I stayed in Paraty for a few days. If I am being honest, it did not inspire my imagination all that much. It’s beautiful, sure, but it is not a place that I felt drawn into or that I am keen to see again. That being said, it’s a nice stop for a couple of nights and a great scene to relax in if you have the time.
Paved with cobbles (treacherous to the clumsy members of humankind), Paraty is filled with souvenir shops and cafes, and surrounded by small islands and beaches. You may not find the cultural heart of Brazil in Paraty, but you can definitely find some of it’s beauty.
The rain poured when I was there – the skies thunderous and grey – and the beaches reduced to sodden masses of compacted sand. The quaint streets became flooded and difficult to walk through; my clothes were constantly damp. Back home in the UK, I come from a small seaside town dependent on tourism back home in the UK so I do understand what an impact the weather can have on these kinds of places – without the sun and beaches, there’s not exactly much to do and a place that can be so entertaining becomes mundane.
Originally, I began my time in Paraty by staying at a pleasant, clean and private hostel towards the outskirts of the town called Bossanova. The owner was incredibly helpful and welcoming, and overall the hostel had a homely and personal feel. You could even curl up before a big screen and enjoy a movie or TV show downstairs if you wanted to. However, I ended up moving hostels because the wifi wouldn’t work on my tablet and because the most convenient place to stay in Paraty is definitely by the beach. Having to take a cab or walk back 20 minutes from the main drag is not particularly convenient.
As a result I ended up staying at the sociable and friendly hostel, Paraty Beach Hostel. I wouldn’t recommend it if you were looking for somewhere peaceful to stay, but it is a great place for meeting people. And can bring your own alcohol onto the premises. Whilst the rain poured we made caiprihanas, cooked food, played drinking games, and attempted Fifa. The WiFi was quick and staff friendly. The beds were also covered with mosquito nets which was a lifesaver for me and my sanity.
Aside from socialising, drinking and souvenir shopping in Paraty, the other thing to do is to check out the surrounding islands. There are two ways to do this: you can either take a boat trip or you can get active and get yourself in a sea kayak.
The boat trip is great if you like lounging on a boat and relaxing. I took a trip as part of my Bamba Experience pass. Overall, the experience was pleasant but not exactly awe-inspiring. It didn’t help that the weather was cloudy and grey (it rained as we pulled into the dock late in the afternoon.) Basically, the experience is this: you lie down and relax whilst listening to bizarre Brazilian covers of Western pop songs, and you get driven to different islands. You jump off the boat and swim to the shore of a small beach (or you can take a boat) and stay there for a few minutes, get back in and drive passed more islands. You stop for lunch beside a small island (you can buy this on the boat for around 30 pesos, though I brought my own as I was on a budget), and the staff chuck fruit into the water and onto the small island to attract the local fish and monkeys. Everyone says “ahhh” at the monkeys and “oooo” at the fish, drinks beer, and for some bizarre reason the music changes to great love ballads, including Mariah Carey (I put my headphones in at this point.) The boat moves on and you sunbathe (weather permitting) until you reach a bay where you can see a turtle and snorkel (due to the rain, the water was incredibly cloudy when I snorkelled and we couldn’t see a thing.) Then you get back onto the boat, eat some fresh fruit for free, and return to the dock.
It’s a pleasant experience, but not exactly exciting. I imagine that it generates more excitement when it’s sunny and in peak season. Don’t expect to find out about what wildlife inhabits these islands or anything like that – the experience is purely one of relaxation and passive observation.
As I said, the second way to see the islands is to rent a sea kayak. You can take a tour that lasts a good few hours with a guide for around 50 pesos or you can hire a kayak and do a DIY job for approximately 30 pesos. Fortunately for me I ran into a group of British girls and I was able to join them in a DIY escapade. The wind was strong and cold, and the sea was far from being warm and blue, but it was a great experience all the same. You can also run your kayak aground on some of the islands and explore a little. The sea wasn’t overly rough or choppy, so paddling wasn’t strenuous and I wouldn’t say that you need to be especially experienced or fit to explore the islands in this way.
I much prefer seeing the islands via kayaking than taking the boat trip: I love how connected you feel to your surroundings when you’re not in a mechanical vehicle, and also enjoy the physical exertion.
I departed from Paraty on a cloudy day, and I can’t say that I was particularly sad to leave. For me, there was only so much to do there and I had an enjoyable and sociable time despite the weather. Perhaps there is more to the place and I simply missed it, and I will admit that the town would be much better seen in the peak season with blue skies reflected in calm seas.
All in all, a beautiful Brazilian beach town perfect for drinking cachasa in.