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The Northeast Sights

Canoa Quebrada

  • Beach–Sight
  • Fodor's Choice

Updated 06/24/2013

Fodor's Review

Hidden behind dunes, the stunning Canoa Quebrada Beach was "discovered" in the 1970s by French doctors working in the area. The spectacular scenery includes not only dunes but also jangadas, red cliffs, and groves of palm trees. Carved into a cliff is the symbol of Canoa: a crescent moon with a star in the middle. Although it was originally settled by Italian hippies, the village itself has moved on with the times and now has good roads, several comfortable pousadas, and bars and restaurants. The best way to get here is on a trip offered by one of Fortaleza's many tour operators, but bus companies also have daily departures from Fortaleza and Natal. Try to avoid coming here on Brazilian holidays, when the small town is overrun with tourists. Amenities: food and drink; parking; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming; walking; surfing; windsurfing.

Sight Information


Take BR 116 to BR 304; 164 km (101 miles) east of Fortaleza, Fortaleza, 62800-000, Brazil

Updated 06/24/2013


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Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By Amil

  • Experience

  • Ease

  • Value

  • Don't Miss

Jun 8, 2009

Canoa: A beautiful crazy beach

I had been to Brazil but never to Canoa Quebrada. I remember friends saying it was "the craziest beach in Brazil". That's all my boyfriend needed to hear. We arrived in Canoa after renting a car in Fortaleza. The coastline there is just fantastic with its sandstone cliffs, towering dunes and winding river. Where else can you drive a dune buggy for hours on the beach stopping along the way to eat lobster and drink cold beer? Into sports? There's

serous kite-surfing, windsurfing, motocross, horseback riding, snorkeling and more. How's the swimming? (great). Is it clean? (very). The beach in Canoa has a sandy bottom (no shells or mysterious objects to pinch your feet) protected by a reef so the waves are gentle except around sundown when they swell just enough to attract local surfers. If you have kids they can play safely in the pools of shallow water that form. Of course you can just pass the day relaxing with a good book and some coconut water. In fact, its said that no place provides greater inspiration to do absolutely nothing than Canoa Quebrada. At night things come alive! All the bars and restaurants can be found on one short main street called broadway which is closed to all traffic. The streets can get crowded during holidays but slow down considerably the rest of the time. The people you'll meet are are a mixture of Europeans and Brazilians on vacation and locals going about their day. The clubs are cozy and lively with a variety of music from forró to dance music, from Brazilian popular music to blues. Canoa Quebrada's restaurant choices are wide-ranging, a reflection of the many Europeans who call Canoa home. Italian, German, Swiss and of course Brazilian cuisine are all represented here. Canoa also hosts free outdoor concerts with populare Brazilian bands and a yearly independent film festival. If nature is your thing then be prepared to be impressed. Canoa sits on top of a massive sand dune. The dunes which are wedged between the ocean and the forest creates three distinct ecosystems. Walking from forest to desert to ocean will take you only 15 minutes. These white sands are composed of microscopic reef animals and provides habitats for a variety of life which have adapted to this sea of drifting sand. Canoa is also home to a forest of low twiggy trees called Caatinga. Caatinga is endemic to this region and is found no where else. The health of this forest directly effects the local fishing communities who are dependent on its wood for fuel and medicinal plants. The jewel of Canoa is its tropical sea which supports coral reefs and mangroves. The local coral reefs are part of a system that extends nearly the entire region's 4000 km coastline. Snorkeling is highly recommended as a way to see first hand the high diversity of fish, on which local communities depend. There's fresh water fishing on the Jaguaribe river which leads through impressive mangrove woods. Mangroves are the coastal equivalent of tropical forests on land. Year after year, fish by the thousand spawn in these local sea forests. Hundreds of migratory birds, marine creatures and reptiles depend on its woody salt resistant vegetation for survival. Finally, a Caribbean resort Canoa Quebrada is not. You will be immersed in the local culture not separated from it. Stroll along its beach and watch the fishermen arrive in their jangada's (small sailing rafts) heavy with fish. Join in a local soccer game or watch the capoeira dancers practice their Afro/Brazilian art. Brazilians are a friendly people with an exuberance for life. Its almost impossible to visit here and not make a lifetime of memories and at least a few life long friends.

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