Things To Do In Cunha, São Paulo, Brazil: 5 Day Trip Ideas
Things To Do In Cunha, São Paulo, Brazil: 5 Day Trip Ideas
Published August 15, 2020
If you’ve decided to visit the small town of Cunha in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, congratulations: you’re in for a treat! This small town offers stunning views and a relaxing getaway from the two nearby cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (both within a 4 hour drive away).
While Cunha itself is incredibly picturesque, there honestly isn’t much to do in town. You’ll want to give yourself a day or two to appreciate the atmosphere, but most of the activities in Cunha will involve day trips further into the countryside. If you’re interested in learning about what makes the town of Cunha so special, click or tap the image below!
1. O Lavandário
The first day trip I’ll mention is O Lavandário, a modest lavender farm a couple of kilometers south of Cunha. This is probably the easiest day trip to do, and will only take an hour or two.
This farm has a footpath that forms a small loop, some greenhouses, and a souvenir shop. Compared to other lavender fields on Instagram with rows of flowers as far as the eye can see, O Lavandário is admittedly a bit small.
Although the fields aren’t exactly sprawling, O Lavandário more than makes up for this with its stunning views. The farm is situated atop a pretty large hill that offers an incredible panoramic view to the north and northwest.
As of August 2020, it costs 15 BRL per person to get in. Also, check the operating hours on the website before you take the taxi ride out there: O Lavandário wasn’t open every day. This is perhaps because it’s low season right now, plus the pandemic may have further reduced hours.
Stop for lunch or a beer on the way back
On the way back into town, you’ll pass by a brewery called Cervejaria Caminho do Ouro. It’s hard to miss because it’s a pretty large building right next to the road and there’s nothing else nearby.
This is the perfect place to stop for a hearty lunch or a beer if you’ve already eaten. The food was a bit expensive given that it’s clearly aimed at attracting tourists, but the steak I got there was delicious nonetheless. They also sell bottled beer in addition to brews on tap.
2. A Pair of Waterfalls
This day trip will bring you out to a couple of waterfalls to the east of town. Unlike the trip to O Lavandário, the drive to the falls will bring you down a windy dirt road. Although both trips are roughly the same distance away, getting to the waterfalls takes almost 40 minutes, while Cunha to O Lavandário is only a 20-minute drive.
Cachoeira do Pimenta
The main attraction out here is Cachoeira do Pimenta (which means “Pepper Waterfall”). The view from the bottom is nice enough, but the more impressive falls are found a little further upstream. This is what it looks like near the parking lot.
On the right side is a dirt trail going up the hill. If you’re willing and able to go up, you’ll see a larger basin with a slightly more interesting and picturesque cascade.
The short trail from the middle to the top was pretty overgrown, but at least there was a wooden railing to hold on to. At the top, you’ll find this.
I personally like the middle portion most, but if you go up further, you’ll get a better view looking down. Just be careful: there aren’t any lifeguards here to make sure you don’t fall in. None of the falls seem big enough to be deadly, but a slip could obviously result in injury.
Cachoeira do Desterro
Visiting Cachoeira do Desterro (“Exile Waterfall”) is a bit more adventurous. The entrance is gated, and you have to walk a little ways further to get to it. It honestly sort of felt like we were trespassing onto private property, but no one told us to leave. Since getting to this waterfall is a bit odd, I would just check with your driver to confirm that they’re fine with going.
I think this one is most pretty when viewed from the bottom looking up, and luckily there’s a little path that will take you down.
A Shiitake Farm
One unexpected thing about Cunha is that it’s home to a number of shiitake mushroom farms. A lot of the upper-scale restaurants in town will offer mushroom appetizers, and all the ones I ordered were quite good.
One of these farms, Suzana Shiitake, is pretty close to both waterfalls. I wanted to check it out, but unfortunately it was closed due to COVID-19. I’m not completely sure if they offer a full restaurant service or if it’s just a place where you can buy the mushrooms, but it could be interesting to visit once they reopen. Leave a comment and let me know if you get to experience it!
3. Go Even Further Off the Grid...
This day trip is probably the most unusual, but I recommend it for adventurous travelers. If you look at a map of Cunha, you’ll see that a little winding road extends about 30 kilometers northeast to a little village called Campos de Cunha. The word “campos” in Portuguese means “fields,” but it is a bit more synonymous with the English “countryside,” so the town’s name basically means “Cunha Countryside.”
This name is apt for this tiny town of only about 3,500 residents, compared to over 20,000 in Cunha proper. Consisting of only about three main streets, Campos Novos is the place to go if you want a glimpse into truly rural life in the area.
The only real attraction I found here was another waterfall called Cachoeira do Mato Dentro. I decided to walk, which took about half an hour each way. I would maybe recommend just asking your taxi driver to take you out there, because it would only be about five minutes by car. The waterfall was nice enough, but not as impressive as the other two mentioned above.
Beyond that, there was honestly nothing to do in Campos de Cunha. I spent about five hours here, exploring every street and walking along each dirt road snaking out from the town center to admire the views. However, I was ready to leave after about three hours.
There was only a single restaurant in town that appeared open for lunch: Restaurante da Família, a grungy yet endearing place with a wild west saloon-vibe that actually made a pretty good plate of chicken over rice.
Perhaps the best reason to go out to Campos Novos is that the drive out there is so beautiful. All of the day trips here include very scenic drives with stunning views, but this one is undoubtedly the best. In addition, the road is paved the entire way and is in great condition, so it’ll be smooth and comfortable. In fact, it felt like this road was constructed on the top of a mountain ridge, because there were incredible views out of both sides of the car almost the entire way.
4. Go For a Hike at Pedra da Macela
If you’re interested in going for a hike, head on out to Pedra da Macela. In all honesty, I made this stop as I was moving from Cunha to Paraty; if you’re traveling between the two towns, you could stop here as it’s about halfway between them.
Your driver will have to stop and wait for you at this tiny parking lot because a gate prevents cars from going further up the mountain. From here, you’ll have to walk about 1.4 miles uphill to reach the peak. It was definitely a workout for me seeing as I haven’t hiked in months. The path is paved though, and you’ll basically be surrounded by forest the entire time.
Even though the hike up is tiring, I can basically guarantee that the view from the top will reinvigorate you. Just check out these shots!
The focal point of this panorama is the Pedra Macela (which means “Macela Stone”), a barren rocky structure with three peaks jutting out from the otherwise green mountains. Off in the distance you can see hills and coastlines for miles, and if you look to the southeast, you’ll see the town of Paraty. Pedra da Macela is less than 20 miles from Cunha, yet in that very short distance, the change in landscape couldn’t be more dramatic.
My one warning about this trip is that the dirt road that you have to take from the main road out to the trailhead is pretty bumpy. If you get carsick easily like I do, just keep that in mind. You’ll probably also want to bring a bottle of water with you.
5. Aparecida, Home of the Second Largest Church in the World
Last but not least, the last day trip option from Cunha is to a town about an hour away by car called Aparecida. This little town has historical significance because it happens to be home to the second-largest church in the world.
In fact, I think Aparecida has enough to see and do that it’s worth a couple days’ visit for those who have the time. If not, the church can be seen in a single day, but you’ll want to probably leave in the morning and aim to be back in Cunha around dinner to give yourself enough time not to feel rushed. To learn more about the town of Aparecida, click here. To read all about the truly incredible cathedral, click the image link below!
Is Guaratinguetá worth a visit?
If you’re looking at a map of the region, you’ll see that there’s another larger city next to Aparecida called Guaratinguetá. If you’re wondering if this would make a good day trip, my honest answer is no, I don’t really think so. I spent one afternoon walking around the center and honestly couldn’t find anything to do. This may have been due to COVID-19, but I just got the vibe that there was little of interest; in fact, it even felt a tiny bit less safe than neighboring Aparecida.
This was just my first impression after exploring on foot for an hour or two. Perhaps there is more to see and do on the other side of the river that divides Guaratinguetá in two, but I’d say that you’re much better off seeing the cathedral in Aparecida than spending a day in this neighboring city.
How should you get around?
As someone who loves exploring on foot, let me first say that unfortunately, none of these trips are really close enough to walk from Cunha. Even if you’re willing to do a long hike to get to one of them, I don’t recommend it. That’s because you won’t have cell service and there is nowhere along the way to stop for food, a bathroom, or anything else you might need.
With that in mind, your only real option is to hire a taxi. Since Uber doesn’t operate in Cunha (as of August 2020), you’ll have to ask your hotel, accommodation, or Airbnb host to refer you to a local driver.
The prices may seem a bit steep (between 100 and 150 BRL per day trip mentioned here). That’s because for all of them except Aparecida, your driver will have to wait for you, so they’ll basically be “on the clock” for multiple hours. Even if Uber does eventually operate here, I wouldn’t recommend using them because you could end up stranded with no cell service and no driver to bring you back into town. To go to Aparecida, you can hire a taxi from Cunha to take you there and use Uber to return. Expect to pay about 80 BRL each way.
Where should you stay?
Cunha seems to have a lot of guesthouses (called “pousadas”) out in the countryside, but I’d recommend staying in the town center. I almost always use Airbnb to book long-term rentals, and I found a cozy little studio on the south edge of town for a great price. The best part by far was the balcony, which offered a stunning view of the sunset over a little valley to the west every night.
Which day trip do I recommend most?
Most visitors to Cunha will probably only stay for a couple days, so you may not have time to see everything listed here. If you have to choose just one, I’d say go with O Lavandário. It’s quick and easy, and the views can’t be beat.
Cunha: An Amazing Small Town
Cunha is a great example of why I love small-town travel so much. It’s unlike any other place I’ve been since I started blogging in 2018, but after just one or two days it already started to feel like home.
No matter which day trip you decide to do, you’ll be treated to amazing views as you ride along the country roads. And as you can see from this post, there is an incredible variety of terrains, from forests to fields and valleys to more jagged peaks off in the distance.
If you have any questions about any of these day trip options, leave a comment below! I always love hearing from readers, especially if they were able to use my blog as a resource. Be sure not to miss my other post about Cunha town if you haven’t read it already! Thanks for reading and see you next time!
This post was published on Aug 15, 2020