carnival may prefer to stay in Recife to get away from all the mess, because Olinda is really taken up by the ‘foliões’ (party-goers) 24/7, so there’s no way to escape even when you’re tired. Transportation to there from Recife is often easy on Carnival days, with vans departing from specific spots in Recife and Ubers available as well. And the distance is really short, although there’s traffic at certain times like the beginning and end of the day.
If you go at another time, moving from one city to another, while easy, can be a bit of a drag. In that case, see what you want to prioritize on your trip. If most attractions are too far away, give preference to Boa Viagem. If you want to stay on Olinda’s charming slopes, run with this option.