Situated halfway between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, on the beautiful Litoral Norte coastline of Brazil’s south-east, is the region of Ubatuba, a collection of dozens of towns and gorgeous beaches. There is something for everyone here, from the calm of Santa Rita to the party atmosphere of the town center itself. However, the region is best discovered off-land, by taking one of the several available boat trips that tour the surrounding islands and hard-to-reach beaches.
Almost all of the boat trips around Ubatuba set off from Praia da Enseada, a long beach full of commerce located 10 km (6.21 miles) south of Ubatuba town center. From the beach, the best way to go about finding yourself a boat is by touring the various information kiosks on the sand, negotiating your price and finding the best route for you. Trips usually last an entire afternoon, with several stops at some of the region’s most beautiful beaches. If you’re going alone or in a small group, it is far more cost-effective to try and split the cost with other groups.
In most cases, your boat trip from Enseada will be centered around Ilha Anchieta, the second-largest island on the São Paulo coast, losing out only to the massive Ilhabela to the south. Protected by the government since the 1970s as the Ilha Anchieta State Park, it is a gorgeous destination, full of nature, vibrant colors and beautiful beaches.
Covered with native Atlantic Forest, the 826-hectare reservation is home to a wide range of wildlife, such as howler monkeys, capuchins, capybaras, coatis and armadillos. It is not uncommon to see little families of animals in the vegetation past the beaches’ tree line. The variety of birds that lives on the island is also impressive, including shocking sky blue manakins and brilliant red and turquoise tanagers.
The island has a total of six beaches, with the most sought-out being Praia do Engenho, Praia do Sul and Praia do Leste. Praia do Engenho is situated on the north side of the island, facing Enseada on the mainland, alongside the ruins of the old penitentiary that operated on Ilha Anchieta until the 1950s. It is quiet and peaceful, with soft golden sand and a gorgeous tree line. Walking to the end of the beach, you reach a beautiful natural pool, where you can swim with fishes and take some excellent photographs.
Praia do Sul, despite its name (“sul” meaning south, in Portuguese), is located on the western side of Ilha Anchieta, hidden away by two rocky outcrops on either side, covered in jungle. The beach is almost always deserted, with the most beautiful golden sands and striking transparent turquoise waters. When the island receives less visitors, the bay in front of Praia do Sul is often home to a number of wild sea turtles, who are generally friendly and will allow you to swim with them.
Praia do Leste is on the opposite side of the island and is equally stunning, being another excellent place to swim with fishes and explore the rockpools.
Another advantage of taking a boat trip is the opportunity to visit some of the mainland beaches which are near inaccessible if not by sea, such as Praia das Sete Fontes and Praia do Flamengo. Being away from the State Park, this is more than likely where you will be making your stop for lunch, as both of the aforementioned beaches, while still remaining secluded and quiet, have a couple of kiosks and restaurants for food and refreshments.
If you have to choose one place to visit among Ubatuba’s dozens upon dozens of beautiful beaches, make it Ilha das Couves. Located some distance away from your usual departure point of Praia da Enseada, plenty of tour operators will offer trips that involve this paradisiacal island to the northeast end of the Ubatuba region. The island is approximately 60 hectares large and is covered in almost completely untouched Atlantic Forest, with two of the most beautiful beaches you will find in Brazil. The waters are warm, transparent, brilliant blue and full of marine life, allowing you to feel completely at one with nature. You’ll want to spend some time on the island, perhaps even journeying up the trail to the highest peak to see the incredible views, so organize this with the tour operator beforehand.