Ilha Grande is an island in Brazil, within easy distance of Rio de Janeiro. Starting off as a pirate hideout and later a location where some of Brazil’s most infamous prisoners were held, Ilha Grande has a fascinating history which has tempered mass development from taking place over the years. This is why the island has maintained a village-like feel and its beaches are relatively untouched. The island is pedestrianised (so no taxis) and there are also no ATMs available so bring cash!
Abraão, where we stayed, is Ilha Grande‘s biggest town and has a very relaxed vibe. With it’s small church and palm tree lined beachfront, Abraão is peaceful and picturesque, a welcome relief if you’ve been visiting some of Brazil’s larger cities like Sao Paolo or Rio. Everything seems to move at a slow, leisurely pace here. There are a few shops, restaurants and bars to keep tourists busy.Where to stay
For accommodation, there are a number of pousadas (guesthouses) and hostels on the island. We stayed at Pousada Mata Nativa which was simple but in a good location (a five minute walk to the beach and port) and was comfortable enough.
What to do
The island has numerous hiking trails so don’t forget your trainers! Some are easier than others so pick whichever ones suit your fitness levels. One of the highlights is a hike to Pico do Papagaio, the island’s tallest peak and also know as the ‘parrot’s peak’ because of its beak-like shape. It takes about 4 hours up and 4 hours down. You can do a sunrise hike (with a company called Sunrise Pioneers) which starts at 2am and you’re back in your hotel around 9am! Not for those who don’t like creepy crawlies in the dark (like me!) but my friend did this and highly recommended it – the views do look well worth it if you can persevere! Remember to wear lots of insect repellant and get a yellow fever jab which is recommended for the area. 2) Water Sports and boat tours
There are numerous water sports on offer including kayaking, surfing, diving and snorkelling so great for those adventure seekers. You can also take boat tours around the island to see some of its beaches. Many of these boat tours stop and allow people to swim and snorkel.3) Beach
You have to visit Lopez Mendez beach. It is a white sandy beach about 2km long and is one of the most stunning beaches that I’ve been too. There are no shops or restaurants around so it feels like you’re own little piece of paradise. You can hike here from Abraão (1.5/2 hours each way) or you can take a water taxi/speedboat (costs around 25-30 BR) followed by a short hike of around 15-20 minutes. This is a must see if you’re in Ilha Grande.Where to eat
Check out Las Sorrentinas for delicious pasta. For lunch and excellent views, go to Atelie Cafeteria – you can get a table right on the beach!If you’re in Brazil, it is definitely worth adding Ilha Grande to the itinerary. You can book organised tours from Rio but I believe it is also pretty easy to hop on a bus from Rio’s main bus station to Angra dos Reis (2/2.5 hours) from where you can take a speed boat to Ilha Grande (1 hour).
Have you been to Ilha Grande? Leave a comment below!