A free, 37-page guide to exploring Brazil's Costa Verde
Inside, you'll discover:
- The best islands and beaches to visit
- The best places to eat and drink.
- How to get there, and get around.
- And much, much more...
Welcome to Paraty Bay
I travelled all over South America from the early 90’s, first as a backpacker and later for work but it wasn’t until 2004 that I finally discovered Brazil’s Costa Verde (Green Coast). It simply blew me away. So close to two of South America’s great metropolises yet still wild and pristine – mountains and tropical forest dropping down to undiscovered beaches and azure seas.
And for much of the year totally uncrowded too. Rio’s party crowds wouldget as far as Angra, and Paulistas north to Caraguatatuba (try saying that after a caiparinha) or the surf crowd to Ubatuba but venture just a bit further from either and the jewel of Paraty awaits. Two years later searching for a piece of land to build a house with my wife who is from Brazil, I ventured out on a pink fishing boat called Rock in Rio. As the boat swung slowly towards land we dropped anchor in the crystal clear water, colourful fish darted and a turtle swam away before my eyes. I was bewitched. This is Ponta Grossa, part of the stunning protected wilderness called the Cairuçu APA (Environmental Protection Area), a wild peninsular with no road access. The immediate area of our small piece of land had once been part of a sugarcane plantation, and Ponta Grossa is home to small communities of the proudly independent and deeply warm and welcoming caiçara people, who became our neighbours. Casa Cairuçu, the house we built and lived in, is a fantastic base from you can explore the trails, deserted beaches, islands and wildlife. Welcome to the marvellous Paraty Bay, make yourself at home.
One of the best-preserved colonial towns in South America, the almost impossibly-picturesque coastal town of Paraty appeals to culture vultures,
outdoor enthusiasts, beach lovers and partiers alike.
The entire historic centre of Paraty is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the cobbled streets are lined with whitewashed cottages that today function as guest houses and boutique hotels, restaurants, bars, art galleries, museums and shops selling in-numerous types of cachaça (sugarcane rum - Brazil’s national drink and a specialty of the area).
Baroque churches frame town squares and stand proudly on the bay, creating postcard-perfect images. With steep mountains, tropical jungle and the Atlantic ocean right on the doorstep, Paraty (sometimes spelt Parati, and pronounced ‘Para-tchee’) is a good base for adventure sports activities, and water sports such as stand up paddle are popular activities here. Nearby, Saco de Mamanguá is an inland area of flooded mangrove - like Norwegian fjords transplanted to the tropics - where kayaking, hiking and wildlife-spotting trips are among the attractions.
The town has carved a reputation for itself as one of Rio’s most important cultural centres thanks to a major annual literary festival - FLIP - (Festival Literario Internacional de Paraty), and other arts events.
It’s not just a highbrow destination, however, and Paraty is equally renowned for its raucous carnival celebrations (featuring the Bloco de Lama ‘Mud Parade’) and its yearly Festival da Pinga - (cachaca festival). Festivals aside, the pace of life in Paraty is pleasingly sedate - horses
clip clop around the town’s squares, fishermen bring in their haul for sale at the many excellent fish and seafood restaurants, and small boats bob around the harbour.
At night, stalls crop up selling caipirinhas and tropical fruit cocktails, along with traditional street food such as tapioca pancakes and barbequed meat. Although it has its own beach on the far side of the river, with a couple of beach bars selling cooling coconut water and ice cold beers, the best swimming and sunbathing are certainly to be found away from the town. Small fishing boats transport visitors out to the impossibly beautiful surrounding islands, with stops for swimming and sunbathing. Alternatively, a 45 minute bus or car ride south from Paraty is the pretty beach village of Trindade which, with its waterfalls and jungle trails, also worth a day’s exploring.
It pays to keep a close eye on the weather when planning a trip to Paraty - the cobbled streets can become flooded in heavy rains (at high tide), confining visitors to their lodgings. The age of the buildings means that cheaper accommodations in the historic center are prone to leaking and damp, too, so it’s worth paying a little extra for a more comfortable stay.
Things soon dry up once the sun shines, however, and there’s plenty of exploring to be done in and around the town.
Paraty’s principal attractions are its immaculately-preserved historic centre and its gorgeous waterfront setting from where travellers can explore the islands, beaches and coves of the stunning Bay of Paraty.Nature trails, rappelling and dips in natural pools and waterfalls rank among the top things to do in the surrounding jungle; while island- hopping boat trips, stand up paddle, diving and snorkelling are all available in and around the bay.
Much of Paraty’s appeal lies in simply taking a leisurely stroll around the centre, window shopping and stopping for a cooling beer, coconut water or caipirinha, and soaking up the beauty of the place. Many of thespecialist stores are tourist attractions in themselves, offering a staggering array of chillies, hot sauces, ‘pinga’ (cachaca) and sweet treats such as doce de leite among other foodie souvenirs.
Designated a National Heritage Site in 1966 and UNESCO nominated, Paraty’s pedestrianised historic centre is easily explored on foot. The 18th Century buildings - built during Brazil’s gold rush - range from simple fishermen’s cottages to baroque churches, and the wonderful backdrop of rugged, jungle-clad mountains makes simply wandering around a real pleasure. Most shops and galleries in the historic center stay open until well after dark, when restaurants fill with the sound of live music and sidewalk tables and chairs are hotly contested on balmy evenings.