Situated halfway between the northeastern coastal cities of Natal and João Pessoa in Brazil, the lovely stretch of beach called Barra do Cunhaú calls visitors from around the globe, all year round. Straddling an estuary where the Curimatau River meets the Atlantic Ocean, Barra do Cunhaú features shady mangrove forests and stands of wind-whipped palm trees. A fishing village-turned-shrimping haven, Barra do Cunhaú is the perfect place for a day trip from Natal for swimming, kayaking, sunbathing, and seafood snacking.
Praised for its stunning natural beauty, the beach at Barra do Cunhaú offers swimmers a choice between calm, natural pools formed by reefs, or boisterous, breaking surf, where more adventurous visitors take to their longboards. Nearby, the Chapel of Our Lady of Martyrs stands as the only church blessed by Pope John Paul II back in 2000, creating a non-watersport option for visitors, along with the relaxing and educational ecological cruise that slips up and down the Cunhaú River, threading through the roots of the mangroves, as well as exploring local farms that produce sea salt for commercial use and export.
Located in the municipality of Canguaretama in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, Barra do Cunhaú is only 15 minutes from popular Pipa Beach and just under 50 miles from Natal. Cunhaú shares the spectacular natural landforms and vibrant colors of Pipa and other nearby beaches, making this stretch of Brazil’s coastline one of the country’s most cherished destinations. Despite the area’s population barely reaching 20,000, the municipality throws one of the most popular Carnival events every year, with revelers in costumes, jamming to massive roving sound systems that play samba and axé (samba-reggae) to keep the people on their feet.
Accommodations in the area include several upscale resorts, as well as a few small inns and guesthouses, but staying in Natal and taking the 8-hour day tour to Barra do Cunhaú is always a good option. Don’t forget to fill up on local seafood delicacies like the tasty and filling bobó de camarão (similar to a shrimp gumbo).