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Araracanga. Photo: Haroldo Palo Jr.

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22 jul 2019
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Destinations across Brazil to enjoy nature with children

15 choices of open air tours that the entire family can enjoy

Bosque dos Namorados at the Natal Dunes Park | Photo Credit: Advertising - Dunes Park
Holidays are perfect to get the children out of the house and enjoy open air tours, getting in touch with nature. According to Marcos Sorrentino, post-doctor at the Social Psychology Department of the São Paulo University (USP) and a member of the Nature Conservation Experts Network, contact with the environment since childhood offers countless benefits until adult life and, to better enjoy it, we need to slow down.

“In general, getting in touch with nature creates conditions for children to have less hectic moments of contemplation and observation. But children, as well as teens and even adults, need to relearn how to benefit from these moments in nature, setting aside the hectic way of life to which we are exposed in our society,” he notes. 

Our country has great choices of natural areas that the whole family can enjoy. Check out 15 unforgettable destination choices.

1. Iguaçu National Park (Paraná)

One of the most famous and visited locations in Brazil, the Iguaçu National Park was created in 1939 and is home to the Iguaçu River Falls. There are 19 main waterfalls, five on the Brazilian side of the border. Besides enjoying one of the Seven New Wonders of Nature, visitors can also check out other attractions in the park, such as the Black Well Trail, assisted by bilingual guides who explain the park's biodiversity. One of the highlights of the path is the Jacaré Lagoon. The trail's nine kilometers can be completed on foot, by bike or on electric carts. The Park also hosts other attractions, such as the Banana Tree Trail, and the thrilling Macuco Safari.

Hours: daily from 9 AM to 5 PM
Admission fees: BRL 70 (full price, older than 12). Brazilians pay BRL 41 (older than 12). Children aged 2-11 and elders above 60 pay BRL 11.
Contact: +55 (45) 3521-4400

2. Peruaçu Caves National Park (Minas Gerais)

Located in the North of Minas Gerais, the location is not yet well known by tourists, but has enchanted visitors – both due to the natural beauty as well as its historical importance, with large amounts of prehistoric rock art in the caves. The park includes several trails, some of which are light treks, such as the Lapa do Bonete Trail, where archaeological excavations can be observed. Part of the trail cannot be traversed on foot and visits are only allowed with prior scheduling by the unit management.

Hours: from 8 AM to 6 PM, Mondays to Sundays. Entry to the attractions is allowed until 3 PM.
Admission fees: values are provided when scheduling a visit
Contact: +55 (38) 3623-1038

3. Jericoacoara National Park (Ceará)

Despite being the preferred destination of many couples, Jericoacoara can also be a good choice for children. With an area greater than 8 thousand hectares, the Jericoacoara National Park offers visitors several attractions: they can enjoy the local beaches and natural beauty, such as the famous Hollow Rock and the Sloth Tree. It is also possible to go on canoe and buggy rides to the Paraíso, Azul, and Tatajuba lagoons. 

Admission fees: a sustainable tourism fee is charged (BRL 5 per day)
Contact: +55 (61) 2028-9833

4. Tijuca National Park (Rio de Janeiro)

Located in the Rio de Janeiro state capital, the park is home to almost 4 thousand hectares of Atlantic Rainforest and receives more than 3 million visitors each year. The area is divided into visiting sectors: Forest, Serra da Carioca and Pedra Bonita or Pedra da Gávea, where visitors can admire nature and beautiful landscapes. The site also includes the Corcovado Mount, where the famous Christ the Redeemer statue is found, and the Chinese View, a lookout point where visitors can see the Southern area of the city and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

Hours: from 8 AM to 5 PM, daily
Admission fees: Free admission. The only location within the park where tickets are charged is the Corcovado.
Contact: +55 (21) 2492-2250

5. Devil's Cave (São Paulo)

The name can impress some people, but the beauty of the cave, which is found in the state park of the same name, is worth a visit. The site, close to the Paraná border, draws attention for its grandiosity. It is considered the largest cave in the state of São Paulo, and its structure, with ladders and lighting, offers easy access to people of all ages. To visit the site, a local environmental monitor must accompany each group. During the tour, visitors can also take trails and get in touch with the Atlantic Rainforest vegetation found in the park. The site also includes an Environmental Interpreting Center and a leisure area.

Hours: from 8 AM to 5 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays. 
Admission fees: BRL 14 (full price), BRL 7 (half price) and BRL 12 per visitor for the environmental monitoring service.
Contact: +55 (13) 3871-0259 and +55 (13) 3871-1242
 
6. Itaimbezinho Canyon (Rio Grande do Sul)

Located in the Aparados da Serra National Park (RS), the canyon is 18 km away from the Cambará do Sul town center and is one of the largest in the Americas, with depths reaching 700 meters. At the site, surrounded by Atlantic Rainforest, visitors can take two trails on the park's upper portion: the Vortex and the Elbow. The first is of light difficulty and the trek lasts for about an hour. The path includes lookout points where visitors can see the Andorinhas Fall, a waterfall nearly 300 meters high, and the Véu da Noiva waterfall, with a 500 meter drop.

Hours: from 8 AM to 5 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays. For the Elbow Trail, entry is allowed until 3 PM.
Admission fees: BRL 8 (for Brazilians), parking for BRL 5
Contact: +55 (54) 3251-1320 (Tourist House)

7. Natal Dunes State Park (Rio Grande do Norte)

Considered the largest urban park on dunes in the country, the site is home to several attractions to those who want to rest close to nature. Right at the entrance, the Bosque dos Namorados shelters thousands of Atlantic Rainforest native trees. The site also includes a Visitor Center, a library, an animal nursery and trekking locations. From the Bosque, visitors can also go on some interpretative trails that help them learn more about the dunes ecosystem. 

Hours: from 8 AM to 6 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays.
Admission fees: BRL 1
Contact: +55 (84) 3201-4440

8. Priest's Hole (Paraná)

Another destination in Ponta Grossa that draws attention for its natural beauty is the Priest's Hole. Located in the Itaiacoca district, the site's main attraction is a pit formed by the junction of geological faults and crevices in the sandy rocks, where a waterfall over 30 meter high can be seen. Taking the Favo Trail, of medium difficulty, visitors can also check out the top of the Pit and a natural pool. The Priest's Hole is inside a private area that comprises the Campos Gerais National Park, created in 2006, and considered the largest protected area of Araucaria Forest in the world. The site has a playground and a cafe that opens on weekends. The main trail is made up by a catwalk that is easily accessible to handicapped people. 

Hours: from 9 AM to 5 PM, Wednesdays to Sundays. Visitors must leave by 7 PM.
Admission fees: BRL 20 (full price) and BRL 10 (half price). The Favo Trail requires paying a conservation fee of BRL 20.
Contact: +55 (42) 3220-1814

9. Campos do Jordão Forest Grove (São Paulo)

Despite being known as the Forest Grove, the area is officially named the Campos do Jordão State Park. Created in 1941, with over 8 thousand hectares, the site is a haven of tranquility in one of the most famous cities in the state of São Paulo. It is home to a large variety of remaining Atlantic Rainforest vegetation, with a presence of Araucaria and Nebular Forests, as well as Altitude Fields. At the site, over 180 species of threatened birds and animals have been recorded, such as cougars. With so many natural attractions, visitors have the chance of trekking through one of several trails in the park or admiring nature, watching the lagoons and meadows found there.

Hours: from 9 AM to 4 PM, daily. During low season, the site is closed on Wednesdays.
Admission fees: BRL 15 (full price)
Contact: +55 (12) 3663-3762 and +55 (12) 3663-1977

10. Vila Velha State Park (Paraná)

Located in the municipality of Ponta Grossa, 95 kilometers from Curitiba, the park is famous for its rock formations, in several shapes, such as the cup and the camel, but the Protected area is also home to other attractions, such as the Pits and the Golden Lagoon, which gets its color by reflecting the Sun. The park has over 3 thousand hectares, is considered a State History and Art Heritage Site, and was created in 1953 to preserve the sandstone formations and the native vegetation of the area. Threatened species such as maned wolves and giant anteaters have been found at the site. The park, which has been recently renovated, has trails that can be traversed in guided tours. The site also has a snack bar, a visitor center, parking spaces and a souvenir store.

Hours: from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, Wednesdays to Mondays. Visitors may stay until 5:30 PM. The park closes when its maximum occupancy of 800 people is reached.
Admission fees: BRL 28 per person (the amount includes guide fees and access to the Sandstones, the Golden Lagoon and the Pits)
Contact: +55 (42) 98417-2323 and +55 (42) 99943-0582, from 1:30 to 5:30 PM

11. São Joaquim National Park (Santa Catarina)

Created in 1961 to protect remainders of Araucaria Forests, the park includes five cities in Santa Catarina. Access to the high part of the park is through the cities of Urubici and Bom Jesus da Serra. The site holds a great diversity of vegetation and wildlife. One of the main attractions of the park, the Morro da Igreja Lookout, which overlooks the Pedra Furada, has limited visitation access and is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, in July and August. Visits must be scheduled beforehand with ICMBio, via phone or e-mail.

Hours: visits to the Morro da Igreja Lookout must be scheduled beforehand
Admission fees: entry to the Park is free of charge
Contact: +55 (49) 3278-4994

12. Salto Morato Natural Reserve (Paraná)

A Private Natural Heritage Reserve (PNHR) located in Guaraqueçaba (PR), in the Northern coast of the state, the Salto Morato Natural Reserve is part of the largest continuous remainder of Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil, recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site. At the site, which has opened for visitation since 1996, over 320 species of birds have been registered, some of them threatened with extinction. The key touristic attractions at the Reserve, which is maintained by the Boticário Group Foundation for Nature Protection, are the around 100-meter-high waterfall that names the area and a centenarian fig tree that trunks forms a living bridge over the Engenho River. Access to both spots is achieved by marked trails with interpretative panels and signs.

Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays and holidays, from 8:30 AM to 4 PM
Admission fees: BRL 10 (full price) and BRL 5 (half price). Entrance is free for residents of Guaraqueçaba, children under 10 and elders over 60.
Contact: +55 (41) 3375-9671 and +55 (41) 98827-4137 (Whatsapp)

13. Pau Brasil National Park (Bahia)

Located in the municipality of Porto Seguro, the Park was created in celebration of Brazil's 500th anniversary and is considered one of the most important Atlantic Rainforest conservation areas in Southern Bahia. The site includes several lookout points and trekking choices. The Ibirapitanga trail is traversed on a suspended catwalk that projects from local vegetation. On the path, visitors can watch Brazilwood saplings and centuries-old trees. At the Maracanã lookout point, visitors have a beautiful view of the forest. The park also has a lookout point (Sede) close to the Visitor Center, which can be accessed by handicapped persons too.

Hours: from 8:30 AM to 4 PM, Mondays to Fridays
Admission fees: free of charge

14. Cantareira State Park (São Paulo)

A forest right next to Brazil's most populous city. The Cantareira State Park opened in 1962 and has over 7 thousand hectares of Atlantic Rainforest remainders. The site is around 10 kilometers from São Paulo and shelters some threatened species, such as howler monkeys and white-necked hawks. The park includes several trails of varying difficulty levels. The Howler Monkey Trail, for example, is easy to access and can be traversed by children and elders. A great choice to admire the forest.

Hours: from 8 AM to 3 PM, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. In July, the park opens daily.
Admission fees: BRL 15 (full price) and BRL 7.50 (half price)
Contact: +55 (11) 2203-3266

15. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (Maranhão)

Adventure abounds in Brazil's largest field of dunes. Rides on registered 4x4 vehicles allow visitors to admire the crystal-clear lagoons and white sands. Quite a fun choice to bring the kids. Starting in the town of Barreirinhas, visitors can take the Blue Lagoon Tour, one of the most popular with tourists, which allows them to check out the Blue, Emerald and Sloth lagoons. During the ride through the Park, visitors can also see Cerrado and Caatinga species. 

Hours: Check directly with registered tour operators
Admission fees: Visiting the Park is free of charge. Registered tour operators charge for the services they provide 
Contact: +55 (98) 3349-1267