South America's largest country has thousands of bays to explore along its vast coast. But which ones are worth visiting? Charlotte Reversé offers suggestions

Unless you're planning to set down roots in Brazil, you're unlikely to have time to visit all the 2,045 beaches along its 7,500km coastline. So here is a selection of the best.

Unless you're planning to set down roots in Brazil, you're unlikely to have time to visit all the 2,045 beaches along its 7,500km coastline. So here is a selection of the best.

Starting in the far north, this part of the coast is dominated by the Amazon river and its tributaries, attracting holidaymakers looking for adventure rather than beaches. However, inhabitants of Belem visit the stretches of sand at Salinas or on Marajo, a huge river island famous for its wildlife, with lovely beaches such as Araruna and the deserted do Pesqueiro.

Further down the coast lie some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Brazil. Around Fortaleza the landscape is of scenic dunes while around Recife the coconut palms, planted by the first Europeans, lend an exotic air.

Before you reach Fortaleza stop off at Jericoacoara, once a fishing community but now a world-beater for its dunes and crystal-clear lagoons. Between Fortaleza and Natal, call at Morro Branco. The dunes there may be less dramatic but its craggy cliffs are an amazing kaleidoscope of colours.

Off the coast of Natal lies the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. This old penal colony was declared a Marine National Park in 1988. Access is limited in order to preserve the environment.

From Recife begins the long series of fine-sand beaches sprinkled with coconut palms. Porto de Galinhas is one of the prettiest. But if you're looking for shade head for Praia do Frances, 20km south of Maceio, which offers cooler temperatures.

On the road to Salvador the beaches are crisscrossed by rivers and estuaries creating a landscape of nooks and crannies. Look out for Maragogi in Alagoas and Praia do Forte, which is also the Bahia region's main turtle sanctuary.

Morro de São Paulo, on the northernmost tip of the island of Tinhare in the bay off Salvador, is a lush, forested landscape that attracts birds of paradise. This island is hippy chic with lots of cheap hostels along the shoreline.

Moving south east, Rio de Janeiro is the home of the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. But the other star of the area, a few hours' drive north of the city, is Buzios. Known as Brazil's St-Tropez, it owes its nickname to the French actress Brigitte Bardot who popularised the resort when she visited with her Brazilian boyfriend in 1964. Still trendy, the peninsula has coves to explore and chic shopping streets.

Moving south of Rio towards São Paulo, the white sands continue but the hinterland becomes lush and mountainous, earning the area the name the Costa Verde, or Green Coast. There may not be a decent beach at Paraty, but the port has fine examples of Portuguese colonial architecture and once played an important role in Brazil's gold trade. Why is it so well preserved? Because there was no road here until the 1970s. For better beaches visit nearby Paraty Mirim and Trinidade. Lopes Mendes, with its clear, shallow waters, is the most famous beach on the island of Ilha Grande.

From São Paulo to the border with Uruguay, the terrain is wilder and more inhospitable. The water is also cold and murky and the humid conditions make it popular with mosquitoes. However, a few beaches make the grade for local Brazilians. Take a look at Capão da Canoa, Atlãntida and Tramandai.