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São Paulo scarcely suffers from a shortage of activities for visitors. To do as the locals do, however, you might want to explore weekend escapes, by car or bus, to where the breathing is easier. This is no slight to the city — São Paulo’s proximity to various terrains makes it a flexible and desirable tourist destination.
1. Hit the sand. During beach season, the great seaward migration starts early on Friday. You can reach the Santos shore in under an hour depending on traffic. More secluded beaches, like Camburi and Ubatuba, reside up the coast and run on through Rio de Janeiro. Just across state lines, you can stroll through the cobblestone streets of colonial Paraty or boat around to nearly deserted island coves.
2. Party in the mountains. Campos do Jordão, a mountain resort town also known as “Brazilian Switzerland,” heats up even as temperatures dip to freezing. The classical musical festival here each winter is worth the four-hour trip and beer aficionados can take a tour of the Baden Baden brewery.
3. Explore Jardim Botanico. To get away from the commotion within city limits, bike or walk through São Paulo’s expansive botanical gardens. It may not be a weekend-long trip, but with the flora and fauna reminiscent of Brazil’s tropical forests, you can get a taste of the jungle without the necessary travel time and hassle.
4. Relax in Águas de Lindóia. The springs in this interior city of São Paulo state were once thought to have regenerative powers. Today, relaxation still seems to result from a few days spent in and around the waters. Other activities include horseback riding and Jeep tours.
5. Find adventure. Set out from São Luis do Paraitinga to see the São Paulo countryside. You can hike the Serra do Mar trail and bathe in the waterfalls along the way. Try rafting, rappelling and other adventure sports for more of a thrill.