On beach vacations, you’re usually pretty relaxed. Some would even say lazy. After a slow morning, when you may or may not make it to breakfast in time, you move to a sun lounger and turn into a beach bum for the rest of the day. You watch other people kayak, sail, and paddleboard just offshore, though you’re never tempted to join them. Until you arrive on Fernando de Noronha.
Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, sits 360 kilometers off the coast of Brazil. The 21 volcanic islands and islets were first discovered by Amerigo Vespucci in 1503. The Dutch, the French, and the Portuguese eventually took over the islands. They were used as a fort, a prison, and even a U.S. Army base. Today, they’re a UNESCO World Heritage Site that only allows 460 people to visit at a time.
Before your arrival, you assumed this would be like many of your previous island trips. You landed at the airport, paid your national park tax, and rented an off-road kart. You drove to Pousada Maravilha, a stunning hotel overlooking Sueste Bay on the southern coast. Your bungalow practically invited you to be lazy with a goose down comforter on the bed and a wooden hot tub, a hammock, and a futon on the wide balcony. The newish spa and the open-air restaurant—serving seafood and sparkling wine—relaxed you even more.
So why are you now up before sunrise and standing on a lookout point above Dolphin Bay on the northern coast? The name of the bay says it all. Early each morning, spinner dolphins put on quite a show. They leap out of the water, twirl, and twist to warn approaching boats that a pod is in the bay. You’re so mesmerized, you barely notice the water turning lighter shades of turquoise as the sun rises.
After such an amazing show, it’d be difficult to return to the hotel and your regular routine. Explore the rest of the northern coast. Go to the Bay of Pigs, where the blue water is deeply contrasted by the black rocks and Two Brothers Mountain. Go surfing—the season lasts until the end of February—on Cacimba do Padre Beach. Walk through the natural tide pools and the ruins of São Pedro do Boldró Fort at Boldró Beach. Snorkel among the shipwrecked Greek vessel in Santo Antônio Port. Then wander through Vila dos Remédios, the historic downtown with a church and the ruins of a fort from the 18th century.
Don’t worry, tomorrow you can sleep in and return to your normal routine. Atalaia Beach and Lion’s Beach are two gorgeous beaches right near the hotel. But between the snorkel trail that follows the coral reef and the colorful fish near Atalaia, and the reddish sand and the sea turtles about to hatch on Lion’s, it may not be the lazy day you envisioned. But on an island like this, that’s okay.