The best part about traveling is discovering new places you never even knew existed! This is where having no plan comes into play as it allows room for these new and exciting places. A local friend originally from Salvador, but now living in Australia, told us about this paradise and we’re so glad we made the trip here.
Upon arriving in Morro De Sao Paulo, it was love at first sight, so much so that we extended our stay by a night before we had even left the hotel. The village has a main square, Aureliano O. Lima which and is reached when you first arrive into the town.
The Village is the reference point for almost everyone on the island. There are a lot of hotels, restaurants, shops and small agencies. It’s where people go, especially at night, to see and be seen. Stopping by the village is mandatory especially on the weekends. The best part about this island? No cars allowed! The only form of transport are plain and classic wheelbarrows to help with tourist’s luggage. Be sure to set the price before they take your bags.
Getting to Morro De Sao Paulo
There are two main ways to reach the island and both are quite straight forward.
- A 2 hour Catamaran which leaves from just below the old town, Mercado Modelo. You can find this terminal right in front of the exit of the famous ‘Elevador Lacerda’ . A ticket will cost 83 BRL ($20 USD one way). This is the fastest and most direct, however, it could also be the most uncomfortable. As the boat goes through open water, it is known to be very choppy even for those with a strong stomach and sea sick pills are highly recommended. As someone who is very susceptible to motion sickness, I wasn’t prepared to start our week off with my head hanging off the side of a boat so we opted for the alternative. Tickets for this can be bought at the ferry terminal the day of (low season) or the day before (high season).
- Cassi Tourismo is a tour company with offices all around Salvador. We booked our transfer with them for 93 BRL ($23 USD one way). This option included pick up service from your hotel, a 40 minute calm boat ride, 1.5 hours on an air conditioned bus and then a 12 minute speed boat. Although this took 1.5 hours longer, it was efficient enough to be worth it if you are susceptible to motion sickness.
Note: When you reach the island you will have to pay a tourist tax of 15 BRL ($4) once you get off the boat.
Where to stay in Morro De Sao Paulo
We found Booking.com to be the most helpful in terms of accommodation in Morro De Sao Paulo. There were ‘Pousadas’ every which way you looked however there are no high rises or over the top hotels (thankfully) which keeps the village quaint and special.
Even after booking quite late, there was still a variety available. It isn’t ‘cheap’ compared to other accommodation in Salvador but for what it is, it is definitely affordable and there is something for every budget. The further you go to the beach the more expensive the accommodation can be.
We stayed at Pousada Passarte and immediately felt at home. It is in a small street, away from the busy boulevards, but still close to the center, restaurants and the beach. It was the best value and gave us what we needed. The rooms were slightly rundown but we aren’t on holidays to spend time in a room so it isn’t something on our ‘must have’ list. Saving money on fancy rooms means eating at better restaurants. Trade off! What really made this hotel was the staff, the buffet breakfast & the functioning WiFi, unusual for an island.
The best time to visit Morro De Sao Paulo
The best time to visit Morro De Sao Paulo is during its summer months, from October through March when the average temperatures are 26-30 degrees C. This period is filled with party goers and vacationers. The population of the island is a mere 7000 but over the Christmas/New Year period it jumps to 20,000. Make sure to pre book well in advance if you plan to travel over this time or Carnival. May/June are the rainiest seasons of the year whilst in July/August, many restaurants/shop owners will choose to shut down over one of these months. August and September are when the most Europeans visit the island.
We visited in March and it was perfect. The temperature was just right, the sun was shining & the crowds were very manageable. We had no idea what to expect in terms of tourists on the island but during this time, we found at least 75% were from Argentina which was no problem for us as they also love to have a good time. Not meeting other ‘westerners’ the whole time made this island even more unique, and quite rare!
What to do on Morre de Sao Paulo
Eat, drink, relax, sleep repeat. This is an island, what more do you need to do? If doing those activities bores you or you want a change of scenery there is the possibility of a few other activities.
- Surf or SUP rentals
- Eat all the Acai in the world
- Snorkeling or diving
- Join in with one of the many ball games going on along the water front but only if you’re good at soccer or they may kick you out of the game 😉
- Visit the Lighthouse for awesome views
- Take day tours to the surrounding islands such as Boipeba, the beach at Garapua or Cairu (these can be booked when on the island)
- Walk from the 1st beach to the 5th beach
- Tiroleza (Zip Line) over the 1st beach with unbeatable views of below. Wear only your swimmers as you will land directly in the water… and watch your swim suit bottoms, mine came right off as I hit the water! You’re welcome 1st beach, you are welcome.
Every night is a party on this island especially during high season. There definitely wasn’t a shortage of drinking options in Morro whether it be on the beach by day, a beach party at night, over dinner or walking the streets with a caipirinha/caipiroska from one of the many drink stalls. Each night of the week a different club will host a party and you can buy tickets from the promoters on the beach or through the village.
- Mondays and Thursdays – Beach Party (free)
- Tuesdays – Toco do Morcego
- Wednesdays – Teatro
- Fridays – Toco do Morcego
- Saturdays – Funny’s (cheaper) or Pulsar (large club venue)
- Sundays – Toco do Morcego
- Toco do Morcego also has sunset parties every day for an entry of only 10 BRL ($2.50 USD). This is a must do if you visit, the sunset is really cool and they will have a DJ or live music.
Be prepared to go home with a few extra kg’s due to the sugar intake in all the drinks but hey it’s totally worth it… at the time. If you can, try ask for drinks without sugar or if you must, with a little sugar. Trust us, it’s all you need.
The Glorious Beaches
The beach names on the island are simple… Beach 1, Beach 2, etc. so it’s pretty easy to remember. They all offer something slightly different and are of course all as beautiful as each other. Here’s a brief rundown of what each of them have to offer:
1st Beach – The 1st beach is the smallest of them all. It is where the first houses of the vacationers were built, however these days they have all be transformed into hotels or apartments that are now rented out. On 1st beach you can do many different activities such as banana boat rides, renting surfboards, SUP or diving equipment. It is also the beach you land in after the zip lining!
2nd Beach – By far the most popular of them all. 2nd beach is where all the action happens. This beach is where the largest number of bars and restaurants are located. By day, many people fill the sand and by night it comes alive. There are a lot of different games going on on the beach near by the water so we advise to sit back a little or you’ll end up with a football in your acai (yes, we saw this). Whoops!
3rd Beach – An easy walk from the popular 2nd beach. There are a wide variety of hotels and restaurants on 3rd beach and from this beach you can grab snorkel or dive gear and head out to Island Caitá, a small island surrounded by a large barrier reef and a single coconut tree at the center. It is also possible to rent kayaks from this beach. We came here during low tide and were amazed with all of the rocks, it was fun to find the crabs, fish, and of course take some pretty spectacular photos.
4th Beach – 4th beach seems to have no end in sight. There are a lot of small rock pools that are also great for snorkeling. It is one of the most quiet beaches so it is perfect for people wanting to relax, taking in the scenery, reading a book and not be being bothered by people selling you things on the beach. It also has some of the more expensive pousadas.
5th beach – We didn’t make it up here however a walk from here can bring you to the town of Gamboa. Until a few years ago, Gamboa seemed to be a long way from Morro, there was no sign of tourists or hotels, it was a simple fishing village and although there are some hotels here now, it is still that similar to of the fishing village it was many years ago.
Eating in Morro de Sao Paulo
Morro de Sao Paulo offers great options in terms of restaurants/budgets. The typical Bahian food can be found at most restaurants but for those who prefer something different, there are some great pizzerias or for the less heavy, there are sandwiches, ice creams, acai’s, cheese sticks (on the beach), crepes, and the famous Tapiocas filled with some delicious fillings available throughout the island.
The most typical meal you can get on the island is Moqueca, It is a mixture of shrimp – perhaps with other seafood as well – coconut, garlic, onion, parsley, pepper, tomato paste, and the ubiquitous dendê oil. These ingredients are all sauteed over a low flame and served with rice cooked in coconut milk – a creamy, delicious dish. Jacob’s all time favourite.
Where did we have lunch every day? Sandwiches from Jony Milanesa! Everyone on the island knows this guy. Every day from 1:00pm you’ll see him run onto the beach dressed as something different selling a variety of chicken schnitzel sandwiches for only 10 BRL (USD $2.50). This is one of the cheapest yet decent meals you can grab on the island for lunch and it is delivered right to your towel.
There’s nothing more satisfying than leaving a newly discovered gem. If your travel plans direct you to Salvador, jump on board a catamaran and head to this island, you won’t be disappointed!
Married days survived; 355