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Best things to do in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil: a local’s guide

Porto de Galinhas, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, has been the destination of most of my summer vacations since childhood. I was born and raised in the state’s capital, Recife, which is only 65 km away, and have visited this beach dozens of times. Not only for its proximity, but also for its allure: it was considered the most beautiful beach in the country in tourist polls for several years.

Besides the warm, clear waters, the region boasts paradisiac landscapes of coconut trees and white sand, great sea food and beautiful marine life. In this article, I’ll talk about the best things to do in Porto de Galinhas and tell you all you need to know to enjoy it to the fullest.

Plan your trip to Porto de Galinhas, Brazil

Like many other beaches in Brazil, Porto de Galinhas (also referred to by locals as simply “Porto”) arose from a fishing village. Since then, it has changed a lot – and not always for the better. When I was a child, the beach was way less crowded, and it had a more “authentic” feel. Nowadays, it’s one of the country’s main tourist destinations, and much of it has changed to accommodate the needs of outside visitors.

The good side is that you’ll find an infrastructure to cater to all types of tourists, including a good variety of accommodation, gastronomy, and entertainment options. You can go there with the whole family, and everyone will find something to do. The bad side, in my point of view, is that mass tourism couple with a lack of urban planning made the village a bit chaotic, so I don’t consider it the best place if you’re looking for a peaceful getaway.

But don’t be dismayed: the beach of Porto de Galinhas itself is just one beach among several other around it, which cater for different needs. That’s why in this article I won’t limit myself to the best things to do in Porto de Galinhas only, but will also include its main neighboring beaches (which I currently prefer).

Why is it called Porto de Galinhas?

If you know some Portuguese, you must have realized that the beach’s name is a bit strange: it literally means “Port of Chickens”.

It is said that the name came about when the slave trade in Brazil was already prohibited, but smugglers used the beach to bring Africans and avoid the Port of Recife (the state’s capital), where there was more supervision.

Legend has it that slaves disembarked hidden in crates of guinea fowl and smugglers exclaimed: “There are chickens in the port!” so people knew they had arrived. Most tourists are unaware of this history, and it became something “cute”. You’ll see colorful chickens everywhere in the village, from sculptures in the streets to souvenirs.

Looking for accommodation in Porto de Galinhas? Check out the best hotels, resorts, hostels, inns, and apartments available on or read my complete article with tips on where to stay in each beach in the region.

When is the best time to go to Porto de Galinhas?

The climate in Porto de Galinhas is hot and humid, with an average annual temperature of 25 ºC and a higher incidence of rain from April to July. To have a better chance of blue skies and better visibility in the natural pools, I recommend avoiding this time of year, preferring the months of September to March.

At the height of summer (December to February) it is obviously high season, so it is more difficult to find vacancies at short notice and prices tend to be higher. There is also a higher occupancy rate during Carnival (dates change every year, so you should research it beforehand).

best things to do in porto de galinhas

How long should you stay in Porto de Galinhas?

I recommend spending at least two full days in Porto de Galinhas, but you can stay there for up to 10 days without getting bored. Especially if you want to enjoy each beach without any rush, do all the tours below and include day trips to other beaches in the surrounding area.

Here’s a suggestion of things to do in Porto de Galinhas day by day:

Day 1: Arrival in Porto de Galinhas + enjoying the beach near your accommodation

Day 2: Buggy ride “ponta a ponta” (end to end) + raft ride and sunset in Pontal de Maracaípe

Day 3: Tour with Trilhas Porto De Galinhas or Gaitero Ecoturismo + Bar do Galo, in Pontal de Maracaípe

Day 4: Go back to your favorite beach among the ones you visited on the buggy ride

Day 5: Day tour to a more distant beach nearby, like Santo Aleixo Island

Several tour agencies offer day trips from Porto de Galinhas to Recife and Olinda, with city tours included. I know I’m suspicious because I’m a proud Recife native, but I think it’s worth it setting aside a few days to enjoy these two cities, which are right next to each other. Staying in Porto de Galinhas for four days and then in Recife for three days, for example, would be great.

How can you get to Porto de Galinhas?

Porto de Galinhas is close to Recife: it’s only about 65 km from the city center and 50 km from the airport. In 2014, an expressway with toll was opened, making it even easier to get there. If you rent a car, it’s quite easy to reach the beach using Waze or another GPS app. With a little luck, in less than an hour you can have your feet in the sand.

If you don’t want or can’t drive, you can use a transfer offered by your accommodation, or hire one from tour operators such as Luck. You can also get there by taxi, Uber, shared car (through Blablacar) or bus.

The cheapest way is to take the bus, which leaves both from the airport and from Cais de Santa Rita, an old bus terminal near downtown Recife. Unfortunately, this option isn’t so practical. Buses usually come out every hour and some of them enter the municipality of Ipojuca, where Porto de Galinhas is located, and make several stops. Therefore, the trip can take about two and a half hours.

To go back from Porto de Galinhas to Recife by bus, you must go to a bus stop in front of a skate park, next to the lifeguard building and close to the Ipiranga gas station at the entrance to the village. Here it is:

bus stop in porto de galinhas

To get around the beaches of Porto de Galinhas without a car, you can take an Uber, taxi, motorcycle taxi or a van.

Where should you stay in Porto de Galinhas?

Most of the accommodation options are in the center of the village of Porto de Galinhas (where you’ll find restaurants, bars, and shops) or in neighboring beaches such as Praia de Muro Alto (further north, with calm waters), Praia do Cupe (halfway between Muro Alto and Porto) and Praia de Maracaípe (further south, a favorite for surfing and my favorite place to see the sunset).

Throughout this entire coastline, you will find everything from fancy resorts and hotels to charming guesthouses, flats, and cheaper inns and hostels. I wrote a complete article about where to stay in Porto de Galinhas, where I give more information on each location and recommend accommodations where I’ve stayed before.

accommodation in porto de galinhas

Best things to do in Porto de Galinhas

Natural pools

The natural pool shaped like a map of Brazil which shows up in the picture above is one of the icons of this beach. Many people go there to snorkel in its natural pools among colorful fish.

However, I don’t recommend doing this. I grew up walking on reefs and hundreds of people do the same every day in Porto de Galinhas and several Brazilian beaches, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. A few years ago, I realized that walking on corals kills living organisms. Even in permitted areas, nowadays I prefer to avoid this type of activity to reduce my environmental impact (which, on popular mass tourism beaches like Porto de Galinhas, is already quite high).

If you do want to take the tour, which lasts around 45 minutes, go to the kiosk located in the main square in front of the beach, and then stand in line to catch one of the rafts that leave nearby. In about five minutes you reach the pools, which are formed between the reefs. Beware, though, that the pools only appear at low tide, so it’s a good to check the tide table at your hotel or online.

natural pools

Buggy ride

Another tour that is often mentioned among the best things to do in Porto de Galinhas is buggy riding – which I do recommend, especially if you’re without a car and want to see how the beaches look like before deciding on where to spend your days.

The most famous buggy tour is called “ponta a ponta” and goes along the beaches “from end to end”, that is, from Muro Alto to Pontal de Maracaípe.

For safety and environmental reasons, buggies are not allowed to go on the beach itself, but they do pass through some paths where normal cars don’t go. It’s also a different way to enjoy the beaches, with plenty of wind on your face and no worries about parking spaces (which can be a nightmare on high season).

It is essential to take this tour with an accredited buggy driver: check if the vehicle has a red license plate and an official seal. I recommend looking for the company Faby Buggy Turismo, which is run by one of the only female buggy riders in Porto.

the buggy ride is one of the best things to do in porto de galinhas

Hiking and cycling

If you like being active, one of the best things to do in Porto de Galinhas is doing a tour with Trilhas Porto de Galinhas, which rents bycicles and guides you on itineraries for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels, or with Gaitero Ecoturismo, which promotes ecological tours through the mangroves. You can even float down the river in their “floating hike”, which is super cool. Just make sure you contact them on Instagram and book your tour in advance.

Scuba diving

In addition to seeing the fish with a mask and snorkel in the natural pools and swimming from the beach, you can go scuba diving to further explore the underwater world. There are several diving spots near the coast of Porto de Galinhas, with sunken ships and such.

By walking around the village, you will find several operators with certified instructors. Some of the diving schools are Ganesh, Pescuba and Aicá. I’ve never been scuba diving there, so I can’t say which company is better, but I suggest looking for reviews online and doing some research in person.

Turtles and seahorses

Among the attractions of this region are the marine animals, which are unfortunately at risk of extinction. But there are some projects that protect these animals, such as Hippocampus and the NGO Eco Associados, and visiting them is one way we can help.

The Hippocampus Project carries out research and environmental education activities to preserve the seahorses that live in the Maracaípe River estuary. They have a headquarters in Porto de Galinhas, where you can see these and other animals in aquariums and learn a little about them. Address: Rua da Esperança, s/n, Porto de Galinhas.

Eco Associados monitors the presence of sea turtles in the city of Ipojuca. They maintain the Sea Turtle Museum, where visitors find turtle skeletons and shells, for example. I’ve never been there, but the place seems to be quite simple. Address: Rua Caraúna, Praça 4, s/n, Porto de Galinhas.

Eating and drinking

For those who like foodie tourism like me, there is no shortage of options in Porto de Galinhas. Obviously, the seafood offering is abundant, but there are also many restaurants with northeastern cuisine (which is amazing!), as well as pasta, pizza, crepes, barbecue, sushi, ice cream, sandwiches…

On the street Beijupirá, you will find several good restaurants, like the one named after the street, which serves seafood with unusual recipes, often with tropical fruits. They also have units in Olinda, Fernando de Noronha and Praia de Carneiros and the food is very good, but prices are steep.

Among my favorites in this street is a less famous restaurant, Mardioca. I like the cozy atmosphere, as well as the more affordable prices. They have delicious pizzas and good escondidinhos (a typical dish that is like a mini cassava gratin), as well as good pasta and shrimp risotto.

Still in the Italian vibe, a highly recommended restaurant is La Tratoria, which has a good wine cellar and is located at Rua dos Navegantes, 81. I haven’t been there yet, nor to the charming Munganga Bistrô, which also has a great reputation and serves various dishes based on seafood and meat, using regional ingredients. It is located at Av. Beira Mar, 32 (Galeria Caminho da Praia).

For dessert or a cup of coffee, I like the friendly Café da Moeda, located in Galeria Htur, on the street Rua das Piscinas Naturais.

In Maracaípe, a great choice is João Restaurante, which is on the seafront and has a nice structure, with hammocks and a swimming pool. One of the highlights of the menu is the Hawaiian Shrimp, which comes with cheese sauce, is served inside a pineapple, and feeds up to three people. The restaurant is located in Todos os Santos village.

pineapple at joão restaurante

Another good choice is Barcaxeira, which is right in front of Porto’s main square and has a wide variety of dishes, like poultry, salads, pastas, meat, and various seafood options. The environment is spacious, colorful and I think it’s a good place to go with family. It is located at Rua da Esperança, 458.

Looking for nightlife? Especially in high season, the streets of the village are busy with young people from all over the world. Tourists come together to have a drink in the little square in the center of the village or go to the bars and clubs around there. In the summer, concerts usually take place in temporary structures on the beach.


For those coming from outside the Northeast, there is no shortage of regional craft options, including embroidered fabrics, hammocks, ceramics, crochet, and much more.

But nothing is more typical of this beach than chicken, which you can find throughout the city, in wooden and coconut straw sculptures, and in stores, in every shape and material you can imagine.

For those who really enjoy it, it might be interesting to visit the studio of Gilberto Carcará, the artist responsible for the chickens carved from the trunks of dead coconut trees that you’ll surely see around the village.

Beaches near Porto de Galinhas

In addition to Porto de Galinhas itself, you will find several other beautiful beaches around it. It’s worth exploring and seeing which one you like the best. Below, I’ll talk about some of them, but there are also others like Gamboa, Enseadinha and Cacimbas, and a little further away you will find Tamandaré and Praia dos Carneiros, which was made famous by a little cute church on the sand. There is no shortage of options! Here are the main ones:

Muro Alto – Most of the resorts are around Muro Alto, a beach that is perfect for families. On this stretch of coast, the reefs form a natural pool of warm, clear waters, where you can relax in the water without worries. You can also go kayaking or practice SUP there.

muro alto beach

Cupe – Cupe beach is a little busier and is popular with surfers due to its strong and constant waves. In the stretch known as Pontal do Cupe, however, the corals form natural pools, attracting those looking for calmer waters.

At low tide, lots of fish appear and there are even people renting snorkels and offering underwater photos. At this point on the beach there are also two restaurants: Pirajuba and Pontal do Cupe, which are good options for eating seafood with a view of the ocean.

praia do cupe

Maracaípe – The main surfing point in the region, Maracaípe is part of the sport’s championship circuit and attracts many young people who go to eat and drink in the beach bars located on the sand or enjoy the concerts that take place there in the summer. The best-known bar is Marcão, but there are others similar ones next to it.

I you want to get into the water and don’t like the rough waves, go to Pontal de Maracaípe, where the river meets the sea. There, you can do SUP and marvel at the beautiful sunset. You can also take raft trips there, crossing mangroves and sandbanks of the Atlantic Forest. At the Pontal you’ll also find Bar do Galo, a bar located in the middle of a sand back surrounded by mangroves. Going there is one of my favorite things to do in Porto de Galinhas, next to watching the sunset by the river. Just beware of the tide, so you don’t get stuck there when it rises.

Serrambi – On this beach you will also find surfers and kitesurfers and some natural pools. For those who like diving, it’s good to know there’s a shipwreck there.

Day trips from Porto de Galinhas

From Porto de Galinhas it is also possible to take day trips to other beaches in the surrounding area. One of the most common options is Praia de Carneiros. It is worth spending a night or two there if you have more time, but it can also be visited in a single day.

It takes about an hour to get there from Porto, and many agencies offer tours including transfer, a guide, and catamaran rides. On this classic tour, tourists usually base themselves at the Bora Bora restaurant, which has a very complete structure with bathrooms, showers and luggage storage.

From there you can take a catamaran ride, which takes around two hours and stops at a sandbank and at Guadalupe Beach, where you can take a clay bath. I’m not the biggest fan of this tour because it’s usually full of tourists and what I like most about Carneiros is the tranquility (which is becoming rare in the past few years, as the destination grows popular). But if you have little time, it might be worth it.

praia dos carneiros

Another cool and lesser-known beach near Porto de Galinhas is Santo Aleixo Island. It is accessed by speedboat from Barra de Sirinhaém, which is about 30 minutes from Porto de Galinhas. You can book tours including transfers and a speedboat to the island.

Near Porto de Galinhas you’ll also find Praia de Calhetas, in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, a neighboring city. Day trips there can include stops at Engenho Massangana, clay baths, viewpoints and ruins, zip lining and, of course, the beach itself, which is very small but nice.

you can go on a day tour to calhetas from porto de galinhas

There are also those who go to spend the day at Maragogi, a famous beach in the neighboring state of Alagoas, south of Pernambuco. Tours there usually include a boat tour to see the natural pools, so the departure time depends on the tide of the day. Around 90 km separate Porto de Galinhas and Maragogi. It’s a feasible day trip, but I would prefer going there with more time and stopping at other beaches in Alagoas which are nicer and a lot less crowded.

maragogi beach

If you’re considering going to Praia dos Carneiros, Maragogi or Santo Aleixo Island on a day tour, one of the operators I know is Faby Buggy Turismo. I didn’t go in one of these tours with them, but I met the owner of the company on a buggy ride and she seemed very professional (also, supporting a woman entrepreneur is always great, right?).

I hope this article was useful! Do you have any further questions on the best things to do in Porto de Galinhas? Tell me in the comments section below.

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