Costa Verde: The underrated dream coast of Brazil

There is one dream beach after another along Brazil's approximately 7,500 kilometer long coastline. A rather underestimated section is the Costa Verde, which stretches between the metropolises of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Costa Verde travel guide… When you think of Brazil’s beaches, you usually think of the well-known coastal regions in the northeast of the country, such as Bahia and Pernambuco – or the famous Copacabana and Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro.

Few people suspect that one of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in Latin America stretches between Sugarloaf Mountain and the metropolis of São Paulo. The Costa Verde in Brazil offers the perfect backdrop for a road trip on the Atlantic. Kilometers of sandy beaches, small colonial towns, hidden bays and magically beautiful islands make the coast between the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro one of the most beautiful in the world.

Santos and Guaruja

On short and long weekends, many Paulistas, as the residents of São Paulo are called, go to the beaches of the Costa Verde. Some people drive directly to Santos or Guarujá: both port cities are around 215 or 230 kilometers and about a 3-hour drive away, but are still relatively close for stressed-out city dwellers. The beaches are correspondingly full – and unfortunately so are the huge hotels. If you long for untouched nature, you should only visit the two places briefly – for example to see the famous FC Santos stadium, where Pelé played for 18 years – and then drive straight on towards São Sebastião. The municipality of São Sebastião is home to the city of the same name and some of the most sought-after beaches and islands in the region.

The most beautiful beaches on the Costa Verde of Brazil / Riviera de São Lourenço

The Riviera de São Lourenço is basically a large gated community, i.e. a residential complex that is also appropriately secured and in which some of São Paulo’s wealthier residents have a holiday apartment. At the entrance you pass a large gate. However, since the beach in Brazil always belongs to everyone by law, the coastal area is accessible to everyone and is a good place to spend a day by the sea.


The beach of Juqueí (sometimes spelled Juquehy) is about three kilometers long. In contrast to some other coastal areas in the region, the sea is usually very calm and is therefore ideal for swimming. This also makes Juqueí ideal for families. On weekends it can be quite crowded at times. Brazilians enjoy being close to others, chatting with each other and eating and drinking together. But if you walk along the beach, you will always find a relatively quiet spot.

Directly opposite the city of São Sebastião lies one of the most beautiful islands on the Costa Verde in Brazil: Ilhabela (currently: beautiful island). A ferry takes holidaymakers across the strait in around 15 to 20 minutes. At 350 square kilometers, Ilhabela is the fourth largest Atlantic island in Brazil and is known for secluded sandy beaches and romantic pousadas. The pousadas are guesthouses that are not characterized by the luxury in the traditional sense of classic 5-star hotels, but rather by their unique atmosphere and special charm. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of mosquitoes on the island, which is why it is highly advisable to stock up on mosquito spray and use the mosquito nets in the accommodation.

While the north side of the Ilhabela is already very well developed for tourism, on the south side you can still find a few places that exude the charm of the undiscovered. There are numerous waterfalls, seemingly haunted jungle – and also some of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Particularly worthwhile:

Praia do Julião (be sure to enjoy a sunset here!)

Ilhabela also has a reputation as a graveyard of sunken ships: several shipwrecks can be found in the waters around the island, some of which are accessible for diving. What is particularly exciting is the story of the Príncipe de Asturias, the “Spanish Titanic”, which is said to still hold countless gold treasures today.


Costa Verde Beaches
Costa Verde Beaches

Often referred to as “the Ipanema of the Paulistas”, Maresias attracts large crowds and can therefore be quite busy. But it’s worth a visit because the approximately four kilometer long beach not only offers white sand, but also turquoise water on many days. Holidaymakers will also find an excellent infrastructure of restaurants and bars on this beach on the Costa Verde in Brazil.


A very beautiful and popular coastal section of the Costa Verde in Brazil is Ubatuba, also called Uba-Chuva (Uba Rain) by Brazilians due to the sometimes rainy weather. There are more than 100 beaches – some on small islands – to discover here, including:

Praia do Português
Ilha do Prumirim
Praia da Almada
Praia do Lazaro
Praia da Sununga
Saco da Ribeira

The region is already very well known among surfers, as Ubatuba is the surfing capital of the state of São Paulo. Some of Brazil’s most important surfing competitions are held here. The waves are correspondingly strong, which is why some beaches are not necessarily recommended for swimming. Of course, there are also numerous bays where you can swim in a relaxed manner.

An insider tip in Ubatuba is the Ilha das Couves (German: Cabbage Island), a small island off the coast of Ubatuba. With its small bays and reefs, it is a paradise for snorkelers and divers.

Ubatuba is also historically interesting because it was here that the German Hans Staden survived nine and a half months in captivity by the indigenous Tupinambá tribe in the 16th century. They were known to ritually eat their prisoners. But with a mixture of luck and skill he finally managed to be freed. Back in Germany he wrote the “Truthful Historia”. The book became a bestseller at the time. You can find out more about Hans Staden here.

The colorful colonial town of Paraty

A highlight on the Costa Verde is undoubtedly the charming town of Paraty. The historic center consists of Portuguese houses that are whitewashed and have colorfully painted window frames. Car traffic is prohibited here. However, walks can become a challenge if you choose the typical Brazilian thong sandals. Because the floor is made of huge cobblestones.

The beach in town itself is not really recommended. But the small fishing port of Paraty is the starting point for boat trips to the approximately 60 offshore islands, which have hidden bays and flora and fauna. Numerous music festivals also make the city a worthwhile destination all year round. In any case, Paraty offers a lot of culture: FLIP (Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty), an international literature festival, also takes place once a year.

To the south you can explore the Serra da Bocaina National Park: rare howler monkeys and cute tapirs live here.

The birthplace of Julia Mann, the mother of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, is also in Paraty. You can visit the Fazenda Boa Vista today, but the crowds are limited – also because the property looks a bit dilapidated. Regrettable, given the wonderful setting that offers a view of the Baía Carioca.

The small town of Trindade, which is particularly popular with long- and short-term dropouts, also belongs to the municipality of Paraty. During the day you can relax on the beaches and in the evening enjoy a few drinks and snacks in the bars while listening to Brazilian reggae.

Angra dos Reis

Angra dos Reis, which is located 170 kilometers south of Rio de Janeiro, comprises around 360 islands. Many stars and rich people from Rio own private islands here, which they visit in speedboats or yachts. Sometimes you can see dolphins jumping out of the water. The scattered little islands look as if someone had scattered the dream of a deserted island dozens of times across the sea.

Whether you’re traveling from island to island by boat, retreating to a hidden cove, or retreating to a resort to enjoy the region’s tropical warmth and eternal sunshine, you’ll get your money’s worth in Angra dos Reis.

Ilha Grande

If you have enough time, you should definitely take a detour to the Ilha Grande (currently: big island). There you can not only experience some wonderful beaches and bays, but also some history. One of the most notorious prisons in the country was located on Ilha Grande for decades. In the so-called “Devil’s Cauldron” at the Instituto Penal Cândido Mendes, one of Brazil’s largest criminal organizations emerged: the Comando Vermelho.

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