If the string of shallow coral reefs that grace Natal’s gorgeous, sandy coastline could be called a necklace, then Maracajaú Reef is its biggest, most beautiful jewel.
Known as Parrachos de Maracajaú, (coral reef of Maracajau) this complex reef formation full of coral, iridescent fish and other marine life, covers over 3.5 acres (15 sq km) and is about 7km (4mi) offshore from Maracajaú beach.
It is possible to dive in the area but, if you time your visit with the low tide, its natural pools are shallow enough for some fabulous snorkelling – possibly Brazil’s best. Floating in the warm, clear water above a coral garden as dozens of fish dart around you is a memorable way to spend the afternoon.
Most people visit Maracajaú on a tour. A boat will take you from the beach out to the floating platforms - a jumping off point to the reef but also a handy rest stop should you wish to come up for the occasional breather.
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Maracajaú is about 1 hour (50km/31mi) north of Natal in the city of Maxaranguape, just off Praia de Maracajaú (Maracajau Beach).