While Ubatuba itself has some passable beaches, they pale in comparison to the more unspoiled sheltered coves and sandy expanses you’ll find north and south of town. The majority of these are easily accessible by car and municipal buses as well as by boat.
The beaches to the north of Ubatuba are generally less developed—and even more attractive—than those to the south. Going south from Ubatuba, the initial stretch of coastline is fairly built up and gets quite crowded in the summer. Things only begin to get more interesting 15 kilometers (9 miles) from town as you arrive at tiny Praia da Sununga, whose big waves attract surfers. Here you can also see the legendary Gruta que Chora, a cavern where trickling water gives the illusion that the walls are “crying.” Adjacent Praia do Lázaro’s placid waters are a favorite with families, while the next beach over, Domingas Dias, accessible on foot, is a beckoning cove with soft, sugary sand. Fronting a condo complex 24 kilometers (15 miles) south of Ubatuba, Vermelha do Sul is a well-preserved beach with reddish sands flanked by exuberant vegetation and is popular with water-sports enthusiasts.
Farther south, the beaches are even more pristine, although access is more difficult. From Vermelha do Sul, a sinuous road leads to the lovely Praia da Fortaleza, where there are only a few hotels, restaurants, and summer homes. A 40-minute walk away is the beautifully deserted Praia do Cedro, where the ocean is transparent and you can float in natural pools.
The beaches to the north of Ubatuba are generally less developed—and even more attractive—than those to the south. Some 15 kilometers (9 miles) north of Ubatuba, Itamambuca is a surfer’s mecca whose barracas are always crowded. A more tranquil surfing spot is neighboring Praia do Félix, where forested mountains come right down to the sea. Farther north, Praia do Prumirim and Praia de Puruba are beautiful beaches where you can bathe in waterfalls and rivers as well as the sea. Ubatumirim boasts a long stretch of hard-packed sand that is ideal for walking to the secluded Praia da Justa.
Farther north, a scenic 30-minute walk from busy Praia da Almada brings you to idyllic Brava da Almada, which is part of the Parque Estadual da Serra do Mar. The coastal headquarters of the park are at nearby Praia da Fazenda, a lovely beach where you can swim in rivers as well as in the sea. Bordering on the state of Rio are Picinguaba, a picturesque fishing village, and Camburi, a seductively wild beach whose only signs of civilization are a few primitive barracas.
The pristine condition of the beaches and rain forest surrounding Ubatuba is due to their preservation within the coastal boundaries of the Parque Estadual da Serra do Mar. The park’s coastal headquarters are located at the Núcleo Picinguaba (BR-101 Km 11, Praia da Fazenda, tel. 12/3832-9011, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily), 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Ubatuba. If you want to explore the park—with its myriad cascades, rivers, hummingbirds, and rare orchids—you need to get in touch with the visitors center. The staff can provide you with maps as well as guides that can lead you along the hiking trails that cut through the rain forest. Another option is to contract a guide with the Associação de Monitores de Ubatuba (tel. 12/9145-9015).
Another compelling feature of Ubatuba’s coastline is its many offshore islands. One of the largest, Ilha Anchieta, is a short boat ride away from the central beaches of Itaguá and Saco da Ribeira. Before becoming a natural park, the island housed a jail where political prisoners whiled away their days during the Vargas years; the ruins are still visible. The island is crisscrossed by trails leading to various deserted beaches, and its clear waters offer great diving. Mykonos Turismo (Rua Flamenguinha 17, Praia Saco da Ribeira, tel. 12/3842-0329) organizes excursions to Anchieta (with stops at beaches along the way) and to Ilha do Prumirim, north of Ubatuba, for around R$50 pp. Omnimare (Rua Guaicurus 30, Itaguá, tel. 12/3832-2005) offers diving courses as well as six-hour diving excursions (R$120–170) to Anchieta and other islands.
Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Brazil.