South America Travel Tips

Morro de Sao Paulo: 16 reasons I had to leave ASAP…

This might be a tricky blog. One that I’m barely going to forget. A place that almost trapped me. A place that I was almost never going to leave. And the people I met there can confirm.

Alright, now that I scared you and kept you on your toes – it’s time to tell you my story in the tropical island of Tinharé…

I left the suitcase in my hostel in Salvador and packed light. Morro, a shorthand for Morro de Sao Paulo, was definitely not on my to-visit list. However, many people I met in Salvador told me I HAD to go.

Hence I did.

3 t-shirts, just one pair of flip-flops, swimming togs, shorts, underwear, a small towel, my laptop, my phone of course and a bottle of repellent spray. My plan was to stay for a couple of days, for sure life on a small island was going to get boring very soon?

From Salvador I went to the touristic port, got a return ticket, and soon after I jumped on a 100-people 45 minutes boat. Then, 2 hours of bus, and the final 20 minutes on a speed boat to reach the entrance of Morro de Sao Paulo.

1) No cars

The first thing that made me fall in love with Morro is the fact that there is no petrol station – in fact, there are no cars, no motorbikes. No smog. The only vehicle allowed to drive through the narrow streets is the ambulance.

When you get to Morro’s port, men wait for you (and your suitcase) with a wheel barrow. On the side of the wheel barrow, you can read “TAXI” or “UBER”.

Lol 🙂

In fact, for a small tip, you can hire one of these taxi drivers to take your heavy suitcase to your hotel – roads are REALLY steep and the whole little town is tough to walk with luggage!

2) 26 islands

Morro de Sao Paulo is located 60km south of Salvador. It is part of an archipelago of 26 tropical islands, with only 3 of them inhabited.

Some islands are less touristy than the main one, where Morro is (Tinharé). And within the same island you can find busy or quieter places, such as the lovely fishermen town of Gamboa.

You can only get to Gamboa by walking on the beach from Morro when the tide is low (all hotels, called pousadas, have a daily schedule of low/high tide times). Then, you need a speed boat taxi to get back to Morro, as by the time you arrive the tide has already gone up.

3) Beaches are… numbered

In Morro, you can go to beach no.1, rent an umbrella and a chair on beach no.2, go for a swim on beach no.3 – or a lovely walk on beach no.4. Not a lot of imagination there, but it also makes sense as beach no.1 is the closest to the town center, while no.4 is a good 30 minutes walk.

In the last few days I also found out there are beach no.5 and beach no.6, where nobody goes to as they’re far away – I managed to walk until no.5 and it took 1.5hrs, so I have no idea where no.6 was!

4) Climate

People live all year round in Morro. After all Morro is a small town on a small tropical island (and also the reason why people love it). It’s not like Jericoacoara for example, where people living there are there just because of tourism.

Morro is special, and so is its climate… it’s never hot (max temperature 26 to 30 celsius) and never cold (min temperature 21 to 24 celsius). It’s always sunny, apart from the rain season of April/May.

You probably only need flip-flops, swimming togs and a t-shirt. And you can go to restaurant, beach, bar or disco dressed like that, in the same way. Not a problem!

5) Sunset

You can enjoy a lovely, warm sunset almost every day. I fell in love with spending all my late afternoons walking on the white beach and photographing the horizon 🙂

6) White, soft sand

Beaches are white, soft, beautiful.

7) Coral reef

Beach no.4, the most beautiful of them all, has coral reefs just a few meters from the beach. Depending on the tide, it can be inside the water or outside the water, making the landscape and water temperature change completely.

You can see fish swimming though the coral (tried taking a pic with no luck), you can literally sit or lay down into the water and SLEEP there as the water is low and warm when the tide is low, or swim and snorkel when the water level is higher.

Too good.

8) Caipifrutta :O

Yes, you probably know what Caipirinha is – Brazil’s national cocktail made with cachaça (sugarcane liquor), sugar and lime.

Everyone drinks Caipirinha… it just feels perfect to do nothing on the beach, enjoy the amazing view, sit on a chair under an umbrella and be served by the beach vendors. You pay the bill at the end, no worries (and it’s not expensive for such a great place, usually 10 reais per cocktail = €3).

In Morro, you can ask the cocktail guy to do some Caipi variations. I got a lovely Caipi made with grapes (yum!), but you can even try some of the fruits that only exist here (never heard the names, never seen them before).

9) Coconut water

I didn’t think I would like it. But maybe sitting on the beach, drinking from the coconut itself after the guy has drilled a hole through it with a hammer is just… paradise!

10) Night life

Morro is a little Ibiza.

I was never in Ibiza but I’d imagine there is a lot of people there, many places to go out, lots of “pressure”.

In Morro, you can go out but you don’t need to. You can dance until 6am or you can go to bed at 11pm and have a quiet sleep.

You can drink beer, caipi or water – everyone dances either way. You can go to restaurant or eat something on the street – live music is everywhere.

Twice a week, you can gather to the top of the island (25 min hike), and dance samba or electronic from midnight to 6 (the “Teatro”). During the other days, there are smaller parties in other clubs – but everyday there is 1 party, max 2. No pressure.

And it felt good to dance and enjoy some music… I went to bed at sunrise and when I woke up with a hangover I spent the day here:

11) Expensive?

Morro is cheaper than the wealthy area of Salvador. You can stay, eat, relax and enjoy with a low budget – or go all in and have a great holiday.

It’s been 6 years since they have “exploited” this part of the island with tourism, but prices haven’t risen too much. Hopefully it will stay like that 🙂

12) Açaí bowl

Gosh, I love Açaí. It comes in form of ice-cream/sorbet, and you can have banana, granola and honey as toppings, served in a bowl.

Beach vendors shout Aaaaaaaaaa-çaaaaaaaaaa-íííííííííííííí all day long. Needless to say I had a few lunches with it.

And when I got bored, I ate fruit salad 🙂

13) Homemade pasta

I met an Italian guy called Danilo, who lives in Morro and spent the last 5 months as a restaurant co-manager (with another friend from Rome as well, Federico).

Working and responsibilities are always stressful, but when it’s low season they have some free time and can spend the days relaxing on the beautiful island.

Of course I went few times to their restaurant “Mediterraneo” for dinner, and the homemade pasta was just awesome – just like when I was a kid and people still made pasta at home. If it wasn’t for my other friends who wanted to try other places, I would have gone back there for lunch as well!

14) Italian/Argentinian community

The most spoken language in Morro is possibly NOT Portuguese – is Portuñol (Portuguese + Español) 🙂

In fact, the Argentinian community is huge: they don’t have warm beaches over there, and in Morro there is enough cerveza for all, football on tv, as well as parties and night life!

The second community is made of Italians, mostly people who used to live a fast life in big metropolis such as Rome and Milan. There are at least 100 of them on the island. Of course, I met them while watching a soccer match 🙂

They’re living the dream and have changed their lives completely. The all run restaurants, pousadas or bars. And play Texas every night, lol.

Some of them, like Enrico, completely integrated with the locals, learned capoeira and now run “One Love“, a free hostel for street artists who can’t afford accommodation but can help with preparing food, keeping the place clean and organising local events.

15) Footvolley

Another great thing that can be seen on the beach are amazing matches of footvolley. Back-kicks, incredible shots, all with their bare feet.

Wish I had a video – their skills are awesome (kids included).

16) Walking/running

You can do so for miles, on the beach. And the view is soooo good.

——- ——– ——- ——– ——- ——–

So, if you got this far reading the blog post, now you see why I had to leave ASAP!!!

One more day (I stayed 6 nights instead of the 2 I had originally planned) and I would have never go back home 🙂

I met so many people who had the same “problem“. Went to Morro for a week, stayed 2, and then 2 years went by…

Or went to Morro on holiday, and went back the year after to settle there and change their lifestyle.

I had to go, this place was TOO special and had a powerful “magnet” that would have kept me there for a long, long time. And internet was pretty decent too…

Maybe I’ll go back one day – this beauty is not going anywhere and, in fairness, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.

Cheers, next stop: Rio!


2 replies on “Morro de Sao Paulo: 16 reasons I had to leave ASAP…”

Now I wanna go there! 🙂 Loved the “scary” title and your writing style.

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