Although few foreigners are aware of it, São Paulo state boasts one of the most attractive, and popular, coastlines in Brazil. Known as the Litoral Norte (North Coast), it extends for more than 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Santos—passing through the resort towns of São Sebastião and Ubatuba—up to the frontier of ]6871 link Rio de Janeiro state]. Natural attractions include beckoning white-sand beaches and majestic mountains covered in dense rainforest.
In recent years, the urban development of some of the larger resort towns has taking on a frightening aspect, marked by an excess of condos and shoppings. Fortunately, there are still many smaller towns and isolated beaches where you can successfully get away from it all.
During the summer, long weekends, and holidays, the litoral is mobbed by millions of Paulistanos fleeing the city. If you visit off-season or during the week, you’ll be treated to tranquility at significantly discounted prices.
The Litoral Norte officially begins at Santos, 70 kilometers (43 miles) from São Paulo. The largest maritime port in Latin America, Santos was founded (as São Vicente) in 1545. During the 19th century, it prospered as a result of São Paulo’s coffee boom. Its recently restored historical center may hold some interest for fans of 19th-century architecture. Otherwise, the town itself is somewhat ratty and the beaches are quite unappealing. Equally unimpressive is nearby Guarujá, 15 kilometers (9 miles) away.
This terrifically crowded and excessively built-up resort town has long been Paulistanos’ favorite getaway despite beaches that are nothing to write home about. In terms of beaches, things only start to get interesting as you make your way north towards the town of São Sebastião, which is only a boat ride away from the snorkeler’s and diver’s island paradise of Ilhabela.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition