Alter Do Chao, Brazil

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Not for nothing is Alter do Chão known as the Caribbean of the Amazon. Taken as a whole, the village's white powdery beaches, transparent blue-green waters and hang-loose vibe would make a perfectly convincing addition to the Lesser Antilles. Of course, there are tip-offs that you're still in the midst of South America's River Sea, not least the neighboring rain forest and the pink dolphins—those local mascots—that periodically surface in the water.

This uncommon tropical charm lies at the heart of Alter do Chão's appeal—but the place becomes outright irresistible when you factor in the curiously cosmopolitan inhabitants (expat hippies, herbalists and nature lovers in addition to Brazilians) and the cute little shops, cafés and businesses they've created.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more relaxing or beautiful stop in which to enjoy a drink by the water (or even sometimes in the water, seated in a slightly submerged chair—a local tradition) before doing a little exploring by boat or on foot.