As an american in Pipa, I felt like I stepped back into time some 70 years by US standards. I don't know what its like to be an hour from a big city where there isn't a mariott sheraton lineup of sorts impacting the dunes and serenity. I wish I could have seen North Carolina in the 40's... dunes, drifters and divers I imagine. What wasn't here now, is coming though. Common words on everyone's lips seemed to be 'real estate boom' because Natal, some 60 km away (and a 3 hour flight north from Sao Paulo) boasts direct flights from Europe making Pipa a fantastic get away. Yet somehow we managed to get there early enough to indulge in some desolation, just in time before it becomes thoroughly bought and built. But then again a little desolation is the Brazil I know thus far. Yes there are luxury vacation homes and a few fancy restaurants but the locals still seem to have the run of the place on their bicycles. Even the beach towns 2 hours from Sao Paulo still feel rustic (to me) so I don't have this sense of anxiety that I did when I was in Cuba a few years back, worrying that all the coastal misshaped hotels from the 50's will soon rediscover their american mob roots and sprout back to life, cluttering up the views.
For Pipa, its a blessing the landscape is abundant in rich, earthen toned cliffs that protect the beaches. If you want something on the beach you have to build high and design a sturdy set of stairs to reach sand. The town is laid out in similar fashion with the exception of a well used dirt road to descend in elevation. The restaurants and bikini stores all open up in the back to a 100 foot drop down to the central beach where the good surfing is. But that is one of dozens nestled into coves that shape the shoreline. The pousadas are either mixed somewhere within that fabric of small town street life or a little ways up the road on a slope to take advantage of the views. But you won't find anything on the beach.
I met a few nomads, one making wire souvenirs as he travels the coast throughout the year on his bike. The town is active with locals, fisherman and artists but thanks to some obvious brands its evident things are slowly changing from bead shops to fancy brazilian names. Still, Pipa has the same magic spell as one of A and I's favorite towns in Mexico, Sayulita. Just a sleepy surfer town with incredible food and the kind of authenticity you want to put in a jar and seal so it can remain pure.
If not for the perfect beaches go to Pipa for the cousine. Toca da Caruja deserves a Michelin star. The moqueca on the beach in a little 200 person shrimper town a few hours down south (accessed by our champion dune buggy driver, Josinaldo) is the best in Brazil I've had. We also met Daniel, who runs a little restaurant out of his house and makes a mean fire grilled lobster. Like...his stuff is the kind of stuff you find yourself saying, 'okay I can die happy now."
So is Pipa the best beach in Brazil? I dont believe there is a, 'best" beach in this country, its a myth. Try finding a bad beach though... In fact I think I am going to devot the rest of my life trying to find a bad beach... even a mediocre one. Dare me.
the local security
robalo at toca da caruja
coca cola lagoon, accessed by dune buggies only
the place to watch the sunset
sunset from the place