Ilha de Deus: God’s Island

Find Nirvana On Brazil’s Secluded Isle, Fernando de Noronha

Somewhere between the iron wing and sputtering propeller blade, the craggy peak of Morro do Pico emerges from the sea, verdant and shrouded in clouds. Soft rain descends everywhere -- and then ceases -- revealing an island seven miles long by 15 beaches wide, with perfect pearls of oyster sand surrounded by the Middle of Nowhere Sea.

You've heard the name before, maybe echoed in the hazy penumbra of sleep. Or on the lips of that Brazilian girl, the one in your summer photography class whose mouth tasted of saltwater and whose hips, when you pressed your ear to them, roared with the hollow promise of an empty sandbar. Fernando. Always whispered. De Noronha. An incantation. A promise of perfection.

"Here is paradise," explorer Amerigo Vespucci proclaimed upon landing in 1504, long before the swarms of mosquitoes and capirinha-sucking tourists appeared.

Forget the Maldives, Bali, the 50 perfect pointbreaks to visit before you die. Throw your dream vacation list inside your bucket list and light the whole thing on fire. Noronha is that black dot at the bottom of an explanation point. The lost garden glinting in a sapphire sea.

Not God's country, but where, on his eighth day, God came to retire. --Aaron Kandell

MITCH COLEBORN: Fernando…it's like Jurassic Park or something. Photo: Tom Carey

Victor ribas
VICTOR RIBAS: I go to Fernando de Noronha at least once a year. It's perfect for surfing and diving. The wave is a lot like Puerto Escondido, with big tubes all the time, but if you check around the island there are plenty of different, more playful waves. PHOTO: Celso Pereira