Cananéia is the city most South in the State of São Paulo and only has 12 thousand inhabitants. Cananeia is the oldest settlement of Brazil, the first settlers arrived in 1502 – before the foundation of the officially oldest city in Brazil, São Vicente.
You approach the city by ferry or over a bridge as the it is on the island Bom Abrigo. Passing the bridge it is worthwhile to make a stop and take a look from the bridge. If you take the tour via ferry you pass a waterfall, still on the continental side.
The region was many years a place of adventurers and french, spanish and portuguese pirates who fought each other, to mark their territorries, hoping to find big treasures in this new world. Especially the Spanish and the Portuguese were involved. On January, 24, 1502 an exploration expedition arrived with the famous cartograph Amerigo Vespucci on board of the vessel.
Years later, Portugal sent another expedition to found a colony. The armada under the command of Martim Afonso de Souza arrived on the island of Bom Abrigo, the place of Cananéia, in 1531. There they met six europeans living in a family, two hundred mesticos and 1,500 indians in the community of Maratayama, later called Cananéia. This is proved in the diary of the captain of the armada Pêro Lopes, the brother of Martim Afonso de Souza.
Cananéia was whitness of many conflicts and as it had a perfect natural harbor, there were shipyards installed. repairing and building ships was a big business in the 17th and 18th century. In 1782 the city had 16 shipyards and already more than 200 ships built.
The city was also attacked many times and the inhabitants flew to the church „São João Baptista“, built in the 16th century. As the church has no windows but big and heavy doors, it was a safe place for the people.
There are not many tourists coming here, in summer 2010 only 30 thousand visitors came to visit the UN Nature Heritage. The historic center around the church is well restaurated, it is a lovely place to have lunch or dinner in one of the restaurants (suggestion: fish or oysters) or sit with the people on one of the banks under the trees in front of the church. Especially in the street at the riverside there are some more restaurants.
As Cananéia has no beach, you need to go to one of the islands. One possibility is to take the car ferry to the southern end of Ilha Comprida (Long Island). Arriving on the island there is a road of about three kms to the other side, where the beach is. It reaches to the north of the island, which is a distance of 70 kms (see also our page Iguape) Driving north on the beach you pass a few small rivers that go their way to the ocean and after about 10 kms you arrive at a beautiful dune area. You should be careful and look what the brazilians do as at high tide you might not be able to return, because these rivers might become too deep to pass.
In a bay close to Cananéia there are many tucuxi-dolfins, the only specy that live in rivers as well as in the ocean. You can see them always, so just make a tour by boat. If you go to the Ilha do Cardoso, you cross this area with dolphins, too. More information you find on our page Ilha do Cardoso.
From this region heading to the highway in the mountains is the oldest road in Brazil, constructed in 1531 and until today the 28 kilometers are without asphalt. But already before it was a path heading to Cuzco, the capital of the Inkas in Peru.