Brazil's north-eastern coastline stretches along beautiful, semi-deserted beaches from dry Rio Grande do Norte state all the way to the mouth of the Amazon.
São Luis is the capital of Maranhao state and the heart of the city is on an island connected by bridges to the mainland. Founded by the French and also owned for short times by the Dutch and Portugeuse, European influences are everywhere. As an old slaving port, much of the African culture remains. The lovely colonial centre is being restored with the help of UNESCO and the city comes alive in the evenings, particularly at the weekends.
Natal is a bustling city (with one of the world's largest urban parks) whose suburbs have some lovely beaches and good hotels. Its proximity to the lively fishing village of Pipa and the sand dunes at Genipabu, just to the north, make a stay of a number of days worthwhile. Recife is laid out along a beach, similar to Rio. Here too is Olinda, a former capital, a pretty town with cobbled streets and some of Brazil's best-preserved colonial architecture.
The coast of Brazil's far north eastern state of Ceará is dotted with small, remote, oceanfront fishing villages hidden among rolling sand dunes and palm trees, some of which have now turned to tourism.
350km off the Atlantic coast, Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of 21 islands, formed by volcanic activity about 12 million years ago. 70% of the archipelago is a national marine park, generally accepted as one of the most untouched and unique marine systems in the world.
The first colonial capital of Brazil, Salvador is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas and still retains its unique African-influenced culture. Aside from the many attractions within Salvador, gorgeous coastline lies right outside, the longest stretch of any Brazilian city dotted with secluded beaches and idyllic islands. Just inland, the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina features waterfalls and quiet hiking paths waiting to be explored.
Ilheus, in Southern Bahia, is an interesting city with some beautiful coastline. 65km north of Ilheus is the popular town of Itacaré with its cobbled streets, interesting architecture, beautiful beaches, rivers, Atlantic rainforest and Cocoa plantations. The Peninsula de Maraú has wonderful, unspoilt beaches with natural swimming pools and coral reefs.
Porto Seguro, in Southern Bahia, is a popular holiday resort for Brazilians and the gateway to the beautiful, unspoilt beaches visited from Arraial d'Ajuda or, slightly further south, Trancoso. The latter is a fashionable yet unspoilt fishing village with charming pousadas (inns), boutique shops and excellent restaurants.