Ubatuba is a municipality in the northern coast of São Paulo state, just in the border with the Rio de Janeiro state.
Ubatuba is a true paradisiac area, being predominantly covered by exhuberant Atlantic rainforest and containing more than 80 non-contiguous beaches distributed along 100 km of coast. You may find some of them completely deserted, especially on low season.
When to go
Ubatuba is devoted to tourism, but the fact that it is relatively far from both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (despite being almost exactly between them) makes it far more a "vacation/holiday" destination than a "weekend destination".
For that reason, during summer vacation (dec-feb) and holidays, the city and the more central beaches will be packed, and congestions in the Rio-Santos road may frequently occur. However, during the rest of the year, especially during weekdays, the city will be almost empty, and some beaches far from the city center may even be completely deserted.
The low season is thus great if you want tranquility, but in the other hand, the city center will be far less vivid, and it may be very difficult to find something to eat or drink outside it. Many shops, kiosks and restaurants close during low season.
By car, from São Paulo or São José dos Campos, you may take either Tamoios (SP-099) and after Rio-Santos (BR-101) or Osvaldo Cruz (SP-099). Journey from São Paulo to the city center of Ubatuba should take about 3 hours in good traffic conditions.
From the International Airport (GRU) at São Paulo City there is a bus line from Expresso Rodoviário Litoranea. They come to Caraguatatuba, which is a neighboring city, about 43 km from Ubatuba. There are only four departures from the airport to Caraguá: 7AM, 11AM, 4:30PM, and 8PM. From the airport to Caraguá it takes about 3 hours by bus. The bus ticket is about R$35 per person.
Ubatuba has about 100 km of coast, so if you plan to know the beaches far from the city center, a car is highly recommended. You may rent a car in the city if you are not up to drive 3 hours from São Paulo (which can become much more in holidays). If you are going to Ubatuba in low season, and you are not staying in the city center, a car is also a good idea, since you may find out that where you are staying there is no place to go out to eat, sometimes not even a supermarket.
Public transport is administrated by Verdebus. There are some buses that go to more remote beaches, but they are not very frequent and they may stop not at the beach itself but rather at a nearby village. Be sure to check these things in advance.
Amogn locals, bicycles are a very popular means of transport. However, the beaches of Ubatuba are not contiguous, requiring a cyclist to ride in the sides of the Rio-Santos road to move between them, which is not particularly safe, despite being done by locals. Also, Ubatuba is quite hilly!
Cycling in the city center of Ubatuba, however, is much easier. The area is flat and there is a fair amount of cycleways.
Prumirim Waterfall (Cachoeira do Prumirim), Rio-Santos (BR101) (19 km north from city center, near Prumirim bridge). It is actually a sequence of waterfalls, surrounded by exhuberant rainforest. Easily accessible by a short trail from the Rio-Santos road; check the signs for "Cachoeira de Prumirim". It is possible to swim, but some care, specially with children, is advised.
Automobile Museum (Museu do Automóvel), Rua Tapajós 65 - Itaguá. Thurs-Sun.
Caiçara Museum (Museu Caiçara). Exhibits items produced by the traditional caiçara communities, coast-dwelling fishing communities.
Projeto Tamar, Praia do Itaguá. The local unit of the country's most important sea turtle conservation project offers the chance to get up close and personal with the sea turtles.
Serra do Mar National Park, Picinguaba Unit, (40 km east of downtown on BR-101). Contiguous with Serra da Bocaina National Park.
Ubatuba is simply one of the best places in Brazil to practice surf, nautical sports, diving and birdwatching. With 80 beaches, there are beach options for all kinds of audiences – from the high waves of Itamambuca to the calms waters of Lázaro. Uninhabited beaches such as Brava, Almada and Cedro draw one’s attention, and the access to them is made through tracks. For those looking for movement, the best option is “Grande” Beach or the schooner rides to Anchieta Island.
Félix, (15 km north of center). Beach with preserved natural surroundings, despite being next to a condominium. It is popular among surfers, although slightly less than Itamambuca.
Grande, (4 km south of center). The most popular beach in town, over 2km long with a wide sandy area and strong waves that are good for surfing. With younger crowds and many kioks.
Itaguá, (at city center). Ubatuba's central beach is not suitable for bathing, but it can be very pleasant for walking or cycling or morning, or having a snack or a drink during the evening.
Itamambuca, access via a sidestreet at Km 34 of BR-101 (15km north of downtown). Famous beach that hosts international surfing competitions. Like Félix, it is located at a condominium but has preserved natural surroundings. It is also where the Itamambuca river flows into the sea. The river is not suitable for bathing, but you can make a short boat ride there.
Lázaro, (15 km south of center). Beach with beautiful surroundings, popular among families due to its calm waters.
Prumirim, (18 km north of center). Wonderful beach and a view of the Prumirim island, which is popular among divers and can be accessed by a boat ride. The Prumirim flows here to the sea.
Saco da Ribeira.
Toninhas, (8 km south of center). An urban beach that does not look urban at all, being surrounded by trees instead of roads and buildings. One can walk from there to Praia Grande by a small trail.
Ubatumirim, (28 km north of center). Long, broad and flat beach, perfect for walking, jogging and other sports. One of the few beaches that is easily accesible by car but does not contain a suburb or condominium, but rather some camping facilities.
Vermelha do Norte, (7 km north of center). Beautiful beach with thick and red sands, strong waves indicated for surfing, and a small waterpark for children.
Trekking or hiking at Ubatuba's dozens of forest trails. Reach various deserted beaches, waterfalls and even some indigenous tribes
Scuba diving at the islands (Anchieta, Vitória and Prumirim)
Surfing at Itamambuca, Félix, Vermelha do Norte and other great surfing points
Climb Corcovado - Not the famous statue-crested peak of Rio de Janeiro, Ubatuba's Corcovado Peak can be reached by a trail from Praia Dura, offering a pretty, albeit Jesus-free, view of the area. The trail is poorly-signposted and hard to follow, however, so it is best to arrange for a guide through the tourist information center (see the Understand section above).
Many tourist-oriented shops are located at Rua Guarani and the north part of R. Leovegildo Dias de Oliveira, in front of the Itaguá beach. The area becomes quite crowded during evenings on high season and holidays, and contains shops, restaurants, bars and kioks in the beach front.
The "actual" commercial center of the city is Av. Thomás Galhardo, where you can find more general products and services. The area is currently under revitalization, to make it a popular spot among both local and tourists.
Specialties in Ubatuba include locally-harvested mussels and peixe azul marinho, blue marine fish served and pirão de banana verda, a dish made with manioc flour and green bananas.
Perequim Restaurante e Pizzaria, Rua Guarani 385, ☎ 3832-1354, . Pasta and pizza, with more than 60 brands of beer and 100 wines on offer.
Rei do Peixe, Rua Guarani 480 - Itaguá, ☎ +12 3832-3272, . Specializes in seafood. All dishes are large portions intended for two people.
Anchieta Café, Av. Tamoios, 64, . (12) 3833 4232.
Areia Summer House, Rodovia Rio Santos, km 101 - Praia Vermelha do Norte, ☎ (12) 3836 2261.
Coyote Bar, R Coronel Domiciano 74 - Centro, ☎ (12) 3832-4856. Thur-Sat from 6PM.
Friends Lounge and Club. Good spot for a caipirinha.
180° (180 Graus), Félix Guisard 11 - Prainha, ☎ (12) 3832 6991, . This nightclub, located in an old Matarazzo family mansion, has three dance floors, six bars, a pizza restaurant and snack bar. National and international DJs spin all types of electronic music for a mostly 20-something crowd.Up to R$30, depending on the event.
Hotel Coquille, Rua Praia Grande, 405 - Praia Grande (Only 250m off the beach.), ☎ +55 12 3835 1611 (email@example.com), . checkin: 13h; checkout: 12h. Double Luxo From R$ 130,00 (low season) to R$ 285,00 (high season).
Hotel Ubatuba, Avenida principal, 55 - Praia do Itamambuca, ☎ (12) 7817-4136, . checkin: 12:00; checkout: 11:00. Pousada Twin Hotel in Ubatuba na Praia de Itamambuca190.
Pousada Omnimare, Rua Guaicurus 30 (close to the airport, Itagua Beach), ☎ +55 12 38322005, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: noon. A cozy bed and breakfast, rooms with air conditioner, LCD cable TV, solar heated shower, swimming pool and beatiful gardens.R$75. (S 23o 26' 37.84,W 45o 04' 13.50)
Pousada Taiwan, Rua Felix Guisard Filho 60 (Next to the church.), ☎ +55 12 3832 6448. Single R$ 25.
Ubatuba is generally a safe place. There is no place to be really avoided during the day, at least not a place that a visitor has reason to go. Walking during the night is generally fine, but consider driving or taking a cab if the place where you want to go is more than a few blocks away. During high season and holidays, R. Guarani and R. Leogevildo Dias de Oliveiro are pretty safe during the evening, since there will be many people there.
As you may expect from a rainforest area, mosquitos will be a serious nuisance in most places. Using a good repellent in all but the most urban beaches is advised.
Anchieta Island State Park
The beauty of Ubatuba serves as a backdrop to many videos which help visitors get an idea of what are they going to experience in this region of the north coast of São Paulo. A good example is this short video of Toninhas Beach, one of the most popular in Ubatuba: http://vimeo.com/36617599