It seems that Recife is the only sector of the coast where shark attacks do really happen. Swimming past the reefs is forbidden and you'd better respect the signals posted in the beach, indicating the dangerous areas.
A long strip of the beach stands beside the reef, and there, the bath is absolutely safe. But surf is something to forget in the area!
In Recife the crime rate is very high. It's smart to watch your back in case of a robbery or such. Even though we didn't saw this i know for a fact that this is not rare in Recife, mostly because it is two groups of people here: The poor and the rich. A positive thing which makes you feel safer is the police in Recife. They are everywhere and really make you feel safer. They are also really polite.
In Recife sharks is a big problem. When we visited Recife in November we heard from a local bar that 5 people had been attacked and killed by sharks so far that year. It's a problem first when the water comes over the "barriers" of rocks and into the water where the people are. This is happening in the afternoon-evening so it's just to be there early. People were actually fishing baby sharks right outside the "barriers" of rocks when we were on the beach.
We were exited and looked forward to go to a local football match between two big teams, and we gave 80 USD to a man we thought we could trust, who drived us a few times to the hotel and such. He was going to to get us tickets to the football match, but after we gave him the money we never saw him again. The crime rate is very high in Recife, and most of the people are poor. When you give them money like we did, they just take it and hustle you. Be careful and don't step in the same trap as we did.
There are reportedly sharks in Recife's city beach.
When the tide is low, the coral reef actually prevents them to come in, but in high tide the water is higher than the coral's height and it is reported - even though I haven't seen any - that sharks swim around...
So..measure your risks-aversion..
ILHEUS is a growing resort area with many virgin beaches spreading both north and south from the city. Be careful if dont know to swim!