Our Rates & Channel Integrations Manager Ben has just returned from an unforgettable 3-week honeymoon traveling around Brazil. In the first of two installments, he shares his experiences of Bahia, in northern Brazil.
Having decided on Brazil for our honeymoon, Neil and I knew that we didn’t want your traditional post-wedding trip. Yes, we wanted to stay in beautiful boutique hotels and enjoy beautiful locations – but what we really wanted was to have an adventure and experience as much as possible during our 3-week break.
Along the way, we discovered that Brazil ticked all our boxes – it has the friendliest people, fantastic food, stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, with wonderful music as a backing track to it all. It really does offer something for all types of traveller, from luxury 5-star resorts to rustic yet charming beach bungalows.
We spent the first half of our trip in Bahia State, to the north. With direct flights from Madrid and Lisbon (and good connections from London), Salvador is the gateway to this Afro-Brazilian region, famed for its beaches, cuisine and unique culture – this is the home of samba music and Capoeira, after all.
It’s great as a standalone destination but, if you have more time, do as we did and combine it with a visit to Rio de Janeiro State, a 2-hour flight away (more on that later). We’d recommend at least 7-10 nights to explore Bahia (Salvador, Sao Morro de Paulo and Ilha de Boipeba), or 2-3 weeks to explore Bahia and Rio State together. We travelled by bus, plane, boat and a great deal by foot, becoming experts in Google maps and helped by sign language, a handful of Portuguese words and a smattering of Spanish. Just don’t underestimate your distances – Brazil is almost the size of the USA, after all.
Salvador: Pelourinho district
Our first stop was Salvador, where we stayed in the heart of Pelourinho, the city’s historical old town. Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site, Pelourinho is lively, clean, friendly, noisy, hot and, above all else, utterly beautiful. Colourful houses, bars and shops line the cobbled streets, leading to open squares with great restaurants, impressive colonial churches and dramatic cathedrals. Luckily for us, we were staying at Casa do Amarelindo, the neighbourhood’s only hotel with a rooftop pool – greatly appreciated after a day out in the humidity.
Next, we travelled south of Salvador to Tinhare Island for some R&R. We stayed at Anima Hotel, a relaxed, small-scale beach resort where the staff treat you like family and you’re free to do as little as possible. In truth we spent most of our days lazing by the pool, snoozing in a hammock and enjoying the hotel’s tasty traditional food.
But getting here felt like a real adventure. We took the 2-hour ferry from Salvador to the island’s main harbour, then negotiated a wheelbarrow taxi to take our bags to Anima’s pick-up spot on the other side of town. From there, we bundled ourselves into a 4×4 travelling out of town through pretty countryside. Much to our relief, we received an extremely warm welcome, and were finally able to settle into our very comfortable air-conditioned bungalow.
At high tide, the sea directly adjacent to the hotel is ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Most of the time it was just us on this idyllic stretch of white sand – only a very small handful of hotels and beach-shack restaurants sit along this coastline, so it felt really private. The water is quite shallow so it’s great for families, too.
At low tide, we often walked into Morro de Sao Paulo town. It’s a very pretty 2-hour stroll along the sand, passing the odd mangrove and occasional horse-drawn cart. You can stop whenever you want to leap into the crystal-clear water, or simply sit under a tree and watch monkeys getting up to mischief. Once in town, you’ll find great restaurants, lively bars and plenty of boutique shops. If you don’t feel like walking, the hotel offers regular shuttles.
Neil and I had been looking forward to visiting Santa Clara for some time. This lovely guesthouse is tucked away in lush tropical gardens on Ilha de Boipeba, just a minute from some of the most exceptional tropical beaches we have ever had the pleasure of walking along. It was right up our street: homely, colourful, friendly and unfussy, with everything we needed, including a fabulous restaurant. But what makes this place so special are the staff, particularly owners Charles and Mark. You feel like you are visiting very cool family friends, without feeling like you have to be on your best behaviour. During the day, you can hide away on your terrace or on the beach, and then in the evening everyone comes out of the woodwork to catch up over Mark’s fantastic home-cooked food. This place is rustic (a/c is limited), but in my opinion it offers everything that you really need!
Look out for my upcoming blog post about our adventures as we travelled south to Rio, Paraty and Ilha Grande…