Perched just north of Brazil’s tourist gateway of Natal, near where South America juts into the Atlantic at its easternmost point, the pristine sands of Maracajaú—dubbed the Brazilian Caribbean—draw beach bums and reef divers from around the world. Though the small fishing village houses only a couple thousand residents, its sun-kissed beaches run unbroken for miles along the coast and are guarded by the 3.5 acre Maracajaú Reef, an undersea wonderland of multicolored fish and coral a mere four miles offshore. Scuba diving and snorkeling in turquoise waters under cerulean skies have become a must-do for travelers who often trek up to Maracajaú from Natal for a day-long splash session, along with wind-surfing, biking and horseback riding. The more-adventurous can even make the journey by dune buggy.
Lording over the beach is the popular Ma-Noa Park, a modern water theme park featuring twisty slides, a lazy river and catamarans that run guests out to the reef. In June and July, the town vibrates with the danceable rhythms of forró (Brazilian-style country music) at the Festival do Forró, a celebration of Northeastern Brazilian music and dance. And if you fall in love with the swaying palm trees and gently breaking waves of Maracajaú so much that you want to stay at least for the night, three local pousadas offer accommodations in town for the recently love-struck.
-Ernest White II