Due to being removed from our Saturday flight, we had an additional 24 hours in Rio de Janeiro! Ironically, JT was feeling the best he had in days, so we opted to do a day trip to Paqueta Island with our newly found time.
We woke up around 9:30am, packed our bags again, and departed Pensionato Santo Amaro (R$80 for a private bunk bed with shared bathroom on Booking.com). The pension was very simple. The windows in our room to the open air courtyard would not close completely due to being painted and having a cord go through the window. The lock on the door was not very sturdy. The bunk bed made loud noises, did not seem stable, and it was difficult to climb into the top bunk. The common sink near our room was extremely weak. The common showers near our room were very small and although they were not terribly dirty, they certainly could use to be cleaned more. Things were also pretty rusty in the shower. On the positive side, it was relatively cheap, reasonably clean, and the family running it seemed to be trying hard. They even gave us coffee as we were leaving.
We decided to try and catch the 11:30am ferry to Paqueta Island from Praca XV (schedule). We walked to Lapa and waited a long time for a bus that was supposed to go to SDU airport according to Google maps. However, JT was tracking the bus using GPS and a downloaded map on his phone, and saw it make a bad turn so we requested the next stop. We then walked through the Centro to SDU airport on a Sunday, which is ill-advised. But nothing even seemed concerning, besides some teenagers and/or backpackers hanging out near a statue (who gave us no issues, but had a suitcase that we thought they might have stolen). Katie thinks the bigger threat are bicyclists and motorcyclists, as they can make a quicker approach and getaway.
Once at SDU airport we left our big backpacks and Katie’s smaller backpack in a single left luggage locker outside departures (R$15 per 24 hours). Then, since we were running short on time, we took a R$10 taxi to Praca XV (which is where most of the barges leave Rio de Janeiro). We bought tickets (R$4.80 per person one-way) and boarded the barge with 2 minutes to spare.
The barge took 70 minutes to reach Paqueta Island, but the views of the city, SDU airport, and the other boats were enough to keep us entertained. The actual ferry experience was not as entertaining as the ferry to Ilha Grande, as there were no supplies on the ferry (instead, there are a few ‘cargo’ ferries each day).
Once on Paqueta Island, we walked along the road leading straight off the dock and towards the other side of the island. We saw a supermarket and a bank before stopping at a stand to buy 400ml of acai for R$5. It was really good, and something JT could eat without feeling sick. We turned right when the road dead-ended into a beach, and walked for a while. We saw Hotel Lido, which was a stop on Amazing Race 2. We walked down to a scenic view point where we chatted with a Brazilian group visiting from Rio. As we had noticed, Paqueta Island is more of a local Rio thing than a travellers spot. It is not in most guidebooks. Hence, we were surrounded by Brazilians all day, especially since it was a Sunday!
We turned back and had lunch at a spot on the beach near the swan boat rentals. Katie had a ham and cheese sandwich (R$5), JT had an egg & cheese hamburger (R$7), Katie had most of a large beer (R$6), and we split fries (R$12). After we ordered we figured out that this bill (plus 10% service), return barge tickets, and Real Omnibus tickets to get from SDU airport to GIG would use all of our remaining money except R$0.85! We enjoyed our meal on the beach although service was slow (but good considering one waiter was covering about 10 tables).
After lunch we walked to a national park on the southern part of the island in search of Fat Maria. She was not there, so we started asking people who seemed to reside on the island. We were eventually directed (first by a guy at a the acai stand and then by a lady in front of her house) to the northern beach-front road on the barge-dock side of the island. We found the tree, kissed it, took pictures, and even filmed an amazing race application video segment! Then we headed to the barge dock to catch the 4pm barge.
We sat on the left side on the way back for good views, but we ended up standing at the front of the boat for the last bit of the trip as it had great downtown and SDU views.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Paqueta Island. It was a great way to end our trip. The vibe was chill and authentic. It really is where Rio residents go for a short 1-day vacation (although there are a few pousadas). Katie had read that it used to be an upper-class destination, but that now it was a middle-class and lower-class destination. Even if this is true, the feel on the island was great. There is nor too much to do, but one could spend at least a day or two exploring the island, its trails, and its people.
Once we exited the barge, we walked to SDU. The walk was through an area currently being improved, as even some older buildings that were once ornate were being restored. It should be a pretty barge terminal soon! The centro and our walk was a bit desolate, but having a ‘military area’ right on the other side of a fence for much of our walk was encouraging.
Once we got to SDU airport, we got our bags from our left luggage locker and took the Real Omnibus to GIG (via the bus station – it took perhaps 30 minutes to get to the bus station and 60 minutes to get to GIG.