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. Although it is a significant tourist destination, it still retains a feel of a Brazilian village, with kids playing kickabout in the main square and schools side by side with expensive stores on the main street.
Morro has no airport, but charter flights from Salvador take 20 minutes and land on two runways, located respectively on the Third and Fourth Beaches. The price is around R$ 350, one way.
There are different ways to get to Morro de São Paulo from Salvador.
- The easiest is to take the ferry or catamaran from the Terminal Turístico Náutico da Bahia close to Mercado Modelo (a five-minute walk from the lower end of the Lacerda Elevator). The ferry costs R$ 75 (2012) and the catamaran costs R$ 100 (2016). The latter take approximately two hours 15 minutes. Since you are travelling on the open ocean, sea sickness pills are advised. Don's sit close to front windows unless you want to get wet. 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 with Biotur (who has the biggest Catamaran and seems the most trustworthy). Catamarans leave from Salvador at 08:30, 09:00, 11:30, 13:30, 14:30. Catamarans return from Morro de São Paulo at 09:30, 11:30, 15:00, 15:30. (Confirm those times.) The seas from Salvador to Morro de São Paulo can be really choppy and on occasions the catamarans are cancelled and the companies lay on a more sophisticated version of the cheaper option described below (but for the more expensive price!). This involves the public ferry to Itaparica, followed by a minivan trip to a landing point not far from Valença and a short ferry ride to Morro de São Paulo. The companies say that the trip takes 2 hr 15 min, but over three hours is more likely, with up to four hours for the return trip, something to bear in mind if you are connecting with a flight in Salvador.
- A cheaper option is to take a ferry from Salvador to the island of Itaparica, which itself can be quite rough. From there take a bus to Valença and from there a ferry to Morro de São Paulo. This alternative is both cheap and smoother 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, more precisely Bom Despacho. It takes one hour and costs R$ 6 (Dec 2016). 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 (just after the bridge). You can see where to get off by the large number of parking areas but ask someone to tell you where to get off if you are unsure). In the opposite direction, take a bus from Valença Bus Terminal, a 15-minute walk straight through the nice town. From the bus stop in Valença you will have to walk a short distanced to the maritime terminal, 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$ 22 (Dec 2016). They make 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.
- If you are in a group and you want to avoid the center of Salvador you can arrange with your pousada to be picked up at Salvador airport. The journey to the Valença terminal is about 3½ hours without stops, not particularly interesting and will cost around R$500.
- There are at least two maritime terminals in Salvador where you can take a ferry: Terminal Maritima São Joaquim and Terminal Turístico Náutico da Bahia (close to Mercado Modelo). They are not close to one another, so make sure you go to the right one. From the international airport D.L.E.Magalhães to São Joaquim you can take the bus to Campo Grande. Consider at least two hours to get there. The price is R$ 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 is 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$ 15 (August 2019). After paying the tax walk to the tourist office behind the cashier to pick up a free map.
Drive to the neighboring city of Valença, which is 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 30 min from 07:00 till 18:00. 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$ 10. The faster boat (lancha rápida) costs R$ 25 and takes 45 minutes to get there.
At the Valença harbor you have to pay a fee of R$ 0.65 per person.
The best (and only) abundant form of transport on the Island is your feet. You need to be quite fit as there are some steep hills, especially the one going up from the port.
Being an island, there is no vehicular access to Morro de São Paulo. Until the early 2000s, 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, turning left as you leave the port.
- Banana Boat. An inflated rubber tube that holds eight people. You are towed through the sea for a ten-minute trip that ends with all being tossed into the water. Starts from First Beach but touts also work the Second Beach to attract customers. R$ 25.
- Gamboa Beach. A short, R$ 4, boat ride from the port. This 2km beach with acres of sand is almost deserted and doesn't have the annoying rocks found in the main MSP beaches. Great for those who really want to get away from it all. The slow boat to Valenca calls in there but you can often find a ride on another boat without waiting for the ferry. You can also walk there along the beach at low tide. Ask your pousada for directions.
- Tirolesa. This is a zip-line, aerial ropeway or "death slide". From a platform close to the lighthouse you slide down the cable, to be dunked in the sea at First Beach where members of the team will extract you from your harness. Steep and sometimes muddy climb up to the platform. R$ 35.
- Day trip by speedboat. Most Pousada and travel agencies offer a trip from MSP to Boipeba for R$ 80-100 reals/person depending on your negotiating skills and whether you pay in cash or with card. There are two/three main companies that do this trip, but is exactly the same trip.Expect different boats depending on the number of people that go. Departure is at the 3rd beach at 10:00 although they ask you to be there at 09:30, and there is snorkelling, trekking and old churches en route.
- 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.
- 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, Rua, ☏ +55 75 8215-9010. 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. (opposite the Mangaba staircase) 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 overpriced 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 Safira do Morro, ☏ +55 75 3652-1683. Rua caminho da Biquinha. Very simple but comfortable, this B&B is only 100m away from the beach.
- Pousada e Camping da Dona Amèrica (from the Praca, walk down Rua da Fonte 200 m), ☏ +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), ☏ +55 75 3652-1134. Some rooms have ensuite bathrooms with fridge. In low season is it possible to get a room for R$ 35 /night/person with a hammock. In High Season price might be R$ 75/night.
- 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.
- [dead link] 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..
- [dead link] 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..
- Pousada Praia do Encanto, Praia do Encanto. Nice rooms, good breakfast and a excellent sea view.
- Che Lagarto Hostel Morro de São Paulo, Rua da Fonte Grande, 11, ☏ +55 75 3652-1018, firstname.lastname@example.org. Has both private and shared rooms. Wi-Fi, public kitchen and breakfast included in the fee. There's a bar inside the hostel. From US$11.
- [dead link] 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.
- Vila dos Orixás, Fifth Beach (their shuttle leaves from behind the Second Beach).
- Pousada Passárgada, Village (on the beginning of the lighthouse hill, village center). Views of the sunset, excellent rooms.
- [dead link] 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.
- Hotel Praia do Encanto, 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 and sunset view.