Morro de São Paulo is located in Tinharé, with a dimension of 400 km ², the largest of the 36 islands that form the archipelago of Tinharé, belonging to the municipality of Cairo, within the Bahia region known as "Costa do Dendê".
There are two other major islands in the archipelago, Boipeba and the Isle of Cairo. The latter has a connection to the mainland via a bridge.
The Tinharé Archipelago comprises the towns (districts) of Morro de São Paulo, Canavieiras Torrinhas, Tapuias, Garapuá, Galleon, Gamboa, Zimbo, San Sebastian (Cova de Oz), Boipeba and the city administrative center of the municipality, Cairu. Among them, there are the most populated and relatively more "developed" and other, less populated and little tourist flow.
The Tinharé is known by Europeans since 1531, when Martim Afonso de Souza saw it and named it "Tynharéa". By the early 17th century, the island had two chapels: one dedicated to Our Lady of Light in Morro de São Paulo and another of St. Francis Xavier, the Galleon, its Northeast in points and Northwestern, respectively, keeping the Bay Tinharé. In 1630, the fortress was built in Morro de Sao Paulo, as part of a line of defense to protect the city of Salvador against the Dutch. Even today the island preserves parts of the Atlantic Forest, as well as impressive mangroves, particularly along its landward side.
The village of Morro de São Paulo and its surroundings are the main tourist area of the archipelago. Internationally known since the 1990s, Morro de São Paulo has two airstrips for small planes (air taxis), a pier that receives vessels Salvador, Valencia and Atracadouro (Ponta Corral), and offer numerous inns and hotels of varying category, restaurants and bars, beach bars, shops and other services.
The landscape of Morro de São Paulo is already impressive on arrival: The Caribbean blue of its waters, the green of his forest-covered Atlantic "hills", the walls of the historic fortress by the sea and the view of the lighthouse from the 19th century. All this forms a stunning backdrop that delights thousands of tourists who visit the island every year.
Morro de Sao Paulo, visitors become familiar with a single reality: there are almost no motor vehicles on the island. Their number is limited by law, and the few that exist are permitted only on secondary roads. So, forget the traffic jams and exhaust pipes, they simply do not exist. You can go days without even getting to see a car. This rare condition is one of the secrets behind the particular magic of Morro de Sao Paulo. Very naturally, the best option - and often the only - to explore the beaches and historic sites of the area is on foot. All roads in Morro de Sao Paulo are sandy, which contributes to always feel at sea. No need to worry about distances, because most places is reached in a few minutes. And within this circuit are hotels and quality restaurants and a lively nightlife and nationally renowned. Unlike so many other places in Brazil, Morro de Sao Paulo could integrate satisfactory tourist infrastructure, without renouncing its unique personality.
Morro de Sao Paulo is full of references about the Brazilian colonial history. Many of its historic structures still await restoration, which makes it possible, for now, enjoy them in their "natural state". Before the year 1530, Morro de Sao Paulo is one of the oldest Portuguese settlements in Bahia and Brazil.
In 1624, the crystal clear waters of the sheltered bay Tinharé armed Dutchman Johan Van Dorth, on his way to capture the city of Salvador - the capital of Brazil at the time - which proved the strategic importance of Morro de Sao Paulo. One year later, Bondewijh Hendricszoon stopped here with a small fleet, but soon headed north to hear that Salvador had been taken over by the Portuguese. As a measure against these unwanted visitors in 1630, Portugal raised an ambitious fortification that in its heyday boasted a system of walls of nearly a thousand feet long, a crew of 183 soldiers and 51 artillery pieces.
The Fortress of Tapirandú (commonly called the "Fort Morro de São paulo"), was the most extensive defensive system of colonial Bahia, and probably also from Brazil, is relevant architectural interest. Some parts of the complex are poorly preserved, as the remains of the residence of the commanders and the original chapel of Our Lady of Light, built in the 17th century, both near the lighthouse, and some old cannons across the slope. The central body of the fortress at the tip of the island, its walls along the entrance of the bay and the Fort Zimberior, however, are impressive testimonies of Portuguese colonial construction techniques that have withstood the tides over the centuries.
The "Great Source", another historical reference of Morro de São Paulo, on the inner side of the village, was built in 1746 in typical colonial style - circular and topped by a small dome a format - to ensure water supplies for soldiers and residents. Today she enjoys the protection of the National Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN).
In 1859, when Dom Pedro II - King and "Emperor" of an already independent Brazil - visited Morro de São Paulo, the village had about 300 resident families. The lighthouse was built between 1850 and 1855, and also serves to mark the entrance to the Bay Tinharé.