If you want to see and experience some of the most beautiful beaches of Brazil, then visiting Ubatuba is a must. It’s located between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, just on the border of the state of Rio de Janeiro. A bus or car ride from both ends can take around 3-6 hours.
This post includes:
Why visit Ubatuba?
History of Ubatuba
Best time to visit Ubatuba- and worst
Itamambuca resort, river and beach
Praia da fazenda- farm beach
Sununga Beach (skimboarding beach)
Praia grande- the big beach
Enchieta island- Ilha Anchieta State Park
Casa da fahrina
Project Tamar (turtle conservation)
How to get to Ubatuba
Why visit Ubatuba?
Rio might have its famous and well known Cobacana and Ipanema beaches and from São Paulo you can easily reach Islabela– an island with its own beautiful beaches, which is worth a visit on its own, but Ubatuba is special and here is why.
With over 80 beaches spread along its 100km coast, it’s a true piece of paradise for people who want to escape well-known tourist hotspots and experience long sandy beaches paired with beautiful mountain scenery and tropical flora. Ubatuba is surrounded by Serra do Mar, one of the most important and well preserved remnants of the Atlantic Forest in the State.
We stayed three days in Ubatuba during Brazilian Spring (September- October, which is a calm time in Ubatuba). Three days are not nearly enough to explore all the beaches, but I did learn an awful lot about the city and the few places we visited, thanks to Rosa and Orlando. These two are
friends of my boyfriends family, who were kind enough to let us stay in their house and drive us around in their 40 year old beetle (quite an experience in itself). Nothing beats exploring a place by learning about it from its locals!
Ubatuba, the city without much history
Don’t com to Ubatuba expecting great architecture or a city with a rich history. It’s quite the opposite really. Rosa explained how when she grew up in Ubatuba, 50 years ago, there weren’t many houses and most of the beaches, even the most well known of them all- Praia grande, wasn’t very well looked after. But during the past 20 years Ubatuba grew and grew to what it is today- a popular tourists destination mostly know by Brazilian. Half the apartments are left empty during the winter season but are fully packed with tourists during the summer time.
Ubatubas main tourist road, north of R. Leovegildo Dias de Oliveiras street, is quite beautiful though, especially at night time. Its safe there due to it being always busy. You can see families going for walks, people dancing to the live bands in the street bars and the nice smells coming from the (great) fish restaurants and cafes all add to that charming and relaxing holiday feeling.
Best time to travel to Ubatuba- and the worst
If you want to come to Ubatuba during a less busy time, I recommend August- October. It isn’t the hottest time of the year but temperatures still reach around 31 degrees (which is already miracle summer temperature here in the UK). The rain is minimal also (if lucky). During three weeks in Brazil in September we only experienced rain twice. Luckily we were spending one day on the bus and the other one leaving Brazil.
Before that, it hadn’t rained property for nearly two months.
As other sources state, it can be hard to find food outside the main season, as a lot of restaurants are closed. But I really don’t think that’s the case at all. There are restaurants everywhere, supermarkets are open till late and you can find street vendors selling hotdogs or burgers even far from the main streets in Ubatuba.
Especially September to October is also a time where you are less likely to get Dengue fever– a tropical disease that is passed on to humans by certain types of Mosquitos, mainly during the heavy rain season. This is good news for people like me who get bombarded by mosquito bites no matter how often they refresh their Anti-mosquito sprays or creams.
The worst time to travel to Ubatuba, if you want to avoid the main tourist season, is January- February. During this time, the main beaches and apartments are packed with (mostly) Brazilian tourists who go there for longer summer vacations, as the large distance between São Paulo and Rio makes it a less appealing weekend destination. These months also fall within the rain season (December- March).
Itamambuca Eco resort and beach
Itamanbuca is an Eco resort located in a private reserve which borders to the state park of Serra do Mar, one of the most important forest pockets in Brazil. The resort is a natural sanctuary that has great biodiversity and thousands of animal species. It’s a popular place for birdwatching as the area is home to 250 different bird species. Capybaras, armadillos, lizards but also Dolphins can be seen around the area if lucky.
Unfortunately they were fully booked at the time of our visit and we weren’t allowed to have a look inside, which was a downer. It’s worth a visit regardless since you can find one of the most beautiful beaches of Ubatuba at the end of the resort.
Behind Itamambuca is a river that flows into the Itamambuca beach– which is open for everyone. The beach is great and well known for surfing and often times surfing competitions are held there. We watched a female surfing competition, while we were there and it was quite spectacular!
If just watching isn’t your thing you can also rent surfboards there and try and ride the waves yourself. Granted this beach might not be the best for people who enjoy a calm swim but it’s a fun beach full of young people and life. The mixture of the swampy Itamanbuca river flowing into the ocean, framed by beautiful jungle nature is also a plus.
Itamanbuca beach was definitely my favorite beach out of all the ones I have seen in Brazil!
Praia da fazenda
Praia da fazenda or farm beach (there used to be a sugar cane farm here) isn’t the most popular beach which I think makes it the perfect place to visit if you want to be away from the common masses of people during the main season. The beach is nice, the sea is calmer and while we were there, we pretty much had the whole beach for ourselves. It was us and some vultures feasting on a dead turtle who were not at all bothered by our presence. The walk from the street to the beach also leads around a little museums (free entry) in which you can learn about the flora and fauna of Southern Brazil.
Sununga beach is a popular beach with the locals but there are quite a few houses and apartments to rent for holiday goers, too. There are also a couple safe camping places near the beach but keep in mind that the area is a bit further away from the city or local shops.
Again this beach is nothing for people who like a calm swim. The waves are intense and it’s not advised to go too far into the sea.
It is a popular place for skimboarding and skimboarding competitions though. The beach has a lot of small kiosks/little restaurants where you can drink and eat while watching them.
You can also find Gruta que chora here. A small cave called crying cave due to it’s walls constantly dripping water, making it look like its crying.
We spent a whole day at this beach, climbed the rocks, fought the waves and ate cação, a small kind of shark that is known to be a bit more fibrey in texture. They don’t sell it everywhere, so make sure that you try it if you get the opportunity to!
Praia grande, the big beach, is the main tourist beach of Ubatuba. It can be reached by foot from the city center. Opposite the beach you can find tons of tourist apartments and shops. The beach is also packed with walking food- or merchandise vendors selling products in varying quality. Of course there are kiosks and restaurants along the beach too, but personally I always love to try the random food and typical Brazilian snacks the walking vendors bring along.
Praia grande the most popular spot for a lot of the Brazilian tourists but personally I didn’t like it too much. The water was wild but not in an enjoyable way. It was also full of small and bigger jellyfish (which I am personally not a big fan of).
Even more beaches, small Islands AND capybaras
Boatstrip- Enchieta Island
Yes, there are more beaches should you run out of them on the main coast! Another must do in Ubatuba is a boats trip. Personally, I love boats trips. It might not be for everyone but I think it’s worth exploring smaller islands as they are usually more remote and you can find better wildlife there!
Enchieta island does offer wildlife, beautiful beaches and nature and a historical site in form of abandoned prison ruins overgrown by plants which makes for a good photo opt.
For our trip to Enchieta island I was promised lots of Capybaras, Monkeys and Quatis. Unfortunately, seeing them can never be guaranteed. I only got to see one lazy Capybara. He didn’t want to move to the rest of the herd which was nowhere to be seen…
Regardless of my bad luck with seeing wild animals, going to the island was still a good choice, I think.
If you want to enter the ruins on the island, you have to pay a tax of 17R$. A tour guide will explain a few facts about the place to all the new arrivals and talk a bit about the violent history of the old prison ground. Unfortunately, at least the time we were there, it was Portuguese only so I only learned about the history of the prison by reading up about it afterwards.
There are several beaches on the island too that can be easily reached by following small trails through the forest. Some of them are a good place for snorkeling, other are just plain beautiful.
What to do on a cloudy or rainy day?
What if you came to Ubatuba to enjoy the beaches but it ends up raining all day or is just plain cloudy? Of course there are indoor things to check out in Ubatuba (like the Aquarium).
But if your really in the mood for a swim just take the car or the bus and drive a couple miles down the coast to a different beach. Due the mountains, the weather can change drastically by just driving a bit away from a cloudy location. When we planned to visit Sununga Beach, the weather in Ubatuba was cloudy, with not even a little bit of sunshine coming through. But during our 20 minute drive we could see how we left the clouds behind and arrived at a perfectly sunny beach. We had a great day.
Prumirin waterfall (Cachoeira do Prumirim)
We did a quick stop at Prumirin waterfall on our way to Itamambuca. The waterfalls, surrounded by lush rainforest, are easy to reach by a short trail from Rio- Santos road.
It’s advised to be careful though. It’s possible to swim in the water, or climb on the rocks and stand under the waterfall but it’s extremely slippery there.
I did slip and fall (because of course) but luckily I got away with only some bruises.
Another piece of history, the Farinha house, can be found in the hinterland of the Picinguaba Farm, north of the highway. The street to the house is an old dirt street that is quite bumpy. While it’s worth taking a couple hours to explore it, it might be better to go there with a local.
Located in the jungle is a set of ruins of an old sugar and alcohol mill which was built at the end of the last century by Italian immigrants.
Firmino Joaquim Ferreira Veiga bought the lands in 1885 and with his sugar cane and corn business started a colony of 45 Italian families in that area.
Behind the ruins of the old mills is a path that leads deeper into the jungle (make sure to use plenty of mosquito spray). At the end of it is a small waterfall and natural pool to swim in which is absolutely beautiful. The water there is so clean, that it is used as drinking water by the people who live in that area.
Something else that is worth visiting is Project Tamar, a sea turtle conservation project by a non-profit organization which protects sea turtles from extinction.
Projeto Tamar, located close to Praia do Itaguá, can be reached by foot from the main beaches.
Inaugurated in 1992, Ubatuba was the first base for the project, as it’s the feeding area of sea turtles on the Brazilian coast. It’s the only one in the state and the most important one next to Fernando de Noronha and Praia do Forte.
Beside being an important conservation project it’s also fun and interesting to learn about the sea turtles and get up close to them.
Where? Projeto Tamar, Rua Antonio Atanázio, 273, Jrd Paula Nobre
Open: from Mo- Sun 10am – 6pm, Fri, Sat and Holidays 10am- 8pm. Closed on Wednesday during the school year for maintenance.
How to get to Ubatuba?
As previously stated, you can rent a car in Sao Paulo. To get to Ubatuba take the Tamoios (SP-099) to Rio-Santos (BR-101), which will take around 3-4 hours. Or take a bus from Sao Paulos bus terminal Tiete. You can easily reach the bus station by subway.
From Rio it is best to take a bus. Buses in Brazil are quite modern and comfortable and most even have free wifi for longer journeys. The journey from Sao Paulo takes around 5-6 hours ( around R$ 74).
I want to thank Rosa and Orlando again should they read this. Me and Rodrigo really did have a wonderful time all thanks to you two! The friendliness and openness of the people in Brazil really is what made me fall in love with the country ❤