When you think of a tropical island your mind immediately conjures up stereotypes of crystal clear waters, palm trees and white sandy beaches. Morro de São Paulo exceeds all these stereotypes.
Nestled off the north coast of Brazil in the state of Bahia, Morro de São Paulo is a village on the Island of Tinharé, a couple hours boat ride from Salvador.
I was fortunate enough to end up at Morro de São Paulo on a whim when I was traveling with some friends in Salvador. It has since become one place I tell every traveler to visit.
Stepping off the boat onto the docks of this island made me feel as though I’d been transported right into the heart of the Caribbean. The sun gently kissed my skin and I breathed in the mix of warm sea air and tropical greenery.
After being approached by locals offering to carry our bags for a fee we ascended the steep road leading out of the harbor. As we made our way to the main road of the village we noticed a distinct lack of vehicles, we later found out this is because cars are forbidden on Morro de São Paulo. A feature that I think helps the village maintain a much more relaxed pace.
Walking further along the winding sandy path that is the main road, we reached the island’s first beach. Here we were confronted with the harsh reality of the situation, we’d found an island paradise that we may never want to leave.
Imagine water that is the perfect temperature for relaxing in, the type of warmth that you’d expect after drawing yourself a bath to end a long hard days work. The sensation you get when you first step foot in the waters off Morro de São Paulo’s beaches is an overwhelming feeling of relaxation.
The beaches have also been given rather creative names such as First Beach, Second Beach, Third Beach and yes you guessed it Fourth Beach.
We checked ourselves into a nice little Pousada (guesthouse) close to all the life and partying that goes on near the aptly named Second beach. The staff at our guesthouse and at all the restaurants we visited all seemed to reflect the overall vibe of the island, content and relaxed.
We spent the day exploring the Third and Fourth Beach, which is a seemingly endless coastline of palm trees. The fourth beach also offers some more boutique accommodation, complete with all the creature comforts of most high-class hotels. As we made our way around we periodically come across vendors offering a beer or some light snacks in the shade of the palm trees, complete with their very own lounge chairs. A perfect place to lie back while you indulge in the simplicity of your surroundings. It’s amazing how content one can feel with just a lapping shoreline in front of them.
At nighttime we took our pick from the many restaurants lining the First and Second Beach or tucked away in the streets just behind them. We noticed that all the menus and even some of the street signs were printed in Portuguese, English and Hebrew. The Portuguese made sense and without trying to sound imperialistic so did the English, but we weren’t sure why there was Hebrew everywhere. We eventually found the answer to this; Morro de São Paulo is a particularly popular destination for Israeli tourists.
When we went down to the beach to have a few drinks after dinner, we were accompanied by a few of the local street dogs. Now I’ve encountered street dogs in many major cities across South America and they aren’t a particularly friendly breed. But the ones on this island aren’t exposed to the intense survival of the fittest mentality of their urban cousins, so they were actually quite placid and very friendly. As a dog lover I’m a bit of a softy so I couldn’t help but show them some affection when they come over to us, as a result these dogs ended up flocking to us whenever we came past the beach over the next couple of days. I have to admit this made me feel ever more at home on this island.
We kept the night going by visiting the only club on the island, where everyone flocks to later in the evening. There are just enough people on the island to fill up this one venue and give it a nice party vibe, it was a great chance to mingle with the rest of the people on the island and share in the good atmosphere.
Our night finished by returning to the beach to watch the sunrise come up over the horizon. After having such a perfect day this seemed like a very fitting end, we sat there on the rocks jutting out from a point on the shoreline and we watched as the darkness gave way to the amber light creeping from behind the clouds. Looking back on the island behind us as it was lit up by the rising sun we breathed it all in.
For people who appreciate the simple comforts in life, a cold beer, some delicious food, warm sun and clear water, this island offers everything you could ask for at a nice relaxing pace.
How To Get There
The easiest way is to get there is to take the ferry or catamaran, which leave & return several times a day, from the Mercado Modelo in Salvador (a five-minute walk from the lower end of the Lacerda Elevator). The cost is around R$80 and the trip takes approximately 2 hours. When you first arrive you’ll also be required to pay a tourist tax.
If you go to Morro de Sao Paulo during the high season (December thru March) make sure you make a reservation in advance since all the guesthouses and villas tend to be fully booked.
What To Bring
In Morro de São Paulo there are no banks only ATMs and despite the fact that most hotels and restaurants accept credit cards it is a good idea to have some extra cash with you when you arrive.
Don’t take too much heavy luggage either. Clothing at Morro de São Paulo is usually casual. Morro is a place to chill and party – no need to overdress. You’ll almost always be walking on sand so sandals are the way to go.
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