Santarem, Brazil

Santarém sits along the Tapajós River midway between Belém and Manaus in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. Founded as a Jesuit colony in 1661 and a major player during Brazil’s rubber boom, Santarém still hums as one of the region's busier export hubs. Most visitors use the city as a jumping-off point for nearby adventures — starting along the crystalline Tapajós, its banks lined with gorgeous white sands that stretch for more than 60 miles. Sunseekers usually head to the popular beach resort of Alter do Chão, dubbed the “Brazilian Caribbean.” Santarém also boasts its own “meeting of the waters” between the Tapajós and Amazon rivers; while the confluence is not as dramatic as that in Manaus, it is still a spectacular sight to witness the clear, aquamarine waters of the Tapajós run alongside the dark Amazon for miles before finally merging. Around an hour’s drive outside the city lies Tapajós National Forest, which preserves nearly 1.5 million acres of Amazon rainforest including sustainable, community-based hardwood production. Take a jungle trek amidst dense foliage including rubber plants, brazil nut trees and giant samaúmas, known locally as “grandmother trees.”