The Best Weekend Getaways From São Paulo

Ubatuba is surrounded by hills covered in jungle
Ubatuba is surrounded by hills covered in jungle | © MATHIAS, M H / Flickr
Euan Marshall

São Paulo has a reputation for being an incredibly hard-working city that never switches off. Much of this is true: Paulistanos do work long hours, often six days a week, so they make the most of any time off. While there is plenty to see and do in the city itself, the most Paulistano thing to do during the weekend or holidays is to get the hell out of Dodge. While the city is a cosmopolitan urban jungle, in the surrounding São Paulo state there are all sorts of beautiful, picturesque locations perfect for a quick getaway. Here is a list of some of the most popular spots.

1. Ilhabela

Natural Feature

Ilhabela island in Brazil
© Marcescos / WikiCommons
Literally named “The Beautiful Island,” Ilhabela is a gorgeous archipelago of beaches, Atlantic forest, and waterfalls located just off the Litoral Norte coast. Accessed via a ferry from the city of São Sebastião, the mainland-facing side of the island has plenty of great beaches as well as picturesque Airbnbs and pousadas. The other side of the island can only be explored by 4×4 or boat, but it’s certainly worth it to visit the unforgettable beaches of Bonete and Baía de Castelhanos.

2. Ilha Grande

Natural Feature

Ilha Grande island Brazil
© dabldy / WikiCommons
Close to the millionaire’s playground of Angra dos Reis, the island of Ilha Grande is a fascinating place to visit during a weekend away from São Paulo. Throughout its history, it has been used for many things. First, it was inhabited by the Tamoios Indians, and then it was a hideout for pirates. Soon after, it became a leper colony and then, up until the 1990s, a maximum security prison. While the idea of pirates, lepers and convicts may not sound so inviting, the plus side of this is that Ilha Grande’s 19,000 hectares of Atlantic forest remain almost completely unspoiled. Highlights include Lopes Mendes Beach and the amazing views from the top of the Pico do Papagaio hill.

3. Ilha do Cardoso

Natural Feature

In the lesser-explored south coast of São Paulo, close to the border with the state of Paraná, lies Ilha do Cardoso, a near-deserted and pristine island of luscious flora and fauna and great untouched beaches. There are also lots of excellent nature trails around the island, and the locals (of which there aren’t many) will be more than happy to be your tour guides.

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