The island of Itamaracá is not a destination where you will find modern bars, nightclubs, fast food outlets and trendy shopping or dining. It is laid back and perfect for relaxing in a hammock with a good book and a chilled glass of wine or an ice cold beer. Or taking slow strolls along the miles of white sandy beaches, and stopping occasionally beneath a palm tree to refresh yourself with a cold coconut water (agua de coco), drunk from a fresh green coconut. But that is not all…
Understandably most activities are based around the beaches and the sea. However the island has not yet caught up with the rest of the world in terms of tourism, and many activities found elsewhere are not yet catered for on the island. Virtually all accommodation is close to the beaches – within walking distance – and spending time at the beach needs no explanation… but do remember your sun protection as the sun index can be very high.
The sea around the island is safe and calm – perfect for swimming, paddling around or just to cool off. Boats (with a driver) can be hired for long or short trips (eg to the little island of Corõa de Avião, to the reef or for a complete tour round the island). There is a popular kite surfing school, and many take advantage of the breezes by windsurfing or sailing, and you can also kayak to the reef or into the mangroves.
Small sandy pools in the middle of the reef allow for boats to anchor and at low tide the water is just waist deep, even though you are well out to sea. Snorkelling is popular, but there is currently no organised scuba diving from the island, although there are 3 schools for this in Recife, and plenty of wrecks to visit off the coast up and down the State.
There are several trails through the many forests on the island, and the historic Dutch Trail from the Fort to Vila Velha is the best known and maintained.
Hikers can discover beautiful nature, stunning views and hidden ruins, but should bear in mind that flip flops are not suitable footwear for these trails, good sunscreen will be necessary, and carrying plenty of drinking water is a must.
Forte Orange (Fort Orange)
A large stone structure, built by the Portuguese some 300 years ago on the site of an older Dutch fort (hence the Orange name and local connections). The Fort has just reopened after a 3-year and R$27,000,000 investment for archaeological studies and improvements to its infrastructure and amenities, and has recently been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Currently being discussed as a venue for more public events, it is definitely worth a visit...
Corõa de Avião
Famous all over the country, for a small fee you can enjoy a return boat trip to this little postcard-like sandbar island, where numerous restaurants provide refreshment and sustenance. Beautiful, quiet, and very relaxing, and if you feel like some exercise, walk out to sea along the sand bank at low tide – very pleasant.
Peixe Boi (currently under refurbishment, due to reopen this year)
Dedicated to the study and protection of manatees (also known as sea cows), this reserve has several of the large mammals for the public to view, as well as a cinema presentation and exhibition area. Unfortunately it is currently closed, and although several of the species live there, public admission is not allowed during this time although private organised group tours are possible.
Lagao Azul (Blue Lagoon)
Perhaps the ‘blue’ in the title is a little misleading, but this freshwater lake has a zip-wire ride, water based activities like swimming, canoes and pedalos, and a restaurant and bar.
Lagoa da Mata (Forest Lagoon)
Its ‘secret’ location known only to locals, this is a large fresh water lake surrounded by forests. Stunningly beautiful, it is a great place to spend some time, have a BBQ, or simply swim and relax. During the week you may even have it all to yourself…
Pilar Town Square
Apart from visiting the bars and shops, watch out for the occasional special events held here, where admission is always free: live music from popular bands, orchestras, sports demonstrations and dances, and, of course, festivals such as the annual Carnival (Carnaval) held every Shrove Tuesday, when the men dress up as women! Some are clearly better at it than others...
Vila Velha (Old Town)
The original place of island occupation dating back 500 years, there is little still remaining. However this is the site of one of the oldest churches in Brazil, the view from there out to sea is quite breath taking, and the small artisan workshop is worth a visit. Also a great place to visit for lunch at weekends.