In the 1900s, the volcanic archipelago of Fernando de Noronha served as one of Brazil‘s most picturesque penal colonies. Marooned over 200 miles from the Brazilian mainland, prisoners sentenced to do time on Fernando de Noronha spent their days gazing longingly out of small prison windows at majestic volcanic peaks, stately cliffs, and turquoise water that washed ashore on golden sandy beaches.
In the late 1980s, the powers that be in Brazil finally recognized the striking beauty and unique biodiversity of Fernando de Noronha. The archipelago was declared a National Marine Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to an abundance of dolphins, sea turtles, seabirds, and various types of whales. Visitors finally had access to Baía do Sancho: a small crescent-shaped beach that countless travelers have dubbed one of the most gorgeous stretches of sand and sea in the world.
Accessing Baía do Sancho takes a bit of work, but beach lovers will happily tell you that Baía do Sancho’s blonde sand and jewel-toned waters are well worth the effort. Visitors must pay a moderate fee to gain entry to Fernando de Noronha, since the area is a National Marine Park. Baía do Sancho can be reached by taking a plane from mainland Brazil or chartering a boat.
In order to reach Baía do Sancho, visitors must descend into a rocky hole and climb down a slim ladder that only accommodates one person at a time. Travelers must also walk through a claustrophobic tunnel that is often teeming with hyperactive iguanas.
Because it is hard to reach, Baía do Sancho is generally virtually deserted. Visitors who have spent the day wading in Baía do Sancho’s luminous waters—which are ringed with lush tropical greenery, extinct volcanic peaks, and soft sand—swear that Baía do Sancho is an earthly paradise that is worth the trek.