Maracajaú is best known in Brazil and abroad for the Coral Reef Preservation Area (APA dos Recifes de Corais). This fragile and rich ecosystem spreads over almost 700 square miles off the coast of Maxaranguape, less than 40 miles north of Natal. Expect warm waters, four types of coral, and dozens of species of fish, crustaceans and molusks.
Maracajaú and the Ponta dos Anéis bay, home to a fisherman's community, have attracted local and international tourists for quite a while. But the area still retains its rugged simplicity and unspoiled beauty, which makes it a relaxing getaway withing easy reach from Natal.
What to Do in Maracajaú:
Go snorkeling in the parrachos (pronounced pa-HA-shos), as the coral reefs are locally known. Maracajaú Diver, the area's leading snorkeling tour operator and an active participant in the creation of the Coral Reef Preservation Area, offers baptisms and tours to the parrachos, distant a little over four miles off the coast.
Ma-Noa Park, also engaged in sustainable tourism and in promoting quality of life for the local communities, has tours of the parrachos and other fun suggestions for your time in Maracajaú as well.
You can start your Maracajaú adventure with a buggy ride from the northern Natal beaches.
Where to Stay in Maracajaú:
Though you can easily make Maracajaú a day trip from Natal, you may want to linger on this sun-kissed stretch of coast, amidst far-reaching dunes and murmuring coconut trees. Beachfront Hotel Enseada de Maracajaú has some bungalows that are large enough for families and one bungalow adapted for travelers with disabilities.
Pousada Ponta dos Anéis bungalows are named for natural elements which have to do with their characteristics and location - the Sol offers the best sunset view and the Lua gives you a front seat to the moonrise.
At Pousada Barulho do Mar, you'll also find bungalows, surrounded by coconut trees.
Who Takes You There:
For trips to Maracajaú from Natal, contact a tour operator such as:
One of the best things about the snorkeling experience in Maracajaú is that the shallow and warm waters are safe for children. Ask the tour operator in Natal or in Maracajaú about family packages.
Keep in mind that since the ocean pools form in the low tide, snorkeling conditions may be more or less favorable. Your tour operator will let you know what to expect.