If you are looking for the perfect mix between architecture, pristine waters, mountain hikes and good food, not too far from Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo, look no further than Paraty. A charming, colonial town with jungled mountains as a backdrop, buildings from the 17th and 18th century, and surrounded by dozens of islands…there is a lot to do there! So with only a couple of days, here are recommendations on what to do, where to stay, eat and more.
What to do in Paraty
If you only have a few hours ahead of you, wandering through the cobbled streets of the picturesque historical centre is a must. It is small enough that there is no need for a map and it is car-free so you can admire the whitewashed houses without watching your way ahead!
With a bit more time, do a day boat-trip. Not only you can see Paraty from the sea and take in the Costa Verde mountains, but you will also swim in clear waters, jump from the boat and snorkel with tropical fish.
We first tried to book the trip through Paraty Tours which was in our travel guide (we usually use Lonely Planet), but the tours we were interested in were sold out, so instead we went with Caicara Tours, and borded the Ilha Rasa II (R$90 pp), that offered a very similar experience. At first, with 80 people on the boat, we were a bit skeptical about what could sound like a mass-tourism experience. But we focused our attention on making the most of the day instead…and so we did.
The 6-hour tour was varied as we did 5 different stops, the staff was attentive and the atmosphere excellent. The guitarist, though he may not have been Brazil’s top talent, definitely added to the charm of the day as Brazilians didn’t hesitate to sing along (as they do!). You can order lunch on the boat, which everyone seemed to do; in our case we had brought sandwiches and kept our appetite for dinner. We recommend the whole experience with our eyes closed!
Would we have had an additional day, we would have done the Jeep-tour that drives through the Gold trail, waterfalls and natural pools, and ends with a visit of a Cachaca distillerie. Both travel agencies above offer the tour.
Where to stay, eat, drink and listen to live music
Where to stay: hotel and Airbnb. We stayed one night at Vila do Porto and enjoyed its location, at the entrance of the historical centre, as well as its delicious breakfast. We spent our second night at Casa Cacau, which booked through Airbnb. It’s a 15min walk from the centre so it might feel a bit long under a tropical rain, but we cannot recommend this beautiful house more. The host and her family are lovely and we had the most wonderful welcome, greeted by three kittens and two guitar players. The peaceful garden lends itself incredibly well to napping, reading and you will most likely enjoy breakfast there too.
Restaurants: if you feel like changing from the Brazilian food, Oui Paraty for authentic French crepes and Thai Brasil – specialized in…Thai Food believe it or not, are excellent options with very good food, friendly service, central location and relaxed atmospheres.
For drinks and live music: before dinner, we enjoyed sipping caipirinha and cervejas, in one of the cobbled streets and watch the crowd and animation grow. After dinner, we recommend a local’s favorite: the Camoka Botequim Arte Cafe, for quality live music and time passing by soaking in the warm seaside air (don’t be fooled by online pictures, the place and its outdoor seating are so much nicer than that).
The adventure continues
From Paraty, we went back to Rio de Janeiro, using our Easy Transfer package and changing in Conceição de Jacareí half-way through. After we booked the transfer on their website and confirmed our Airbnb address via email, they picked us up on time the day after: easy, smooth and not expensive. Count half-a-day to go back to Rio (5-6 hours depending on traffic), and about the same if you stop by Ilha Grande.