Santos (Sao Paulo), Brazil
Santos is the gateway to São Paulo and the largest port in Latin America. Cruise ships account for a mere fraction of the traffic, and massive freighters bearing oil, cotton, aircraft parts, and bananas will be steaming by as you dock. From port, you can walk five minutes to Santos' wide, curving beachfront or head 35 miles inland to the exciting mega-city of São Paulo.
What We Love
Santos Football Club: Santos is home to one of the top soccer teams in Brazil — and where Brazilian soccer legend Pelé played before he went international. Tour the stadium, visit the nearby Museu Pelé, and if scheduling allows, don’t miss the chance to attend a match in the Vila Belmiro.
São Paulo: Santos is often the first or last port of call on an itinerary, which makes it easy to add on a few days to explore Latin America's largest city, São Paulo. Organized tours are a good option to help you navigate this dizzying and fast-paced city.
Best Known For
Coffee: Mind you, there are no coffee plantations tucked amongst the condo complexes, but this is the port where most of Brazil’s vast coffee export takes place. The Museum of Coffee is housed in a historic building that used to be a coffee trade center.
Gonzaga Beach: Santos is one of the local beach cities where São Paulo residents come to hang out for the day. There’s actually a higher percentage of Brazilians on this seven-kilometer city beach than on Rio de Janeiro beaches, plus all the amenities you could want.
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Who It's Best For
City Sophisticates: As the financial capital of Brazil, São Paulo has designer fashion, high-end nightlife, gourmet restaurants, and general wealth on par with Manhattan or Dubai. It is multicultural, fast-paced, and exciting. Savvy travelers with a hefty budget will enjoy experiencing a few days as a paulistano.
Immersion Tourists: If you're looking to brush shoulders with locals, taste exotic cuisine, learn a bit of Portuguese, and join a beach volleyball pickup game, you’ll love this port and this country.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Legendarily Terrible Traffic: São Paulo has the world’s highest quantity of helicopters, because business execs will literally pay anything to avoid commuting by car.
Santos Is 35 Miles From São Paulo: See the above note on traffic; the actual duration of this trip is something to be aware of when you book a shore excursion to the big city.
Lena Katz is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides.