The tiny Ilha de Maré is completely overlooked by tourists and even many Soteropolitanos. Although it hasn’t been that long since the island got electricity, in many ways, taking a boat across the bay to its pristine beaches backed by green hills is like going back in time. The island’s settlement consists of a rustic ramshackle of fisherfolk’s houses and beachfront bars with an atmospheric colonial church thrown in for good measure.
One of the main commercial products is the delicious doce de banana, a banana sweet made in wood ovens, then wrapped in banana fiber packages and sold by the dozen by children roaming up and down the sand. On the beaches away from town, barracas serve delicious fried fish and moqueca as the tide comes in and laps at your legs.
To get a boat to Ilha de Maré, you’ll need to grab a bus with the destination “Base Naval/São Tomé” (which passes in front of the Teatro Castro Alves, at Campo Grande); ride to the end of the line and then get a boat from the São Tomé de Paripe terminal (tel. 71/3307-1447, R$2). The trip takes 20 minutes with departures every 45 minutes between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.