Superb food, unique natural wonders and an enchanting, relaxed lifestyle. Christian Taylor explores the charming Brazilian village of Boipeba, Bahia
The bustling laneways of Morro de São Paulo are but a distant memory as our speedboat glides along mangrove-lined waterways, bound for the laid-back island of Boipeba. To our right, the sleepy village of Cairu hurtles by, famous for its 17th-century church and convent of Santo Antônio. Soon, our boat makes a welcome pit stop at a floating seafood shack. Tables full of punters are leisurely lunching on fresh lobsters, crabs and oysters, all washed down with plenty of chilled beer and caipirinhas with a kick. A delicious meal under the sun in an eatery bobbing on the water, surrounded by nature – it’s one of life’s simple pleasures. I am soon to discover that this is what Boipeba does best.
By the late afternoon our boat arrives at Boipeba’s Boca da Barra beach, a strip of coastline dotted with palm trees and restaurants. Here is where the ocean meets the Inferno River, so swimmers can enjoy the river beach as well as the open sea.
As the day draws to a close, the shoreline comes alive. Old boats chug past, carrying fishermen and the day’s catch. A man wanders along the water playing his berimbau, a musical bow with a single string. Visitors sit at riverside tables beside a crackling bonfire, which is sending sparks up into the evening sky. There’s an elegance to Boipeba’s laziness.
A few minutes walk from the riverbank and its restaurants is the village of Velha Boipeba. Founded in 1537, this vibrant little enclave is made up of narrow, carless streets lined with charming, colourful cottages, as well as shops, restaurants and pousadas. At its heart lies Praça Santo Antônio, a town square with a real community vibe. There are kids playing football while locals sell crafts, acarajé and fruity cocktails.
In Salvador I was told by a taxi driver, “you’ll eat well in Boipeba” and he was right. There are plenty of great places to dine here. Panela de Barro serves hearty Brazilian favourites in a laid-back setting. Flor da Lua whips up superb crêpes. Take the time to walk to the wonderfully deserted Cueira Beach and try the lobster at Guido’s, a popular destination with visitors.
Life in Boipeba moves at a glacial pace, which is part of its charm. Nature lovers will feel spoiled here. The island boasts extensive Atlantic forest, sand dunes, salt marshes, idyllic, palm-lined beaches and spectacular reefs teeming with marine life. Boat trips are an ideal way to discover the island’s many hidden treasures.
And of course, if you just need some down time, there are plenty of places where you can relax with a cool drink and watch the world go by… slowly.
Where to stay?
Pousada Santa Clara
Tucked away in a sandy laneway, just a few minutes stroll from Boca da Barra beach, is a true slice of paradise. From the moment you walk through the front gate you’ll feel transported – by the charming, rustic décor, the lush, well-manicured gardens, the babbling central fountain and of course, the staff, who will feel like your friends by the time you leave.
Santa Clara offers 12 spacious apartments, each decorated in bright, invigorating colours and with their own unique style. Our room had views out to sea from the private balcony and a hammock, ideal for a siesta. There was a minibar, a ceiling fan and a hot shower, plus if you want to escape the heat, some rooms offer air-conditioning too.
Downstairs, nestled amongst the fragrant gardens is their breezy restaurant, where chef Mark dishes up inventive, exquisite meals for dinner, as well as a wide variety of tasty drinks. The menu changes daily. Breakfast is served here each morning too and is truly magnificent, including strong coffee, fresh fruits, as well as crêpes, tapiocas and baked treats. You won’t need to eat for the rest of the day!
Charles, one of the owners, speaks Portuguese, English, French and Spanish. He and his team have been in Boipeba for more than 15 years and they know this place like the back of their hand. They’re more than happy to help you get the most out of your time on the island. Whether you need a boat trip booked, suggestions on places to walk or swim, or even if you want to know the times for high and low tide, nothing is too much trouble.
At one point during our stay I asked Charles, “what was Boipeba like all those years ago when you first arrived?” He smiled and replied, “not very different to how it is today.”
Rooms start from R$200 / £52 per night, breakfast included. Visit santaclaraboipeba.com
O Céu, Boipeba
Perched on top of a hill, above the treeline, is this sleek, stylish pousada, which offers incredible 360 degree views across the island and out to sea. O Céu’s modern design and high vantage point makes you feel like you’re floating above it all. Plus, there’s a constant, cool ocean breeze.
The pousada offers six spacious suites, plus a vast shared lounge room and kitchen area, where meals and drinks are served. Here you can savour the stunning views with a glass of wine, listen to some music or read a book.
Rooms offer high ceilings, sleek, timber interiors, floor-to-ceiling windows and rustic furnishings, plus the occasional elegant touch, like chandeliers and brightly coloured curtains. Our spacious balcony offered complete privacy and uninterrupted ocean views. And if the comfortable sofa outside is not to your liking, you can always spend a few hours soaking in the outdoor timber bathtub on your balcony.
The village is just a 10 minute walk down the hill, however the rugged pathways can sometimes be a bit tricky to negotiate at night. If you’re carrying luggage up the hill, it’s a good idea to organise a porter beforehand. Jesús, who manages the pousada, is super friendly and always on hand to ensure you have everything you need.
Breakfast is served on the balcony and is a memorable way to start each day, consisting of fresh fruits, cakes and coffee, plus eggs and crêpes made to order. And at the end of the day, there is no better place to be on the island to watch the sunset.
Next stop: Península de Maraú, Bahia.