Paraty is a historical city from Colonial times, but which has many other perks: beaches, waterfalls, high-end gastronomy and many cultural events throughout the year. I had my very first Worldpackers experience (work exchange) in Paraty and I’ve stayed nearly a month there living like a local. And now I will share with you 🙂
How to get there and around
The best way is by car, because the beaches and waterfalls are kind of far, so having a car makes you gain time and freedom. But you can manage to get around without a car, of course! The bus leaving from Rio to Paraty takes about 4h30 and costs R$83,00*. You can check timetable and buy your ticket in advance here.
* Prices checked in January 2017
When to go
Paraty has an intense cultural schedule, so throughout the year there are many interesting festivals to attend: music, photography, literature and even cachaça. Carnival is not so special, so I honestly think you should stay in Rio! There are a few blocos, but the only one that caught my attention for being different is the Bloco da Lama, in Jabaquara.
On New Year’s Eve, there are fireworks in the main points of the city, but is no big deal and the city gets crowded.
And, of course, the entire Summer is high season. The prices of everything gets (even) higher, and I strongly recommend that you book in advance! Is really common that you see people knocking in hostels and inn’s door on Friday and hearing the bad news: no vacancies! If that happens to you, try to look for lodging options in Trindade.
For Christians, a good time to meet Paraty is during religious parties. Most famous and exciting ones are Holy Week and Divino Party (26 May to 04 Jun).
Where to stay
I’ve stayed in Canguru, considered the best hostel in Paraty by Hostelworld. It’s a huge house, with hammocks, dogs, cat and even a movie room to watch Netflix and play Super Nintendo – when you’re not at the beach or hanging with your new friends downstairs. They have an awesome bar, with live music events. And for those who don’t like sharing rooms, they have a private room available.
But if you’re definitely not into hostels, Paraty has many cool inns. Take a look in Booking.com! Since I haven’t stayed in nor I met any, I don’t feel comfortable in making recommendations. Sorry!
What to do
Even though Paraty is a Summer destination, what many people don’t know is the beaches in town are not good for bathing. To meet beautiful beaches, you will have to hire a boat trip or go to beaches in the surroundings. Some suggestions:
What used to be a hippie village in 70’s, now it’s taken over by tourists throughout Summer. There, you can meet such as Brava and the waterfall with the same name, Cepilho, de Fora, Ranchos, do Meio, Cachadaço and the natural pools with the same name. From Meio Beach, there’s a trail to the waterfalls, including Pedra que Engole (‘The Swallowing Stone’). It’s a stone with a small entrance that a person can get in. And then you kind of get into the stone, but by the distance it seems that you disappeared. It’s crazy, hard to explain, hahaha. But it’s fun and no risk at all!
-> You can get easily to Trindade by bus, leaving from the Central bus station. Timetable here.
-> The only beach on this listing that is located before the center of the village is Brava and the waterfall. So if you’re not by car, it’s better to jump off the bus in the Center and do this route by foot, getting to know all these other beaches.
-> There are many people that prefer staying in Trindade. There are some lodging options, a few little bars, and restaurants. But personally, I think Paraty is more interesting, and it’s totally OK to do the hit-and-back of one day. Just wake up early!
– Praia do Sono, Antigo e Antiguinhos:
Sono Beach is well-known and has some loyal fans. Is considered one of the most beautiful beaches of the region, but avoid it on New Year’s Eve, Carnival and big holidays, when it gets really crowded.
-> There are a few restaurants which offer meals and beverages (cash only)
-> It’s no big deal to do the hit-and-back on the same day, but if you want to stay longer, there are camping spots and small houses for rents.
-> From the little church, there is a short trail to Poço do Jacaré (small waterfall), 10 minutes from the beach.
How to get there: by car, go to Condomínio Laranjeiras and search for the beginning of the trail, in the right side of the bus stop. There are parking spots. The trail is light and it can be done in 1 hour, but it’s possible to go by boat too.
By bus, take the line Vila Oratório which leaves from the Central Bus Station and get off at the final bus stop. Timetable here.
To get to Antigo and Antiguinhos beaches, even calmer and preserved (no camping), go until the end of Sono Beach and look for the sign that points the beginning of another trail (easy).
– São Gonçalo e Ilha do Pelado
Another beautiful beach with calm waters. From there, you can take a boat to Pelado Island, right in front of it, for R$20,00 (round trip). From what I’ve heard, these boats only stay there during high season or weekends. During low season, it’s possible to take the boat from Tarituba Beach.
How to get there: by car, use Waze or Google Maps, hahaha. By bus, take the ones that leave from the Central bus station with the names São Gonçalo (only two per day), or those who go to Angra or Parque Mambucaba. Timetable here.
– Paraty Mirim
Green waters and Mata Atlântica vegetation around: pretty typical. But with one special detail: there is an Indian village. On the highway, before arriving at the beach, there is a tent selling handmade crafts. Right next to it, there is a bilingual tupiniquim-Portuguese school. It’s worth the visit, but respect local culture and don’t take face pictures without permission!
From there, you can hire a boat to spend the day in Saco do Mamanguá, amazing fiord region, or Praia Grande de Cajaíba (detailed post soon), beautiful beach with two amazing waterfalls nearby and many other options.
How to get there: direct bus to Paraty Mirim, leaving from the Central bus station. Timetable here.
There are a lot of cool waterfalls in Paraty, and the good news is that they are closer than the beaches. I will highlight the ones I’ve been that I consider the best ones:
– Cachoeira do Tobogã and Poço do Tarzan
Tobogã is the most famous waterfall in Paraty and you can slip from the top. They even organize a surf-in-the-stone contest! Pretty cool, but on High Season it gets crowded. Avoid it on weekends, if possible!
How to get there: Take the highway towards Cunha, for approximately 7,5 Km. On the right side of the highway, you will see an “Estrada Real” tall sign, and a church next to it, known as Igreja da Penha (‘Penha Church’). If you go by foot on a small “trail” that starts from Touristic Info Center of Caminho do Ouro, you will see a bridge and you’re in Poço do Tarzan. They have a restaurant (expensive) and a cachaça production. To reach Tobogã itself, go down.
The bus named Penha leaves from the Central bus station and will drop you exactly in front of this Church, mentioned above. It’s the easiest waterfall to go without a car.
– Poço da Jamaica: mainly attended by locals, it’s the perfect place to go on High Season.
How to get there: Take the highway towards Cunha for approximately 7 Km. Right after a bifurcation, there is a small door on the left side (no signs). If you go through this door, you will take a short trail (less than 10 min) and you will see the waterfall.
– Pedra Branca: one of the most beautiful ones in the region, according to an adventure tourism guide I met. It’s really beautiful, and if you go up you can find more quiet spots, in case it’s crowded in the main one. Just be careful because on the top it has a kind of a valley of stones and it was where I lost my phone to the waters. I couldn’t find it even to take my memory card back! :O And the same way a cellphone can fall, accidents can happen too, so be careful!
-> They charge a small maintenance fee at the door: R$5,00, if I’m not wrong.
-> The last stretch of the dirt road is a ‘climb’ and is cruel to popular cars. It’s common seeing cars getting stuck!
-> Arrive early to avoid people from jeep tours.
-> There is no bus to this waterfall! 🙁
– Cachoeira da Graúna (‘Graúna Waterfall’)
How to get there: go through BR-101 towards Angra for a few kilometers. You will see an exit to the left, after Praia Grande and Prainha. There is a big sign named Graúna. On the Graúna Highway, near the Church ‘Igreja de Santa Cruz’, there is a wood door and a parking spot. After that, a short trail (less than 10 min) takes you there. To the left, you will get to the lowest part of it and to the right you will reach the huge natural pool you see in the picture.
-> Not the best waterfall to go by bus, but it’s possible. You can take the bus Paraty x Barra Grande (via Graúna) from the central bus station and drop off at the final bus stop. There are just a few buses in the day, so ask the times of return in advance. Timetable here.
Where to eat
Paraty has many restaurants, including some award-winning and expensive. If you want to indulge yourself or you don’t have budget issues, go to Banana da Terra and/or Punto Divino. Both are unanimity around there.
To eat on a budget, I have to say: Paraty is mainly a destination for rich people. Seriously, most of the restaurants in Historical Center are expensive. But there are some with reasonable prices, such as Thai Brasil, Café do Canal, for pizzas and Van Gogh for hand-made burgers. Quintal Verde and do Netto are usually considered cheap options with good quality.
But those are in the Historical Center, so if you want to find really cheap restaurants, including in the per weight system, you will have to go the main avenue, Av. Roberto Silveira, outside the Historical Center. There are several restaurants in there, usually attended by locals and clever tourists like you :P, but I would highlight Detinha Sabores – weight system buffet for R$30/kg in weekdays – and Genarios, right in front of bus station. The only problem is that they are only open for lunch!
– Every Monday, Samba da Benção takes place in Praça da Matriz (‘Matriz Square’), the main one of the city. It’s free*, on the streets, from 8 pm. When it rains, they do it inside Pousada Divina Casa, in this same square. The samba is great, I recommend, especially on low season when it’s not so crowded!
* Tip in to the hat so they can keep doing it! 🙂
– Canguru Hostel bar is also a good call! It’s open every day, from 6 pm. On Sundays, they usually throw the Sunday Sessions, with live music and DJ in-betweens! Don’t miss trying one of the amazing drinks they make, especially Jorge Amado (cachaça Gabriela, passionfruit, and lemon), the typical drink of Paraty.
Water and radical sports:
Paraty Sport Aventura is a park that offers several activities, such as tree climbing, zipline, abseiling, etc. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s worth mentioning!
Free Walking Tour: every day, except Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m (Portuguese) and 5 p.m (English). Meeting point in front of Igreja da Matriz (‘Matriz Church’), in the Historical Center. I found the tour really interesting (2 hours), and it gave me info on the city that I would probably not know in another way. By the end, you contribute with how much you can/want.
This temple had to stay on the list for my next trip to Paraty. But when I tried to go, they gave me a lot of info through e-mail and were really caring. They are open for visits during the week, and for a small donation of R$5,00, you can go to the temple, to the garden and the waterfalls that are inside the property. It has also the mantras chanting and reading of Bhagavad Gita at 6 pm, for those who practice or wish to know more about this religion. The lunch at the venue is available for R$25,00.
From what I’ve understood, they live there in community with an ecovillage, permaculture activities, etc. So if you’re interested in staying there for a while, you can find out more!
You can take the bus Paraty x Barra Grande (via Graúna) from the central bus station and drop off at the final bus stop. There are just a few buses in the day, so ask the times of return in advance. Timetable here.
So, what do you say? Let’s go to Paraty?
Anyone who have other recommendations of Paraty, please write in the comments!
* Prices, timetables, and addresses may change at any time. I don’t hold responsibility for any change that may occur between post time and your reading. Always check it beforehand and if you notice any change, please tell me here in the comments so I can edit and help other travelers <3