Bananal is nestled amidst the Serra da Bocaina, a largely unspoiled region of mountains covered in dense Atlantic forest that stretches all the way to the southern coast of Rio de Janeiro state. Exploring the region is quite difficult without a car or guided excursion. However, you can still get a small taste of what the area has to offer.
From the center of town, you can easily walk through the hills along a 6-kilometer (4-mile) stretch of the Estrada da Turva to the Recanto da Cachoeira (tel. 12/3116-5527, R$4). Owned by a local couple, this small patch of tamed wilderness—with the Rio Turva running through it—is open to visitors. After getting a hydromassage in the cascades, you can relax with beer and snacks at a small shaded bar or on a tiny island in the middle of the river.
Two more impressive waterfalls can only be reached by car. The nearby Cachoeira da Usina (Rodovia SP-247 Km 9) is on the premises of the Fazenda Cachoeira. More distant, the Cachoeira do Bracui (Rodovia SP-247 Km 38) has five separate falls and a magnificent view that stretches as far as the bay of Angra dos Reis.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition