I just spent the last week on the gorgeous island of Ilhabela, a 4 1/2 hour ride from Campinas, and about 2 hours from Sao Paulo. My dad drove us there in a rental car from here.
We rented an apartment about 2 blocks from the beach, and spent about half our stay there (unfortunately we had a bit of rain, but used those days to make super delicious meals at home, and visit some waterfalls). I also felt pretty good about being the main Portuguese speaker and getting to practice using all the portuguese I've learned in the last five months from my teacher Cassia. My folks were pretty impressed, and it made me feel like I'm advancing much more than it may seem to me.
The beach there is gorgeous, I had been there once before, but decided to take my folks because I knew they'd appreciate its loveliness just as much as I did the first time. I think Ben may have enjoyed it the most though, he came from Brooklyn where its super cold and blizzardy at the moment, so he was living it up in the sun and waves. He mentioned to my dad that it had been about 2 years since he last swam in the ocean. wowza.
Anyway, we did a baby hike and saw some waterfalls (and swam by them). Had some great meals in town, played Bananagrams, sunbathed, & read a lot ( a gift from Ben - Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami, my new favorite author). I think my favorite part was that I was motivated enough to wake up every morning at 7:30 and run 3 miles on the beach. Running is so much more fun on sand, while watching the sun come up. It was also nice to see the hotel and restaurants on the shore get set up for the day. I'd see the same people every morning for a whole week, so by day three I was saying good morning to all of them and evntually stopping to talk to some of them.
After my runs, I'd come back, have breakfast with my parents, and walk with them to the bakery and then a local fisherman's house on the corner. Every day we bought fresh fish from him, and for dinner my mom would cook up something super delicious. We had squid one night, shrimp another, salmon, large anchovies, and crab. Our Christmas dinner was amazing.. coconut shrimp curry, huge salad, cucumber yogurt salad, and salmon.
I love seafood so much, I wish it wasn't so expensive here in Campinas. eeesh.
I think that when I finally decide to settle down somewhere, like in a buying property and having kids kind of way, I need to be close to the beach. The nearest beach has always been about a 2 and a half hour drive from me since I moved to Gainesville (same with here in Campinas, and that's just to get to "a beach" not really a super nice one). I think I can only truly be happy to stay somewhere for years and years of I can wake up and walk on the beach every Saturday and Sunday, and not even have to put on shoes to get there because I just have to cross the street.