São Paulo's surroundings are perfect for all types of getaways. The state has the best highways in the country, making it easy to travel by car or bus to its many small, beautiful beaches, and even beyond to neighboring states (Paraná, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais). Although most sandy stretches require one- or two-hour drives, good side trips from the city can be as close as the 30-minute
trip to Embu.
Embu is famous for its furniture stores, and artisans from throughout Brazil sell their wares at its enormous weekend crafts fair; expect to see all the sights in one afternoon. Also less than an hour away, 1500s Santana de Parnaíba mixes historical settings and regional attractions with good restaurants.
For a weekend of relaxation, soak up the healing properties of Águas de São Pedro's spas and springs. If you like mountains, head up in another direction: Campos de Jordão, where cafés and clothing stores are often crowded with oh-so-chic paulistanos (natives of São Paulo city; inhabitants of São Paulo State are called paulistas). Serra Negra offers the mineral waters and an immersion in the coffee production history of Brazil, as well as several activities for families and couples looking for a romantic getaway. Favor the state's North Shore and Ilhabela (the name means "beautiful island") if you prefer the beach. The island is part of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Rain Forest) and has many waterfalls, trails, and diving spots.