São Paulo is an incredible city with so much to see and do, but sometimes it can become a bit overwhelming due to its immense size. In those moments, you’re going to want to get away for a few hours or even a whole day. Given São Paulo’s traffic, we’ve listed mountain towns and beach destinations that are within 45 miles of the city, so you can be there and back in a day.
Embu das Artes — This small, colorful city is just 15 miles from downtown São Paulo. On Saturdays and Sundays, the historic center hosts an artisanal market where you’ll find everything from paintings to ceramics, clothes to artisan foods. Alongside it, on Rua Siqueira Campos, is the Feira do Verde, a market selling all things plant-related.
Plenty of charming little shops and antique stores also dot the town, and perusing them can make for an enjoyable afternoon. A little alley called Viela das Lavadeiras, or “Washerwoman’s Lane,” is the postcard picture of Embu das Artes. With its vivid colors and flower garlands, it’s easy to see why.
To reach Embu das Artes from São Paulo, you can take an Uber, although this can sometimes prove expensive due to traffic. Alternatively, buses run regularly from several different points across São Paulo and are a more budget-friendly option. You can check the bus timetables to Embu das Artes here.
Santos — Santos’ main claim to fame is the fact that Pelé, one of Brazil’s most famous football players, used to play at its football club, Santos FC. In honor of him, there is the Museu Pelé, a must for any soccer fan passing through here. Descriptions are in both English and Portuguese, and the museum opens from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily from Tuesday to Sunday.
While Santos has an important place in soccer history, the neighboring city of São Vicente was the site of the first Portuguese settlement in the Americas, in 1532. Unfortunately, little remains of that piece of history.
Santos also has miles of shoreline. At only 35 miles from São Paulo, it’s also one of the nearest coastal cities — meaning Paulistanos flock to the beaches of Santos on hot weekends. It takes around an hour and a half to get there by bus, and costs between US$5 and US$8, depending on the bus company you go with — making it ideal for a day at the beach.
Campos do Jordão — Campos do Jordão is slightly further out but is still doable as a day trip if you’re willing to wake up early. You can drive it in 2.5 hours, while a bus will take just over three hours. If you get the first bus that runs there from São Paulo at 6:00 AM, you could be there by 9:30 AM, giving you a whole day to explore this pretty mountain town. Bus tickets cost around US$13.50 and can be bought online or at the Tietê Bus Terminal in São Paulo.
Here, Swiss-style architecture is common, and the mountain setting adds to the feel of being in an Alpine mountain resort. The main activities in Campos do Jordão are things like hikes and horse rides, as the stunning natural surroundings lend very well to these activities. Keep in mind that in June and July Campos do Jordão can get quite expensive, due to more tourists visiting during these months.
São Roque — Just over an hour by car from São Paulo lies São Roque, most famous for its wine route which is composed of 31 locations that allow visitation and wine tasting. October is the best time to visit this area, as the wineries offer a wine festival for visitors. During certain times of the year, visitors to the wineries are allowed to pick their own grapes and produce their own wine by squashing the grapes with their bare feet. It’s a unique experience.
Another attraction to São Roque is the Ski Mountain Park, which is particularly good if you are traveling with children. The activities here include “skiing” and “snowboarding” on artificial pitches, archery, paintball, and horse riding. You can drive to São Roque, or catch a bus, which takes under two hours from São Paulo’s Barra Funda Bus Terminal. Tickets are available online or at the bus terminal, and cost around US$5.
Paraty, Rio de Janeiro state — This 17th-century town on the edge of a bay is too far to visit in one day, but too lovely not to mention in a list of beautiful places near São Paulo. It’s technically in the state of Rio de Janeiro, but it takes as long to drive there from city of Rio as from downtown São Paulo. If you depart in the morning, the drive will take four-plus hours, and will deliver you to a picturesque town of cobblestone streets and white colonial-era houses trimmed in vibrant green, blue, or yellow. You’ll drive over a lush coastal mountain range before arriving at Angra dos Reis, a bay of azure water speckled with jungly tropical islands.
Even if you could visit Paraty in one day, you’d want to stay overnight at one of its pousadas, or bed and breakfasts, in the historic center. Old colonial buildings have been updated and converted into elegant inns, usually with a pool out back. The breakfast table will contain more ripe melons, papayas, and other fruit than you’ve ever seen in one place, along with freshly squeezed juices. You could take a pricey boat cruise to see the islands, or just spend some time on the beaches before spending a couple of hours walking around the small town. Check out the churches, the fort museum, and shops selling books, ceramics, and homemade ice cream. Enjoy dinner at restaurants like Banana da Terra or Caminho Do Ouro. The latter name, which translates to “path of gold,” refers to Paraty’s days as a port during the Brazilian gold rush.