Beauty and Serenity in Paraty, Brazil
By Kent E. St. John
GoNOMAD Senior Travel Editor
The gleaming bleached white churches softly glowed as the sun sank behind the emerald green mountains. The Pousada’s landscaping took on a jungle feel. It is most likely the same scene Portuguese settlers experienced over 300 years ago.
Paraty’s whole existence was based on shipping gold mined from further inland Brazil. Walking those streets is like entering a time capsule. The huge cobblestones were ballast from the ships coming to load up gold. Slaves also pounded them into place, at least the ones who were not mining.
Only Horse Carriages
Today, horse-drawn carts are still the only vehicles allowed on those cobblestones in the historic district. The colonial buildings and streets are very much intact. Today the visitors still come from far away but for the beauty and serenity of the Costa Verde. Hundreds of beaches and islands draw those looking for one of the world’s best ocean destinations.
The Atlantic Rain Forest drapes Paraty’s shoulders. It is amazing to me that for half of the cab fare across Rio to catch my bus I am sitting in UNESCO splendor!
Paraty’s Ocean Vistas
Portuguese is a difficult language to learn. Write down Paraty on a piece of paper so when you get to the Novo Rio Bus Station you can simply show the name to get directions to the Costa Verde bus line. It is a four-hour ride down some twisted mountain roads with spectacular scenery. The bus will stop for a quick pit stop along the way.
As you head further down the coast the ocean vistas and views entice you. On arrival in Paraty, you will notice horse carts as well as cabs. If your pousada (guest house) is in the historical zone, take a cart. My pousada, Morro do Forte, was a five-minute walk from the center of town and was located on a hill. The view of the town was astounding as were the grounds. The small pool was a blessing.
The beaches that are usable are a distance from town.
However, the town is a pleasure to stroll. The vibrant doors and trimmings against the white colonial buildings is priceless. The 20 blocks by 10 can be explored in a quick time but begs for many slow strolls.
Hidden within are shops, restaurants, and history. There are three colonial-era churches, each with their own splendor and history. One for slaves, one for free mulattoes, and one for the elite.
The square next to the Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Dores has a small soccer platform, which provided entertainment after dinner. It is ringed with small bars where Brazilians, Brits, and Frenchmen cheer on their local favorites. Late into the night, I shared pints of Brahma with other visitors to Paraty. The best bar was Che’s. Beer in Brazil is severed very cold!
Above the Rest
While there are many good and reasonably priced restaurants, to me there were two true standouts. The first was Porto located next to the Pousada Sandi. This place is a true value when all factors are added. The staff was attentive, the surroundings exotic and the food excellent. The filet with Don Pedro’s fruit sauce will be remembered forever. Ask for the carriage house located on Rua do Comercio. Never has a six-dollar filet tasted so good.
The next best restaurant is one of the world’s best locations I have eaten! It covers one very small island. The restaurant and island are Catimbau and you are going to need a boat to get there.
Just how is covered in the next chapter. It has only ten tables and a sea view is unavoidable. In fact, your lunch, nicely grilled, was most likely swimming around you just hours ago. The giant shrimps grilled with garlic were finger-licking good. Swimming while lunch cooks is encouraged.
Sixty-five Islands of Paraty
There really aren’t any good beaches within walking distance of Paraty. Okay so why go? Simply because of the sixty-five islands and three hundred beaches that are accessible and reasonable. For about nine dollars, catch a schooner on the pier for a five-hour tour. That usually includes lunch and drinks as well as some party folks.
A better choice to me is to find a fisherman at the pier and for fifteen dollars hour head out. Split between four people that is $3.75. The boats are smaller and faster and head to more isolated beaches. You cannot go three blocks in a cab in NYC for that amount.
That is also the only way to get to Catimbau. Any way you do it, the water is clear and blue and filled with opportunity. See Paraty the way it was seen for centuries, by water. If you’re mobile there are plenty of other adventures.
The Mountains to the Sea
Waterfalls and the old gold trail of Paraty make a base for what are certainly fit options that cover the Costa Verde. The is certainly a great place to discover the Atlantic Rainforest. The park is filled with plant and animal life such as sloths and monkeys.
Several beaches that are gems are also easily gotten to. Two of the best are Praia de Paraty-Mirim and Praia da Trindade. Hike and observe, do wear mosquito repellant, and carry only what you need. Look at the links to plan a trip to one of Brazil’s natural and historic treasures. National Park in Paraty
Add on Rio and it is a totally different side of Brazil! Paraty is a party but one of unique standing. Even on a rainy day this town covers it all. Visually there is no place better to feel Costa Verde better than Paraty.
Refugio is located on Rua Fresca and offers great seafood. That’s all you need, follow your nose. Think fruit, seafood and good!
Pousada Morro do Forte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Costa Verde buses run eight times daily and cost eight dollars