Morro de São Paulo: Neighbourhoods and areas of interest
- Morro de São Paulo, the “Vila”, the beaches, and the principal touristic points
Here are some details about the village of Morro de São Paulo, which will help to understand where you will be located when you choose Hotel Pousada Natureza.
The island of Tinharé is the largest of a about a three dozen of islands that form the coastal archipelago of Tinharé-Boipeba, located roughly 70 kms south of the City of Salvador, the capital of Bahia State, in Northeastern Brazil.
Among a number of villages located on Tinharé — Galeão, Garapoá, Gamboa and Canavieras — the village of Morro de São Paulo, at the Northeastern tip of the island where the Bay of Tinharé meets the sea, is the most famous and the most vivid.
Although of small size, Morro de São Paulo enjoys the status of a "capital" Tinharé Island, because of its ideal geographic location, good infrastructure and easy connections. It is the only village on the island that offers quality lodging, leisure, gastronomy, marts and banking options. In many other aspects, Morro de São Paulo has retained the look and feel of a small tropical village. To give you an idea, a comfortable walk from its outskirts in Terceira Praia Beach over to the pier from where boats from the mainland arrive takes only 15 minutes. And crossing its entire realm, from its most Northern to its most Southern beach (Gamboa to Quinta Praia) takes roughly 5 hours, although in practice you'd never walk this distance in one piece, because of all the attractions that wait along the way. In fact, colonial heritage and geographical constraints lead to a unique situation in Morro de São Paulo, which accounts for one of its most singular characteristics: You'll hardly see any cars during your stay there. Virtually all roads on the island are made of sand, and in many cases locomotion by foot is the only option. Morro de São Paulo has become famous for this "limitation", and today its status of a car-free area is protected by law. Within a few days, visitors rediscover the joy of walking by foot and the natural rythm of life that comes with it, far away from noisy rattle and hum of the cities. Locomotion in the village and on the beaches is easy. In most instances, cars are simply not needed, and the original "wheelbarrow-taxis" used by locals transport luggage and bulky goods add their part to a scenario which is at the same time environmentally friendly and idyllic.
The village of Morro de São Paulo can be divided into several "neighbourhoods", which include the village as such, known among islanders as the "Vila", and other areas located along the beaches or further inland.
The Vila is the central area of the village of Morro de São Paulo. It has two main streets: The "Rua do Caminho do Farol" (Lighthouse Road) and the "Rua da Prainha" ("Beach Road" sometimes cheerfully nicknamend "Broadway") which runs from the beach up to the main square (Praça Aureliano Lima).
A great variety of quality restaurants run by foreigners from all corners of the world who settled in Morro de São Paulo can be found here, offering everything from tasty "moquecas" (Bahian seafood) to the most varied international dishes (Check out the "Anis", the "Bianco e Nero" or the "Ponto de Encontro", for their pleasant environment and an excellent cuisine). Bars and cafés, gift, fashion shops, art galleries, travel agents and cyber cafes line up along the sandy roads and alleys. During the evenings, the main square hosts a small fair where local artists display their handcraft and art work. And if you're into night life, it takes only a couple of minutes to stroll down to the "Pulsar" near the pier by the sea. The view alone makes it a must to visit the place at least once, especially when the moon is out.
Still within the limits of the "Vila" are:
- the charming Nossa Senhora da Luz church,
- the 18th century "gateway" to the village ("Portaló"),
- the ruins of the famous colonial fortress at the tip of the island and nearby "Praia do Forte" Beach, both with a 180+ degree view of the sunset and dolphin watching during the winter,
- the 19th century lighthouse, offering a splendid view of the bay and the ocean beaches,
"Praia do Porto de Cima" and "Praia do Iate" beaches, two calm inlets facing the Bay of Tinharé.
In short, there's a lot to explore in the "Vila" alone, within the radius of about one kilometer.
- Primeira Praia Beach (First Beach)
With cheerful nonchalance, the inhabitants of Morro de São Paulo haven't named their ocean beaches, they've numbered them. Small neighbourhoods are located around them, offering lodging, food and entertainment.
Primeira Praia (First Beach) may be your choice if you prefer beach life and yet want to remain close to the village. Considering it's central location, Primeira Praia is very calm, especially during the evenings. It's a small area, formed by a single road running along the beach, cut by only one crossing. Primeira Praia has the best waves in Morro de São Paulo, as the reefs at the Eastern side of the island are lower here.
Although the waves aren't large, they do attract a small community of surfers, body boarders, and folks that have fun with inflatable "banana boats". Traditional summer residences, some hotels, a Japanese restaurant and numerous barracas-de-praia (beach huts) offering snacks and drinks round up the friendly scenery.
- Segunda Praia (2nd Beach)
Segunda Praia Beach is, by far, the busiest neighbourhood of Morro de São Paulo, and ideal for those who came here determined to flirt and to party. If you want to see and be seen, Segunda Praia is your spot.
Located not far from the center, it offers a great variety of different accommodations, from quality to economical, enabling you to actually move in right next to the action, if you like. The beach is a is a lovely inlet with calm waters, measuring about 800 meters from one end to the other, and is seamed by one- and two storey buildings.
It is the most famous of Morro de São Paulo's beaches and always full of life. During the day, people practice sports, tan or hang out around the barracas-de-praia and their live music. ("Clube do Balanço" is an excellent option here, with quality services and good food.) In the evenings, the illuminated beach hosts capoeira performances, and vendors serve "caipifrutas" until the nightclubs open their doors.
Some establishments are always open, and in summer the beach remains as busy after midnight as during the day. There are those who say that a visit to Morro de São Paulo is incomplete without a sunrise swim on Segunda Praia after dancing the night away under the stars.
- Terceira Praia (Third Beach)
Just a few steps down from Segunda Praia, still within easy walking distance from the village (15 min), you'll find Terceira Praia (Third Beach), which occupies a comparatively large area. Its prettiest part is located along the seafront, sporting hotels, bars and restaurants, followed by a more residential area further inland.
The neighbourhood offers a great variety of accommodations, ranging from excellent to economic and alternative. There's something for every taste, and if you are sure of what you want, you'll find it here.
Terceira Praia has calm waters and is not overly frequented, since many people who stay here tend to walk over to Second Beach. Restaurants and hotels penetrate the beach right until the tide line, which results in a lack of space at high tide, and wooden walkway must be used to walk along the beach during these times.
Terceira Praia is also the point of departure for boats around the island, something to be taken into consideration if you plan to take tours. The best Restaurant is "Chez Max", with its Italian delights.
- Quarta Praia (Fourth Beach)
Fourth Beach is a different from its sister beaches. For one thing, with an extension of nearly 4 kms, it is much larger. Buildings are more spread out, the distance to the village increases, and you need to be increasable willing and able to walk in order to enjoy it.
There are excellent options for lodging on Quarta Praia, specialized to attend those who enjoy the relative isolation and plan to visit the village only every other day. If this sounds interesting to you, Quarta Praia may be your thing. The beach is protected by a coral reefs over its entire length and sports gorgeous calm and shallow waters. During low tide, natural pools and aquariums form between the rocks and reefs, where its easy to take a dive surrounded by (small) tropical fish or just soak in the lukewarm water.
There are some bars and restaurants, too. "Pimenta Rosa", for example, is an excellent option if you're came to spend the day and check out the pools. Since recently, there's a also a shuttle service between Quarta Praia and Segunda Praia. To many who know and love Morro de Sao Paulo, however, using a car seems odd and appears to weaken the magic of the island.
- Quinta Praia (Fifth Beach)
Quinta Praia Beach, also known as "Praia do Encanto", is a relatively isolated area, almost an "island in itself" when compared to the other beaches of Morro de São Paulo. If isolation is what you seek, you'll love it there. You'll be able to spend much time on your own without anyone ever bothering you. However, it is far enough away from the village to create an issue that you may not necessarily enjoy: "making plans".
Living out on Quinta Praia and taking a "spontaneous stroll" over to Second Beach will be impossible. Of course there are shuttle services, but they do not run all the time. Hence, if you choose to stay on Quinta Praia Beach you should be aware that the village is relatively far and locomotion must be programmed, unless you are really a professional beach walker.
There are some very good hotels at Quinta Praia Beach. If you want to get away from it all, have an entire beach (almost) for yourself, or spend much time enjoying the facilities of your hotel, Quinta Praia Beach is an excellent option. The perfect silence here is proverbial, and full moon at low tide, when extensive sandbanks emerge, is a fantastic experience.
Except for some hotels who keep their restaurants open to the public, there are no options for food and drink on Quinta Praia.
- Fonte Grande
The neighbourhood of Fonte Grande (Big Spring), named after the the 18th century public well located here, is a central and relatively busy residential area, one of the few in Morro de São Paulo that doesn't provide a sea view.
It is built along the sandy road that connects the central square with Fonte Grande. Lodging options in this area should be checked well beforehand, as some of them may not meet your standarts.
Many islanders live here, and if you do find a good place, you'll be able to cut down your costs.
There's a bakery, small stores and businesses as well as some nice bars.
- Porto de Cima
The Porto de Cima area is located right past Fonte Grande, along a track that eventually meets the bay. It is very green and quiet but already a bit remote and ideal for those who look for a quiet and economic location not too far from the center. It has good access to the calm Porto de Cima Beach and some nice panoramic viewpoints.
Porto de Cima is the starting point for walks in the direction of Gamboa Bach (30 min.), along some charming inlets with a caribbean flair, such as Praia do Iate or Ponta da Pedra.
- Other Neighbourhoods
Other, lesser known neighbourhoods of Morro de São Paulo include Campo da Mangaba, Lagoa or Vila Nossa Senhora da Luz. They are relatively distant from the beaches and offer little or no options for tourism, unless perhaps the occasional house or room for rent.