While the green mountainscape surrounding Angra dos Reis (Bay of the Kings) is drop-dead gorgeous, the modern, industrialized town itself is anything but. The proximity of a Petrobras oil refinery means that tankers often clog the port, and the looming presence of Brazil’s most important nuclear reactors, Angra-1 and Angra-2, casts a pall on the environment.
However, though the town itself is on the unattractive side, the surrounding area—where Rio’s crème-de-la-crème spend weekends in their beach mansions and private yachts (not to mention private islands)—boasts some sophisticated resorts and seductive pousadas. Featuring their own private praias, many are destinations in themselves.
Most of all, Angra is the primary point of departure for discovering the 365 islands—and over 2,000 beaches—dotted throughout the bay.
Angra’s main attraction is its magnificent bay, and the best way to explore it is by boat. Mar de Angra (Av. Júlio Maria 16, tel. 24/3365-3321, www.mardeangra.com.br ) offers six-hour schooner trips for R$25. One popular route visits the islands of Catagueses, Botinas, and Gipóia, stopping at the latter’s idyllic Praia das Flechas for swimming and lunch. Another visits Ilha Grande , taking time out for diving in Lagoa Azul. A simpler, less crowded possibility is to hire a boat at the Associação dos Barqueiros (Av. Júlio Maria, tel. 24/3365-3165).
Angra’s limpid green waters offer great visibility (especially in the winter months) and lots to see, ranging from sunken ships to marine life that includes colorful fish, turtles, and seahorses. Frade Diver (Rua do Porto 1, tel. 24/3369-2816, www.fradediver.com.br ) provides gear rental and offers excursions as well as lessons for divers of all levels. For a three-hour outing, experienced divers pay R$170, while beginners pay R$220. A basic two-day course that includes two outings costs R$550 per person.