Love discovering new sandy shores ?
What if we told you, that you could spend weeks discovering FREE beaches?
Yes, that's right, we're about to tell you where you can discover at least one new beach every day, for weeks. Interested ? It’s only logical to find it in Brazil. The country is in the southern hemisphere and most importantly has one of the longest coastal lines in all the world. If you love the beach, we are sure that you would enjoy the list of almost endless beaches along the ‘Serra do Mar’.
Today we write about the beaches from Rio Santos all the way to São Sebastião and Ubatuba. And in case you would still want to discover more, there is a ferry from São Sebastião to Ilhabela (pronounced Ilha-bela, pretty island) that will let you do just that.
We from Discovering Destinations have visited many times and know the busy beaches from the isolated ones. We know the well-structured and deserted ones. And yes, there is such a thing as having a beach all to yourself, even in Brazil.
How to get there
We strongly recommend you renting a car from São Paulo and heading to Serra do Mar or Imigrantes towards Guarujá.
- Most locals use Waze for GPS navigation. We can vouch for this application and it’s use in Brazil is exemplary, letting you know speed traps, radars and causes for traffic jams. People interact using Waze in real-time. If you have internet access in Brazil this is the best solution.
- The other alternatives is renting a GPS with the car company, which we’ve done. They are often outdated, even though the rental counter says they are up to date.
- Lastly, if you don’t have internet connection and don’t want to rent an outdated GPS. Use the free Wi-Fi from the airport and add your destination to Google maps. Your itinerary will stay lodged in your phone as you make your way to your destination. It works, even if you don’t have internet or Wi-Fi.
Along the way, the view is quite spectacular. There are large mountains, tunnels and endless hectares of trees. Usually we make a quick stop in the Bertioga municipality, at a place called Riviera de São Lourenço (St-Laurent Riviera). There is a resting place with a small shopping center.
Things to look out for along the way.
- Great views. Get your camera ready for pictures of the mountains and landscape in general.
- Potentially slow traffic. The majority of cars in Brazil have small engines (1.0, 1.4, 1.6...) as it proves better for fuel efficiency but not rapidity. Also, many trucks appear overloaded and can cause unforeseen delays.
- Motorcycles make their own path riding between cars. Look twice, even three times before you change lanes.
- The radars. It is awkward driving at times, the speed limit goes from 80km/h, to 60km/h and then 40km/h all in the space of 100 meters. If you see people slowing down, try to look ahead for a radar as opposed to speed past them.
List of beaches
Here are some of our favourite but not limited to:
- Guarujá is the first large beach along the way. Brazilians try to avoid this beach because it's heavily crowded and also for security reasons.
- Bertioga has nice beaches, but we've never been.
- Boraceia is a little further and much calmer. It can be deserted at the end of the Brazilian summer (March & April) and the weather is perfect for those accustomed to northern hemisphere temperature. We also know from experience that Boraceia has a great New Year’s celebration on the beach. We consider it very clean and well-structured, with many food-shacks and vendors. (depending on the season)
- Praia da Juréia is a smaller beach. It’s kind of unique too because it’s joint to
Juréia lake which is fresh water. In general, this beach is great for surfers but not ideal for children.
- Praia do Engenho is smaller than Juréia but still beautiful. It’s a little hard to find and still open to the public. The access point is a small corridor between a large hotel chain and new construction.
- Barra do Una. It’s considered a small beach but next to a small village which means there’s always someone there. It could be difficult to find parking. Important view point, you can check out 'Mirante da Barra do Una' which (for the time being) can only be accessed by car via 'Agenda Mãe Bernarda'. It offers a spectacular view of the small city and ocean.
- Juquehy is the most popular destination. Besides the beach, there is a small city, shopping center, many restaurants and medium size beach. It is equally well structured and great to spend an afternoon or entire day. There are many activities available here, like stand up board rentals and banana boats. We don't remember the exact price but for somewhere between 10-20 reais per person, the Banana boat will take you to island across. Ask the driver to leave you some time to explore the island.
- Praia Preta is located after Juquehy, if you blink while driving, you may miss it. The parking space is on the side of the road. Prepare a small tip for the man guarding your car. This beach is nice, calm and quite small. It's isolated and has very few visitors on a given day. If you feel like it, there's a small rocky wall that you can climb which will take you to another (even more) isolated beach.
- Barra do Sahy. We've never been but encourage you to stop if you like.
- Praia do Boiçucanga. It’s a small beach. Nice to visit but it’s what Brazilians call ‘tombo beach’ meaning it’s deep as soon as you enter the water. It’s not ideal for swimming, especially if the courant is strong. We once ate in a restaurant called Republica das Bananas, owned by an ex-basketball player. Most importantly, they also serve really good food.
- Praia de Maresias. Maresias is more of an upscale place. Many surfers come here to train. Actually, you might find one of the famous Brazilian surfers here, Gabriel Medina. He has created the Gabriel Medina Institute on the beachfront, destined to help children from ages 10-16.
- After Maresias you will find Praia do Paúba, Santiago, Toque-Toque
Pequeno, Toque-Toque Grande, Praia do Guaeca and Cabelo Grande. There is a place to stop alongside the road on the way to Ilhabela. We forget where exactly, but pay attention, try to stop and check out the view !
- Ilhabela is a super nice place to discover. You get there by taking the ferry from São Sebastião. There’s lots to see and discover once you’re on the island. There are hotels if you want to stay longer to discover the beaches, stores and restaurants. *January or February is considered high season, book in advance.
Take special care:
- The main highway is only one lane. There are few sections with passing lanes. Look out for and don't react to irritated or impatient drivers. Some may tailgate you or try to pass on the shoulder.
- Many curves going through the mountains. Rain or shine, take care on the road. We instinctively pay more attention on the road during precipitations or low visibility however many accidents happen during sunny days.
- Mosquitoes and ‘’borrachudos’’. In Brazil, there is currently an outbreak of Yellow Fever (around Minas Gerais) in addition to Dengue and Zica. Nonetheless, it's best to get vaccinated for the Yellow Fever before travelling. In Brazil, it can take time and end up being more expensive. In addition, bring lots of bug repellant. The Serra do Mar is a very humid region known for many pests like ‘’borrachudos’’, their bites are similar to those of horse flies.
- Weather predictions. Ubatuba is also known as Ubachuva (chuva = rain). We still can’t predict the temperature, as meteorologists have demonstrated with all the technology in the world. Nevertheless, it would be good to look it up in advance. The Literal North can get days and even weeks of non-stop heavy rain causing landslides and even floods.
Here are some links for you to better plan your itinerary to the Literal North of Brazil.
We hope this blog could help you plan your trip, set future plans or even just get you dreaming a little. Later we'll add more information about Caraguatatuba leading to Ubatuba where you'll find part of the famous Projeto Tamar !