São Paulo (World Wide Nate)

I’ve been chasing paradise all my life, and the race finally ended when I stepped foot on Morro de São Paulo. The island, located in the state of Bahia, is a choppy, two-hour boat ride from Salvador, the capital city of the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia.

From the point of arrival, you feel transported to a world of tranquility. The sound of birds chirping and calm ocean waves become the melody to your soundtrack when you step foot off the boat. The island has no car traffic or paved streets, which adds character — similar to a courtyard-style ambiance.

Human taxis are at your beck and call to transport your luggage in a wheelbarrow to your Pousada (hotel). I was introduced to João, Pousada Villa dos Graffitis’ dedicated taxi, followed by paying a tourist tax $12 ($4 USD). Then, we were off.

During the our trek, João, with his beginners-level English gave his restaurant recommendations while we were walking through town. The town is filled with a variety of Brazilian, Italian and Spanish restaurants. just to name a few.

The journey eventually lead us to an elevated platform overlooking Second Beach with a breathtaking view that invited me to come enjoy paradise. It felt like the first time I went to Disneyworld as a kid and experienced Mickey Mouse’s birthday; I rediscovered the happiest place on earth.

After checking into Villa dos Pousada, a graffiti-inspired two-level lodge, I headed to Second Beach to relax. The beach feels more like a VIP lounge instead of a typical beach you visit to plant your bum and wiggle your toes. The beach is packed with people playing soccer games, families making sand castles and couples enjoying each other’s company in pleasant 85 degree weather. Brazilian hospitality is a mix of hustle and charm when offering food, drinks and beer. I kicked my legs up on a lounger, ordered a pineapple and mango and took in the panoramic view of palm trees swaying with the wind. When Kanye West rapped “Drive Slow,” I interpreted that as island time; cruising in first gear was my only intention while bathing in the idyllic warm blue water.

The island accommodates more than the lazy crowd. I hired Lanchas Puro Prazer to guide me in a kayak to a deserted island a quarter of a mile away from the shoreline. It took determination to navigate the kayak to the island and take the perfect selfie and Snapchat. It was exhausting to fight the current during high tide. But without hard work, there is no reward, and I finally made it to the deserted island. Being there had its moments of solitude and clarity. There were periods of reflection, but those thoughts were drowned out by the crashing waves. Nevertheless, it was a great bucket list item to check off the list.

Morro de São Paulo is the type of place I  dreamed about visiting one day, and the food is delicious. Traditionally, baianas are great fishers, so seafood was my choice of protein during my stay. Every day, I feasted on fresh red snapper, octopus and shrimp for lunch and dinner while sitting on the beach. Brazilians love to watch the sunset, so I headed to Fortaleza do Tapirandu, the fort, to join the celebration and applaud finally finding paradise.