Morro de São Paulo is a village in the northern tip of the Tinharé island in Bahia. Reachable only by boat or plane, the village has no paved streets or car traffic. There are, however, lots of hotels, pousadas and restaurants, as well as a few ATMs. The island's beaches are nice and imaginatively named First, Second, Third and Fourth beach.
Morro de São Paulo
Morro has no actual airport, but charter flights from Salvador take 20 minutes and land on two runways, located respectively on the Third Beach and Praia do Encanto. The price is around R$281.
Morro de São Paulo Sign
There are different ways to get to Morro de São Paulo from Salvador.
The easiest is to take the ferry or catamaran from the Mercado Modelo (a five-minute walk from the lower end of the Lacerda Elevator, which as of Jan 2012 costs R$ 0.15). The ferry costs R$ 75 and the catamaran costs R$ 80 (2012). They take approximately two hours. Since you are travelling on the open ocean, sea sickness pills are advised. Tickets can be brought at the boat terminal building (get there early and buy your tickets), at your pousada, at a number of travel companies or online . Catamarans leave from Salvador at 8:30 am, 9:00 am, 11:30 am. 1:30 pm, 2:00 pm. Catarmarans come back from Morro de São Paulo at 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 3:00 pm, 3:30 pm. (Confirm those times.) The seas from Salvador to Morro de Sao Paulo are really choppy and the ride is really tough even for people with strong stomach. Make sure not to eat anything at least two hours before the departure. Also some medicine for motion sickness will come really handy.
A cheaper option is to take a ferry from Salvador to the island of Itaparica (really smooth), from there a bus to Valença and from there a ferry to Morro de São Paulo. This alternative is both cheap and smooth but takes longer (consider at least four hours). However, it will save you from the ordeal of the bumpy ferry from Salvador to Morro de São Paulo. From the maritime terminal (Portuguese, Terminal Maritimo) São Joaquim in Salvador take a ferry to the island of Itaparica. It takes one hour and costs R$ 3.95 (Feb 2012). From there, take a bus to Valença. The bus has air conditioning, takes around two hours and costs R$ 15 (Feb 2012). (The non-direct bus stops first in Nazaré, then in Valença and shortly after at the maritime terminal in Valença; ask someone to tell you where to get off if you are unsure). From the bus stop in Valença you will have to walk some 300 m to the maritime terminal in Valença, from which regular ferries head to Morro de São Paulo. Slow ferries take about an hour and a half and cost R$ 7.50; the faster ones take around 45 minutes, are not as smooth and cost R$ 15 (Feb 2012). Note that the slower ferry makes a first stop at the port in Gamboa (so you have to get off at the second stop).
Alternatively, take a bus from Salvador to Feira de Santana. From there you can take a direct bus to Valença. The ride from Salvador to Valença takes around four hours. From there you can take one of the ferries explained above. The whole trip should be around five hours.
It is also possible to take a ferry from Salvador to Guaibim, from there a bus to Valença and from there one of the ferries explained above.
There are at least two different maritime terminals in Salvador where you can take a ferry: Terminal Maritima São Joaquim and Mercado Modelo. They are not close to one another, so make sure you go to the right one. From the international airport D.L.E.Magalhães to São Joaquim you can take the bus to Campo Grande. Consider at least two hours to get there. The price is R$ 2.50 (Feb 2012).
You can pay for the bus ticket from Itaparica to Valença with a credit card, but the tickets for the ferry in São Joaquim and the one in Valença must be paid in cash.
Changing from one means of transportation to another often means walking a bit. Always ask for directions if you are unsure which way to go.
When your ferry approaches the port in Morro de São Paulo some people will jump in to ask you where you will be staying and they will offer to carry your luggage on a wheelbarrow (since there is no other means of transportation on the island). That can be really annoying. Make sure you know first where your pousada, hostel or camping is (ask for a free map at the tourist office at the end of the wharf; that same map is sold elsewhere for R$ 5). If it is close to Fonte Grande, you will be able to carry your luggage by yourself. If it if further away (for example, in the third beach), you may want to consider paying around R$ 10 to have your luggage carried on a wheelbarrow.
You must pay a tourist tax when you first arrive. At the end of the wharf there is a tourist office with a sign that explains the purpose of the tax. The price is R$ 12 (Feb 2012)No longer July 2013.
Drive to the neighboring city of Valença, which the closest you can get. Park your car at one of the various parking lots for as many days as you want.
From Valença you have to take a ferry boat to Morro de São Paulo. Go to the local harbor, where ferry boats leave every hour from 7:00 am till 6:00 pm. In the summer they will run as long as there are people who want to take them.
The traditional ferry boat takes about an hour and a half. This is a relaxing trip and you have plenty of time to enjoy the sightseeing for only R$ 7.50. The faster boat (lancha rápida) costs R$ 15 and takes 45 minutes to get there.
At the Valença harbor you have to pay a fee of R$ 0.65 per person and to enter Morro de São Paulo you have to pay a R$ 12 tourist tax.
The best (and only) abundant form of transport on the Island is your feet.
Being an island, there is no vehicular access to Morro de São Paulo. Until recently, tractors for garbage collection, transportation of heavy materials,tours to distant beaches and to and from pousadas on the Praia do Encanto were the only motorized vehicles allowed.
Today however, although vehicles are not permitted on the beaches and main roads (i.e. Caminho da Praia, Fonte Grande), there are buggy-taxis on the roads that parallel the beaches, through Zimbo, Campo da Mangaba and the Gamboa village.
Top of the hill (morro, in Portuguese), there is a lighthouse and a deck where it's possible to see the sunrise and sunset or you can go to the fort, dating from 1630, besides the island main entrance.
Shops line the path from the boat dock past the first beach. There are many clothing stores that sell mostly t-shirts and bathing suits but some also sell skirts and dresses. Be sure to check out the flip-flops. Havaiana and Ipanema flip-flops are very popular. There is also a shop that sells lots of touristy trinkets.
Praia do Encanto. The restaurant is in the pousada. Great food at reasonable price.
Sambass. This restaurant is on the Second Beach. The tables are right on the beach next to the Jamaican restaurant. They have a great atmosphere and good food. Try the red snapper or whatever fresh fish they have that night. Most nights they have live music.
O Bacalhau. Another restaurant on the Second Beach with Portuguese and Brazilian food. Try one of the various recipes of cod cooked the way they do it in Portugal or, if you prefer a more exotic experience, the lobster or fresh fish on the grill. Alternatively, try one of the famous moquecas ---the Brazilian stew--- that will surprise you with that mix of flavors that Brazil can offer.
Papoula is a restaurant run by its owner, Christina, a German-born woman that offers home-made food. She combines traditional dishes with more international ones. Veggie friendly and excellent prices. Christina is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, apart from her native German. Rua da Lagoa, 06 (opposite the Mangaba staircase). Tel.: (75) 8215-9010, 9111-7380.
Dice 10. Close to Papoula, it offers great dishes and a unique atmosphere. Very good prices.
Morena Bela. Close to Fonte Grande, this restaurant is said to have good dishes for meat-eaters.
At night, drink stands open up all over Second Beach and there are a few on the Road to the Beach as well. They are all pretty much the same. They will mix in any fruit you want with cachaça or some other spirit. Prices are between R$ 10 and 15, depending on the fruit and the spirit used to make it.
Traditionally an ovrepriced spot, there are bargain options on the island. Never follow local touts around, as they will get a commission and ruin your potential discount.
If the room has a mosquito net, use it or consider a citronella candle to avoid bug bites.
Pousada Praia do Encanto, located at the end of forth beach of Morro de São Paulo, (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Nice rooms, good breakfast and a excellent sea view.
Pousada Safira do Morro, Rua caminho da Biquinha, (75) 3652 1683, . Very simple but confortable, this B&B is only 100m away from the beach.
B&B Villa-Bahia.com, (From the Praca, walk down Rua da Fonte Grande, 300 mts, Porto de Cima), ☎ +55 7581696532 (email@example.com), . Run by its owner, Werner, a German. Nice rooms with AC-split, Solar-hotwater.“Really nice spot with a cozy atmosphere and a stunning view for breakfast” double room 70R$.
Pousada e Camping da Dona Amèrica, (From the Praca, walk down Rua da Fonte 200 mts), ☎ +55 75 3483 1435, . Single, R$ 20. Also camping..
Aradhia Pousada, (Just past the 2nd beach). Large rooms for a low price.
Pousada Barrravento, (On 3rd beach), ☎ 75 3652-1134. In low season is it possible to get a room for 35 reals/night/person with a hammock. In High Season price might be 75 reals/night. . Some rooms have ensuite bathrooms with fridge. You need to bargain with the owner. Breakfast==coffee, bread, ham, cheese, fruits, scammed eggs, fried bananes--very good.
Pousada Morena, First Beach (Beginning of the First Beach), . Great location and good price.
Perola do Morro, Rua da Biquinha (5 min walk from First Beach), . Very close to the beach and with a small swimming pool.
Pousada Aymorés, Fourth Beach (It´s the first hotel on Fourth Beach, right on the beach), . The only B&B on the Fourth Beach. Big room, right on the beach..
Pousada O Casarão, Main Square (The main square at center of the village), . The oldest house on the island is a nice hotel and have a very good restaurant..
Vila Guaiamu, Third Beach (Right in front the Third Beach), . Very big area with nature and a lot of funny guaiamu crabs!.
Fazenda Caeira, Third Beach (Right in front the Third Beach), . It´s the biggest farm on the island, with very nice room with sea view.
Hotel Praia do Encanto, Fourth Beach (Right in front the Fourth Beach), . Good rooms, quiet place, nice sea view, good restaurant..
Vila dos Orixas, Fifth Beach (Their shuttle leaves from behind the Second Beach), . The most exclusive hotel of Morro de Sao Paulo.
Pousada Passárgada, Village (On the beggining of the lighthouse hill, village center), . The best view from the sunset, excellent rooms.
Pousada Charme, Village (On the main street, village center), . Very good rooms, close to First and Second Beach.
Villa das Pedras, Village (Second Beach, right on the beach), . Just imagine some very charming bungalows on the busiest beach of the island. Awesome.
Fourth Beach (Their shuttle leaves from behind the Second Beach), . Biggest resort of the island. Right in front of the Fourth Beach, on a very quiet place..
Portalo Hotel, Village (Just in front of the harbor, on Porto de Cima beach), . Very charming hotel, just in front of the port, with excellent sea view.
Boipeba - the pristine beaches of Boipeba village make a very nice day-trip from Morro. Take the boat, as going by land means uncomfortable travelling in an improvised tractor convoy through a shaky sandy road. Most Pousada and travel agencies will offer a trip from MSP to Boipeda for 65 reals/person. There are two/three main companies that do this trip, but is excatly the same trip, expect different boats depending on the number of people that go. Departures is at the 3rd beach around 9.30AM, and there are snorkelig, trekking and old churches en route.