Olinda lies only 30 minutes outside of Recife, but it is a city of it’s own. While Recife is one of the biggest northern Brazilian cities, very modern, well known, full of luxury tourism and skyscrapers, Olinda is small, calm (except during carnival) and gives you more of a town vibe.
The beach of Olinda isn’t that amazing, if you have seen Salvador or Maragogi before, but the city center is superb. Small streets, with nearly no traffic, beautifully painted houses, old colonial churches and many interesting art shops and galleries. By night the city comes to life, restaurants get full, bars get busy and the main square hosts a big food market, where you can try delicious variations of Tapioca and drink very good Caipirinhas.
Tapioca is a very traditional Brazilian dish, it is a wrap made out of manioc flour and filled with various toppings. A surprisingly tasty combination is prawns with cheese. You won’t believe it, until you try.
Due to it’s colorful houses and it’s chilled atmosphere we felt that Olinda is a place that inspires, a location where you become creative, which explains why there are so many artists – also foreigners -living there.
Pipa, located 1-2 hours South of Natal (one of the biggest cities in the northern half of Brazil) used to be a hippy surf town. Over the years it become more and more known and therefore it is not a surprise that the main street of the town is full of foreign restaurants and shops.
Although the main street screams tourist trap, it really depends in which time of the year you visit Pipa. In March 2019 it wasn’t crowded at all, but in other periods (December/January or European Summer) it can get very full, from what we heard.
If you ignore the shopping street, the town is actually quite nice, there is an older part of the town with many smaller local bars and shops and close to that area are also the, in our opinion, better hostel options. We stayed in the Surf Camp Hostel, which has a nice atmosphere, big open hangout area, surfboard rental and quite big private rooms for 18€ a night.
There are several beaches in Pipa and they all have their charm. Baia dos Golfinhos is a beautiful beach that forms kind of a lagoon when the tide is low. At specific times you can also see dolphins and they sometimes, if you are lucky, swim very close to you. Praia de Pipa is the closest beach to the town and it is a beautiful one too. For surf beginners Praia Madeiro is probably the best choice, while in March the heart shaped Praia do Amor had the strongest waves.
Although we didn’t like the shopping/restaurant area of the town, the beaches are so beautiful that we really enjoyed the stay and would always love to come back.