Once Brazil’s primary port during the era of the Portuguese empire, Paraty marked the final destination of the Estrada Real that snaked down from Minas Gerais: a money trail of gold, diamonds and coffee on its way to Europe. In a bid for greater efficiency, the route was then changed to Rio and Paraty slipped off the radar. Accessible only by boat and surrounded by thick tropical forest, the small fisherman’s colony was left to its own devices amongst the colonial mansions and cobbled streets until the Rio-Santos road was built in the 1970’s and put it back on the map. After the first trickle of visitors from Sao Paulo arrived to rent rooms in fisherman’s houses, word quickly caught on about the perfectly preserved colonial streets and abundant natural beauty and Brazilian captains of industry were soon staking out their spots on the 63 virgin islands that stretch along the coast to Angra.
In keeping with its past, Paraty still masks a multitude of secret spots, from hidden ateliers in the old town, to idyllic beaches accessible only by jungle trails and sheltered coves reachable only by boat: it is one of those places where it really pays to be in the know. Inbetween a snorkelling with turtles in the emerald waters, Dehouche talked to our favourite boatman Andre about the places only the locals know.
The Beach: “One of Paraty’s best beaches is Praia do Sono: You have to trek an hour through the jungle to get there, which thankfully puts a lot of people off. The water is crystal clear, and the white sand deserted apart from a few barracas selling coconut water and fresh seafood on the beach. While most people stop here, I like to carry on to the next two beaches, Praia dos Antigos and finally, Praia dos Antiguinos- more beautiful than Sono, you can get them all to yourself.”
To Sail Away: “I have been working on boats in Paraty for 15 years, guiding visitors around the islands. For a day out at sea that few know about, I like to go to Saco do Mamangua, a tropical fjord tucked away in the ecological reserve which has a mini Sugarloaf mountain. If you trek to the top, you get incredible views across the islands. Still very much preserved and home to the local fisherman, the few large houses you find there are currently being investigated by the authorties to their legality. After the whole area was designated a nature reserve, no more buildings are allowed and the conservation laws are very strict.”
For Lunch: “For a low key spot serving the freshest seafood, I like Dadicos, a local fisherman’s house in Saco do Mamangua. For a one off experience, I love my friend Mimi’s place Eh-Laho on the island of Catimbau. She is from Holland and built it from scratch 15 years ago with her husband. It is now one of the best seafood restaurants in the area- a tiny island with a restaurant and their house built amongst the rocks.”
“There are some great waterfalls up in the mountains above Paraty- while most people head for Toboga to watch the local kids surfing down the waterfall on their feet, Cachoiera da Jamaica is where only the locals know and Cachoiera da Melancia is great for rappelling.”
Drink: “Paraty is famous for its artisanal cachaca houses- when you come, you have to try a cocktail made with a local cachaca, Gabriela, flavoured with cloves and cinnamon. It is used to make a Jorge Amado and mixed with lemon and passionfruit- the Costa verde Caiprinha.”
Festival:” One of the best things about Paraty is the amount of festivals that are hosted in the town. The most famous is Flip, the international literary festival that was actually started by an English woman, but my favourite is the jazz festival in May. It is relatively new, only in its second or third year, and international musicians fly in from places like New Orleans to play free concerts in the main square.”
Contact Dehouche to plan an adventure around Paraty’s secret spots.