Port of Santos, Brazil
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Santos (Sao Paulo) Overview
Santos, the gateway to the Brazilian capital of Sao Paolo, has long been nicknamed "the coffee port." Though no coffee (except for a few show trees) actually grows in Santos, the city is synonymous with the bean and ties its history to the growth of Brazil's coffee trade (military officer Francisco de Melo Palheta brought the first coffee plant to Brazil in 1727).
In the mid- 19th century, coffee production exploded in the countryside around Santos and Sao Paolo, buoyed at first by millions of slaves and then by the end of the century by European immigrant workers. For 150 years, Brazil has been the world's largest coffee producer (arabica and robusta are the dominant varieties) growing about a third of the world's crop.
Santos is the busiest port in Latin America, shipping 25 percent of the country's exports. Home to 400,000 residents, Santos welcomes more than four million visitors per year, with 1.3 million of those arriving by cruise ship.
Visitors find wide, tree-lined boulevards and the longest beach garden in the world. Santos is also synonymous with soccer great Pele, and the stadium where he played is one of the city's noteworthy attractions. Santos also holds a world record for the tallest cemetery.
The city enjoys a tropical rain forest climate with warm temperatures throughout the year, though the summer months (December to March) draw the most visitors.
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Other South America Cruise Ports:
Buenos Aires • Lima • Manaus • Montevideo • Puerto Montt • Punta Arenas • Rio de Janeiro • Santiago (Valparaiso) • Santos (Sao Paulo) • Stanley • Ushuaia
Drink the caipirinha, Brazil's national cocktail, in the region where it originated. Made with cachaca (hard liquor made from sugar cane), sugar and lime, the cocktail is said to have been invented in 1918 as a popular remedy for victims of the Spanish flu, which was spreading across the world that year. Nearly every bar and restaurant in Santos serves the sweet drink.
For the soccer lovers in your life, the Santos Football Club Gift Shop at the Vila Belmiro Stadium offers unforgettable gifts. Take home a bit of the spirit of Pele with items from his home club: Choose from a Santos Football Club pin, a small soccer ball in the team colors or a team jersey.
Portuguese is the national language of Brazil and is spoken in Santos. Some locals, who work directly with tourists, speak English.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the Brazilian real. Many shopkeepers and taxi drivers take U.S. dollars. There is a currency exchange in the main cruise terminal as well as several ATM's near gate L. Check xe.com and oanda.com for current exchange rates.
Where You're Docked
The port of Santos covers 8.7 miles, though the cruise operations are concentrated in the Concais Terminal. In the high season, there can be a half-dozen or more ships in port, and generally it is necessary to take a shuttle bus from shipside to the cruise terminal.
The full-service terminal offers several cafes and snack bars, stores, tour desks, currency exchange, Internet access and ATM's.A statue of Our Lady of Fatima, elected by the harbor workers as their patron saint, sits at the entrance to the port. While the "Old Town" of Santos is within walking distance of the port and has been "revitalized," visitors should still exercise caution.
By Shuttle: Many of the cruise lines offer shuttle buses into town, stopping at a central location like the Praiamar Shopping Center.
By Taxi: Taxis line up outside the cruise terminal. They are metered and can take you on the 10-minute drive into the center of town or further afield. If you're interested in taking a taxi to Sao Paolo, be sure to negotiate a price first; about $200 roundtrip is the going rate.
Watch Out For
Don't wear flashy jewelry. Pickpockets in the area have been known to rip necklaces, bracelets and rings off tourists.
Coffee Museum: Because Santos is synonymous with the coffee trade, no trip would be complete without a visit there. The museum is housed in the beautiful Bolsa Official de Cafe, the former coffee exchange. With marble floors and opulent chairs and tables made from jacaranda, a local noble wood, one can just imagine the trading that took place there until 1950. The rest of the museum is filled with both art and relics describing the process of farming coffee and the impact of the coffee trade on local culture. Don't forget to visit the museum's cafe to try the brew for yourself; try the "Brazilian cappuccino" made with chocolate (Rua XV de Novembro 95; open Tuesday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Vila Belmiro Stadium: While Santos is known for coffee, it is probably even more famous worldwide as the home of perhaps the greatest soccer player to walk the Earth -- Pele. The football legend played for the Santos Football Club for 18 years. At Vila Belmiro Stadium, built in 1916 and seating 20,000, you can see the field where Pele made history as well as a museum dedicated to the star, his team and the impact he had on the world (Pele is credited with stopping a war in Zaire -- now Democratic Republic of Congo -- in 1967 because participants wanted to see him play in an African tournament). (Rua Princesa Isabel)
The Santos Municipal Orchidarium and Zoological Park: The park recreates Brazil's Atlantic Coast environment in the space of six acres, featuring some 400 animals and birds of 70 species (some roam the park freely), 300 species of plants and 4,100 types of orchids. (Praca Washington s/n, Jose Meninore; open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Been There, Done That
Monte Serrat: Get a stunning view of Santos and the surrounding beach towns by taking the funicular up this nearby natural monument. At the top of the hill, you can find the beautiful former casino, built Art Deco-style in the 1920's. The site also features a chapel and dining facilities.
The Maritime Museum: You'll find this in Old Town. Explore art and relics illustrating the link between Santos and the sea. The museum also has a lovely gift shop. (Rua Governador Fernando Costa 343, Ponta da Praia)
Santos Municipal Aquarium: This is a fun place to visit, especially with the family. The usual sea creatures and penguins are there, but what is of greatest interest is the Amazon Basin filled with unique fish native to the Amazon River. (Av. Bartolomeu de Gusmao open Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Santos is home to the longest beachfront garden in the world, spanning 5,335 meters. This is a great place to hit the sand, with a chance to enjoy the flowers and plants when the sun gets to be too much. There are miles of bicycle lanes throughout the park and you can find bike rentals nearby.
Guaraja is a nearby town with 11 miles of pristine beaches that are a favorite with locals and visitors alike. At least one beach (Tombo) has been honored with the Blue Flag seal for environmental purity. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and changing facilities along the beaches. You can take a taxi or a boat from the nearby ferry terminal.
Santos restaurants offer seafood galore, and because this is Brazil, barbecued meat is a popular staple.
Tasca do Porto in Old Town and within walking distance of the Coffee Museum, serves up Portuguese-influenced Brazilian specialties in an authentic atmosphere. Try the arroz de mariscos, rice with shrimp, squid and shellfish. Expect live music and servers in traditional dress. (Rua XV de Novembro 112)
For Brazilian barbecue, head to Churrascaria Tertulia, a high-end choice with excellent service. This is where the locals go for special celebrations. Don't leave Brazil without tasting their incredible grilled meats. (Av. Bartolomeu de Gusmao, 187 -- Ponta da Praia)
Staying in Touch
The cruise terminal offers wireless access for laptops and tablets. If you make a purchase at one of the cafes or restaurants, you can ask for a code to get online using their Wi-Fi. If you're not making a purchase, you can head upstairs to the Internet area to pay for wireless or rent time on a computer.
Best for Longer Port Stops: Though the capital of Brazil is just 45 miles from Santos, it can take up to two hours to reach Sao Paolo, especially if there is traffic. While half of a full-day tour to the city is spent on transportation, the road to get there -- the Anchieta-Imigrantes Highway offers stunning views over bridges and through tunnels to Sao Paolo, which sits 2,200 feet above sea level on a plateau. The city doesn't offer as much to see as other national capitals, but most tours include the gardens of the Paulista Museum, the Morumbi Stadium, Ibirapuera Park and its panoramic views and the Oscar Americano Foundation with collections of paintings, tapestries and sacred art from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Best for First-Timers: A nice selection of cultural and natural treasures await in Santos itself if you don't want to venture all the way to Sao Paolo. Most ships run a morning excursion that visits the Coffee Museum, the Vila Belmiro Stadium (where Pele played) and the Santos Municipal Orchidarium and Zoological Park. These tours also drive by the cemetery and the beachfront gardens so you can get a peek at this Guinness-book worthy location. In the afternoon, there's time for shopping or hitting the beach on your own.