Paraty: The perfect weekend break from Rio de Janeiro

Local and in-the know guest blogger John Clites from www.JohnInBrazil.org suggests a trip from Rio de Janeiro to the pretty town of Paraty. With waterfalls, boat trips and fishing villages, it’s perfect for a weekend break or some well earned time-out after the delights of Carnival…

Rio IS pretty great, I’ve lived here for 2 ½ years and can’t seem to leave but there are many lovely places to visit nearby. One of these is the small town (35,000 inhabitants) of Paraty, also spelled Parati, and pronounced “pahr uh CHEE”.

When I first visited Paraty about three and a half years ago, I was working my way back up to Rio from the South. My guidebook described Paraty as a “lovely colonial town” or something equally insipid, and I figured to stay a day, two max. I stayed for five.

What draw so many folks to Paraty are the numerous outdoor activities including boat trips and visits to alambique distilleries. Besides that, the place is very pretty with friendly locals, no crime and a well-preserved historic centre. Don’t expect wild nightlife – although there are a few popular and low-key establishments to tie you over for a couple of days. Instead, make Paraty your city escape and visit the beaches, islands, and waterfalls.

Paraty is pricey so I have a list of the best value tours and cheap places to eat, just for you…

Things to do in Paraty

The most popular tours are the jeep (pronounced “ZHEE pee” here) tours and the schooner (often rendered as “scuna”) tours, which may make slightly different stops but are essentially the same.

Jeep Tour: Visits waterfalls and ends with a stop at an “alambique”, which is distillery of cachaça, the local alcohol made from sugar cane, and the essential, deadly ingredient in caipirinhas. See how a caipirinha is made on my blog www.JohnInBrazil.org The exact points visited can vary. I recommend selecting a tour that visits “Tobogão” rock. “Tobogão” is the local rendering of “Toboggan” and is a huge, slippery-smooth boulder down which local teens surf on their feet and tourists scoot on their bums. It’s a blast. Watch a video. Most tours also go through the picturesque fishing village of Trindad which I highly recommend. There’s a stop for lunch although this is not included in the cost.

Cost: €22-€27 per person.
Duration: Typically 10am-5pm

Schooner Tour: A boat trip which typically includes stops at two beaches and two islands. Yes it’s touristy, but hanging out drinking on a boat in your swimwear is a pretty good way to meet folks and chill out.

One note about the schooner tours: While the base price is a good deal, watch out for the add-ons. Lunch, for example is extra, and will range from €11 to €15. Beers are a bit more than you’ll pay on land. A 10% gratuity may be added automatically to your refreshment bill. And if there is live music on board, a €2 cover charge may be added to your bill.

So if you are on a budget but want to do the schooner tour opt for a smaller boat, without the live music, eat a big breakfast and take some food and water in your daypack. Fruit is often handed out towards the end of the trip for free. Ask if there are any add-ons before buying your ticket, check prices before buying any refreshments on board.

Cost: €13pp
Duration: Typically 10am-3pm

If your budget can stretch, try to do both the jeep and schooner tours. Remember, €13-€25 is pretty good for an activity which will keep you occupied all day!

Other Activities

Kayaking
€27-€35pp (minimum 2 people), 4 hours.

Diving
€70–€85 for two dives.

Tour of Trindade
€22pp – You’ll love the natural pool next to the ocean.

Horseback Riding
€40pp for 3 hours, €85 for 5 hours.

Tour Operators
If you are visiting in high season (January-March) it is essential to book in advance. Most of tour companies offer the same packages, and prices don’t vary much (since all sales outlets route tourists to the same tour providers), so there’s little point in shopping around. You may be able to bargain a bit in low season, and certainly if you have a group. For convenience, check out the tours and activities offered by your hostel first.

Most of the other tour companies are located along the main commercial street, Av. Roberto Silveira.

Pérula Tours: If you want to try and book something on arrival, Pérula Tours is conveniently located across from the bus stop.
Paraty Tours: The largest in tour operator in Paraty and easy to spot on the main drag. They have a number of bikes for rent if your hostel does not provide them.
Paraty Adventure Tours: This tour company is operated by Alessandra Caetano with 15 years in the business. Alessandra speaks English and I found her to be extremely professional and helpful.

Paraty Museum

I also suggest visiting the town’s museum of history, located in the Casa de Cultura at 177 Rua Dona Geralda in the town centre. Paraty played an important part in Brazil’s history: Gold from the interior travelled overland to Paraty to be shipped back to Portugal.
Admission: €3.50
Opening times: Wed-Monday 10am-6:30pm

Cheap Eats

When you get hungry and start shopping around for a place to eat, you might be in for a shock – It can be quite expensive to eat in Paraty, particularly in the historic city centre. A hamburger and a one-litre bottle of beer cost me €14!

  • Visit a grocery store. Carlão is only one block from the bus terminal as you are walking in to town.
  • Eat like locals. Eat pastels, which are often less than €1, or at “lanch” spots. You can get a filling and carb-loaded, lunch of rice, beans, macaroni, and chicken, beef, or pork for around €5.
  • For a healthier alternative, visit a por kilo, which is a buffet at which they weigh your plate and you pay per 100 grams. I found a great little por kilo called Restaurant Amarelinho, that charges a fixed €6– and even allows return trips! Find it at the corner of Av. Roberto Silveira and Joao Luis Rosario.

Nightlife

A great way to save is to pick up your own alcohol and enjoy a drink back at your hostel with other guests, especially if they have a pool or terrace area. The cheapest beer I found was at the kiosks across from the bus station. Most brands are €1 a can; Itaipava is generally cheaper. Downtown you’ll pay easily twice as much.

Paraty 33: This is a popular tavern ideally located in the historic centre. They feature live bossa nova, a happy hour every night and DJs play into the early hours on weekends. On warm nights, hit the outdoor patio area or try the BBQ.
Rua da Lapa 357

Santa Trindade: Live music every night of the week from jazz, blues, rock to samba. There is also an onsite restaurant that offers a fixed price menu as well as snacks costing between €11-€25.
Rua Dr Samuel Costa 267

Getting There

Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Catch a Costa Verde bus from the Novo Rio bus terminal. Costa Verde bus lines has several buses to Paraty each day. Click for the bus schedule.

Cost: Single ticket €25
Average journey time: 4 hours

I suggest leaving Rio in the morning so you have a good half-day to settle in, book tours and explore.
Note* Most buses have a bathroom and make one short stop en route.

Accommodation

Upon arriving, you’ll want to check into your lodgings and dump your bags, book your activities if you didn’t do so in advance, and then wander the city centre.

Paraty is not cheap, but there are plenty of Paraty hostels and inexpensive Pensãos (small family-run hotels) so you should have no problem finding an inexpensive bed for a few nights.

About the author: John Clites teaches English in Rio and posts regularly to his own blog, www.JohnInBrazil.org. He has also written and photographed guided walking tours of Rio which can be downloaded to your phone or PDA; these are available at VisualTravelTours.com. You can send him a friend request on Facebook.

Thanks to guilhermetardin, bisonlux for their Flickr images and also John Clites for his own photographs.

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