The Atlantic twin to the Pacific Ocean’s world-famous Galapagos, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago of 21 volcanic islands and islets lies just south of the Equator, some 216 miles (360 km) from mainland Brazil. Like the Galapagos, this lesser-known island enclave is famous for its fabulous wildlife encounters.
Fernando de Noronha, however, offers a far more robust experience, with wonderful accommodations, fine restaurants, fortress ruins, and other historic attractions, plus active adventures from biking and hiking to sea-kayaking and surfing. While the Galapagos is best visited on cruises that last at least a week, Fernando de Noronha is a great place to settle into a posada (hotel) on the main island and make daily forays by boat to neighboring isles. This is easy to do on organized excursions or aboard chartered fishing boats.
Forget the Galapagos Islands?
These volcanic isles in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles (1,000 km) west of Ecuador are renowned for their remarkable island ecosystems. Nowhere in the world would one have quite the same up-close-and-personal encounters with wildlife, with the intimacy of traveling between islands by boat.
The number of visitors to the islands has increased tenfold since 1980. Many of the popular trails are overcrowded, pollution is on the rise, implementation of regulations is lax, and visits are increasingly costly.
The best way to explore the Galapagos is on an organized boat charter with a licensed guide. Preservation of this ecosystem is every traveler’s responsibility. When hiking, stick to established trails and don’t touch or, worse, feed the wildlife! Take only photographs, leave only footprints.
Getting There and Around
The Aeroporto Fernando de Noronha, in the center of the island, is served by flights from Natal and Recife. Dune-buggy taxis run around the island at bargain prices. You can also explore the main island on rented buggies. Budget hounds can take a public bus that runs along the main highway.
Where to Eat
For lobster and other seafood of mouthwatering quality, visit Ecologiku’s Restaurante
Where to Stay
The eco-sensitive resort, Pousada Maravilha has eight bungalows that offer comfort and superb vistas.
When to Go
Visit during the low season between Aug and Nov, when prices are reduced
The Memorial Noronhense serves as a charming history museum. And the island is dotted with romantic posadas where you might chance upon Brazil’s hottest models and movie glitterati, for whom little-visited Fernando de Noronha is becoming hip. The trails and dirt roads that lace the island are good for horse-riding and mountain-biking. And, unlike the Galapagos, you can even rent cars, which means a dune-buggy here, for exhilarating off-road rides to pristine beaches.