All through the falls and caves of PETAR
The first time I went to PETAR I am sure I wasn’t ready to enjoy it the way it should be, however, it had been a dream for years. The first trip was on the Carnaval holiday of 2019, and the strongest memory is not a memory per se, it is a feeling. A feeling of freedom. You just can’t feel caged having the privilege to see all that greatness.
The most common place to stay when you decide to go there is Bairro da Serra, it is located between the cities of Apiaí and Iporanga, but we can’t say that the state park is only in these cities, it is much more than that, as you can see here ⤵
When you start looking for a place to stay, one of the first ones to pop up on the searches is Pousada da Diva, the oldest and most traditional inn there, and it was where I chose to stay on the trip of 2019. The story tells that when people started going there to visit and study the place in the ’60s, she – who’s alive and kicking and cooking – decided to rent and sell lunch and dinner for the workers and as the years went by, her house became an inn, her kids grew up and made it a business. And I have to say, one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in my whole life.
When I returned to PETAR in 2022, life was brighter. I was there again with my wife, and we were there for our honeymoon. This time, as we were traveling with the kids – kids meaning two stray dogs, Amêndoa and Josimar – we needed a more suitable place for them to feel welcome and comfortable, so we chose the inn called Pousada das Cavernas, not as traditional as Diva’s, but just as wonderful and, differently from the others I’ve checked, it was fully pet-friendly.
Something important to know is that when you are at Bairro da Serra you don’t have many options when it comes to where to eat or sit to have a drink. Remember, it is a place to go off the beaten path. So, when you book your stay, you normally pay to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the inn. Breakfast starts to be served early in the morning, so everybody can be ready to leave for the activities in the park. We take our lunch packed, a sandwich with some snacks, juice, and fruit, so we can picnic and then, a very rich dinner, fresh and warm, like it was made by your grandma, with meat and vegan options.
PETAR is organized by cells. There are four of them, NÚCLEO SANTANA, NÚCLEO CABOCLOS, NÚCLEO OURO GROSSO, and NÚCLEO CASA DE PEDRA. Where we were, we had access to Santana cell and Ouro Grosso cell in a short drive – we haven’t been to CABOCLOS or CASA DE PEDRA for two reasons, we were not physically prepared for exploring CABOCLOS. The level of its activities is far beyond our present skills of trekking and climbing, but it is strongly recommended for the bravest souls. CASA DE PEDRA is where it is located the biggest cave portico in the world with 216 meters high and for its preservation, it is closed to tourists.
map of petar
For our newlyweds’ adventure, we couldn’t bring Margaret with us. – Margaret is our car, but she is not ready for that kind of terrain and I highly recommend if you don’t have an off-road, don’t use your city car to some places there. Getting there is not a problem, but visiting some locations can be. The agencies offer guides with trucks and off-roads to get to more challenging attractions. So, Marge took the holiday off of us and we brought my uncle’s pick-up truck, which was very convenient, taking into consideration that the roads and some accesses were not paved or even beaten flat for a regular car.
To start the day tour, we booked a guide before arriving. This is mandatory. We can only explore inside the NÚCLEOS and visit the falls and caves if we have a certified guide with us and this is AWESOME! And even more amazing is that for you to be a certified guide you must be local, or you must be living there for more than five years in a row, therefore, making the business local and the income local as well. There’s no person better for this job than someone who grew up having nature as their playground.
All the bookings are scheduled and we must be there at the right time. We met Ivan, our guide, in front of the office. Parque Aventuras organized everything for us and we paid around 400 BRL to have Ivan’s knowledge with us for that day. And we drove out as if we were going to Apiaí for about twenty minutes to get to the entrance of NÚCLEO SANTANA. We had to wait in line for some minutes and after getting our documents and tickets checked at the control booth, we parked and then we gathered at a big hut at the beginning of the trails.
The plan for the day was to start with the Morro Preto Cave and the trail to Couto Falls and the Couto Cave, then, stop for lunch by the river, and then, end it with the Santana Cave. And off we went. To be super honest, I was a bit anxious to do it. As I am not in my best shape, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to cope with the climbings and with the long walks in the caves and then, to the next, however, to my surprise, the most difficult part was the first hike from the base outside the hut to the portico of Morro Preto.
I must say, visiting the caves was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. It is like you’re entering another dimension. Despite the other tourists around taking pictures and recording their every single movement, you don’t see or have a signal from the outside world. Then, when inside, you come to realize those walls and stalagmites and stalactites are sitting there for thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of years. All those formations are the remains of a world without us. Inside it, you can have the feeling of true and complete silence and darkness.
We’ve been to three caves and then we understand better the importance of having Ivan with us. He could share all his knowledge about geology, fauna, and flora. And tell local stories of its beauties and explain why are many scientist studying the minerals and water inside of the caves. But his most important job with us there was to ensure we would respect every inch of that place by not grabbing pieces of it as souvenirs and littering around. PETAR is the largest protected area of tropical forest in brazil, and it’s our duty to keep it safe.
After we left Santana Cave, we went back to our inn hoping the kids had been behaving well. At first moment, we believed they had, only to find out later that they had escaped the room to look for us around making all the people working at the inn run after them. – I HIGHLY recommend this inn.
The next day was the day to make Amendoa and Josimar tired. It was their trekking day and we decided
to follow the Betari River by its shore to find where was Ivan’s honey shop – the day before we had known that Ivan is also a beekeeper and wildflower honey producer. It took almost an hour of a walk but we finally found it and it was worth every drop. And of course, we took some honey home.
Another great thing about PETAR is that you don’t have to get busy all the time, buying tours or seeing all the falls and caves – of course, you can, but you don’t have to. Every corner of it is so beautiful that just a simple
walk is magical with its sounds and smells.
This is a bit of our trip to PETAR. On our Instagram, you can see some of our pictures, and also here at our gallery.
Below I will include some honorable mentions and links of the places we recommend! I thank you a lot to bear with us until here and keep tripping with us!
Other great place to explore nearby:
Caverna do Diabo Probably the most famous cave to visit there is Caverna do Diabo, or Devil’s Cave. I was there on my first visit. For you to get there, you need to go by car and it is out of Iporanga, it is located in the city of Eldorado. It is also great and very family-friendly and easy to walk in there. The groups leave every thirty minutes for the cave and the walk is easy because it was adapted for visitors. https://www.cavernadodiabo.com/
Pousada da Diva https://www.pousadadiva.com.br/
Pousada das Cavernas https://www.pousadadascavernas.com.br/
Parque Aventuras https://parqueaventuras.com.br/