Posted by: Caroline | July 10, 2013

Morro de São Paulo

After a few days sampling Salvador’s blend of charm and grime, we were ready for some authentic relaxation in the beach-lined, car-free island village of Morro de São Paulo. Even if it meant hours rocking on the treacherous, stomach-twisting waves of the Atlantic…

morro boat

… which it did. (Note the plastic bags tied to each seat.)  Thanks to a tip from our hostel in Salvador, we stocked up on dramamine at the pharmacy beforehand to quell any queasiness on the catamaran. The antihistamine doubles as a sleep inducer, which comes in handy when the catamaran company selling tickets at the dock fails to tell you your 2-hour catamaran has instead become a 1-hour ferry, 2-hour bus ride, and 1-hour catamaran journey because it’s a little cheaper when they don’t have a full boat to the island. So there was plenty to sleep through.


But the island of Tinharé coming into view was more than enough to rouse me from my drugged slumber.


Many people choose to stay as close as they can to the beaches, called praias. Segunda Praia, pictured above,  is a sun-drenched playground of teeny-bikini-clad Brazilians and caipirinha-sipping tourists by day, and a breezy bar, club, and restaurant district by night–where the tourists are still sipping capirinhas. In case you’ve never had the dubious pleasure of a caipirinha, it’s  cachaça (sugarcane alcohol) mixed with sugar and limes. And it’s strong.


We decided to stay further away from the action, up the main street. Why?


THIS. Enjoying breakfast with this view each morning was one of the highlights of our trip. The pousada, called Villa Bahia, is run by German expat Werner and his girlfriend Ce. They were enormously hospitable, warm hosts, cooking up fresh eggs and bacon each morning to go with our traditional Brazilian breakfast, recommending the best beach spots and restaurants, and sharing beers and stories on the incredible terrace. Werner built this slice of paradise, including his own home high on the cliff, the 3 apartments below it, and the garden surrounding it. Most impressively, he circumvented the problems of using donkeys to carry materials from the dock (remember, no cars) by building his own elevator to transport supplies up from the beach below. Fellow travelers, if you need a place to stay in Morro, I cannot recommend Villa Bahia more highly!


Werner’s place is tucked away in the forest but conveniently located next to the finest home-cooking in Morro. We devoured this shrimp strew, a welcome labor of love in a village full of tourist-oriented pizza and pasta joints.


Even the best Brazilian cooking on the island isn’t immune to inflation. Prices in pencil keep things flexible.


Brazil’s fresh seafood is only rivaled by its tropical fruits. Segunda Praia is lined with these mouthwatering stalls. You choose up to 3 fruits–most of which don’t have English translations because they aren’t available even at our most comprehensive farmer’s markets, so you just point to what looks tasty and trust the bartenders to pick complementary fruits–and a healthy shot of cachaça if you wish. They chop it and shake it up for you on the spot, pouring your fruity, frothy drink into a plastic cup for you to enjoy seaside.


After a day of lounging on the beach, we decided to go explore the island since Morro’s beaches are only a fraction of its sights. Werner recommended a relaxed, reggae-loving tour guide, who thankfully was the one actually commanding our boat. Alex looks the part, though, doesn’t he?


Our tour guide picked us up at a little beach near Werner’s place first, then we collected several more passengers–mostly Brazilians and Argentines–until the boat was full. We headed south to the nearby island of Boipeba, spotting a pod of dolphins on the way. Cruising past Morro’s crowded praias, it’s easy to see how a lack of cars shapes the island’s geography. Once we got beyond easy walking distance from the dock, the island seemed almost untouched. But Boipeba seems even more pristine with only a few restaurants and pousadas on its shores.


It was a pleasant half-hour walk along the beach and through forest to reach Boipeba Village.


After Boipeba, we rode through dense mangrove forest…


…and stopped at a floating oyster restaurant.



Perfect with a little lime, salt, and hot sauce!


Our final stop was on Cairu Island.



This young guide showed us around the Portuguese-built church.


I was sad to leave–and not just because of the stomach-churning journey back to the mainland!


  1. The scenery and food looks amazing. Kelli said she probably would’ve died on the ferry ordeal, she gets pretty bad motion sickness.

  2. Enjoying the reviews. Thanks. Hope you are having a fantastic time.

  3. […] Grande is similar in a couple ways to Morro de São Paulo–it’s an island getaway from a major Brazilian city, where cars aren’t […]

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