This place name comes from the Tupi word -, meaning the plate of rock. Some other tupinologists (people who study the ancient language Tupi, spoken by the natives back in the 16th century) believe itanhaém means, ita = rock - and nhaém = that cries; due to the rocky coast and the waves that constantly hit it.
Itanhaém was among the greatest tour destinations in the State of São Paulo, back at the end of the 70's. Located in the Southeastern Brazil, the region is surrounded by the tropical Atlantic Forest that shelters many tropical animals such as colorful birds named Saíra (many subspecies) and animals such as Onças (Brazilian Jaguars), Quatis and Saruês. Itanhaém has many beaches: Downtown beach (Centro or Boca da Barra), Fishermen's Beach (Praia dos Pescadores); Dream Beach (Praia do Sonho); Indians' Well Beach (Poço dos Índios), Peruíbe Beach (Praia do Peruíbe) and Seagull Beach (Praia da Gaivota).
Other beaches are located in Peruíbe, once part of Itanhaém's territory (20 km southwards) and in the Juréia Natural Reserve, the most preserved and biggest sanctuary of The Atlantic Forest in Brazil, sheltering endemic species such as the Purple Head Parrot or Papagaio da Cara Roxa as it is named in Brazilian Portuguese. Among some of the most popular places in Peruibe, there are the falls of Pereque and Paraiso (Paradise), both forming lakes and waterholes deep enough for a dive among pitus (freashwater shrimp) and lambaris (freshwater fish). The most popular beaches are the ones of Barra do Una (this one on the border of the Municipality of Iguape), Carambore, Desertinha, Juquia, Paranapua, Brava, Guarau and Little Guarau ou Guarauzinho; all of them very close to Itanhaém.
The most important river in the region is located in Itanhaém (Itanhaém River) and its tributary streams such as the Black and the White rivers make sinuous paths into the forest towards the foot of the Sea Mountain Range where there are many, if not, hundreds of waterfalls. Itanhaém can be reached in 1½ hours by car from the city of São Paulo (130,000 km²), the capital of the State of São Paulo.