Morro de Sao Paulo & Boipeba – Lazy Island Living in Bahia
Morro de Sao Paulo on the island of Tinhare and the island of Boipeba next door are exactly the kind of places where even Brazilians dream of visiting. Bahia is known as a laid-back state anyway, so when you have two islands with no vehicles, sand roads, palm trees galore, reefs, warm waters and hammocks to appreciate those ocean breezes, it makes them dream destinations for those who appreciate some lazy island living.
Tinhare lies 80km and two bumpy hours by catamaran or a short and sweet flight south from Salvador, the state capital of Bahia. Morro de Sao Paulo is the main town on the northern tip of the island, with its 17th Century fort and gate that was built to guard the entrance to the mangrove channels leading to the small mainland port of Valença. The gate now welcomes visitors to the charming little town of Morro de Sao Paulo, which is built on small hills, which also shelter the ruins of the old fort and also the lighthouse on top of the headland. The headland also has a zipline which runs down to the beach below. The hike to the top of the hill is worthwhile to see the views down the Tinhare coastline. The zipline travels down to Primeira Praia (First Beach), and the neighbouring beaches are also helpfully numbered, increasing in length and becoming increasingly more tranquil as you head up to Quarta and Quinta Praia.
All the beaches on the island have crystal clear waters, some protected by reef to form warm tropical lagoons and rock pools, while surf also breaks offshore. Boat trips and take visitors to circuit the island, with the rest of it being flat and covered with waving palm trees. Horses can also cover endless miles of deserted sand if you prefer. More natural pools in the offshore reefs make stops for the boats, which also visit the continental side of Tinhare, with mangrove channels, oysters and the historical little town of Cairu. The smaller villages of the continental side can also be seen, and you can actually walk to them from Morro de Sao Paulo at low tide.
The laidback nature of people from Bahia is helped by the lack of vehicles, with the only taxis being wheelbarrows that are painted yellow and black, and help to carry bags up and down the steep paths of the town! It is impossible not to relax in Morro de Sao Paulo, and the nightlife is also busy with plenty of mobile beach bars, laden with colourful tropical fruits for your evening cocktails.
The neighbouring island Boipeba lies across a narrow strait from the south end of Tinhare, and the boat tours make a stop there for lunch. If anything, Boipeba is even more relaxed than Morro de Sao Paulo, with nothing much to enjoy but the sand, sea and surf. Boipeba continues the theme of miles of deserted beaches, with an Atlantic side with palm trees and reef, and also a calmer side of mangrove channels.
With both islands being so close to Salvador (and easily accessible by regular boat and almost regular flight), they make a wonderful beach escape, with year-round tropical temperatures, fantastic Bahia seafood cuisine and friendly inhabitants. If you do want to spend a week or so enjoying the finest beaches in Brazil, then a trip to Morro de Sao Paulo and Boipeba could possibly the Brazilian Beach Escape that we would recommend above any other. It is impossible not to relax in this corner of Bahia.
Suitable Destination For: Those who like beaches, island living, palm trees, hammocks, warm tropical waters, snorkelling, horse-riding
Best Time to Visit: The wet season of April to June has heavier rains, although people visit all year round.
Essential Sights & Activities: Palm trees! Beaches! Crystal clear waters! Tropical fish! The fort at the entrance to Tinhare Island where the catamaran arrives from Salvador