Boipeba – Brazil’s Hidden Gem
Boipeba, an island off the coast of the bustling town of Salvador, is one of Brazil’s hidden gems. Compared to its more popular counterpart, Morro de Sao Paulo, this island located in the Tinharé archipelago in the southern part of Bahia state is truly one of the region’s best kept secrets. Boipeba is home to a variety of eco-systems so don’t be surprised to see mangroves, sand dunes and desolate beaches. The island is also extremely ecologically diverse owing largely to its geographic setting, located beside an estuary, from which the river drains into the ocean creating an interesting array of terrain and birds. Days in Boipeba can be spent hiking through mangroves, wandering the local village of Velha Boipeba, or enjoying the fabulous beaches.
Boipeba has been able to avoid the tourist limelight due to its remote location and lack of vehicle access. However, it has been receiving much hype in the recent years as the new, hot, un-spoilt Brazilian destination. Many bemoan the toursitifaction of Moore De Sao Paulo and those in the know say Boipeba is what Morro was 20 years before. While word is slowly spreading, the New York Times even covered this little known island as the next Brazilian vacation destination back in 2011.
Where to stay in Boipeba
This pousada is often ranked as one of the best posuada’s in all of Brazil because of its welcoming hosts (Charles, Mark and Mattias), excellent food and the pousada’s jungle-like feel. Further, this hideaway is great for either couples looking for a romantic retreat or families seeking comfortable and inexpensive facilities. Romance seekers should request room 8 and room 7 is probably the most secluded.
This pousada is a bit more isolated than Santa Clara, perched atop a cliff with panoramic views of the entire island. The views from almost every angle of the resort are spectacular and their restaurant serves-up consistently delicious food. On every morning of our stay the breakfast was abundant and markedly different from the day before. The one draw back is that this pousada is probably one of the priciest on the island and is a good 10 minute walk to the beach.
This quaint beachfront pousada provides a mid-point in accommodation between Mangabeiras and Santa Clara. It offers guests a variety of neatly appointed huts directly on the beach. The owner Chris is lovely and the pousada prides itself on its attention to detail – including fresh flowers placed in cool water to wash the sand off before entering the hut, two showers (hot and cold), an outdoor shower, crisp linens and a breakfast that tops any traveller’s list of their best meal in Brazil. Chris can help you arrange your transport to the island and any day trips.
Activities in Boipeba
- Boat Tour – spend a full day on a group tour visiting some of the region’s best beaches. Most tours include the natural pools at Morere, Cavavieira (floating oyster bar) and the town of Cairu.
- Snorkeling – the snorkeling reef is in Morere and water shoes are recommended to walk out to the reef. Most snorkelers go out to the reef as part of a tour.
- Swimming – some areas around the island may be difficult to swim in due to the large waves and shallow water. The best swimming destinations are:
- Morere provides the best swimming conditions. To reach this beach you will need to cross at the end of Cueira beach but be wary of the tide (later in the day you might need to swim across the channel). Alternatively, you can charter a slow boat and hang out in the clear and calm water. If you charter a boat, ask your driver to stop at the Natural pools, it’s a great place to spend a few hours.
- Cueira – if you aren’t up for the trek to Morere, Cueira provides an excellent alternative. It’s also a pristine beach that seems to go on forever. Guido’s lobster lunch is a staple for anyone visiting the beach. You can spend all day on Guido’s plastic chairs, taking in the natural beauty and sipping on Skols.
- Bainema – beautiful beach beyond Morere. However, the tides can be strong and there are no shops so bring water for the day.
- Tassimirim – secluded beach with a small resto, called Tassimirim Barraca, serving up great seafood fare.
- Hiking/walking – the best part of our day was spent walking and exploring the empty beaches. This car-free island provides the right amount of tranquility to escape the annoyances of every day. Goods are shuttled around via manpower or wheelbarrow.
The food in Boipeba is great but relatively simple. Most restaurants serve up delicious grilled fish and moqueca. These are some of the best:
Paraiso – is an outdoor restaurant located on Morere beach. Make sure you try the fabulous shrimp moqueqa
Santa Clara –located in the Santa Clara pousada, this resto offers delicious meals set in a lush garden. The menu changes daily and they offer a set three course menu for R$ 50 p/p. Make sure you try the chocolate brownie – a staple any night of the week.
Guido’s – is a landmark on Cueira beach. The restaurant itself is pretty simple – plastic chairs and umbrellas facing the beach but the prices are relatively high, probably because Guido is the only joint in the area. While there are tons of yummy seafood options the grilled lobster is what this resto is known for. The lobsters are small but yummy (R$ 75.00 for lobster for two).
Getting to Boipeba
There are several options in order to reach this beautiful island. Depending on your timing, it may be interesting to take the longer more inexpensive route as it is very scenic; however, if you are pressed for time there are some very time-effective ways to get to the island
1. Most economical option – 4 hrs.
- In Salvador, take a ferryboat from the Sao Joaquim Terminal to Bom Despacho – Itaparica Island (located at the opposite side of the Bay of All Saints). The ferry takes about 1 hour and costs R$ 5.00. Once you arrive in Bom Despacho, take a bus to Valenca, which leaves directly from the ferry terminal. This bus takes about 2 hours and costs R$20.00. Once in Valenca find the speedboat terminal on the river (terminal Hidroviario) and look for the “Garca Branca” ticket window. The ticket should not cost you more than R$ 35.00 and takes approximately 1 hour. Budget R$ 60.00 for the total trip.
2. Taxi Option
- OPTION 1 – Ferry to Bom Despacho – In Salvador, take a ferryboat from the Sao Joaquim Terminal to Bom Despacho – Itaparica Island (located at the opposite side of the Bay of All Saints). The ferry takes about 1 hour and costs R$ 5.00. Once you arrive in Bom Despacho, take a taxi to the speedboat terminal in Valenca, which leaves directly from the Ferry terminal. The taxi should cost about R$120- 150,00 plus the speedboat ticket price of R$ 35.00 p/p.
- OPTION 2 – Taxi from your hotel /Airport to Valenca – Take a taxi from either your hotel or the airport which will take you all the way to Valenca, where you will then take the public speed boat to Boipeba. The taxi will cost approximately R$ 400-450 plus the speed boat ticket price of R$ 35.00 p/p.
- OPTION 3 – Taxi from Hotel/Airport and a private speed boat – For travellers who do not have much time to play with, private transportation from Salvador to Boipeba can be arranged. This involves taking a taxi from Salvador to Graciosa Pier (apprx. 12 km South of Valenca). For this option please contact your pousada for availability and pricing.
Garc Branca Speed-Boat timetable
Valenca to Boipeba: MON thru FRI: 10H00 / 12H00 / 14H00 / 16H00 *SAT and SUN: 10H00 / 12H00 / 16H00
Boipeba to Valenca: MON thru FRI: 6H00 / 7H00 /9H00 / 12H00 / 16H00 *SAT and SUN: 7H00 / 12H00 / 16H00
Ferry Boat timetable from Salvador to Bom Despacho (itaparica Island): 7H00 / 8H00 / 9H00 / 10H00 / 11H00 / 12H00 AND EVERY HOUR UNTIL 22H00, EXCEPT 15H0
- This is by far the easiest option and obviously the most expensive. Addey is the only airline carrier currently servicing Boipeba. To book a flight contact them at (55 71) 3204-1393 or [email protected]. While the flight times are obviously subject to change, the last we checked these were the available flight times. There are three flights daily with a minimum of two passengers per flight.
Salvador to Boipeba: 8H30 / 12H30 / 15H30
Boipeba to Salvador: 9H15 / 13H15 / 16H15
You should also keep in mind that if you arrive in Salvador after 2:30, it is recommended that you spend the night in Salvador and continue on to Boipeba the next day due to the length of the journey and the availability of transport. We stayed at the quaint Casa do Amarelindo, which offers charming accommodation in the heart of Pelo.
When to go
It’s always pretty warm in Boipeba. However, the rainy season is from April to July when you may encounter heavy rains. We spent a week around Boipeba and Morro de Sao Paulo in the beginning of October – while some days were very hot, others were cool and at night I usually needed a light sweater. The crystal clear waters of the region are best visible from November to March.
- Pack lightly- you will be getting on and off a number of types of transportation and there are no cars on the island, so it will be up to you to lug your bag to your pousada.
- There are not tons of amenities on the island. While there is a basic pharmacy on the island, any special items should be brought with you
- Bring cash- there are no ATMS on the island. Some restos and pousadas accept credit cards but don’t depend on it. The most common card accepted is VISA.
- Local lunch for 2 PAX = $50.00
- Nice dinner in Restaurant = R$ 80-100,00
- Daily rate for a tour guide is R$ $60,00
- Boat Tour is between R$ 35,00- 65,00 p/p
- Private Speed Boat is R$ 380,000 – 400,000
- Rate per bag when a local guide helps your carries your luggage = R$ 5.00
Boipeba welcomes its visitors with open arms and travellers embrace the beauty and openness of this island!