|Pipa Natal a lost paradise|
For you real beach lovers the Northeast of Brazil is a paradise of endless opportunities to find your perfect beach. There are beaches to surf, canoe, sunbathe, windsurf, swim, take long walks, horseback ride, watch dolphins, ride the dunes with off-road vehicles, take boat trips, snorkel, people watching on crowded beaches, or find your own secluded piece of sand and waves for as far as you can see. I have seen most of the Northeast and the place where all of these pleasures to be found for true nature lovers is the small town called Pipa (say peepa).
This charming little town of about 3000 inhabitants lies 50 miles south of Natal the state capital of Rio Grande Do Norte. Natal is the fun capital of the Northeast. It means Christmas in English because it was founded December 25, 1598, Christmas Day. This was the first city in Brazil where people used ketchup, chewing gum, and blue jeans because of the presence of US military base during Second World War. Pipa's charm comes from its beautiful natural setting combined with its colorful international and Brazilian native inhabitants. Here you will find surfers, artists, hippies, businessmen, from several countries mixed in with the local population.
More than half of the local businesses are owned by foreigners who created their tropical Brazilian paradise mixed with their own international ideas and backgrounds. Pipa offers a wide variety of excellent restaurants, pousadas and activities blended in total harmony with the natural surrounding of the green forests, the golden sand dunes and blue ocean.
There are no five star hotels or huge shopping malls. This is a place where you can get in touch with nature in its grandest form and enjoy simple things in life.
Most of the natives don't speak much English but if they do, their vocabulary includes these seven important words: "don't worry man, you are in Pipa"
A typical day in Pipa begins with having a breakfast of local fruits, freshly baked bread and cakes, accompanied with coffee or freshly squeezed juices. This is the only meal which is typically included in your pousada's daily rate. After breakfast you can either take one of the interesting excursions, or just walk down to one of the beaches in town. There are four of them and each one is different. All of the pousadas have a list of the available excursions, some of the best are, canoeing in Tibau do Sul, 2-3 hours and about 10 dollars.
Make sure you choose a fish to be grilled for lunch at the restaurant on the beach the excursion departs from; you will be hungry when returning. Another interesting trip is a dune buggy ride to Sagi, it is 5-6 hours of gorgeous beaches one after the other. Do not forget to douse yourself with sunscreen before you go! This trip is about 60 to 80 dollars for 4 people, depending on the buggy and season. There are other trips to the ecological reserve, north to Natal, and Maracajaú to snorkel.
After taking one of the trips, watch the sunset or the local fishermen returning from sea with their catch. In the evening, there is an excellent choice of restaurants to have a relaxing dinner. Some of the best are: Casita de Don Arturo (Spanish cuisine, very good paella for about 18 dollars for two); Pizzeria Pipa Brasil (about 100 types of pizza); Cruzeiro do Pescador (excellent seafood); and Soparia Chez Liz, which serves some of the best soups I ever had. Basically in my experience you can't go wrong with any of the restaurants in Pipa. After dinner there are a couple of good bars. The most popular one is Boate dos Calangos for dancing or drinks, but don't go there before 11 pm.
Some of the best places to stay if you are looking for seclusion are Pousada Ponta do Madeiro and Hotel Village Natureza, for around 60 dollars per night. These two are about 3 km from town perched on top of a cliff with fantastic views. You shouldn't take small children there though. In Pipa an excellent choice is the Pousada Mirante de Pipa, walking distance to the beaches and all the restaurants and shopping. Here the air conditioning is the Atlantic forest, the pousada's grounds are all under the lovely trees, which keep the whole place comfortably cool all day and night. Instead of TV the rooms have picturesque views of the town and sea, the entertainment provided by the tiny monkeys begging for bananas on your porch.
The friendly and helpful owners, Gisella and Heitor speak English and will pick you up at the airport in Natal. Daily rates are from $20 to $50 depending on season. Another good choice is Pousada Cavalo Marinho with beautiful grounds and pool, although a little more expensive.
High season is the months of December, January, February and July. During these times prices are higher and it is more crowded.
Pipa is guarantee of year around perfect weather, with at least 300 days of sunny days. Included in the package: no bugs, close proximity to a major city and airport, virtually no crime, cheap prices, and friendly locals. The place is an excellent travel destination for those who have an appreciation for nature, beaches, different exotic locations or just have an open mind to experience all the above.