Road Trip

São Paulo

  • As World Cup fever takes hold, host nation Brazil will accommodate football fans from around the globe. But for those making the pilgrimage in support of their home team, it’s worth remembering this land of contrasts offers much more than just sport. Showcasing a route from the largest city in Brazil, São Paulo, to the home of the Maracanã and Brazilian football, Rio, it’s well worth breaking up this five hour door to door trip into a five day journey of a lifetime. Take in breathtaking beaches, isles of wonder, luxuriant rainforest and historic towns, as well as making time for some of the region’s famed festivities in the party capital of the world. Also taking in the once pirate-stalked gold trail, this beach hopping road trip will excite even the most stalwart football fanatic.

  • São Sebastião

    Heading out of São Paulo towards the coast heading for the BR 101, resist the urge to hit the beaches around Guarujá and Santos, which are clogged with high-rises. Instead aim for São Sebastião, where you’ll be well rewarded with 36 beaches to choose from.

    São Sebastião is also the embarkation point for the plethora of islands dotted round the city’s coastline, most notably the idyllic Ihlabela, whose calm north western waters make for great scuba diving among the many wrecks of the region. Famed for its crystal waters, palm shaded bays and forest tipped mountains – as well as its vicious mosquitoes. The area is well worth an overnight stop to appreciate its stunning scenery and the abundant wildlife, particularly the 300 or so bird species which inhabit the isle. Ferries leave every half an hour from city port, although be warned – an hour wait to board is not unusual in high season.

  • Caraguá

    Back on the mainland and it’s an easy 40 minute drive along the BR 101 to the next stop along the coastal route, Caraguatatuba, known by its abbreviation Caraguá.

    Home to 40 kilometres of sandy coastline and an unrivalled diversity of beach life, it’s worth a stop if you haven’t tired of sun, sea and sand. Locals often head for Martin de Sá and families to Cocanha and Tabatinga, while Mococa Beach, said to have medicinal sand thought to help arthritis, is popular with older sun worshippers.

  • Ubatuba

    If none of this appeals, keep going until you hit Ubatuba, another popular tourist destination. Peak season falls around January and February, when tourists pour in from Rio and São Paulo. Much of the rest of the year, however, is wonderfully tranquil.

    If you tire of lazing about on one of the 80 beaches that grace its 100 or so km of coastline, or get bored with the variety of watersports on offer, Ubatuba boasts a selection of natural wonders. Among them is the Cachoeira de Prumirium, a cascade of waterfalls that, with care, you can bathe in, following a trek through the areas numerous forest trails. And if you’re looking for a little party action, the town itself offers nightlife aplenty.

  • Paraty

    A meandering pootle north around the peninsula takes you to Paraty, a colonial gem nestled in the bay of the Ihla Grande. It should only take an hour or so, and with its well-preserved coffee and cane producing heritage and its pedestrian only centre preserving the area’s timeless charm, this town is billed as a must-see. Concentrate your cultural experience on the Casa da Paraty Cultura where you can walk on carpets of petals preserved from June’s Corpus Christi festivities, as well as the numerous Portuguese inspired churches that mark the town.

    Alternatively, get back in tune with nature by heading to the waterslides at the Cachoeira do Penha em Paraty. Keep an eye out for the monthly floodings which take place during high tides at full moon, when sea water rises and flows into the streets until the tides recede.

  • Angra dos Reis

    Making the final hop on this tour of idylls requires a stop at Angra dos Reis. While it may be less inspiring than other locations along the coast, its industrialised coastline does serve to highlight the natural beauty in abundance on this road trip. From here, you can take the ferry to Ihla Grande, an immaculate island that once housed a notorious prison which kept developers at bay for decades.

    Now sparsely settled around the island’s largest town, Vila do Abraão, where cars are banned, this picture perfect island is a paradise for hikers and sun seekers alike. Reminders of the island’s dark past do however linger around the hard to reach Parnaioca beach, where ghost stories of lepers and slaves abound.

  • Rio de Janeiro

    Ferries leave Angra at 10am daily, and although it can take as little as two hours to leave the island by speedboat and get to Rio, don’t bet on it, especially if you have tickets booked to the World Cup final!

    Weather and connections dependent, it can take upwards of six, so a leisurely departure should be planned for, with plenty of time to make your way to the ‘marvellous city’ as Rio is known. It’s a city of opposites, with the city’s mountain location sitting outside a vast urban sprawl, bringing the trappings of industrialisation and nature together under the outstretched arms of the city’s best known monument, Christ the Redeemer, or Cristo Redentor.