📖 Trip Journal
Fernando de Noronha
📆 from 2022-04-16 to 2022-04-23
- Map and Context
- Getting Around
- Hiking Trails
- Other Activities
- References and Recommendations
To better understand all that's presented here, also check out:
We finally got to visit Fernando de Noronha! Here we try to organize our logs, activities and some advice. Hopefully will be useful and, as always, we're keeping an eye on the comments section.
🌊 We've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating: plan your trip following the tide table. At the Brazilian Northeastern, high and low tide completely change the scenery and available attractions. There are many websites to look it up. Take 0 to 0.4 as "low tide".
A foreword: you won't find here nightlife, bars and parties. We had this trip on our own style: hitting the road during the day, a good dinner at night. If this sounds good, come along!
Map and Context
To get familiar with Fernando de Noronha, it's very important to understand its geography and some key concepts.
The map below is completely unofficial. We based it on Google Maps and added some markers that we'll reference throughout the article.
Right off the bat, take note:
- A and B: represent the Inner Sea (A) and the Outer Sea (B). “Inner” and “Outer” are related to the shoreline position: “inner” is the side facing West (Brazil) and “outer” is the side facing East (Africa). As a result of this, the beaches on the Inner Sea are more protected from the currents, being the best swimming options. This difference is also observed on other aspects of the island., like the Inner being the most inhabited, whereas the Outer is wilder.
- APA and PARNAMAR: the red line marks a very important Division. The smaller part, mostly the Northern area and Inner Sea, is APA – Área de Preservação Ambiental (Environment Preservation Area). It’s Where you’ll find the neighborhoods and urban area. The remaining portion, including the whole Outer Sea, is PARNAMAR – Parque Nacional Marinho (National Sea Park). The park is managed by ICMBio and it has some very strict policies. When we tell you about costs and hiking trails, for example, we’ll be referencing rules from the PARNAMAR. Although inconvenient, they are in place to protect the environment as well as the visitors.
Lastly, something obvious but that I only truly understood when I was there: the island is pretty far from the continent. To all practical effect, you’ll be in the middle of the ocean. This allows you to experience the natural aspect in a much clearer way than we do in our cities.
A simple example: weather forecast is basically a guess. Any wind change can completely modify the weather, from pouring rain to shining sun.
During the hikes, it was quite normal to look out to the coast and see the rain. Sometimes coming, sometimes going. In a given moment, it followed us along the trail for 10 minutes, until the wind blew it away, skipping the island. This almost childish presentation of what it means to be in the nature was one of the trip highlights.
A complete island tour. Great idea for your first full day. It takes a whole day and gives you a great perspective to plan the rest of your stay.
It's offered by all of the tourism companies, in different shapes: group, private, truck, buggy. I wouldn't recommend the collective option on a truck. You basically spend your whole day stuck on the back of a truck, with 7 more strangers on a very tight schedule.
We chose to hire a guide and rent a buggy for a day. Turned out to be the best idea.
Outrigger canoe ride on the sunrise, leaving from the Praia do Porto (02).
Even though the island isn't too large, its geography makes getting around a bit of a challenge. Some options that we used:
- Bus: it rides the yellow road on the map. There's one allegedly every 30min, but our experience was different. You drop off quite far from most attractions. It's cash only. All in all, not the best alternative.
- Taxi: as you'd expect, the most convenient and expensive option. The best idea is to get the WhatsApp number of a driver and buy a pack of rides. We had to resort to it for a couple days.
- Bike: we rented electric bikes for a day and it turned out to be quite fun.
- Buggy: we had some trouble to rent a single day, but it's possible. Gas is quite expensive on the island, so plan for it. We spent R$80 in gas for the Ilha Tour. If you're traveling in a group of 4, this might be the best option. Don't drink and drive.
👟 Clearly, we also walked. A lot. Make sure to pack comfortable shoes and, if you plan on hiking, choose a pair that can get wet/Dirty. Do have at least a pair of closed shoes, it’s not recommended to hike on open sandals due to safety.
We met some visitors wearing swimming shoes. Because you walk on rocks every now and then, it looked like a good idea.
Oh yeah, now we're talking!
Most of the trails are inside the park area – therefore, reservations are required. It’s done in person, at the ICMBio office. You get a number, wait in line and eventually arrive at an "ATM". Reservations are limited. These trails will be marked below as PARNAMAR.
Some spots are hard to get. Knowing this, we left our schedule quite open, so we could fit the available spots we could get. Most hikes also require a guide. We did all of our hikes with the same guide. His contact will be at the end of this article, super recommended.
If you like to hike, all of the trails below are recommended.
Capim Açu (PARNAMAR, Guide)
Longest trail on the island. Goes from the entryway of the Praia do Sancho (05) until the Praia do Leão (06). This trail is gorgeous. It takes you to the main lookouts on the island, through sea caves and beautiful shoreline.
Atalaia Pontinha Caieira (PARNAMAR, Guide)
Also known as Atalaia Longa (Long), this trail includes diving in 3 natural pools. You start at the entry way of the Praia da Atalaia (08) and follow the shoreline to the Praia da Caieira (09). It rivals Capim Açu in beauty. The section between Atalaia and Pontinha is amazing.
Snorkeling equipment is required - vest and mask. The first pool, on the Atalaia beach, has very special rules for preservation. You can’t touch the ground and can’t have any product on your skin – which includes sunscreen. Therefore, UV blocking clothes are highly recommended.
Do Abreu (PARNAMAR)
Short trail that doesn’t require a guide. It takes you to the Praia dos Abreus (07), where you’ll be able to swim in natural pools. Simple trail but with a steep section on rocks – just be careful. Recommended if you have a free spot in your day.
Morro São José (PARNAMAR, Guide)
Short trail that will take you from the Mirante do Francês (Frenchman Lookout) (10) to the Ilha São José (Sao Jose Island) (01). Yep, it's a trail that takes you to an island. There are 2 ways of doing it: by foot, during really low tide, or swimming. We took the latter and we strongly recommend it. We are not swimmers nor have great familiarity with the sea. Still, with all the gear and the guide nearby, the crossing is super nice, fast and quite fun.
Once there, besides an exclusive view of the secondary islands and the Mirante do Francês, you'll have access to a gorgeous natural pool.
We don't have records for this one because I didn't even think of turning on tracking on my watch. The whole event took around 2 hours, including preparation, in-out and the time at the island.
Piquinho (Little Peak)
This trail is relatively new. So much so that you start off crossing tall grass.
This was the only altitude trail we did. You're basically climbing a hill next to the Pedra do Pico (Peak Rock), the highest point on the island and a very clear landmark. The trail opens to a couple lookouts that offer a singular perspective.
Because it's outside the park boundaries, it's not under direct management. There are no reservations neither a guide requirement. Still, we had our guide with us and it turned out a great idea. We're somewhat experienced hikers and yet we found the trail super confusing. It takes numerous turns without clear marks. There are stories of tourists that went lost for hours until they showed up at a random beach.
Some activities that we had on our own and are worth sharing.
Most of the North side of the Inner Sea, from the Praia do Porto (02) until Cacimba do Padre, form an area known as "city beaches" (04). They are inside the boundaries of the APA and, as we've seen before, they are the inhabited portion of the island.
You'll find several attractions on this area, among them:
- Vila dos Remédios (03): the closest thing to "downtown" you'll find in Noronha. It's the area with most stores and commercial activity.
- Buraco do Galego: natural pool formed during low tide. Located on the cliffs to the right side of Praia do Cachorro. Because it's well known and easy to get to, it's usually quite crowded.
- Lasca da Véia: around 500m from the Buraco do Galego. The terrain is a little rough, you have to take care when walking on the rocks. Ensure that the tide won't rise while you're there. It's way more beautiful than the Buraco and, because it's harder to get to, it's much quieter.
One thing we missed, but should be gorgeous, is the sunset at the Cacimba do Padre. Depending on the time of the year, the sun will set between the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers), making a spectacular sight.
Forte Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
The only fort of the island that has been rebuilt - the other 9 being lost to time. You have to go all the way down on the Vila dos Remédios and then climb the hill where the fort is located. It's been yielded to the private sector and should get more strictly managed soon. When we got there, it had free access - throughout the day. We caught the sunset there and returned super early the following morning, for the sunrise. Super recommended if still available!
Mirante do Francês
I'm not sure how this place is officially called. “Mirante do Francês” (Frenchman Lookout), “Ponta da Air France” (Air France Strip), “Air France”. It's the north-western most area of the island (10). It's the place that most got to me. Some activities we had there:
- Astrophotography: great place to shoot the skies and stargaze.
- Sunrise: straight at the sea, clear view.
- Moonrise: if it's full moon, don't miss by any chance!
- Sunset: framed between the Pedra do Pico and Morro São José.
- Forte de Santo Antonio Remains: great place to frame the Pedra do Pico or Dois Irmãos.
- Chapel São Pedro dos Pescadores: we couldn't get inside the chapel, but it's also a nice place for pictures.
- Sela Gineta: a great vantage point for the most beautiful rock formation of the island - in my opinion.
This is also where the Atalaia Pontinha Caieira finishes and the start/finish of Morro São José, both presented above. There's a high chance you'll be here often.
Praia do Porto is the last bus stop and it's relatively close to the Vila dos 30, another neighborhood. Depending on where you're staying, you can easily get here by foot.
📷 I hope its obvious by now. If you're into photography, you'll love this place.
A very important aspect of a trip to Noronha. As a rule of thumb, meals and grocery are expensive around here - which will be clear at the budgeting section.
It's a good idea to always have light snacks with you. You can either pack with your stuff and get at the local grocery stores. Especially during hikes, always have something to eat and water.
If you're staying on a place that offers breakfast (most) and snacks throughout the day (some), you'll be able to mix and match and have only 1 external meal. That's basically what we did: a very strong breakfast, light snacks throughout the day and a good dinner.
Noronha gastronomy is quite known, and there's a reason for it. Between service, menu, presentation and taste, it's honestly hard to pick one in particular. So, without any particular order, here is a list of where we've been:
- Cacimba Bistrô
- Bar do Meio
- Cigana do Cajueiro
- Xica da Silva
- Museu do Tubarão
- Valdênio: simple but good one-dish meals!
- Casa do Pirata
- Bar do Cachorro
Any conversation around Noronha will hit one topic in particular: it's expensive.
Without judging if it's cheap/expensive or wether it's worth or not, I'll present our complete expense records. Hopefully it will help you plan yours.
|PARNAMAR||Access to the park area||R$ 165 pp, 10 days|
|TPA||Access to the island, required||Aprox R$ 80 pp/day|
|Guide||Fixed price, you can get a better deal if book several together||Aprox R$ 150 pp/hike|
|Outrigger Canoe||Vary if collective/private and time of the day||Aprox R$ 200 pp|
|Ilha Tour||Vary if collective/private||Aprox R$ 250 pp|
|Snorkel Gear||Mask, flippers, vest. We rented 3 days.||R$ 100 pp/day|
|Activities and Fees||R$ 3405,70|
|Groceries||Some stores have 5l water bottle||R$ 303,39|
|Restaurants||We had 0 alcohol||R$ 3110,47|
|Transportation||Total for the different means we used on the island||R$ 865|
|Food and Transportation||R$ 4278,86|
|Flight Tickets||R$ 2566,05|
|Airport||Meals and Uber||R$ 392,94|
|Remaining Categories||R$ 7912,99|
Total for 2 people, 7 days, including everything (even the fridge magnet): R$ 15.600.