For a long time, Brazil’s smallest state was known for little else than sugar production and as the breeding ground (and favored retreat) of some of the country’s most corrupt politicians. However, in the last five years, the state has begun to gain ground as one of the country’s emerging tourist destinations, particularly for Brazilians who have tired of the increasing commercialization of Bahia’s beach towns.

From Barra de São Miguel south of the capital Maceió up through the rota ecológica toward Recife, the coast is lined with coconut palms and remarkably free, thus far, of large resorts. Instead, you will find small communities of fisherman’s villages, boutique pousadas, and deserted beaches. The rota ecológica, also known as the Costa dos Corais after the coral reef that runs along its shore, is one of the area’s highlights: 20 km (12½ miles) of road that veer off from the main highway and pass through villages such as São Miguel de los Milagres. The predominantly calm warm waters here make it a great choice for families with small children.

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