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Brazil's Hidden Beaches

João Canziani A new lodge at Fernando de Noronha.

Photo: João Canziani

Jericoacoara, Ceará

Blink, and Jericoacoara—a four-hour drive west from the northeastern city of Fortaleza—could be mistaken for a Saharan desertscape. But the first glimpse of the cerulean waters beyond the Pôr do Sol, Jeri's near-100-foot-high Sunset Dune, is anything but a mirage. Sand hills tower as high as buildings and the breeze can reach gale force from September to November. As a result, it's a haven for sand boarders and windsurfers, who also relish the Jacuzzi-like waters (average year-round temperature: 80 degrees).  And with seas to the east and west, it's one of the few spots in continental Brazil for miraculous views of both sunrise and sunset.
WHERE TO STAY A liberal use of carnauba, a local wood, helps the bungalows and elevated huts at Vila Kalango (30 Rua das Dunas; 55-88/3669-2290; www.vilakalango.com.br; doubles from $141) blend in among the property's palms and cashew trees. Inside, everything from the towel racks to the wardrobes is made from sand-colored lumber. At the Mosquito Blue Hotel (Rua Ismael 55-88/3669-2203; www.mosquitoblue.com.br; doubles from $121), whitewashed exteriors are distinctly Mediterranean, while the 44 rooms are spare and simply furnished, with white bed linens and modern wall sconces from Fortaleza.
WHERE TO EAT Uniquely Brazilian sandwiches like pernil (a popular pork cut), pineapple, and cheese make Café Brasil (65 Beco do Guaxélo; 55-88/3669-2272; lunch for two $9) the top spot for lunch. Pair the dish with a siriguela juice, made from a grainy tropical fruit that tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear. At Chocolate (214 Rua do Forró; 55-88/3669-2190; dinner for two $36), a collection of hanging lanterns sets the mood in the eight-table alfresco risotteria with 20 versions of the Italian rice.

Fernando de Noronha, Pernambuco

There are more spinner dolphins and sea turtles than people on Fernando de Noronha—ibama (the Brazilian Environmental Protection Agency) limits visitors to this mountainous archipelago and national marine park 340 miles off the coast of Recife to an average of 700 a day. The result: its 16 immaculate beaches, set between craggy sea cliffs and the volcanic rock formations emerging from the translucent waters, are virtually deserted. Nearly everything and everyone (including unesco) on the seven-square-mile main island is geared toward preserving Noronha's abundant marine life and endemic land species.
WHERE TO STAY The unusual emerald waters of the horseshoe-shaped Baía do Sueste and the isle of Cabeluda form one of the most idyllic backdrops in the Americas, all of it on view from the bungalows and common areas at Pousada Maravilha (55-81/3619-0028; www.pousadamaravilha.com.br; doubles from $525). Whether guests here sink into outdoor ofuro (Japanese baths) on their private decks or onto the impossibly comfortable lobby furniture from top Brazilian design firm Artefacto, heaven is one word that immediately comes to mind. The 12 eucalyptus- and ipe-wood bungalows at the new Pousada Teju-Açu (Estrada da Alamoa, Boldró; 55-81/3619-1277; www.pousadateju-acu.com.br; doubles from $344) resemble upscale tree houses—ones filled with examples of northeastern Brazilian design, such as onion-skin lamp shades and finger paintings of hometown street scenes from Recife Artist Zé Som.
WHERE TO EAT Environmental laws limit fishing in these waters, leading to a shortage of fresh seafood on the island, so the long lines for tables at Ecologiku's (Estrada Velha do Sueste; 55-81/3619-1807; dinner for two $64) are justified. Sizable local lobsters are served whole or thrown into fiery capixabas (a version of Bahia's moquecas, or seafood stews).

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