Without a shadow of a doubt, Ilhabela is one of the most beautiful spots on the coast between Santos and Rio, though it can get rather crowded in late December and early January. Of volcanic origin, the island’s startling mountainous scenery rises to 1370m and is covered in dense, tropical foliage. With 83 percent of the island protected within the boundaries of the Parque Estadual de Ilhabela, the dozens of waterfalls, beautiful beaches and azure seas have contributed to the island’s popularity. Old or new, most of the buildings are in simple Portuguese-colonial styles, as far removed from brash Guarujá as you can get. The island is a haunt of São Paulo’s rich who maintain large and discreetly located homes on the coast, many with mooring facilities for luxury yachts or with helicopter landing-pads.

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