About 36,000 people call the Portuguese colonial town of Paraty home. Its quiet streets, colorful homes, European influence and historic roots attract visitors from across the globe. But it’s Paraty’s easy access to lush forests, untouched coastlines and pristine mountains that make it a true travel destination.
Stationed on the Bay of Ilha Grande, Paraty is the southernmost city in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Visitors can kayak or cruise through placid waters and explore the tiny islands scattered throughout the bay. And land lovers can check out nearby Serra da Bocaina National Park and Serra do Mar State Park, for a look at indigenous plants and wildlife.
February is the wettest month of the year, so travelers looking to explore the outdoors should either pack accordingly, or visit between March and January.
The best thing about this “long island” on Brazil’s east coast is that it’s home to the second largest beach in Paraty. A trip to Ilha Comprida guarantees not only plenty of sun and sand, but also a taste of local life, too. Ilha Comprida has a community calendar filled with events, like the Island Summer Culture Festival, Week of the Elderly and religious feasts, which means there’s almost always something to celebrate. And travelers say it’s one of the most beautiful destinations in the region. Island rainforests, ocean views and pristine beaches draw visitors to the shores, and once they’ve arrived, the beauty of this private island makes it very hard to leave.
Ilha Comprida is a barrier island located in Sao Paulo on the Atlantic Ocean.
This Catholic church in the heart of Paraty’s Historic Center is not only the largest in the town—it is also the most popular. Travelers flock to this impressive example of colonial architecture that stretches over an entire block and was built on donated land. Despite it’s beauty, the bell towers and temple of Our Lady of the Remedies remain incomplete. In addition to exploring the chapels, visitors can partake in local festivals during Holy Week and wander the halls of upstairs art galleries year round.
The church is located between Rua Dona Geralda and Rua Tenente Francisco Antonio.
Address: Rua Dona Geralda and Rua Tenente Francisco Antonio, Parati, Brazil
Brazil is known for its incredible beaches, clear waters and long stretches of pure, white sand. And while the coast is lined with sweet escapes that are perfect for sun worshipers and snorkelers alike, Fora Beach—also known as Ranchos—ranks among the nation’s best.
Located in a part of Rio de Janeiro known as Trindade, Ranchos is one of six distinctly unique beaches that draw travelers beyond city limits and into the wilds of nature. With impressive waves, protected swimming areas and shaded trees ideal for cooling off, Fora Beach has something for everyone. Plus, its close proximity to rolling hills and thick forests make it a destination that’s as perfect for water lovers as it is for outdoor adventurers.
February tends to be Paraty’s rainiest month, so travelers looking to soak up the sun on the shores of For a Beach should avoid traveling then. Cool ocean breezes and afternoon sprinkles offer visitors respite on even the hottest summer days.
The colonial mansion that houses Casa da Cultura, dates back to the middle of the 18th Century, making it an ideal place to explore the rich history and traditions of this colorful community. Halls are lined with artifacts from an extensive permanent collection, including historic photographs, video interviews with famous Paraty residents, and unique carpets made from flower petals that were once used in the Corpus Christi festival. The pieces on display at Casa da Cultura are worthy of a visit, but incredible views of the neighborhood from the upstairs gallery are what make this site truly spectacular.
The Casa da Cultura is located at Rua Dona Geralda 177. It is open Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.
This beautiful beach located in Porto Belo in Brazil’s Santa Catarina state, is a favorite destination among both travelers and locals. Private boats and impressive yachts cruise through the open port on their way to sea, and visitors can even hire a charter to explore the bay.
Travelers can wander to the pristine—if rustic—beach on foot and enjoy a quiet taste of paradise, or catch stunning sunsets while kayaking through the placid waters. And the evening firework shows—particularly during high season—are a highlight of any trip to Caixa d’Aco.
Caixa d’Aco is a popular spot during high season and holidays, when crowds of partiers take to the piers. Travelers looking to enjoy the quieter side of the beach should avoid travel during these times.
Visitors looking to escape the sun and instead, soak up a bit of Paraty culture will enjoy exploring the cobbled streets of the town’s compact Historic Center. Small enough to cover entirely on foot, the area if filled with a number of attractions unique to Paraty.
Spend an afternoon people watching in the grassy lawns of quaint Martiz Square or wandering through streets lined with old colonial architecture. A handful of churches are worth a visit, including Ingera Marriz Nossa Senhora do Rosario, the largest church in Paraty, and Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores, religious home to Paraty’s well-heeled. After church-hopping, head to Rua do Comercio, where local merchants hawk handicrafts and Brazilian cuisine. Then unwind with incredible bay views at the Shambhala Asian Day Spa, just a 10-minute walk from the Historic Center.
The Historic Center of Paraty is bordered by R. Domingos Goncalved de Abreu to the west, R. Josephina Girail Costa to the north, R. Fresca to the east and R. Aurora to the south.
Sono Beach, nestled on the Atlantic Ocean just south of Paraty, is not your typical coastal destination. Visitors to the somewhat secluded shores of this remote beach need to be up for more than just lazily lounging on sun-kissed sand while sipping frosty tropical drinks. That’s because Sono is accessible only by boat or bus, and travelers who opt for the latter also commit to an hour-long hike through the overgrown rainforest that stands between the main road and the shores of Sono Beach. Visitors rave about the scenic views, which are best from the hilltops where hikers ascend, and travelers love that the shores—and the handful of local restaurants that dot the coast—are never crowded.
Sono Beach is located in Laranjeiras and accessible via the 1050 bus line. Visitors can skip the hike by hopping aboard one of the local boats that sail to Sono, which costs about 40 reals. Travelers who enjoy walking can also follow rainforest trails to Antigos Beach and Ponta Negros.
This rugged trail in the hills of Minas Gerais, once served as a train route for mining supplies, African slaves and exporting gold. But after numerous pirate attacks on ships loaded with the precious medal headed for port in Rio de Janeiro, the trail fell out of use. Today, despite the fact most gold has already been mined, the Gold Path has become a popular destination for travelers looking to explore scenic mountains, thick forests and a bit of Paraty history. Enjoy a ride on the natural rockslide into cooling crystal waters after a hike through the hills, then head to scenic Toboga Falls before stopping at the nearby distillery where strong sips of locally made cachaca—a sugarcane rum—round out the day.
Parts of the 1200 kilometer paved road to the Gold Path are open to the public but accessible only on guided tours. Groups leave on this three-hour trip twice daily and can cost anywhere from US$35 to US$50 per person.
Address: Pousada Caminho do Ouro, Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Like the shores of Sono, Trindade Beach requires travelers take a bit of a hike before basking in the rays of South American sun. But visitors to this quiet haven 30 kilometers south of Paraty say the distinctly island vibe, reggae sounds, fresh fish and strong cocktails make this beach feel like a piece of paradise. A short 20-minute hike through thick forests, past Cachadaco Beach, ends at soft sand and warm clear waters. Be sure to venture to the nearby circle of boulders that hides a natural swimming pool perfect for a peaceful post-hike dip.
Buses leave every hour from Paraty. The ride takes 45 minutes and costs about 4 reals.
Built by slaves in the early 1700s, the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary is one of Paraty’s most historic—and most visited—religious sites. The ornate wooden altars, gilded in gold, provide a stark contrast to the whitewashed walls of the central church. A brilliant chandelier base secured in the rounded ceiling is just part of what makes a visit to Our Lady of the Rosary unique. Travelers will likely find this homage to the slaves who worked tirelessly on its construction an important landmark in Paraty’s rich social, religious and cultural history.
Church of Our Lady of the Rosary is located in the historic city center of Paraty in Rio de Janeiro, northwest of the bay. Admission is R$3 per person.
Address: Centro Historico, Paraty, RJ, Brazil, Brazil
Stationed between the electric metropolis of Sau Paulo and the lively city of Rio de Janeiro lies the 260,000 acres of rural forest and mountain peaks that makes up Serra da Bocaina National Park. This precious preserve is home to natural Atlantic Forest vegetation and some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the region.
Ecotourism and outdoor adventure prove the main attractions at Serra da Bocaina, which attracts avid hikers from across the globe. Travelers can embark on a 16-kilometer hike to Bacia Peak and enjoy incredible views of the Paraiba Valley from atop the second tallest mountain in the range. The slightly shorter, but equally popular, Cliff Trail winds through Enchanted Wood, passing hundreds of different indigenous plants, and ends at the Paredao’s Waterfall, where weary legs can cool off in chilly waters. The Stone House ruins, which were originally built in 1914 to house a visiting French doctor, lend a bit of interest to an otherwise easy trail marked by small river crossings and equally epic views (but without all the work).
The park is located on the border between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in the southeastern part of the country.
This old school farm and distillery offers travelers a truly authentic taste of Brazilian food and drink. Visitors can tour the scenic grounds, which include a flowing river, a rustic farmhouse, lush fields and thick jungle forests.
Travelers can sample traditional cuisine at Murycana’s popular restaurant amid towering rainforest trees and learn about the history cachaca—a strong local drink that’s still made on site. The well-currated museum and authentic distillery are an essential part of any visit to Muryacana, but travelers agree it’s the Brazilian food and drink that make this jungle sanctuary truly worth checking out.
Travelers can make a visit to Murycana Farm on its own, or as part of a larger distillery tour. Pedra branca—a natural waterfall hidden in the thick jungle—is just a short hike from Murycana.
This incredible waterfall in the heart of the rainforest is just 30 minutes outside Paraty. Its one-of-a-kind natural waterslide sends travelers shooting down slippery rocks into a warm water pool. Expert guides can help visitors navigate the best (and safest) rocky crags, but it is possible to venture to Cachoeira without taking a tour. Spend some time splashing around this unique destination, then head to nearby Bar Tarzan, where an old creaky bridge leads to cold beers, delicious snacks and the perfect place to unwind.
Cachoeira Toboga is accessible via private taxi from the Historical center for about 40 reals. Travelers can also catch the less expensive local bus to Penha, or minivans that leave from the vacant lot across from the public bus station.