Morro de São Paulo
is one of the best examples of Brazil’s diversity. This
island’s beautiful beaches and clear natural pools are not
it’s only attraction. This is a place for contrasts: from
packed parties lasting till sunrise to deserted beaches covered
in palm trees. Its beauty awes everyone, whether you come with
nothing but a backpack or stay at one of the island’s luxurious
If Brazil is considered a place of diversity,
Morro is one of the best examples. This island
of the Atlantic attracts not only for its lovely beaches and its
natural pools of crystalline water. Morro is
the island of opposites, from the party animal who hardly sees
daylight to the adventure freak who wants nothing more than a
deserted beach covered in coconut trees. A backpacker will feel
as marveled over Morro de Sao Paulo as will a
guest of a luxurious five-star resort. The island has become a
favorite, and as you walk along the narrow streets – without
any cars – you will hear the most varied accents of Spanish,
English, Hebrew, German, Finnish, Japanese, Portuguese and “bahianese”.
There is room for everyone.
In order to explain Morro de Sao Paulo
one must start by how you arrive at the island: there are two
ways to do it: by air (through one of the two airstrips), and
the most common way to get there – the harbor. And if you
think there are large ships and tall cranes here – how wrong
you are! It is nothing but a narrow concrete walkway with a tarpaulin
roof. As you leave the harbor you face a three-hundred-year-old
monument – the Portaló. This gateway is part of the
fortress of Morro de Sao Paulo, built to contain
Dutch invasions during the 17th century. The village here is almost
as old as Brazil itself, it was fouded in 1535, and had strategic
value, mainly during early colonization. Not that it lost its
valueas time passed: just to cite another historical fact, it
was in front of the island that german submarines torpedoed Brazilian
merchant ships, causing Brazil to enter the Second World War.
As you walk up the hill (yes, you must climb a
hill to leave the harbor and the fortress behind – aren’t
you glad it’s the only one?), there is the church Nossa
Senhora da Luz. It is said it she that made the Dutch believe
there was a great battalion on the island, which made them give
up on attacking the village. There! We have arrived at the central
square Aureliano Lima. Here, the night brings on a small arts
and crafts market and Foom – the most Brazilian Argentinean
there ever was – who plays Brazilian pop music.
Its impossible to loose your way - there is only
one street. All you have to do is follow the stream of people
and swerve away from the wheelbarrows which serve for carrying
simply everything: luggage, groceries from the market, children
or even someone who cant walk up the hill. What about cars?! Forget
about them. There are a few on the island, but none in the village.
The only motorized vehicle there is a tractor that collects the
garbage early in the morning.
Oops, another hill...I did say there was only one...to climb,
yes. This one is for going down...to the First Beach. What about
the village? Is that it? I guess you can say so. From here on
there are still a lot of buildings, but the “city center”
The First Beach is very small – with an extension of about
three hundred metres. A few holiday homes, some guesthouses, a
few travel agencies. This beach is the only one on the island
that has some waves. It is a sandy beach on a steady but gradual
slope. There are coral walls on both ends of the beach. It is
a perfect location for various types of sports: swimming, diving,
scuba-diving, banana-boat, and a very unusual feature: the biggest
canopy in Brazil going as far as the water. It is the preferred
spot by the locals and has no nightlife.
After a short walk ove some rocks you reach the next beach. Which
is obviously the Second Beach once the beaches are named with
numbers. The Second Beach is the most lively of the beaches, night
and day. Life on this beach is always busy. It is the place to
go for a sun-tan, beach-tennis, volleyball and relaxing in its
natural pools. Night-time is when the Luaus take place - there
are many bars, nightclubs and restaurants. The entire beach is
only four hundred metres long and it surrounded by coral reefs
thus there are no waves. At the end of this beach you will find
Ilha da Saudade although it is only an island during the high
tide - considered one of the most beautiful sites in Morro
de Sao Paulo.
Next is the Third Beach, of course. When you reach it you will
see a big wall and the place is very urbanized. The second half
of this beach is deserted displaying just a couple of hotels and
an airfield. This beach is the departure point for excursions
to all the other beaches. It also a coral beach, although the
central part of the beach has a sandy bottom allowing the entry
of all sorts of boats. This beach is lager than the two previous
ones with an extension of about eight hundred metres.
From this point onwards is the beginning of Morro de Sao
Paulo's deserted beaches. The Fourth Beach is more than
four kilometres long and the first two hundred metres is usually
a very peaceful spot although in the beginning of Summer a few
groups gather round to enjoy the natural pools. After that it
becomes a very tranquil beach with a few hotels, guesthouses and
many palm trees. Does this mean that everyone staying on this
beach will have to walk the whole extension of it to get back
to the village? No. There is a road behind the Second Beach that
runs parallel to the Third and Fourth Beaches where the only vehicles
on the Island like Jeeps and Pick ups from the hotels circulate.
These vehicles used to circulate on the beaches but this no longer
happens. This road also leads to the airfield after the Fourth
Praia do Encanto
Is this it? No. There is still a “fifth” beach, though
it is called Praia do Encanto. And if the Fourth was calm, this
one is deserted. There are a few hotels, natural pools, ending
in a huge mangrove forest, the Ponta Panã. Here ends what
is known as Morro de Sao Paulo but the island
Tinharé (you got it – the island isn’t called
Morro de Sao Paulo) still goes on. As you walk
along an island – where its crucial to have aguide with
you – you can get to Garapuá, a bay with a tiny fishermen’s
village. It’s not wise to try this trail on your own. If
you do find your way, it’s still six kilometers from Praia
do Encanto. From the village at Morro to Garapuá it’s
around 14 kilometers and from there, another 10 kilometers of
deserted beach (the Pontal, or Pratigi), ending at the Rio do
Inferno, which divides the two islands – Boipeba and Tinharé.
What about the other side of the island? Well, back to the harbor
at the village. Starting at the spot where we started off, it’s
possible to go the other way. After a few rocks, there is Porto
de Cima Beach. whenever the tide is lowyou can walk to Gamboa.
there is a sailing club where you may rent sailboats, and there
are also several bars and restaurants.Gamboa is a fishermens’
village, but nowadays it houses many of Morro de Sao Paulo’s
employees. it is a great beach to be in the late afternoon.
The side of the island that
faces the continent has no beaches, oly mangrove forest. there
are two other villages: Galeão and Canavieira. the first
has a small church on a hilltop, which can be seen from far away.
the latter has an oyster farm. What about the core of the island?
It is practically the same as when Portuguese explorers first
arrived: vast areas of tropical forest and mangroves.
Is there anything missing? Only you!
How to get there
In Salvador there are planes leaving from the International Airport,
which takes no more than 20 minutes. From the Mercado Modelo,
next to the Pelourinho, catamarans take a couple of hours to reach
Morro de Sao Paulo. If you are driving, the option
is to leave your car in Valença and take the speedboat
to the island, which takes around 40 minutes.
From October through March is when the water is clearer. January
and February are a bit busier, and also a little more expensive.
April through June is the rainy season.
de Sao Paulo and Hotéis
Morro de São
Paulo hotel, Itacaré
hotel, Salvador Hotel.