Pipa is a small beachside town about 2 hours north of João Pessoa. It’s a short drive off the main BR-101 motorway heading for Natal, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte.
In the northeast of Brazil, Pipa is somewhat famous as a hippy hangout, and a magnet for pretty chill people from around South America and further afield. Since we’re trying our very hardest to one day become as cool as them, we had to go along for a weekend to experience the place.
The town itself is basically a main street, various alleyways off to the sides, and full of opportunities to quickly part ways with your hard earned money. Gourmet restaurants, fashion shops, exotic ice cream, the list goes on. However, there is good value to be found if you’re willing to look around. E.g. a tent in a campsite, starts at about R$25 (€6.25) per night
We didn’t book any accommodation in advance (usually fine outside of major holidays in Brazil) and found a very decent Pousada, “Pousada Praina” for R$140 (€35) per room, per night. That includes use of their lovely swimming pool, air conditioned room, and a full buffet breakfast. (And you can also sneak your packed lunch out from breakfast, if you’re quick.)
Of course, you won’t want to spend too much time in your lovely air conditioned room when you have beaches all around. So head down the cliffs and pick a seat. It seems there’s a cover charge per seat during the high season, but we only had to pay for food and drinks. It may depend on the bar.
Remember those hippies I mentioned? The entrepreneurial ones stalk the beaches. When you least expect it, they’ll lunge at you with offers of coffee, brownies and sandwiches. They time their attacks carefully, so be extra careful at sunrise and sunset!
Two of the major beaches just by the town are Praia do Madeiro, where you can often see dolphins, and Praia do Amor (Love Beach) a little further to the other side. Up above Praia do Amor, there’s an area of cliffs called Chapadão with a big flat area on top. It’s a great area to watch the sun set, if you’ve escaped the beach. Also great craic with a car, if you want to pretend you’re going “off-road” on solid rock.
Two nights in Pipa is short, but enough time to get a feeling for the place. Three might be better, or, if you really want to settle in:
- Camp on the beach (For R$25/night)
- Learn to juggle
A friend of a friend of the family (Brazil is like that) runs one of the country’s best organic aquaculture farms, “PRIMAR Organica” about 15 minutes outside Pipa. Actually the whole region is full of shrimp farms, but PRIMAR is special, they’re also raising seahorses for export as pets. These little guys sell for about US $40 once they reach maturity.
Did you know – Brazil has a space program!
A little further up the coast, we visited the Brazilian Space Agency’s “Centro de Lançamento da Barreira do Inferno” or “Hell’s barrier launch centre” which has been an important test site for Brazilian rocketry since the 60’s. Unfortunately it’s not possible to enter the site as it’s an active Air Force base, but there is a museum with outdoor exhibits, across the road.
One of the most important tasks the CLBI base performs today is as an early tracking station for Ariane 5 launches from Kourou, French Guiana. Most launches from Kourou with GTO payloads pass within view of this location in the first few minutes after launch. The next opportunity to contact the rocket is from Ascension Island, in the mid-Atlantic.
And then, back to João Pessoa. For now…