Best places to snorkel in Brazil

By Arran Wallace

The beat of the surdo may still be ringing in your ears, but Carnaval is over, and summer is drawing to a close. Not to worry, as many regions in Brazil enjoy average winter temperatures of 65 degrees, so you don't have to put away your swimsuit just yet. With almost 7,500 kilometers of coastline stretching from the equator to the Tropic of Capricorn, Brazil boasts thousands of great places to swim and explore the marine life hiding underwater.

Check out our list of the five best places to go snorkeling in Brazil below!

1) Parrachos de Maracajaú

Here we can see some of the coral reefs visible through the clear water.

The Parrachos de Maracajaú are located in Maxaranguape, which is known as the Brazilian Caribbean and can be accessed in just under an hour from the northeastern city of Natal, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. The Parrachos themselves are located 7 kilometers offshore and consist of 1.5 square kilometers of beautiful and healthy reef formations and abundant tropical marine life.

Due to its location far from the coast, you will have to organize some form of transportation. Luckily, several companies organize day trips out to the reefs, some even as early as 6 a.m.! As you can see in the photo, the water is crystal clear, even on a cloudy day, and visibility is excellent, so make sure to bring an underwater camera! Why not stay here for your snorkeling adventure?

2) Fernando de Noronha

A snorkeler swims above a large school of fish in Fernando de Noronha.

Further out into the Atlantic, Fernando de Noronha is a small group of islands about 350 kilometers from the mainland and can only be accessed by flights leaving from Recife or Natal. It boasts incredible beaches, waves, and an ecosystem so important to scientists that it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

Because of its isolation and the fact that tourism is regulated, snorkelers here will enjoy enjoy crystal clear waters and undisturbed marine life. Some of the creatures you can expect to see here are sea turtles, spinner dolphins, and even humpback whales. The best time to visit is from March to November, when the waves are smaller and the ocean is calmer.

3) Ilha do Campeche

A snorkeler enjoys the shallow waters of Ilha do Campeche.

An island found just over a kilometer off the coast of Florianópolis, another island in the area, Ilha do Campeche is a relatively unexplored gem—and one of the most beautiful islands in the region. Towards the left of the main beach that faces the mainland, there is an enormous natural pool, which is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, due to its crystalline waters and variety of colorful fish and marine life.

The local government is keen to preserve the delicate ecosystem there, and only permits 800 visitors a day—all of whom are expected to take their trash back to the mainland with them. There is no infrastructure on the island, so make sure you take your snorkeling equipment, because there isn't anywhere to rent it on the island. Once you've got your gear on, there are plenty of places to snorkel on the island, as well as places to stay!

4) Ilha de Boipeba

A snorkeller taking a photo of a school of manta rays.

The Ilha de Boipeba in the state of Bahía is only separated from the mainland by a couple of river mouths and canals, making it much more easily accessible than the previous entries on this list. Recognized as a biosphere preserve by UNESCO, it has managed to preserve its pristine beaches and clear blue waters.

There are many gorgeous beaches, but the best (and most popular!) for snorkeling is Praia de Moreré, with its rock pools and coral reefs, which appear during low tide and shelter creatures like sea urchins, moray eels, sea turtles, and lots of colorful fish. Depending on the season, and further out to sea, visitors might even catch a glimpse of a school of manta rays. If you're looking for somewhere nearby, this gorgeous tree house is only an hour and a half away!

5) Angra dos Reis/Ilha Grande

A group of snorkelers are having fun in one of the many coves in Angra dos Reis.

Angra de Reis, a bay containing beautiful little islands and gorgeous natural beaches, is located just over 150 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro and provides crystal clear waters and warm temperatures all year round—perfect for getting the snorkel gear out to observe the abundant marine life that call this bay home. Visitors also come from far and wide to enjoy the vibrant night life. This suite in the jungles of Paraty is just an hour away and makes the ideal home base for exploring the bay.

More experienced divers might want to try their hand at scuba diving off the coast of Ilha Grande, a large island at the mouth of the bay. The waters off the coast of this island have the highest density of shipwrecks in the world, mostly due to the skirmishes between European merchant ships and pirates between 1500 and 1900. Thankfully, pirate raids are a thing of the past, so no need to bury your valuables!


Planning a trip to Brazil? For the best ideas about what to bring and what to do in Rio de Janeiro, check out the latest in our travel guide series!

Travel Guide: Rio de Janeiro

By Mikaela Amundson

Rio de Janeiro is a vibrant gem on the eastern coast of Brazil, drawing 2.8 million international tourists each year. With 80 kilometers of beaches, countless natural wonders, and a strong sense of culture, Rio is a dream getaway. This large metro area, with 12 million residents, is located in the southeastern part of Brazil, in the State of Rio de Janeiro, on Guanabara Bay. Surrounded by mountains, ocean, forests, and more, a visit to Rio is a nature-lover's paradise, while still allowing you to turn to the city for music, dancing, food, and festivals for an amazing cultural time.

With so much to do and see, we've created a travel guide so you can experience it all. Read on and see what's waiting for you in Rio!

A view of Rio de Janeiro and it's most iconic landmark: the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado.

Good to know before you go

Getting there and around

Galeão International Airport, otherwise known as Rio de Janeiro–Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport, has international connections with 19 other countries, as well as domestic flights within Brazil. Located conveniently on the island of Galeão right in the bay, this airport is accessible and super convenient.

Within the city, buses are the main form of public transportation, along with Rio's three subway lines and 60 Bike Rio bicycle sharing stations. Public transportation in Rio is extremely affordable, with bus rides costing only $3.80 reals (BRL), or $1 USD. Rio also boasts the Santa Teresa Tram, the oldest operating electric tram in all of South America, which is a popular tourist activity.

Useful Phrases

Culture

Food and drink

What better way to see a city than to eat your way through it? Try some of the street food that Brazil is known for, like pão de queijo (cheese bread), picanha, cassava chips, and feijoada—Brazil’s national dish. Açaí, the mega-popular, millennial smoothie ingredient, originates from the Amazon and is available all over Rio, especially by the beach. Have a pastel for breakfast from the local market, commonly filled with meat, cheese, and other tasty treats. Sardines are the most popular fish in Rio and are best served grilled with lime.

Events

When you think of Rio, you immediately think of its most famous event—Carnaval. This six-day party, which culminates the day before Lent begins, is known for it's outrageous costumes, parade floats, and all-night celebrations. Rio is said to have the largest carnival celebration in the world and draws insanely large crowds.

The largest parade is held at the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, a huge amphitheater that seats 90,000 people, all craning to see the outlandish parade floats and scores of dancers and musicians. Local neighborhood groups, which are called "samba schools," put together displays and parade down through the Sambadrome with music, dancing, and celebrations for huge cheering crowds. Outside the "samba parades," there are rowdy street fairs near Ipanema, lavish balls at Copacabana, and other parties just about everywhere you turn.

Other than Carnaval, New Year's Eve is a huge celebration at Copacabana Beach. Dressed all in white, people crowd the beaches for shows, music, dancing, and an enormous fireworks display. It also wouldn't be complete without the traditional spraying of champagne at midnight!

Religion

The majority of the population of Rio is Christian, with the larger part of that identifying as catholic, which stems from the country's Spanish and Portuguese roots. Catholicism traveled to these colonies in the early 16th century, when the city of Rio de Janeiro was established.

Places to visit

Ipanema

Voted the best city beach in the world by CNN in 2012, Ipanema is famed for more than just the woman in Frank Sinatra's legendary song. This beach has surfing, perfect sand, walking trails, and amazing sunset views—all within walking distance of the city.

Copacabana

Another location enshrined in song with local bossa nova flair, Copacabana is one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Rio. It's famous, crescent-shaped beach and lovely boardwalk lined with mosaics are loved by locals and visitors alike.

Christ the Redeemer on Mount Corcovado

At almost 100 feet tall and perched atop the most visible mountain the Rio, this iconic statue has become a symbol both for the city and Brazil as a country. Accessible only by train, visiting Christ the Redeemer, named one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World," is a must-see.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Another remarkable natural feature within the city, Sugarloaf Mountain offers unbeatable views of the bay, the city, and the ocean. Named after piles of sugar cane exported out of the country in the 16th century, this peak is accessible by cable car and known as the best view in all of Rio.

Tijuca National Park

The world's first urban forest and an UNESCO Environmental Reserve, Tijuaca is the perfect place to visit for nature lovers. Offering super accessible hiking, view points, waterfalls, and wildlife, this park is an easy drive from the city and shouldn't be missed.

Outside the city

Large sprawling parks abound outside of Rio, like Juarez Frotté Municipal Park, offering waterfalls, rainforest views, and hiking—a total nature immersion for adventurous travelers.

Stay in this rainforest suite to be close to hiking trails, waterfalls, and amazing nature views.

Remote beaches are also a must-do in this area of Brazil, and Paraty-Mirim Beach is one of our favorites. With gorgeous sand, tropical fjords, and amazing lookouts, this area is a perfect spot for a getaway.

Immerse yourself in the rainforest from this amazing hut near the beach—complete with an outdoor bathtub.

Safety and essentials

Health

  • The CDC recommends typhoid, malaria, and yellow fever vaccinations for those traveling to Brazil, especially if planning to head into the forest or other natural areas.
  • Mosquitoes are common and can carry harmful diseases. When traveling out in forested areas, wear long pants and sleeves and bring along a strong insect repellent.

Visas

Brazil's visa requirements are reciprocal, so if your country requires Brazilian citizens to obtain one for your home country, then you need one to visit Brazil. U.S., Canadian, and Australian citizens need to obtain visas in advance for tourism purposes, but U.K., New Zealand, French, and German citizens do not.

Safety

  • Important emergency numbers are 190 for Police, 193 for Fire and Ambulance, and 021 for Tourist Police.
  • Tap water may be safe to drink in larger cities but is generally known to taste awful. In remote areas, the water quality is questionable. We recommend that you stick to bottled or boiled water only.
  • Be cautious of petty crime and theft. Walk with purpose and in groups, don't carry large amounts of cash, and always stay alert.

Remember to always consult your home country's travel agencies and websites for more information, too:

Rio awaits!

Armed with this guide, you're now ready to get on out there and explore Rio and the surrounding area. Whether you choose to celebrate Carnaval or go hiking in the Amazon, you're bound to have an amazing time—enjoy!




Keep exploring on Glamping Hub to find your perfect Brazilian getaway! Be sure to check out a few of our other guides here and here for even more options.