The archipelago has never been linked to the mainland. Geologically, it is the tip of a submarine volcanic formation which rises out of the deep seabed and consists of one main island and several rocks and islets. The rocks form many natural aquaria and the underwater life is diverse. Because the reefs of the South Atlantic are isolated from the Caribbean by the outflow of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers, the reef communities are very different with many endemic species.
Bathed by currents coming from Africa the waters around the islands are very clear with very good visibility even at 50 meters and have great year-round warm temperatures. Of course, you can also see the large “global” species such as manta rays, sharks, moray eels, goliath groupers, sea turtles and dolphins.
The island is also home to one of the largest sea bird breeding colonies in the South Atlantic.
Discovered by Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512), Italian merchant and cartographer in 1503, the archipelago is 4 degrees south of the Equator, around 200 miles off the northeastern coast of Brazil, north east to the city of Natal.
During its 500 years history, Fernando de Noronha has been temporarily occupied by the Dutch (17th century), French (18th century) before Portugal established dominion in 1737. They built an extensive defense system of 10 forts. The largest and best conserved fortress is Nossa Senhora dos Remédios de Fernando de Noronha.
The island also served as a prison and a US Army base. Today the population is around 3,500 and the main industry is tourism.
As a unique ecological sanctuary, Fernando de Noronha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a large part of the area is a National Marine Park. And it has the most wonderful beaches. Three (Sancho, Porcos and Leão) regularly feature in Brazil's top beaches list.
Being a small island with limited water resources and a fragile ecosystem, there is a maximum number of 460 visitors allowed on the island. Visitors also pay an Environmental Preservation Tax that increases progressively with the length of the visit.
The relative isolation from the mainland, the limits on visitors and the preservation make Fernando de Noronha an expensive destination. But the "happy few" will be well rewarded by the delights of this island paradise and its fascinating underwater world.
Flight times are 1:40 from Recife (540 km) and 1:10 from Natal (350 km). Flights by Trip Airlines operate daily. There are also charters and full packages available from major Brazilian cities, available from most Brazilian travel agents.
From the airport you can take a bus, taxi, hire a golf buggy or even walk along the main road to most hotels if you are feeling adventurous.
The archipelago comprises 21 islands. Only the largest of them is inhabited (pop. 3,500), and visiting the other islands requires special authorization from the environmental authority, as they are protected areas of a National Maritime Park.
There is one road that circles the main island and connects many of its attractions. It is possible to rent a car or a buggy for about US $50 - 70 a day depending from whom you rent. The easiest way to get around is by bus (R$ 2.85) which goes back and forth along the main road from the Port on one end of the island to Praia de Sueste on the other. Another option is to hitchhike as almost all the local people and sometimes the odd taxi or dive truck will be happy to pick you up and give you a ride if you are going in their direction. If you choose to hitchhike, try and learn at least some Portuguese so you can tell them where you want to go and say thank you at the end of the ride.
Time zone is UTC-02:00 hours year-round, meaning that for most of the year it is one hour ahead of the standard time zone of coastal and most of central Brazil, and from mid-October through mid-February (Daylight Saving Time in all except the more northern Brazilian states), the same time zone.
- The sunset.
- 1 Sancho Bay. This is considered the most beautiful beach on the island, although the Pig Bay is considered by many as the most beautiful one. Both are side by side, and you can see both in the same day.
- The full moon rising from the ocean. In some areas you will be able to see the rocks under the water near the beaches at night because of the full moon.
- Dolphins at the Dolphins Bay site
- Sea turtles on 2 (Baía do Sueste)
- 3 Two Brothers (Dois Irmãos). A rock formation
- 4 Pig Bay (Baía dos Porcos).
- Underwater life
- Beaches - Fernando de Noronha is home to the top two beaches in Brazil - 1 Praia do Leão and Baía do Sancho. Both beaches offer crystal clear blue water with areas for swimming and snorkeling. If you decide to visit, it is a good idea to bring along your own provisions as well as an umbrella as there is no shade at Praia de Leão and the shaded areas of Baia do Sancho quickly fill up with other visitors.
- Boat tours
- Buggy tours
- Dolphin watching
- Diving - with visibility up to 50 meters, Fernando de Noronha is a Mecca for divers and snorkelers at any level of expertise. It has more than two hundred species of fish, five shark species, sea turtles and dolphins.
- Kayak tours
- Snorkeling - Despite what several of the travel guide books say, snorkeling at Praia da Atalaia is no longer unrestricted. If you wish to visit to see the tide pool, it is recommended that you arrive early as the number of visitors is restricted to 100 per day. The tide pool itself is about 18-24 inches deep but contains a remarkable diversity of animals. Lobsters, octopuses and numerous fish species inhabit the pool and, if you are lucky, maybe a baby shark. The tidal pool is monitored by the government of the island. If you choose to go keep in mind a few things:
- Visitors are not allowed to wear suntan lotion as the oils from the lotion will pollute the tidal pool (this is another good reason to go early in the morning when the sun isn't too hot)
- You are only allowed to stand or put your knees down in a small sandy area in the middle of the pool. If you are not a confident snorkeler (i.e. capable of floating on the top of the water) then do some practice at another beach before you go. They will remove you from the pool and you could be fined if you violate this rule.
- You will be limited to 25 minutes in the pool
- Surfing, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info, please check with the local Surf Asstn. at .
- Trekking - there are also many different trails to choose from, but some restrictions apply. Trails in the National Marine Reserve (Parnamar/FN) can only be visited with authorization and with accredited guides. Trails inside the Environment Preservation Area (Apa/FN) have free access.
There is not much to buy that is unique to the island. If you are desperate for a souvenir from the island, you could consider purchasing a souvenir to support the TAMAR/IBAMA project which is focused on turtle conservation.
After a long morning of diving, nothing beats a bowl of açaí (exotic sweet and fatty dark purple-colored Northern Brazilian fruit, usually eaten as a mashed pulp) with granola and bananas at the port.
- Biu Restaurant - Floresta Nova, (81) 3619 1458. Buffet self-service.
- Arte e Sabor Creperia - Tu-Su, 18:30 until 22:30. Credit cards accepted.
- Tartarugão Boldró - Grilled picanha, moquecas, shellfish. Tu-Su, 12h - 15h and e 18h - 23h.
- Alameda do Paraíso -Buffet self-service. .
- Restaurante Ecológico - Seafood, dinner only.
- Sabor da Ilha - Buffet self-service. Lunch and dinner.
- Trattoria Di Modena - Italian food, Mo-Sa, 19:00 - 22:30. Credit cards accepted.
- Taquinho - Buffet self-service. Lunch and dinner every day.
- Nascimento - seafood, lunch and dinner.
- Cantinho do Porto - Steaks and pasta. Tu-Su, 11:00 - 23:00. All cards accepted.
- Flap -Buffet self-service. Lunch and dinner, every day.
- Miramar - seafood, lunch and dinner every day.
- Porto Marlin - Sushi Bar with small store. Every day from 17h.
- Zé Maria - Lunch and dinner every day.
The island has about 70 inns or pousadas, often private residences more or less adapted for this type of service, similar to B&B. The quality of the lodgings are indicated by the number of dolphins. There are 3 categories :
- 1 dolphin (basic) - most places are in this category
- 2 dolphins (comfortable) - about 9
- 3 dolphins (very comfortable) - 4
Most pousadas have a website and can be booked online.
- [dead link] Agulhão, Alameda das Acácias, 01 Floresta Nova, ☎ . 10 rooms, all have air-con, TV, fridge and hot shower.
- Algas Marinhas, Alameda das Flores 118 - Floresta Nova, ☎ . Free WiFi. From R$ 222.
- Ares de Noronha, Rua Pinto Branco, Vila do Trinta, ☎ . All rooms have air-con, fridge, TV, hot shower and free WiFi. from R$ 190.
- [formerly dead link] Barcelar, Av. Major Costa, 128 - Vila do Trinta, ☎ , fax: . All rooms have air-con, TV, fridge and hot shower.
- Colina dos Ventos, Estrada de Colina, 06 - Vila do Trinta, ☎ , . All rooms have air-con, TV, fridge, telephone, hot shower and panoramic views.
- Canto das Sereias
- da Fátima
- da Morena
- Del Mares
- Simpatia da Ilha
- Lenda das Águas
- Bela Vista