Weather can be a real bitch, strutting in and wrecking any perfect beach vacation it wants. But according to travel blogger Sarah Khan, Paraty, Brazil, is the one place that even a tropical storm can't ruin. She tells us how to spend a few blissfully rainy days in this picturesque town.
PARATY, Brazil – Paraty might be one of the few places in the world that's even lovelier in the rain. Water flows gently into the uneven cobblestone streets, turning lanes into canals, and an unrelenting mist shrouds the whitewashed villas and the lush mountains beyond.
An immaculately preserved Portuguese colonial town along the Costa Verde, about 150 miles from Rio de Janeiro, Paraty is a prime base for exploring nearby islands like Mantimento and Comprida and untouched beaches by boat. But even if you arrive on an overcast, drizzly weekend like I did, there's plenty to enchant. Just grab an umbrella and a pair of rain boots and go wading through the postcard-perfect streets. I was there for two rainy days, but if the weather is nicer I'd recommend at least three to include a day of island-hopping.
WHAT TO DO
Paraty's meandering cobbled lanes can disorient even the most astute internal GPS, but it's okay to turn it off and follow them aimlessly, since no matter the route, the destination will almost certainly be delightful. You might stumble upon Livraria das Marés, a sleek, contemporary bookstore and cafe brimming with glossy tomes on Brazil and decadent pastries by chef Frederic de Maeyer. Don't miss the noisette cashew biscuit with hazelnut and Belgian chocolate mousse; it tastes as good as it Instagrams.
Casa da Cultura is a gallery and event space set in a mansion dating back to the 18th century where a permanent exhibition documents local history and culture.
Shambhala Asian Day Spa, the only proper spa in Paraty, is the place to go for an ayurvedic massage or to align your chakras.
And if the weather cooperates more for your visit than it did for mine, go kayaking through the bay or take a half-day boat tour through the islands and beaches that dot the Bay of Paraty. Paraty Explorer can arrange a mix of excursions, both active and relaxed.
WHERE TO EAT
Lunch: To escape a particularly ferocious downpour, we ducked into the no-frills Bem Brasil on Rua Domingo Goncalves de Abreu, adorned with simple green tablecloths and larger-than-life canvases of tropical birds. We were glad we did: The sizzling, delicious picanha steak and fries warmed us immediately.
Dessert: Don't miss the guava and passion fruit gelato at Pistache, a rainbow-bright ice cream shop.
Dinner: Many people tout Punto Divino, overlooking the main square of Praça da Matriz, as the best restaurant in Paraty. The homey venue (if you ignore the vintage photographs of topless women lining the walls) didn't disappoint with a menu of Italian classics.
Banana da Terra is another local favorite, specializing in gastronomic versions of traditional dishes with a signature twist. Each dish incorporates bananas in some way (think smoked cheese with bacon and banana). Don't miss the creative caipirinhas in flavors ranging from mango-ginger to tangerine-basil.
WHERE TO STAY
Casa Turquesa is a magical little hideaway steps from the harbor. You'll swap your shoes for a pair of complimentary blue-and-white Havaianas at the door (they match the adorable mini-flip-flop dangling from your room key) and head for one of nine beautifully appointed suites, each named for a different color. A daybed perched on a platform presides over a plunge pool ringed by lush vegetation in the garden, and owner Tete Etrusco is around to offer guests insider tips gleaned from more than two decades in Paraty. When you're ready to break free from the cossetting confines of the pousada, you can don a pair of wellies and brave the ankle-deep puddles.
Casa Colonial 12, another stylish retreat in the old city center, is set in a historic house with distinctly contemporary interiors. Three sleek white bedrooms are enlivened by punchy canvases and colorful accent furniture. The whole thing can be booked as a private villa, perfect for small groups and families.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
How to Get There: Paraty is a scenic three-and-a-half-hour drive along the coast from Rio de Janeiro.
When to Go/Weather: Tropical rains are common, especially in the humid summer months of December through March. Highs are generally in the 70s and 80s year-round.
See all the locations mentioned in this story. (Google Maps)