One thing we’ve noticed about extended periods of travelling around a region is that you tend to get into a run of doing or seeing similar things – night markets in South East Asia, jungle hiking in Central America, street art in South American cities – whereas holiday travels are more likely to alternate between city breaks, countryside escapes or drop-and-flop beach holidays.
Our original plan was to stay in Salvador city, but with a run of city breaks in Santiago, Buenos Aires and Montevideo under our belt, and with Rio as our next stop, we decided to skip the city in favour of some A-grade drop-and-flop time on some Brazilian beaches.
We first headed about an hour north of Salvador to Praia do Forte, and turned into complete sun lounger sloths for five days at Praia das Ondas boutique resort. The small resort was set around a palm-filled garden with two pools, and a lawn running down to the beach. There weren’t many guests when we checked in at the weekend, but when Monday morning came around we realised that almost everybody else had been on a weekend break from Salvador which left us with only the marmosets and the hummingbirds for company when they all simultaneously checked out! One or two other couples later checked in, but it still felt like we had the place to ourselves a lot of the time. We settled into a routine of hammocking, swimming, sunbathing, playing table tennis, reading and playing cards, reserving the big decisions of the day for what time coconut o’clock would be and what to have for dinner.
Five days were over far too quickly and we were jolted out of our sunbathing slumber to get ourselves over to Morro de Sao Paulo, a two hour boat ride south from Salvador.
Morro de Sao Paulo is a beautiful island with just the right balance of laziness and activity. At the lazy end of the scale, choosing one of the four beaches along the eastern shore is enough of a decision. Beach 1 is more family friendly. Beach 2 has the sun loungers, beach cafes, paddle boarding, music, snack sellers and beach football. Things thin out along Beach 3 until you round the corner onto Beach 4 where there’s one final beach cafe, then a stretching expanse of sand all along the southern side of the island. At the more active end of the scale, Morro de Sao Paulo has good options: surfing, snorkelling and diving trips, and surely the coolest way to arrive at the beach ever: zip-lining into the sea from the cliffs!
Whilst the beach destinations closer to Rio, like Buzios and Isla Grandhe, have a mix of international and Brazilian tourists, Morro de Sao Paulo – a two hour flight north of Rio – gets many more Salvadorian visitors.
There turned out to be quite a few differences between British beaching and Brazilian beaching. What Rebecca thought were perfectly normal bikini bottoms turned out to be tent-sized granny pants compared to Brazilian bikinis! Instead of a 99 Flake, snack sellers were offering grilled cheese on sticks and empanadas. A kickabout on the beach is also elevated to amazing fancy footwork skill displays – even volleyball nets were commandeered for impressively competitive foot-volleyball matches.
Each night of the week the island hosts a party in a different location; weekends nights are up in the hills near the fort, Fridays are at the Bat Cave club near the lighthouse, Wednesday’s party is at the top of the 100+ steps at Teatro club, Mondays and Thursdays are on the beach.
After dinner and a pre-party preparatory nap, we headed out on at half past midnight to our first luau – a Brazilian beach party. The dj played a mix of Bahian Axé, reggaeton and some obligatory Rhianna and Bieber remixes to a crowd whose dancing skills almost outdid their football skills. Just as with the salsa clubs in Cuba and the tango milonagas in Buenos Aires, we were reminded just how low dancing is down our list of skills!
But we didn’t dwell on that for long because it was here at the luau that we discovered caiprifrutas, aka An Incredible Invention Britain Needs To Import ASAP! The crowd of people dancing was surrounded by rows of caiprifruta carts, which on first glance looked like a market fruit stall. In fact, the idea is to choose any combination of fruit and then a spirit. These are then mixed up into a delicious, fruity cocktail. We always chose cachaca, and can recommend it with kiwi and plum, or passionfruit and lime, or kiwi and lime.
Both Praia do Forte and Morro de Sao Paulo were the perfect beach destinations for some rest and relaxation before Rio and the Olympics.