The Parnaíba Delta forms the only open sea delta in all of America

Parnaiba - Delta do Parnaiba
Delta of the Parnaíba

The Parnaíba Delta is in a corner between the coast of Piaui and the Maranhão, the Parnaíba river meets the ocean and forms the only open sea delta in all of America.

When approaching the Atlantic, Parnaíba opens up into five branches and originates a set of ecosystems that add up to around 2700 square kilometers, comprising beaches, dunes, streams and mangroves that surround more than eighty islands.

Although 65% of the Parnaíba delta region belongs to the state of Maranhão, the city of Parnaíba, 354 km from Teresina and 19 km from Luís Correia, is the main gateway for those who want to visit it.

The Parnaíba River rises in Chapada das Mangabeiras, on the border of the States of Piauí, Bahia and Tocantins, and has an extension of 1.344 km and configures the division of Piauí with Maranhão along its entire length. Its main tributaries on the right bank are the Longá, Poti, Canindé and Gurguéia rivers, and on the left bank, with an expressive water contribution, the Balsas river.

Delta de Parnaíba PI map
Delta de Parnaíba PI map

A city with wide, tree-lined streets, Parnaíba was a thriving trading post in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries thanks to the export of beef jerky, and then, in the beginning of the XNUMXth century, of carnauba wax.

From the prosperous times, a beautiful house and the nostalgic Porto das Barcas remain, where old buildings now house a shop, restaurant and pizzeria with tables on the sidewalk lit by lamps on the bank of the Igaraçu River, branch of the Parnaíba.

Vessels heading to the attractions and cities bathed by the delta leave, for the most part, from the port of Tatu, on the Grande de Santa Isabel island, 6 kilometers from Parnaíba and the largest in the delta.

There, it is possible to embark on organized tours for groups of 40 to 250 people, or even rent a speedboat. Some itineraries can even be integrated with tours carried out in Lençóis Maranhenses.

Videos Landmarks of the Parnaíba Delta

Sights of the Parnaíba Delta

Map of the coast of Ceará, Piauí and Maranhão
Map of the coast of Ceará, Piauí and Maranhão

Like the palm of a hand, the Parnaíba River forms five branches of rivers before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, creating a mosaic of islands of the most varied sizes. We are in the Parnaíba Delta, the third largest in the world, with its golden dunes, streams, mangroves, forests and lagoons.

The starting points to explore this green labyrinth are Parnaíba, in Piauí, or Tutoia, in Maranhão.

The choice of entry into the Parnaíba Delta can be Tutóia, a city with around 60 inhabitants located close to another gem of nature, Pequenos Lençóis, a miniature version of the Maranhenses Sheets, outside the boundaries of the national park. Bordering the attraction are six beaches – Andreza, da Barra, dos Félix, da Moita Verde, do Arpoador and do Amor, which can be explored on a buggy ride.


Carnauba, which for decades supported the economy of the small towns of the Parnaíba Delta, is now the raw material for making handicraft items.

In Ilha Grande de Santa Isabel, palm straw is transformed into baskets, ornaments, placemats and other utilitarian objects at the Santa Isabel Braided Association, where 25 families work (Rua Evangelina Rosa, 548, Ilha Grande de Santa Isabel) .

In the locality of Morro da Mariana, on the same island, a group of lacemakers produces clothes and accessories, mainly sent to sophisticated clothing factories in the south of the country (Rua Turiano Ribeira, 380, Centro).


Two types of tours cross the mangroves of the Parnaíba delta. One is eight hours long and takes place in large boats for groups of up to 250 people.

The service includes fruit, lunch and a crab. The boat stops at Ponta das Canárias beach, whose landscape is covered with carnaubas, and at Poldros island, which has dunes that advance towards the sea and is a destination for those who practice kite surfing.

The other option is to go into the river in a speedboat, a simple boat with a motorboat, for up to four people.

In addition to the island of Poldros, the four-hour trip includes the bay of Feijão Bravo, with a turbid sea and surrounded by mangroves, and where the low tide forms saltwater lagoons.

A good option is to stay in the Canary Islands, starting point for tours and to the island of Caju. In it there is a small and friendly village, which lives off fishing and catching crabs.


mangrove crab
mangrove crab

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, a scene repeats itself in the Armadillo port, on the Grande Island of Santa Isabel: men ship box after box full of crabs, destined for bars and restaurants in Fortaleza and on the coast of Ceará.

The uçá (Ucides cordatus), large and bluish, lives in mangroves all over the Brazilian coast; in the delta, where mangrove areas are very extensive, production is high.

Local bars serve crustaceans cooked in water seasoned with onions, peppers, tomatoes and green scent, on the traditional four-piece string.

The work to obtain them is tough: scavengers spend the day among the roots of the mangroves, reaching into the holes embedded in the mud. The activity is suspended between the months of December and March, when the species is reproducing.



In the fishing community called Cajueiro da Praia, 75 kilometers from Parnaíba, a research base for the Manatee Project has an observation tower for these aquatic mammals, which often frequent the region's waters.

Departing from Itam beach, visitors are guided by Ibama guides in canoes to a base 1400 meters offshore. The tour is only done by appointment. R. Grigalva Carneiro, 61, Centro.


Piauí has ​​only 66 kilometers of coastline, bordered by dunes, with calm waves.

8 kilometers from Cajueiro da Praia, Barra Grande has a tumbling sea and a strip of white sand; through it you reach the mouth of the river Camurupim, where there is a small fishing village.

On the other side of the estuary, the beaches of Macapá and Maramar provide pleasant bathing in the sea and have a structure of tents that serve seafood snacks. The beaches of Carnaubinhas and Itaqui, below, are semi-desert, with a tumbling sea.

Those looking for accommodation and restaurant infrastructure should head to Praia dos Coqueiros.

Atalaia, less than 10 kilometers from the city of Luis Correia, also has tents and hotels; from its end, you can see the strip of wild vegetation and the dunes of Ilha Grande de Santa Isabel, where the beach of Pedra do Sal is located, with kiosks, ideal for surfing.


From the Parnaíba delta it is possible to reach the Maranhenses Sheets in two ways: from Parnaíba, towards the city of little barriers, gateway to the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, on a three-hour journey on a road recommended for cars with traction.

On the way, it's worth a stop to visit the village of Paulino Neves, better known as Rio Novo, a fishing community where the dunes extend to the park's.

The other, more tiring option is the one commonly used by locals: you take a boat (called a “cage”) at the port of Barcas, in Parnaíba, and face the uncomfortable eight-hour journey to the city of Tutóia , in Maranhão.

It is recommended to bring a hammock, as well as water, snacks and repellent.

in the center of Tutoia, there are departures by car to Rio Novo, Barreirinhas and Cabure, where there are accommodation options for those who want to get to know Lençóis Maranhenses.


Cashew Island
Cashew Island

In 1847, Englishman James Frederick Clark entered the Parnaíba Delta region to explore carnauba.

It not only settled on the 100 square kilometer island, but also banned hunting and deforestation. Finally, he created a surprising little paradise.

Ilha do Caju, 50 kilometers from Parnaíba, is part of the municipality of Araioses, in Maranhão, and preserves six ecosystems: 18 kilometers of beaches, four types of mangroves, flooded fields, lakes, in addition to dunes and forests.

There, live foxes, armadillos, ocelots, as well as flocks of guarás, a bird of intense red color, symbol of the delta.

To get to know it, it is mandatory to make a reservation at the Ilha do Caju Ecological Refuge, the only inn on the island, which provides boat transport and guides for tours on foot, on horseback or by jeep. We recommend the use of wellies, clothes with long sleeves, sunscreen and repellent.


A Canary Island (Araioses-MA) is the second largest island in the Parnaíba River Delta, second only to Ilha Grande in Piauí. It houses a fishing village with more than 2500 inhabitants.

The history of the Canaries has an initial milestone in 1806, when a fisherman from Ceará from Acaraú, together with three companions attracted by the abundant production of fish and with the objective of implementing corral fishing in the bar of the grebes, which later came to be called canaries, due to the large number of birds called canaries in the region and a plant that served as food for the animals, called canarana.

So the people began to travel to the island of canaries or canarana.

Today the Canary Islands are an environmental preservation area, part of the marine extractive reserve of the Parnaíba River Delta, its population is approximately 2500 inhabitants distributed in four villages: Canárias, Passarinho, Torto and Caiçara. There are inns and restaurants and it is an ideal place for tourists to tour.


Pedra do Sol beach is the considered beach of Parnaíba, Pedra do Sal, with 8 km of extension, is in Ilha Grande de Santa Isabel 15 km from the center of Parnaíba.

Arriving at the beach, it is possible to see a set of granite rocks, nothing more than a stone hill that advances into the ocean, dividing the beach into two sides: the brave, more frequented by surfers because it has strong waves and the gentle side, ideal for rest, fishing and watching the sunset.


Porto das Barcas is the gateway to the Delta do Parnaíba, which in itself is already very popular. But he is much more than that!

Porto das Barcas in Piauí
Porto das Barcas in Piauí

Porto das Barcas is a conglomerate that combines memory, leisure, fun and culture. Here you can find the ruins of what used to be the port, with its old warehouses, customs buildings, piers, patios and alleys. Its facade is neoclassical and its entire structure involves stone walls and a roof made of carnauba.

Delta do Parnaíba in Piauí Tourism and Travel Guide


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  3. Janine

    Can someone let me contact a tour guide?

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