Draped with the rich flora of the Mata Atlântica, the peaks of the Serra do Mar provide a dramatic, emerald-green backdrop to the winding Ubatuba coastline. This region has become a preeminent resort for well-heeled Paulistanos, with its elegant beach homes and a number of stylish hotels and pousadas, especially south of the town. Heading north toward neighboring Paraty in the state of Rio de Janeiro, beaches tend to be harder to reach but also wilder and more pristine, and the little-visited Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina spans both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states. The area is especially agreeable in winter, when temps remain high enough, less rain bucks the town nickname (Ubachuva meaning Ubarain) and far less people.

The town itself, known simply as 'Centro,' is perhaps uninspiring, save for its handsome waterfront promenade, pretty bay views and a few small beaches, but there is no shame in basing yourself here while you explore the northern and southern coastlines – and there's plenty of action at night along Rua Guarani, the main drag.