On southeast Brazil’s so-called Litoral Norte, the coastline that straddles the border between the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, there are hundreds of incredible beaches with the most unique landscapes, almost all surrounded by thick Atlantic jungle and imposing hills. While there are many gorgeous locations up and down the Litoral Norte, the town of Ubatuba has arguably the best variety of spots, with over 100 beaches of all different types. There is truly something for everyone in Ubatuba, and here’s Culture Trip’s guide to discovering this beach paradise.
Ubatuba lies roughly equidistant from both the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. If traveling from the former by car, the best route to take is the Presidente Dutra freeway (BR-116) towards Rio, and then in the city of Taubaté, turn off onto the Osvaldo Cruz freeway and go south until you hit Ubatuba. The route is around 140 miles (225 kilometers) and, traffic permitting, it should take you approximately 3.5 hours. From Rio, your best bet is to travel on the coastal Governador Mário Covas freeway, which will take you right through Ubatuba. The trip is a little longer (around 200 miles or 322 kilometers) and should take just under five hours. There are also several buses available every day from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Timing is essential for any trip to Ubatuba and the surrounding region. Due to its unique geographic and meteorological properties, the city receives some of the highest levels of rainfall this side of the Amazon Basin, so much so that Ubatuba is often affectionately (or not so affectionately) known as Ubachuva —”chuva” being the Portuguese word for rain. From April to November, temperatures are pleasant, and the rainfall is moderate to low; however, it is in the summer that things start to get a little tricky. In January, February, and March, temperatures can reach up to 40° Celsius (104°F), but the rain can be intense. For ideal conditions, the best time to visit is anywhere between August and December.
With over 100 beaches, it can be a little difficult to choose where exactly in Ubatuba you’d like to visit. Thankfully, most are in fairly close proximity to one another, so if you have a car, you can easily tour the whole region without problems. The town center can get a bit crowded, so it is probably best to find a place to stay in one of the surrounding neighborhoods, such as Picinguaba, Itamambuca, Toninhas or Lagoinha. All have just enough facilities to allow for a stay for a good few days; however, if you’re staying for longer, a place in the center may be your best bet.
Praia Grande is one of the most popular beaches in Ubatuba; therefore, it can get quite busy during peak months. There’s a little bit of everything here with its long stretch of fine white sand and beautiful water. One end of the beach is suited for bodyboarders and surfers, with the waves reaching some decent heights, while the rest of the beach is much calmer and ideal for families or anyone looking for a relaxing swim. As it is fairly close to the town center, there are plenty of kiosks selling drinks and food, meaning it’s easy to spend an entire day there lounging in the sun.
Praia Vermelha do Norte
Slightly farther up the coast is Praia Vermelha do Norte, which is one of the most popular spots in Ubatuba for surfing. If waves are your thing, this is where you want to be. While there will invariably be plenty of surfers in the water, the beach itself is much calmer and the sand thicker. The surrounding landscape is gorgeous, with a large, rocky outcrop covered in an Atlantic jungle on its south side.
Praia da Fortaleza
To the west of Ubatuba, close to the small town of Lagoinha, is the somewhat secluded and beautiful Praia da Fortaleza. The beach is accessible via a narrow road starting in Praia Dura, which winds its way through some gorgeous scenery before ending at Praia da Fortaleza. Though it is a bit more out of the way, it has a few restaurants and bars. The beach itself has wonderful views, as well as several trails leading to hidden rock pools or up to the top of the nearby hill, Pontão da Fortaleza, which is a perfect spot for taking photos.
Praia da Santa Rita
Praia da Santa Rita is the ultimate relaxation spot in the Ubatuba region, and while it’s technically a private beach, the public has access to it. With its calm, clear waters, it almost feels as if you are in a swimming pool. For the more adventurous, there are a number of trails around, including one that takes you up over the hills and onto the neighboring beach of Perequê Mirim. There are no kiosks on Praia da Santa Rita, so buy whatever you need to eat and drink beforehand.
Ilha das Couves
On the northern side of Ubatuba, beside the town of Picinguaba, is the paradisiacal island of Ilha das Couves. Accessible by boat from a number of beaches around the Ubatuba coast, it is totally worth the effort to visit, as it is covered by an Atlantic jungle, most of which is untouched. The hike to the highest peak in the mountains offers some incredible views, while the almost deserted and jaw-dropping beaches around the island are ideal for relaxation, or even a spot of snorkeling.