South America is a continent that naturally oozes wanderlust. With its mysterious ancient ruins, raw Latin culture and variety of terrain, it’s easy to see why South America remains one of the most popular destinations to visit. Given its sheer size and the variety of countries to visit, it’s difficult to see everything in South America - there is always more to explore.

One place in Brazil that really sticks out is a tropical paradise that lures not only backpackers but also people on holiday. This place has beaches, gorgeous waters, jungle, culture and a cool going out scene.

We’re talking about Morro de Sao Paulo.

Morro de Sao Paulo is part of a 26-island archipelago situated around 60km from Salvador, the colonial capital city of Bahia. Making its name back in the 1980s ‘Morro’ has become a major travel destination within Brazil for visitors both locally and abroad.

Here are some of the many reasons why:

All kinds of beaches

Morro de Sao Paulo Brazil Beach

Beaches are everywhere in Morro, so if you’re a beach bum it should be right up your street. Turquoise waters occupy most beachfronts, and the naming system makes it easy to remember your favourites. They go in numbered order, meaning you have First Beach (Primeira Praia), Second Beach (Segundo Praia),Third Beach(Terceira Praia) and so on. Another option, Garapua, coupled with its natural pools, is thought to be one of the most beautiful within the whole archipelago.

Hiking to waterfalls

If you like to hike, follow the ecological trail through the lush Atlantic forests to reach Fonte do Ceu, a natural waterfall. With the sun being fierce at times in Morro, especially in the summer months, visiting this waterfall can be a refreshing relief, and great for a photo or two.

Tip: On the way to Fonte do Ceu is Gamboa, an authentic ‘off beat’ fishing village with less of the touristy built-up island vibe. Here you can see the local side of Morro de Sao Paulo, and whilst you’re at it check out Gamboa’s uniquely coloured pink mud spots. They are sulphur-rich and medicinally beneficial to your skin!

gamboa bahia brazil

Buzzing hostels

If you want a social vibe with clean, professional facilities, the chain Che Legarto is a short walk away from the village centre. There are other accommodation types to suit your needs in Morro, but to meet fellow travellers Che Legarto is a great option, with regular day trips and nights out arranged for guests.

Eating out and nightlife

The cobbled and winding streets of the village centre are the main setting for the restaurant and bar scene in Morro, as well as the beachfront. Whether you want some international cuisine such as pizza or pasta or you just want a light, healthy snack by the beach, Morro has you covered. One thing the locals go ‘nuts’ for (pun intended) is acai, a tasty fruit and nut salad.

As far as nightlife is concerned, Teatro de Morro is a small outdoors club on a hill in the middle of the jungle that goes all night long. If you want a less primitive experience, Toca de Morcego has regular nights that are popular with visitors around the island.

Zipline into the ocean

Walking up the hill to see the lighthouse Farol do Morro offers fantastic views over Morro. When it comes togetting back down, why not try something completely different? At the peak of the hill is a zipline that rappels you down into the ocean below. If you’re an adrenaline junkie this is a great way to get your kicks, and something new for nervous first-timers to try.

Morro de Sao Paul Brazil

Go see dolphins and whales

From July to October is the season for Humpback Whales to migrate through the ocean passing by the village island. You can try to go out and spot them yourself, but it’s probably best to take a tour, as this will give you the best possible chance of witnessing these majestic creatures. If your luck's in you might come across dolphins passing on by too!

Culture and heritage

You might not think a village island would hold many remnants of the past, but if you visit the Fortaleza do Tapirandu you can see that plenty remain. Ideal for a sunset view, the fort has been worn down, beaten and risen back up over the years, whilst offering a window into Brazil’s maritime heritage. Also, if culture is your thing, maybe check out the stunning Church of Our Lady Light (Igreja Nossa Senhoa de Luz) that dates back to the 1600s.

A car free time

One unique thing about Morro is that the island is car-free. Everyone seems to prefer it this way as it brings a more natural feel to the place. In case you were wondering, the walking paths throughout the populated places are easily made out, and whether sandy or cobbled no walking is too strenuous here.

Don’t worry about a thing

The island carries a classy vibe that is a mix of upper class South Americans and international backpackers. What that tends to create is a happy community of visitors, meaning criminality is virtually non-existent, so you can be confident in staying safe during your visit to Morro de Sao Paulo.