Following our two and half days in Ouro Preto, we made the 545KM (339 miles) trip to Paraty, breaking up the drive with an overnight in Tres Rios. We chose to stay in the neighboring beach town of Jabaquara, which is a sleepy little place just over the hill from the historical old town of Paraty.
Why did we chose this location?
First, because vehicle traffic is prohibited in the old town, and we didn’t want to leave the bike in an exposed parking lot on the outskirts of town. Second, the hotel costs were much higher in the old town. We stayed in a lovey pousada (Portuguese for B&B) in Jabaquara, Casa Tulipa, which I had mixed feelings about. My biggest complaint was they charged extra for breakfast, which is unheard of in Brazil, and their wifi was utter crap. Separate from this, I would recommend Casa Tulipa, as our private room was clean and had excellent AC.
Did we regret our choice to stay in Jabaquara, rather than the historic town?
Not at all. It was only a 20-minute walk from Jabaquara into the old town, which was mostly easy, expect for a massive hill that felt worse than it was because of the humidity. The old town was also stiflingly hot and its restaurants were expensive, so choosing to stay on Jabaquara beach was the right choice for us. Be aware that Jabaquara itself only has a handful of restaurants all serving the same expensive fare, unless you want to eat pizza every night (which is cheap) or you’re willing to trade the charm of eating on the beach for one of the side street cafes serving mediocre Brazilian food. Paraty does have some excellently rated restaurants, none of which we tried, and taxis are easy to find if you do stay in Jabaquara but want to visit Paraty at night.
Paraty itself is beyond charming, with ankle-twisting, cobblestone streets and perfectly preserved colonial architecture. While it has a completely different look than Ouro Preto, it is equal in beauty. Every brightly painted door and window is a photo-op. There are a few historical churches to pop into, but the real “attraction” here is the city itself, so leave time to just wander around. While one day is more than enough to tour this historical town, beware that the heat and humidity may slow you down. Luckily, there are many cafes, bars and shops to pop into for a cool drink or a bit of air conditioning. I would recommend coming either in the early morning or the late afternoon/early evening to avoid the worst of the heat, but note that more shops and restaurants tend to be open later in the day.
On our second day, we booked one of the ubiquitous boat rides touted by the many tour companies around town. We were surprised by the low cost (R$65,00 per person) for a full day excursion, which stopped at two secluded beaches and two islands; prices for these types of activities in Brazil are usually astronomical during the vacation season. Much to our delight, the price was also great value for what we got, which were visits to truly spectacular beaches with white powdery sand and warm water. Our boat wasn’t packed with people, which meant we had room to move around, and they served a delicious fish lunch (at an extra cost) and fresh pineapple and watermelon (for free.) They also provided noodles to float around on; even as a good swimmer, I enjoyed this option. This excursion turned out to be one of our favorite parts of the entire trip!
If you read my overview about our trip by motorcycle, you will know that I wish we had spent more time in this area, rather than continuing on to “Uba-Chuva.” Many foreigners visit Paraty as a (long) day-trip from Rio. I would say that’s a mistake. Take the bus up from Rio and stay overnight in this area, because even though you can see the town in one day, the surrounding beaches are worth some time on their own.