Despite its reputation for being a concrete jungle, São Paulo offers quite a few welcoming green oases in and around the city. Although the most famous and centrally located is Parque do Ibirapuera, near the southern outskirts of the city is the Parque do Estado, a vast expanse of native Atlantic rainforest with walking trails and picnic areas as well as a botanical garden and zoo. The easiest way to get to the park is to take the Metrô to Jabaquara—from the station it’s only a quick taxi ride to the entrance.
One of the highlights of Parque do Estado is the Jardim Botânico (Av. Miguel Stéfano 3031, Água Funda, tel. 11/5073-6300, www.ibot.sp.gov.br, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed.–Sun., R$3), which specializes in the study and preservation of native plant and tree species. A large lagoon festooned with lily pads and other aquatic plants splices the park in two, separating shady woods from a tunnel of bamboo. Among the gardens’ many scenic paths is a suspended treetop walking trail that cuts through native Atlantic foliage where you can catch sight of sloths, monkeys, and brightly colored toucans.
The other big draw at the Parque do Estado is the Jardim Zoológico (Av. Miguel Stéfano 4241, Água Funda, tel. 11/5073-0811, www.zoologico.sp.gov.br, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun., R$12). São Paulo’s very popular menagerie has over 3,500 beasts and birds from all over the globe, including some extremely rare animals such as a white rhino and a Siberian tiger (currently the largest feline in existence). Since the zoo is quite spread out, spring for the minibus (R$5) that will drive you around to visit all the animals.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition