I already confessed that my time in Paraty was a washout. But while five days of rain followed by three hours of sun was frustrating, it did leave us plenty of quality time to eat ourselves silly, lounge about in our accommodation, and look for a few creative activities that didn’t require a dose of Vitamin D.
Heading to this beautiful Brazilian beach town? Regardless of what the weather report predicts, I hope you’ll find my mini-guide useful!
Where to Stay
As a popular stop on both the Brazilian backpacker trail and as a getaway for Rio and São Paulo’s well-heeled crowd, Paraty has ample accommodation on all ends of the spectrum. We were able to experience digs on both ends!
Pousada Do Sandi
We were in for a treat arriving at Pousada do Sandi. Ranked as one of the top three hotels in Paraty on Tripadvisor, this colonial gem was just the welcome we needed after a hectic festival followed by running around Brazil’s biggest city.
Located right in the heart of Paraty’s colonial center, Pousada do Sandi fits seamlessly into the cobblestone streets that lead up to it. As one of the area’s larger pousadas, Pousada do Sandi boasts large gardens as well as a spacious bar and restaurant.
As dreary as it was outside, it was equally bright and cheery inside these walls.
Photo by Heather Holt
Rooms are spread on two floors around the garden courtyard. As this is a historic building there are no elevators, so those with an overpacking addiction or mobility issues should request a ground floor room; those who want a bit more privacy and to keep their bedroom windows open should request the second floor.
My favorite detail of the rooms? The brightly colored mosaic bathroom.
A beautiful breakfast was included every morning, and one night when a torrential downpour made us dread leaving the hotel, we splurged on room service. Who wouldn’t want to spend as much time as possible in this color explosion?
Che Legarto Paraty
Later, once we were pampered silly, we headed over to Che Legarto Paraty to get a dose of backpacker camaraderie. Che Legarto is a popular South American hostel chain that I’d heard much about despite never staying at before, and I was excited to check one out. With several hostel options around town they do have some stiff competition, though after scouring reviews Che Legarto seemed the liveliest of the bunch.
Located just on the outskirts of the historic center, Che Legarto Paraty has a nice array of public spaces, from a small pool to garden hammock lounges to indoor movie rooms. They even have resident marmosets that pop in from time to time!
Our private room was basic but proficient, and a continental breakfast was included. Dinner specials are offered as well as hostel-run tours.
Photo by Heather Holt
Before arriving in Brazil, I’d been warned by a few friends and fellow bloggers that Brazilian hostels were unlike those in the rest of the continent, and could be a tricky place to meet people if you don’t speak Portuguese. Having experienced hostel culture in other South American countries, I found this hard to accept prior to arrival.
Alas, I have to agree. Brazil is a massive country that can be tricky for foreigners to visit due to cost and visa restrictions, and so hostels are often filled by Brazilians, who love to travel within their own country. While this is wonderful news for those who speak the language and are keen to meet locals (who wouldn’t be?!), it left these language-challenged gringas feeling a bit left out. Speaking Spanish does help, as many non-domestic travelers hail from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries.
What To Do
Paraty’s most popular activities take advantage of its natural beauty. Schooner cruises, stand up paddling, beach hopping, whitewater rafting, hiking and ocean kayaking were all items on our to-do list that were quickly scratched off due to weather woes.
So we had to get creative!
Well, when a travel blogger and a professional photographer travel together you better believe there are going to be plenty of photo walks involved. Paraty is beautifully preserved and bursting with color. Anyone who is photographically inclined should set aside at least a few hours to go out and capture the details of this beautiful city. I found myself wishing I had a sketchbook, too!
Photo by Heather Holt
Go to The Spa
As two certified spa junkies, Heather and I flipped when we found Shambala Spa. We decided to splurge on a full day of indulgence at this beautiful retreat overlooking Jabaquara Bay.
We started our day with a private hatha yoga session in a gazebo in the Balinese garden. It was a peaceful practice, and put us perfectly in a relaxation mood.
Next, we made our way to the spa where we learned the unfortunate news that the previous night’s rain had caused a power and water cut through the entire village. Thus, we’d have to skip the body scrubs and special garden soaks we’d booked — if you see the photos of the gorgeous outdoor soaking tubs on their website you’ll understand how gutted we were. I know, I know — woe is us, right?!
Luckily, the massage we were about to enjoy would ease away all those troubles.
Finally, we capped off our day with lunch at the Shambala Lounge, a ten minute drive outside town. Unfortunately, the lounge closed not long after our visit — a shame as it was one of the best meals we had our entire trip! But stay tuned as I can only imagine the owners have something new up their sleeves.
While I can’t recommend the Shambala Spa or yoga more highly, I wish we’d also had time to check out Casa do Dharma, which offers regular yoga classes, meditations, massages, origami workshops and more.
One one cloudy day with respite from the rain, Heather and I head out to the countryside for some horseback riding. While I made a total rookie travel mistake and booked a different tour from the one Heather and I had discussed (we thought we were headed to a waterfall and a cachaça farm from the saddle — nope!) it was still nonetheless nice to get out and see some of the scenery outside the city.
Take a Cooking Class
I saved the best for last — one of our absolute favorite memories of Paraty was our evening at the Academy of Cooking and Other Pleasures. And yes, the night was every bit as fabulous as that name hinted at. Part cooking class, part dinner party with the most fabulous eccentric aunt and uncle you always wished you had, it was exactly the kind of quirky travel experience you find yourself swooning over years later.
Along with two other guests, Brazilian-American couple Yara and Richard welcomed us warmly into their beautiful home with caipirinhas and conversation. We lapped up their story of falling in love with Paraty and making a home there in the historic center, enjoying all the highs and lows of life in what is in many ways still a small village. I was also keenly interested in this business they had created, which Richard described as a natural choice for them as opposed to retirement. “What would we do, sit around and watch TV in the evenings? Instead we host travelers from around the world,” he said with pride.
Between Yara’s impressive background in cooking and Richard’s penchant for art and photography, their home would have been equally appropriate in an issue of Architectural Digest or Bon Appétit. They were without question a hospitality powerhouse.
Eventually, we made our way into the kitchen, where Yara demonstrated how to make some of the Brazilian dishes that she perfected in her decades as a culinary professor, cookbook author, and TV host. We were each given small tasks which we embraced with gusto, excited to contribute to our home-cooked meal.
Yara was accommodating of both my non-fish eating and Heather’s vegetarianism, which we were extra appreciate of considering the intimate setting. When we all sat down to eat we felt like old friends, and when we finally said goodbye around mid-night I knew it was an evening I wouldn’t forget soon. While Heather and I walked home we agreed we couldn’t imagine a more beautiful “retirement.”
Don’t come to Paraty without setting aside a night to meet Richard and Yara.
Where To Eat
Paraty had one of the most impressive restaurant scenes I found in Brazil outside São Paulo. While we mostly treated ourselves to the higher-end offerings, cheaper buffets and local joints were also smattered around town.
Banana Da Terra
Our big dining splurge of our five days was dinner at Banana Da Terra, which lived up to its impeccable reputation. We laughed until we cried at our Google Translate app’s translation of the wine list, and then practically cheered as each course we’d ordered was artfully presented. After a beautiful meal, we waddled home. If you can afford it, don’t miss it!
Heather and I make it a mission to enjoy the best pizza every city has to offer (everyone has their passions) and we found Paraty’s at Punto Divino. Don’t miss the outdoor seating if you’re lucky enough to have nice weather!
Long time readers know I can’t pass up Thai food no matter how recently I spent six months in Thailand! Heather and I were both so pumped to try Thai Brasil we ran their on our first night, and my only regret is we didn’t make it back the rest of the trip. The bright decor, fun presentation and mouth-watering menu made this my favorite pick of Paraty.
Don’t confuse it with similarly-named Thai Paraty, which we also tried one evening and were less than impressed with.
Have you been to Paraty? Tell me what I missed in the comments!
I have a headache so all I did this morning was scroll through the photos and think wow
Well thanks for reading even when you’re not feeling so hot 🙂 Get well soon!
I am bookmarking this for the one day I visit Paraty! I love that yoga shot, and your accommodations look so nice. I’ve actually never done a cooking class before, a good activity for a rainy day! You always make places seem to much brighter and happier, and your photos are magic. Thank you for bringing cheer to my day!
Aw, what a lovely comment! Thank you Cate!
What’s up with those incredibly cute monkeys that pop up in your photos? Are they all over Brazil or only around Paraty? They have such cute faces and fluffy ears 🙂
Great guide to Paraty! I would definitely feel prepared to visit this town!
We only found them in Paraty 🙂 However, I saw signs that they are also on Ilha Grande — we just weren’t lucky enough to spot them!
All of the bright yellows in these pictures make me so happy!
Just what we needed on a drizzly few days 🙂 Couldn’t have picked a cheerier place to get stuck in the rain!
I’m so in love with these pictures! It’s crazy how colorful it is there! I’m really loving all your info about Brazil – I’m really really hoping to make it there next year!!
That would be amazing! Fingers crossed it works out — and that I’m done posting about this trip by then (ha!)
Bright colors, monkeys, nature and yoga? This is basically a peek inside my dreams!
Man, I like those things too… we should travel together a bit more often, eh?! 😛
Paratay looks so beautiful! One of my sailing friends recently moved there to help run their family resort, and I dream of the day we can get down there to see her again and explore that town!
Wow! Dream job! Sailing down the coast of Brazil to get there doesn’t sound half bad either 😉
Awesome looking spot! I would enjoy visiting Paraty – and Brazil – some day. Hopefully soon. As for the hostel thing I definitely see this country as one of those huge places where it helps mucho to speak the native tongue. Or, to be fluent in Portuguese, or Spanish.
We lived in a Costa Rican jungle by Bribri for 6 weeks, about a year ago. Jungle folk sure didn’t speak English and even folks in town – aka Bribri – spoke little or no English, so my wife and I were thankful to be fluent so we could connect with locals and enjoy the place.
Yeah, I’ve been pretty spoiled in my Latin American travels as while I wouldn’t classify myself as fluent, I feel very comfortable butchering the Spanish language and actually quite enjoy it! Portuguese on the other hand is another beast entirely and I struggled greatly with being unable to communicate there.
I love reading about little towns like this that I’ve never even heard of. And I want to live in that colorful hotel – so bright and cheery!
Right?! We felt so spoiled hanging out there! Perfect festival recovery spot!
Hi Alex, thanks again for the great info on Sao Paulo! Question/favor to ask you – we are thinking of heading to Paraty next week and I was wondering (not to rub salt in the rain-wound) if you have a list of the place you guys were planning to do the outdoor activities with (or the vendors you were going to us)? No worries if not but thought I’d ask, thanks!
Actually I think we have decided to do Ubatuba instead of Paraty! I wanted to let you know before you spent anytime responding to this comment. Thanks still and hope your travels are going great!
Oops! The other one came up first in my reply queue 🙂 No worries, enjoy your trip!
Ha, no worries! We were planning on doing one of the bike trips, some hiking out to the far-reaching beaches, and scuba diving! I don’t know if we’d made it far enough to pick out vendors… pre-planning was tricky in Brazil!
Alex- Thanks so much for all the information. My husband and 2 kids are going to Rio (for a wedding and site seeing) and then on to Paratay at the end of June. I wrote down everything you mentioned. We are also doing a 2 night/3 day kayaking trip out of Paratay. Your recommendations have been a life-saver. Any other recommendations for Rio or Paratay? We love the outdoors. I will write again after we go to some of the places you loved and return from Brazil
Jen I’m so sorry I missed this! Brazil has been on my mind. I loved Rio and Paraty so much — did you all as well? Hope it was a dream trip!
I loved Paraty. I fell in love with it! The architecture, the beautiful beaches in the area. Just wow. And – the rain. 😀 My experience was similar. It was raining heavily half of the time I was there. The whole city was flooded. Omg!
It did make for some epic reflection shots 😉 It’s a beautiful city in any weather!