Paraty Rio de Janeiro

Looking for a weekend getaway from Rio de Janeiro? The Marvellous City is undoubtedly a wonderful place, but it’s always good to get away and experience something different, especially when Rio is surrounded by idyllic spots that make for an ideal retreat. Head west of the city and follow the coastline south to reach the charming town Paraty.

Paraty is as serene as Rio is exhilarating with its cobbled streets and white wash houses contrasting against the vibrant coloured door and window frames. It used to be a major port for gold during the Portuguese colonial heydays with well-preserved architecture there dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The historical centre is closed off to motor vehicles making it a wonderful place to aimlessly amble around.

The summer months are the best time to go as the hot, sunny days create ideal conditions to explore the surrounding islands, many of which are inhabited and have paradisiacal beaches and marine life. During this time of the year, the town becomes a lively hub of Brazilians and foreign travellers. The deep cultural mix there is further enriched with the local artists, chefs, and writers who have set up base there in their search for creative inspiration.

Tip #1: Winter is much cooler in Paraty and although boat trips are still running, this time of year is best to make the most of the other activities in Paraty, such as cachaca tasting and forest trekking. Go in August for the annual Festival de Pinga, a festival that celebrates all things cachaca over a long weekend.

Don’t miss out on these activities in Paraty:

  • Historical Centre

The historical centre, with its uneven cobbled streets and colonial buildings, is like a snapshot from the past. One of the joys of Paraty is strolling through the pedestrianised streets and simply taking in the calm and peaceful ambiance. As a historical UNESCO Heritage Site, the streets are peppered with Baroque churches such as the Chapel of Santa Rita and the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, historical monuments, and charming buildings. The town demands a slow, relaxed pace and the greatest finds here are often made when you’re idly wandering along before dipping into intriguing looking bars and restaurants. For recommendations, the Refugio Restaurante sets an intimate environment within its bedecked interior and serves wonderfully fresh seafood. 

  • Boat Trips

Just off Paraty’s Green Coast is a collection of more than 65 islands with golden beaches, tropical vegetation, and a thriving ecosystem of marine life. The best and most fun way of checking the islands out is on a boat trip that will visit several islands, stopping off at each one to enjoy the beach and snorkel in the wildlife-rich waters. In between island hopping, you can lay out on the deck of the boat, sip on a caipirinha, order fresh seafood made in the boat’s kitchens, and mingle with other holiday-makers. The half-day (5 hours) Schooner Cruise takes you to the main islands and beaches with exotic names such as ilha Comprida, Lula’s Beach, Praia Vermelha, and Blue Lagoon, which are renowned for their crystal clear waters and fine, soft sand.

Paraty Rio de Janeiro
  • Scuba Diving

The crystal clear waters surrounding Paraty are ideal for scuba diving, giving divers a chance to swim with tropical fish, coral reefs, and the occasional lucky sighting of a sea turtle gliding by. Never scuba dived before? Then try a beginner’s class. The class takes place in the calm, clean waters near Paraty’s shores and is guided by PDIC (Professional Diving Instructor Corporation) instructors. They teach the theory behind diving and provide all the equipment during the practical where you’ll dive between 10 and 20 feet. For those already certified, try the 45-minute tour that comes with all the equipment to dive up to 40 feet among the tropical coral reefs.

  • Cachaça Tasting

Cachaça to Brazil is what tequila is to Mexico and vodka is to Russia. When in Brazil, it’s a must-try and it’s hard to imagine a better place to sample a few quality cachaças than in Paraty, home to a handful of quality distilleries. One of the most famous is Engenho D’Ouro which is open to visitors who can see how cachaça is made and try a few samples at the end. A guided tour is a great way to experience this national liquor and this multi-lingual tour combines cachaça tasting with a jungle jeep tour.

  • Forest Trekking

One of Paraty’s key appeals lies in its incredible diversity. Those who are debating between beach days or a forest exploration kind of trip will find that Paraty checks all the boxes. Paraty sits on the edge of the Atlantic Forest, a large stretch of jungle teeming with wildlife, waterfalls, and intriguing forest trails. The two most popular waterfalls in the region are the Toboga Falls where the water runs over a large, flat rock that lets you slide over it (bonus points for those able to keep on their feet!) and the Tarzan Falls with its peaceful pool ideal for swimming. You can hire mountain bikes and do the trails independently. For an alternative experience, you can explore the forest through a horseback tour or follow the forest trail to the secluded Sono Beach through the forest-beach tour.

Places to Stay

In budget terms, the Historical Centre is the most expensive place to stay. Budget-conscious travellers could stay at the Pontal or Rodoviaria regions, which are less pricey and only a few minutes walking distance from the town centre.

  • Budget Options

Geko Hostel and Chill Inn are both located in Pontal and offer free breakfast, wifi, friendly staff, and a clean place to stay. The two hostels are popular among the backpacker crowd so are great places to go to meet and mingle with fellow travellers.

I stayed at the Refron du Mar Pousada in the Historical Centre. It is one of the few budget options in this area and I loved it. The breakfast was simple yet ideal, with fruits, bread, ham, cheese, granola, and fresh fruit juice and coffee. The owner was friendly and provided invaluable tips that helped me get the most out of my stay in Paraty.

  • Luxury

For a few nights of luxury on a no-expense-spared trip, then go to Casa Turquesa Maison d’hôtes. Located in the Historical Centre, the hotel combines white walls with bright hues to create a contemporary ambiance. The no-shoes policy adds a homely, intimate feel and guests are given flip-flops on arrival to use around the hotel and to keep as a souvenir after. Each room has its own colour theme and is bedecked in outstanding artwork and unique furniture. It’s a wonderful hotel that makes for an unforgettable stay. However, it requires a deep pocket – a night’s stay is around R$1,700 (just over US$500).

Paraty Rio de Janeiro

Image credits: Thanks to Florian Hofer/WikiCommons; Tserres34/WikiCommons; Adria Michael/WikiCommons

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Paraty Rio de Janeiro



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