It’s leaving Praia da Pipa that is the problem. Once people experience the area’s mix of pristine beaches, soaring cliffs, international cuisine and oh-so-hip nightlife, they find it difficult to return home.
“All of our visitors, especially foreigners, come [to Pipa] looking for a better quality of life,” said Emilson Inacio, mayor of the district of Tibau do Sul. “A few even decide to stay here and invest in businesses connected to tourism.”
Such was the case for Francesco Belvederi, owner of Trattoria da Francesco. He first traveled from Italy to Pipa in 1994—and he instantly fell in love. “The quality of life and beauty of this place kept me coming back,” Belvederi says. In 1999, he left his job as a building restoration auditor, moved to Brazil and opened his business in Pipa—the first Italian restaurant in the city operated by an Italian.
Not everyone who falls in love with Pipa is from another country. Celso Mello, a restaurateur born in São Paulo, moved to Pipa ready to start life anew along the area’s six miles of scenic coastline. He considered the global culinary influences found throughout the town and decided to open Pimenta Malagueta—with its all-Brazilian cuisine. “The idea came as a protest to all of the other international venues,” Mello says. “We do mix local ingredients with a hint of Asiatic seasoning so that foreigners can connect with the menu and come back to try another dish.”
Tourism drives the restaurant scene as well as other businesses in Pipa. According to Mello, 60 percent of his customers are foreigners, 30 percent are Brazilian tourists and the remaining 10 percent are locals. The district sports more than 160 hotels, and approximately 100 restaurants and bars. (Speaking of which, Pipa’s nightlife was named the hottest of northeast Brazil by Viaje Mais magazine.)
Epicureans also delight in the nine-day Festival Gastronomico da Pipa in October, created in 2003 by Claudio Freitas, former Tibau do Sul Secretary of Tourism. The festival, which focuses on regional cuisine, requires competing chefs to incorporate three mandated ingredients in their specialty recipe. The creations are then judged by festival attendees.
In addition to its rich culinary scene, Pipa also attracts visitors to its four rustic tropical beaches. Baia dos Golfinhos, also known as Praia do Cural, is a rock-encircled beach, accessible only by foot and in low tides. Afternoon visitors will enjoy dolphins at play in their natural habitat. Nature lovers also will want to explore Praia das Minas, which is home to sea turtles and is the only beach in Pipa without cliffs (making it perfect for long walks in the sand).
Adventure seekers can’t resist the crashing waves at Praia do Amor, home to the area’s best surfing and kite surfing. In contrast, Praia do Madeiro offers gentle waves for swimming—but be prepared to walk one hour from downtown and descend long wood staircases in between tall red cliffs.