By Sam Green, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Sitting on the soft white sand, shaded by gently swaying palm trees, the warm sea stretches out invitingly ahead. It is possible to walk thirty meters out into the clean water and still be just waist deep. Tropical fish frolic amongst the coral which reveals itself at low tide. It is a miracle anyone ever returns to the mainland from Tinharé.
Morro de São Paulo is the island’s main destination, and like Abraão on Ilha Grande, there are no ugly high-rise hotels to be seen, just homely pousadas (guest houses) and a few hostels, and there are no cars. Goods are transported in ‘taxi’ wheelbarrows, including (for a fee) visitors’ luggage.
The beauty of this destination is its simplicity. Upon arrival, visitors are faced with perhaps the only strenuous activity they will undertake for a few days: a walk up a steep road into the village of Morro de São Paulo. From there it is possible to drop down to the First Beach and amble along to the Second, Third and Fourth.
The further one goes, the less activity there is. The Fourth Beach is biggest and the place to play Robinson Crusoe. With just a couple of pousadas and an almost endless view of clean sand and softly lapping water, in low season at least, it can feel like a private utopia.
The First Beach offers a more high-octane pleasure. The Tiroleza is a seventy-meter high zipwire that speeds 350 meters down from a cliff and drops the daring into the sea, 25 meters out. It costs R$35 but is closed during the winter months.
The Second Beach is where most of the pousadas, restaurants, bars and clubs are. During the summer (December-February) it can get lively as crowds of backpackers and Brasileiros party late into the night; revelers spilling out from the venues onto the beach. In low season it is more tranquil, although there is some fantastic live music to be enjoyed all year-round.
The Third Beach is quieter still, while a good reason to trek further along to the Fourth Beach is for lunch at the Piscina restaurant. A beautiful carved wood, two-level structure, it serves sumptuous, generously portioned food. It is not cheap, but is a clear case of getting what you pay for.
A fun day-trip is a boat tour around the island (R$50), which offers snorkeling with exotically colored fish above coral reef, a lunchtime visit to the beautiful, even more underdeveloped Boipeba island, and a stop at a floating bar that serves oysters, coconuts and, of course, caipirinhas. For the more active there are also plenty of horse riding and diving options.
One higher-end pousada option on the Second Beach is the Villa das Pedras. Delightful, large double rooms start at R$230 a night (although prices rise according to the season) and there is a charming restaurant, lounge area and beach-side pool.
From Salvador boats leave regularly from the Terminal Turistico for R$70. For more information visit: www.morrodesaopaulo.com.br.