Traveling east from Serra da Mantiqueira  in the direction of Rio de Janeiro  will bring you to the lush range of mountains known as the Serra do Mar. Covered with increasingly rare native Atlantic forest, it spans the northern coast of São Paulo state  and the southern coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro . In the midst of a lush mountainous landscape are the charming towns of São Luís do Paraitinga  and Bananal , a colonial gem surrounded by 19th-century coffee plantations.
More isolated than the increasingly developed resorts of the coastline, this region is sprinkled with these small historical towns that have remained largely untouched by time, where you can savor simple, regional cooking and witness vibrant cultural manifestations of years gone by.
The main draw, however, is the countryside itself—hikers, climbers, rafters, and waterfall junkies will definitely not be disappointed. The Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina , a patch of native Atlantic forest replete with numerous waterfalls and hiking trails, is the highlight for outdoor enthusiasts.