Recife Travel Guide

Photo of Recife

Recife Overview

With its roots dating back to 1535, Recife is one of Brazils oldest settlements and the capital of the north-eastern state of Pernambuco. This former fishing port, originally settled by the Dutch before the Portuguese arrival, is a city of differing opinions. Whereas it is undeniably rich in culture, history and colonial charm, it also suffers from over commercialisation, chaotic traffic and unpleasant aromas of the canals. That said, what can not be taken away is the captivating atmosphere of Recife Antigo (Old Town), superb urban beach, unbeatable nightlife and one of Brazils most revered carnivals.

Recifes main action is divided between 3 connecting islands split by the Rio Beberibe and Rio Capibaribe. Either side of Rio Capibaribe, Boa Vista and Santo Antonio are the busy commercial centres, with a sprinkling of interesting sights. To the east lies Ilha do Recife, home to Recife Antigo, the citys historic centre and original Portuguese settlement. Also within Recife Antigo, Polo Bom Jesus is the main entertainment zone, alive with cafés, bars and restaurants. The city centre can at times be a little claustrophobic; therefore most visitors seek out accommodation at Boa Viagem, a beachside district to the south, or Olina, a bohemian town just north of Recife.
With a sound infrastructure, Recife is blessed with excellent transport links across Brazil and internationally. The local airport, close to Boa Viagem serves both South American destinations and European cities such as Amsterdam, Madrid and Lisbon. The main bus terminal, although being inconveniently out of town, is connected to the city centre by train and serves the likes of Belem, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Fortaleza, Natal and Salvador. In terms of orientation, Recife is quite spread out, making walking between sights quite difficult. The best option for getting around are taxis, which will save a lot of time and frustration and are likely to be less stressful than the confusing local bus system.

Things to do in Recife

Recife Beaches

There are several quality beaches in Recife. Among the popular are BoaViagemBeach, Carne Da Vaca and Sao Jose de Coroa Grade.
Boa Viagem Beach - Recifes most popular beach is a wonderful, albeit crowded, stretch of golden sand backed by a vibrant esplanade. Lining the beach are an abundance of food shacks selling local delicacies, such as fresh oysters, and drinks at bargain prices. Boa Viagem is also a popular nightlife district.
Porto de Galinhas - A former fishing village, this beach is now one of the most popular in Brazil, especially during New Year celebrations when the beach becomes one huge open-air party. Beware, being isolated and around an hours drive from Recife, prices tend to be 2 to 3 times higher here.
Scuba Diving Recife - The warm waters of Recife are home to a number of shipwrecks, some say up to 100, which attract a myriad of colourful sea life, therefore providing superb diving opportunities. The wrecks of Vapor Bahia and Pirapama are popular and renowned for great visibility. Scuba Rec, based in the Boa Viste district, offer competitive tours, courses and equipment rental.
Carnival in Recife
Carnival - Carnival time in Recife is an eclectic mix of music and dance genres, where rehearsals can be seen for months leading up to the main event. With the cities strong African roots, the colours are brighter, costumes more elaborate and music more varied than anywhere else in the country. Dont miss the main samba event, when participants parade the streets with huge, colourful umbrellas.
Churches in Recife - With a rich colonial past, Recife is awash with fascinating churches and basilicas. Of particular interest might be; Capela Dourada, Brazils finest Baroque church; Catedral de Sao Pedro dos Clergios, an iconic 18thC city landmark dominating Patio de Sao Pedro; and Nossa do Rosario dos Homens Pretos, a 17thC church erected by African-Brazilian slaves.
Parque 13 de Maio - In the heart of Recife this park is a great place to sit back and partake in a good amount of people-watching. The park comes alive on Sundays with an overload of capoeira performances and plenty of hard fought domino games.
Museums in Recife
Museu da Cidade do Recife - Housed in a Dutch fort dating back to 1630, the museum is great for those wanting to learn about Recifes history and culture.
Museu do Homem do Nordeste - Excellent exhibits on life in Brazils north-eastern regions, with displays ranging from carnival outfits to slavery artefacts.
Water sports in Recife
Catamaran Tours - An alternative and interesting way to see the city is onboard a catamaran, passing the changing faces of Recifes neighbourhoods along the Rio Capibaribe. 
Veneza Water Park - A fun day of entertainment can be had at this water park, located 10km north of Olinda. Bask in the sunshine and enjoy the slides, wave pool, Jacuzzis and many other activities.
Recife Nightlife
Being a large city, Recife is the proud owner of a vibrant night scene, with bars serving up cheap food and beers. The busy spots are down at Boa Viagem, with a stylish young crowd, and the open-air bars around Recife Antigo. Popular spots at Boa Viagem are Biruta, Entre Amigos, Boratcho and Club Nox. In town, check out Downtown Pub.
Olinda - 6km north of Recife, Olinda is a charming bohemian town awash with cultural activities, such as galleries, museums and street performances. Chock full of colonial charm, the town is very similar to Recife, however on a far lower key.

Hotels in Recife

Budget Hotels Recife

Albergue Maracatus do Recife - Large rooms in a funky 70s styled house with swimming pool. Tel (55) 81 3326 1221.
Boa Viagem Hostel - Simple budget rooms with large peaceful garden. Tel (55) 81 3326 9572.
Piratas da Praia - Colourful and friendly beachside hostel. Tel (55) 81 3326 1281.
Midrange Hotels Recife
Hotel Aconchego - Good spot complete with pool, restaurant and rooftop terrace. Tel (55) 81 3464 2960.
Navegantes Praia Hotel - Decent hotel 50m from the beach, although current refurbishments might be a little noisy. Tel (55) 81 3326 9609.
Pousada Casuarinas - Small laidback hotel close to all amenities and the beach. Tel (55) 81 3325 4708.
Luxury Hotels Recife
Marante Plaza Hotel - Elegantly decorated hotel close to the OldTown and beach. Tel (55) 81 3464 1070.
Nannai Beach Resort - Deluxe beachside resort where each bungalow has its own private pool. Tel (55) 81 3552 0100.

Recife Weather

Recife Travel Resources



Baraaza Community

Baraaza Guides are free and a great way to get relevant and up to date information on practically any destination on the planet. Our wiki-style travel guides are created and maintained by our travel community and we hope you will join in and help us keep this guide up to date.

We ask that you do what you can and share your worldly knowledge of destinations you have visited by updating our wiki-style guides, writing destination reviews, sharing destination photos and videos and making yourself available to those who may have questions about destinations you have already visited.

We hope that the information found in this guide helps you travel better, smarter and with more freedom.