By Anna Fitzpatrick, Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Beaches in Brazil can be crowded places this time of year, with locals and tourists celebrating the heat and holiday season. In this respect, Cariocas (Rio residents) and Paulistanos (from São Paulo) agree, though the massive crowds can be off-putting for those looking for a bit of peace and quiet.
Luckily there is plenty to offer those ready to explore the hidden beaches dotting the coastline of São Paulo state, or those looking to head inland to discover the lush rolling hills and tropical mountain forests.
Remote beaches in Guarujá and Ubatuba are both popular with Paulistanos during the holiday period. In Guarujá it may pay to avoid Pitangueiras, as it tends to get busy early in the day, instead head for Prainha Branca or Guiaba.
With so many beaches to explore in Ubatuba (over 80) there are many hidden gems still to be discovered, especially if you are prepared to travel on foot. To keep some distance from the crowds, Alison McGowan of Hidden Pousadas Brazil suggests finding a serene, quiet pousada, and still keeping your beach options close.
Recommendations for the Ubatuba area are Ilha de Toque Toque Boutique Hotel, set back from the beach in huge grounds and with amazing views of the coastline, and Casa Milá near Praia da Almada, set in the rainforest with all rooms offering an ocean view.
Beaches aside, if wide country-side views and cooler weather are of interest, heading inland for fertile farmland and mountains is another option. Several retreats offer the calm and tranquility of riding horses through plush, green farmland, or a indulging in a relaxing spa with fresh mountain air.
São Paulo’s rich agricultural past means that there are a number of large ex-farm estates that make perfect country resorts. A stay at the Fazenda Salton Grande will provide the perfect respite from the bustling, hot city and crowded beaches. An old coffee farm with 23 acres of land, it was converted into a luxury hotel with swimming pools, tree climbing, walking, horseback riding and a 50m waterfall in the grounds, all about 270km outside São Paulo in Araraquara.
A closer alternative is Fazenda Capoava an old farm still with original buildings, dating back to 1740 and only 90km from São Paulo. Another option, just an hour drive north of SP is Mairipora. A quiet and relaxing town set in the Serra da Cantareira mountain range; it is the perfect spot for recharging and enjoying the peaceful surroundings.
Meaning “beautiful city” in the Tupi language, the countryside around Mairipora is lush and green with glass-like pools of water scattered through towering trees. Not far from the town, on the edge of a lake Refúgio Cheiro do Mato offers boats, pedalos and kayaks as well as a range of other sporting activities.
If a less active, more serene getaway sounds appealing, a break at the Unique Garden Spa, which is even closer to São Paulo and offers over eighty treatments from around the world – the perfect antidote to city living and hordes at the beach over the holidays.