Ubatuba, São Paulo

Praia do Itaguá, Ubatuba. René Nakaya - Courtesy Setur Ubatuba

Ubatuba ("ooba-Tuba"), one of the main cities on São Paulo's North Shore, has a sinuous shoreline with 92 beaches which are never too far from the mountains in Brazil's coastal range.

At many points, the hills are covered with native rainforest. Part of Ubatuba is inside Parque Estadual da Serra do Mar, one of the state's largest conservation areas.

Ubatuba's population - 75,008 - increases more than fourfold during New Year's Eve. About 350,000 visitors came to town for the 2008 Reveillon.

Ubatuba is located where the Tropic of Capricorn crosses the Brazil coast, 234 kilometers (less than 150 miles) from São Paulo.

Ubatuba Beaches

Ubatuba beaches and islands offer an amazing range of fun options.

You'll find beaches with calm waters and others with big waves and surf tournaments; tiny secluded coves and wide stretches of sand facing the open sea.

One of the best things about Ubatuba beaches is the fact that there's always a quiet beach somewhere along the coast, no matter how high the season.

Beach Tips

Here are a few things you must know about Ubatuba beaches before you visit:

  1. The closer the beach is to the rainforest, the more there will be mosquitoes, especially early in the morning and at dusk when it's hot and rainy.
  2. The Ubatuba sea can be rough and surprising. Only some beaches have lifeguards - deserted beaches don't.
  3. Centrally located beaches usually have poor water quality. Check beach quality reports.
  4. Brazilians often refer to Ubatuba as "Ubachuva" for its frequent rains. The drier season goes from May to October, with June to August as the driest months.

Ubatuba Canoes and Caiçaras

Local Tupi-speaking indigenous tribes - the tupinambás, highly skilled canoe makers - called their land uba-tyba. Uba means "canoe"; tyba, "many".

Imagine tupinambá canoes lining central Iperoig beach and you're getting into the heart of caiçara culture. Caiçaras - the traditional Ubatuba and North Shore inhabitants - descend from native indigenous populations, Portuguese colonizers, and African slaves.

The canoe, used for transportation and fishing, is still one of the most powerful symbols of the caiçara culture.

You'll see lean canoes made from a single tree trunk - canoa de um pau só - on beaches such as Picinguaba, where a fisherman's village is part of the local charm.

At first, Ubatuba, like other coastal cities in the southeast, was connected to the rest of the state by mule trails that wound up Serra do Mar, or the Sea Range. In the nineteenth century, Ubatuba prospered thanks to its port. When port operations folded and projects for a railway were abandoned, Ubatuba went through a period of almost total isolation, when the only effective means of transportation was the canoe.

According to historian Edson da Silva, things began to change in the 1930s, when a road was built linking Taubaté to Ubatuba. Rich Taubaté residents were the first to discover Ubatuba as a top beach vacation getaway.

Things to Do in Ubatuba

Some of the most fun things to do in Ubatuba are the simplest: watching the sunrise, choosing some beaches for the day and enjoying them to your heart's content, eating healthy caiçara food and going back to the beach at night just to hang out and watch people.

Read about some more fun things to do in Ubatuba.

Where to Stay

Find hotels and pousadas in Ubatuba on TripSavvy. Trip Advisor is also a great resource.

Downtown Ubatuba

The central area of Ubatuba (which is right under the Tropic of Capricorn) is your best bet if you want to be close to supermarkets, banks, and drugstores as well as fun attractions. Itaguá is the central beach.

The downtown area is also where you'll find Santa Casa, the local hospital, and clinics with emergency rooms (pronto-socorro). Their addresses are under "Hospitais" in a Ubatuba service list from Folha Online (which has similar lists for several São Paulo coastal cities.

Renting a Car in Ubatuba

Instead of renting a car in São Paulo and driving all the way to Ubatuba, you can choose to take a Pássaro Marron bus at Terminal Rodoviário Tietê, then rent a car at the Localiza in Ubatuba (Rua Guarani 194, Aeroporto).

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