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If you’re visiting Brazil, then you should add the charming historic coastal city of Paraty to your itinerary! Below, you’ll find everything you need to know for your trip – what to do, how to get there & more
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Paraty is a city of natural beauty, history imbued in its cobblestoned streets, and impeccably-preserved architecture from the colonial area.
Founded in 1667, Paraty was a former economic powerhouse thanks to the more than 250 sugar cane mills that called the city home. It also served as an important stop in the trade route for gold and precious stones in the 18th century.
The charm of Paraty’s historic center is a perfect contrast to the city’s natural beauty – with many options for environmental and ecological tourism nearby.
Have I convinced you to add Paraty to your Brazil itinerary? Then let’s get into all the details!
How to get to Paraty (& how to get around once you’re there)
If you’re coming from Rio, there are many buses that can get you to Paraty in roughly 4 hours.
There are also many buses between São Paulo and Paraty (which take about 6 hours in total).
You can see which companies I recommend for buses in my article with the 2 best sites for buying bus tickets in Brazil here.
The bus station in Paraty is a bit far from the historic center, so if you’re traveling by bus, you may want to stay nearby. Not only is accommodation near the bus station cheaper, but the best beaches in Paraty are outside the city, and you can get to them all easily by bus!
Renting a car is another great option – especially since the drive will likely take you along beautiful views and quaint cities on the coast! Depending on where you’re coming from, you can also fly to Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo and then rent a car from there to get to Paraty.
If you’re interested in renting a car, my article with the 5 best and cheapest websites to rent cars in Brazil should help.
Once you’re in Paraty, a car really isn’t needed. The city is quite flat, making it the perfect place for long walks. After all, walking is often the best way to get to know a new place! But make sure you don’t walk too fast: the “peanut brittle” cobblestones are quite famous for breaking sandals!
Beyond this, you should know that cars are NOT allowed in the historic center (which certainly adds to the feeling that you’ve gone back in time as you wander through the streets!). However, a rental car is still a great option to get you there in the first place and explore the area.
When is the best time to visit Paraty?
As with all cities, you’ll see a different side of Paraty depending on which season you visit.
If you like the heat and a party atmosphere, then visiting during Brazil’s summer months (December-March) is perfect. Since this is high season, the city fills up and you’ll find many options for going out. That said, it can also be a more expensive time of the year to travel since hostels and hotels book out.
So if you do choose to come during this time period, you’ll likely need to start planning your trip early. And since the summer can be quite rainy, make sure you keep your eye on the weather forecast to choose the best week for your trip.
If you’d rather see a calmer and more tranquil side of the city (as well as avoid the heat), visiting between September and October is a great option. During these spring months, the city is much emptier and cheaper.
And if you’re interested in cultural events, consider visiting between April and June. During Paraty’s fall, there are three annual events that occur: Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty: FLIP (“Paraty International Literary Festival”), Semana Santa (“Holy Week”), and Bourbon Jazz Festival.
What to do in Paraty: 8 activities to do in Paraty
Paraty is a great place to visit because there are activities for everyone. Beyond the beautiful beaches (which I’ll talk more about below), you can also immerse yourself in the culture and participate in unique local activities. So, prepare your packing list for the beach and enjoy!
1. Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage historic center
In the historic center, you’ll find most of Paraty’s restaurants and bars. But beyond this, it’s a stroll to admire the lovely masonic architecture and get lost in its charming neighborhoods.
One of the most popular spots to visit in the old town is Igreja de Santa Rita (“Santa Rita Church”), where the current Museum of Sacred Art is currently located. This church, constructed in 1722, is the city’s oldest and has an impressive baroque interior.
The Museum of Sacred Art is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM to noon or 2 PM – 5 PM. I recommend visiting on Tuesdays when entrance is free. Inside the museum, you’ll find works of clay, wood, metal, and silver from the 17th century up until the beginning of the 20th century. Taking pictures is not allowed inside.
2. Dance to the Roda de Samba da Benção (“Street Samba Band of Benção”)
Every Monday at 8 PM, right in front of the parish church and not far from Igreja de Santa Rita, you’ll spot the wonderful Roda de Samba da Benção. The meeting spot fills up each Monday with people of all kinds – young, old, families, couples, tourists, and more.
It’s an incredible opportunity to enjoy traditional Brazilian music and appreciate the talent of those in the group. It’s definitely something that shouldn’t be missed during your trip to Paraty!
3. Have a night out at the bars
In the city center, you’ll find lots of great bars with great music of all kinds – depending on the day of the week, you might find traditional forró, MPB (Popular Brazilian Music), rock, samba…
And don’t think that people just sit and listen from their table. You’re in Rio de Janeiro state! Everyone will be up dancing and enjoying the night out!
There are two famous bars for anyone who likes to dance (or perhaps just wants to sit outside, drink a beer, and chat with some friends): Sarau Bar and Paraty 33.
And if you do have a night out, don’t forget to try Paraty’s most typical drink: the famous “Jorge Amado” made with Gabriela Cachaça (a liquor made from sugarcane and infused with cinnamon and cloves).
4. Take to the seas with a Paraty boat trip
Jabaquara and Pontal Beaches are located right in Paraty itself. But although the scenery is lovely and they are full of food stands and bars, they may not be the best choice for a day at the beach. Since the sand is very thick and creates something like underwater mud, they aren’t great for swimming.
Instead, a better option is to enjoy a boat trip to a beach on one of the area’s many islands (or beaches on the mainland that can only be accessed by boat).
After walking through the historic center, you’ll arrive at the city’s port where you’ll find plenty of boats and itineraries to choose from. However, I do recommend deciding which beaches you want to go to before going to the port.
Praia da Lula (“Squid Beach”), Praia Saco da Velha, and Praia Vermelha (“Red Beach”) are some of the most well-known choices. If you’ve never been to any of them, you certainly won’t regret any of these options!
Saco de Mamanguá is another famous area to consider visiting. As somewhat of a tropical “fjord,” the area is known for its pristine nature and clear waters.
Important note: if you’re visiting Paraty during high season, watch out! The cost of boat trips skyrockets to an average of 100 reais (approximately 20 USD) per person, at the low end. If you can, try speaking to the boat captions and bargain!
5. Visit the best beaches in Paraty
Although there are some beaches that can only be accessed by sea, Paraty still has more than its share of wonderful beaches that can be accessed by land!
Whether you’re driving a rental car or going by bus, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from (and we’ll discuss some of those down below). If you’re on a budget, going by bus is a good option since there are many bus routes that will take you all over the region.
Even in high season, the trips don’t usually take more than 40 minutes even with traffic.
6. Explore the outdoors at Trinidade village
Located just 35 minutes by car from Paraty, Trinidade is an alternative ecological community with incredible beaches, waterfalls, and hiking trails. And after a day of exploring, the village has plenty of reasonably-priced bars and restaurants for you to choose from.
If you go by bus, the final bus stop will leave you by a forest with a well-marked trail. If you follow this trail for about 10 minutes, you’ll arrive at Praia do Meio (“Middle Beach”), which is known for its unusual rock formations.
At the end of Praia do Meio, you’ll find another trail that’ll have you cross and arrive at Caixa D’aço beach (“Steel Box” beach) in about 15 minutes. It’s an easy yet steep trail…but the extra effort is worth it to arrive at an extensive and empty beach.
At the end of this beach, just past the rocks, you’ll find yet another trail. This trail is a bit more challenging, although it guarantees an incredible immersion in the Atlantic Forest! At this end of this trail, you’ll arrive at Caixa D’aço’s natural pool.
If you swim in the direction of the largest rocks, you’ll find a stone path that brings you to a dock where the crew who come to the natural pool by boat arrive.
7. Soak up the sun at Praia do Sono (“Sleepy Beach”) and Laranjeiras
You have a few options for getting to Praia do Sono. By boat is the easiest, yet also the most expensive. It’s quite far from Paraty by boat, so the cost isn’t always reasonable.
To get there by car or bus, your journey to the beach will begin within the Laranjeiras luxury condominiums (roughly 35 minutes by car from Paraty). This way, you’ll also be able to visit the lovely Laranjeiras Beach before or after, which I’d highly recommend!
Laranjeiras Beach is not only stunning…it’s also frequented by the “high society” of Rio de Janeiro and the elite of São Paulo, so you may just see someone famous!
The trail to Laranjeiras Beach is an easy, lovely walk in the middle of the forest with two waterfalls along the way.
To go back to Praia do Sono…you can leave your car in the parking lot within the condominium. From there, a free van from the condominium will bring you to the dock that the boats leave from (this costs around 50 reais in high season) or to the trailhead.
The trip to Praia do Sono from Laranjeiras by boat is quick, taking just 10-15 minutes. The trail can take 1-3 hours depending on how quickly you walk.
Praia do Sono is a small village, with a population of around 200, who essentially live off tourism. Since access to the area is only possible through several hours on a trail or through a trip on a boat, they truly do live isolated from the rest of society (unlike inhabitants of Trinidade, for example).
It’s a paradise that you have to see to believe with the local community living in complete peace and harmony with nature.
If you’d like to swap out the tranquility for some more action, consider coming here a week before or after New Year’s Eve when many young people and parties arrive.
8. Take advantage of the area’s abundant ecotourism (ropes courses, rafting, kayaking & more!)
Paraty is very well-located for ecotourism thanks to the large number of eco parks and nature preserves in the area. During your visit, you’ll be near 5 parks: Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaína (“Serra da Bocaína National Park”), Reserva Ecológica da Joatinga (“Joatinga Ecological Reserve”), APA do Cairuçú (“Cairuçú Preservation Area”), Área de Lazer Paraty-Mirim (“Paraty-Mirim Recreation Area”), and Área de Preservação Ambiental da Baía de Paraty (“Bay of Paraty Environmental Protection Area”).
All of these parks are open to the public so you can enjoy the great outdoors and spot wildlife in their natural habitat.
And naturally, given the number of parks, you also have many options for activities and adventure sports. But one thing to keep in mind: for extreme sports and more challenging hikes, it’s important to get a good guide or go with a reputable travel agency…as well as make sure you’re covered with a travel insurance policy for adventure sports (like these ones here).
Here are a few tour companies for adventurous activities in Paraty:
- Paraty Tour https://www.paratytours.com.br/
- Casa da Aventura https://www.casadaaventura.com/
- Interação Paraty http://www.interacaoparaty.com/
- Paraty Explorer http://www.paratyexplorer.com.br
And below are some more details about some of the adventurous activities you can take on during your trip to Paraty.
Ropes courses in Paraty
Paraty Spot Adventura is the largest ropes course set in nature in Brazil! How’d you like the chance to explore the Atlantic Forest from above, right in the heart of 10 hectares of protected forest?
Rafting in Paraty
Rafting, or descending down a river with a group on an inflatable boat, is an exciting and adrenaline-pumping activity to do in the Paraty area. But make sure there is good weather before you go ‒ otherwise, conditions can get dangerous.
Casa de Aventura de Paraty offers rafting.
Kayaking or canoeing in Paraty
Kayaking or canoeing is a great activity for families (especially for small children)…and really anyone else who just wants to spend some time outdoors!
Although it does take a bit of arm strength, it’s a very calming and relaxing activity.
Most tour companies in Paraty will offer this activity, but I wanted to shout out to Paraty Explorer since they offer kayaking tours longer than 1 day! Beyond the ones listed above, there are also many other options for ecotourism in Paraty like mountain biking, Jeep tours, diving, bird watching, and more!
And that’s it! Hopefully, this article has given you an idea of what you can expect during your trip to Paraty.
If you have anything to add or any questions, just let me know in the comments area below and I’ll get back to you!
Planning your next trip?
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Already reserved your hotel or hostel? If not, we recommend Booking.com. They have a huge selection of hotels and hostels all over the world. Plus, in most cases, you can cancel your reservation up to a few days before the check-in date without any costs!
Still haven’t booked your plane ticket and want to save big? Take a look at Kayak and Momondo. They are flight aggregators that combine several other ticket search websites to make it easier for you to compare prices and make sure you are getting the best deal.
And finally, will you need to rent a car during your trip? Then check out Rentalcar.com to search and compare car rental companies from all over the world on a single website. Then, you can find the lowest price for the best car!