By Patricia Ribeiro, About.com Guide
With balmy weather, transparent waters, mangroves, and plenty of peace and quiet on its deserted beaches, Boipeba Island, off the southern Bahia coast, is one of Brazil's consummate examples of idealized island life.
Boipeba and Tinharé Island, where Morro de São Paulo is located, make up the APA (Environment Protection Area) Ilhas de Tinharé/Boipeba.
On the whole, Boipeba has preserved more of its original traits than Tinharé, where Morro works as a tourist magnet with a busy summer and a major post-Carnival event - Ressaca.
Boipeba's communities - Velha Boipeba, São Sebastião, Moreré, and Monte Alegre - still retain the tranquil pace of a fisherman's village.
It is fortunate that Boipeba became part of a Bahia APA in 1992 and that 1995 saw the creation of AMABO - the Association of Residents and Friends of Boipeba, an organization devoted to improving the life of local residents and protecting Boipeba's natural resources.
Despite some issues that affect the environment negatively - according to the Bahia Environmental Information System, the two most serious ones are insufficient domestic wastewater treatment and alterations in river margins and estuaries - Boipeba's rich ecosystem is still beautifully preserved.
Mangroves and remnants of Atlantic Rainforest are home to a great variety of animals, especially birds. One of Brazil's songbird species threatened with extinction - the curió (Oryzoborus angolensis), can be found in Boipeba woods.
The sea teems with life - and nourishment. Several kinds of fish and crustaceans are part of the Boipeba diet, and fishing is still an important economic activity.
Boca da Barra, a beach at the mouth of Rio do Inferno (Hell River), which separates Boipeba from Tinharé Island, is one of the areas with the most infrastructure in Boipeba, as it's near Velha Boipeba and home to several pousadas.
Tassimirim, a fifteen-minute walk from Boca da Barra, is a pristine stretch of sand with no infrastructure as of this writing.
Cueira, the next beach on the way to Moreré, has coconut trees and waters that are good both for surfing (at the left corner) and bathing along most of the shoreline. Instead of restaurants, you'll find beach huts selling fresh boiled lobster.
Moreré, close to the eponymous village, is one of Bahia's best places for simply soaking in as you lie in its still, shallow waters during the low tide. That's also when ocean pools form along the reefs - there are boats from the village to take you there.
At Moreré Beach, you can sample moqueca and other seafood at places such as Samburá de Moreré, one of the best restaurants in Boipeba.
Deserted Bainema can be reached by boat (about 1 1/2 hour) from Boca da Barra. So can Ponta dos Castelhanos, where divers can see the 16th-century Spanish shipwreck after which the beach is named.
Things to Do:
Boat tours and hiking tours are some of the best things to do in Boipeba besides bathing, gazing out at sea, taking naps in a hammock and feasting on local food.
One popular and demanding hike goes to Cova da Onça (Jaguar's Den) in the São Sebastião area, the remnants of an underground tunnel said to have served as a hideaway for Jesuits during indigenous attacks.
There are several boatmen in Boca da Barra who can take you on beach tours. You can also book a tour with operators such as Bahia Terra or Freeway and easily arrange tours at the pousada or lodge where you're staying, as most of them have partnerships with local guides.
Velha Boipeba (Old Boipeba), a short walk from Boca da Barra, is a quaint stop with mature trees growing on the village green and the island's most important architectural heritage: the Divine Holy Ghost Church (Igreja do Divino Espírito Santo). The church was built by Jesuits in the early 17th century, expanded in the 19th century and partially restored in a partnership involving Amabo, the local resident and friends association.
In the village, you can also visit a dende oil press (roldão de dendê), a flour mill and the Bone Museum, created by Tavinho, aka Mr. Cabeludo (Mr. Hairy), an impressive collection of fish and marine mammal bones.
Where to Stay:
There are many pleasant pousadas on Boipeba, and at reasonable prices, too. Read more on where to stay in Boipeba.
Where to Eat:
Pousada Santa Clara has a nice restaurant open to non-guests. Another great place to eat is Samburá de Moreré. Here are some more tips on places to eat in Boipeba from an island fan: Alison McGowan of Hidden Pousadas Brazil.
On the Dendê Coast (named after the palm tree which yields the oil so ubiquitously used in local cuisine), your best chance at less rain is between September and February. Some of the pousadas close on the low season; check first.
Bring money for your expenses; the island has no ATMs and credit card service is rare. Most pousadas arrange tours of local attractions with local guides; once you book a place to stay, ask them for an estimate of tour prices so you're prepared.
Though cars are not allowed on the island, tractors, adapted for passenger transportation, are an easy way to go from Boca da Barra to Moreré.
How to Get to Boipeba Island:
Check with the pousada of your choice the most convenient way to reach the island and check if they have a transfer service; some of them offer transfers by car or motorboat from Salvador and Ilhéus
There are charter flights to Boipeba from Salvador (30 minutes one-way, about R$380 per person one way) with Addey (addey.com.br, 55-71-3204-1393).
You can also take a motorboat from Valença (about one hour, R$35 one way).
From Morro de São Paulo, there are boats to Boipeba whose schedule coordinates nicely with the Salvador-Morro ferry.
Expresso Madalena (55-75-3652-1317), in Morro, can take you to Boipeba either by motorboat or by Land Rover.