Best of Ilha Grande

When we decided to travel for a  month in Rio de Janeiro and area, the first thing many friends told us was that we had to go to this ‘island paradise’  called Ilha Grande. This breathtaking island is a 2 hour drive from the city of Rio, and is surrounded by the Atlantic rainforest, white sand beaches and clear lagoons. Here are our Ilha Grande recommendations and tips.

12241019_10206000200738985_1900909026302454734_oHow to Get To Ilha Grande

After doing a lot of research online, I found that most websites will tell you that the only options to get from Rio to Ilha Grande is either by: 1. car 2.  bus (via Costa Verde) from Rodoviária (the bus terminal in Rio). or 3. a private transfer, to get to  Angra dos Reis and then, from there you have to  take a boat from Angra dos Reis (1-1.5 hours boat ride) to the Island.

12291100_10206000211779261_7890626739094077652_oBUT to get to Ilha Grande you don’t  necessarily need to go to Angra, as it is way too far and  it’s not the easiest or  cheapest way to get there.  A better and faster option is to make your way to Conceição de Jacareí, either by private transfer or by the same bus that you’d take  to Angra (get off before you get to Angra at Jacarei- just ask for the driver to stop). From Jacareí you need to take a fast boat to Abraão (the main village on Ilha Grande) which takes only 15 minutes! We were told about this easy option from our pousada (bed and breakfast) owner and it made things so much easier. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s pretty easy to go by bus, but we decided to take a private transfer, which our pousada owner arranged for us and only cost us R$ 260,00 plus the boat ride which only added  a few Reais per person. The driver accompanied us to the boat and after 15 minutes we arrived at  the island.

Where to stay

20151117_163604In Ilha Grande there are an awful lot of pousadas to choose from and after reading reviews on Tripadvisor, and seeing the fair prices they offer, we decided to book a few nights at Ouro Verde. 20151116_12402820151116_122948

20151119_100311We loved this posuada and decided to stay longer than we originally planned.  This cosy pousada combines the best of both worlds in its location: it is only 5 minutes walk to the main town of Abraão, the central beach and bars, and it is also quiet and peaceful, located in the middle of nature, surrounded by rainforest, with wooden chairs and hammocks outside our room with a view to the jungle courtyard and river, cute star (sagui) monkeys, hummingbirds and other exotic birds. The pousada is also eco-friendly. The owners are  attuned with the environment and even use solar-heating to warm the water. 20151117_10380912240424_10206000199458953_4464541763313178777_o

Rita is the most hospitable and friendly host you can imagine and a very interesting person. We were really glad  we had the chance to meet her! We had some great conversations and everyday after breakfast we sat together and she gave us the best tips and recommendations on what to do on the island.
She also makes an absolutely delicious breakfast: Fried bananas, fresh fruits, homemade cakes, bread and jams. 20151118_08350020151118_08344120151118_08361220151118_083519

Staying here was  a truly authentic and exceptional experience and we hope we come back again one day for another visit!

Best Beaches and Daytrips

There are so many things to do and beaches to explore on this huge island. I would suggest that if you have the time and budget, you should stay for a minimum of  1 week on the island so you have the chance to  see and partake in most  of the main attractions. We only stayed for 4 nights and managed to do a lot, although we felt we could definitely stay another 2-3 days. 12247965_10206000215499354_7031991667639075970_o12291831_10206000203139045_3871116019391116395_o

Here are our recommendations on where to go and what to do:

Lopez Mendez Beach

20151118_134549No.1  ‘must do’ while in Ilha Grande! We did the hike, but you can also take a boat from Abraão to Mangues Beach and do a short hike from there. From Abrrao it’s a 4 hour hike in the jungle to Lopes Mendes Beach crossing Palmas, Mangues and Pouso beaches. 12244708_10206000204259073_5887279365324346231_o12273678_10206000212019267_4816256594237545866_o12273678_10206000211699259_3817436099476606071_o12291138_10206000205939115_8662346190261674795_o

The hike is an adventure and is not easy, but definitely worth it. After a tiring 7 km walk we were greeted by cute little Star monkeys on the trees, and once we entered this white sand paradise we forgot all about the long hike.20151118_141405 10988516_10206000207379151_6222709532465517679_o11223332_10206000212739285_7831707273635591882_o

Cachoeira Da Feiticeira and Feiticeira Beach

12240470_10206000217179396_235992619581708870_oThis was also very challenging but an amazing experience hiking in the jungle surrounded by lush vegetation, bamboo trees and mushrooms . We also came across a lone howler monkey who was hiding in the trees.

20151117_14042920151117_135440After a long hike we finally arrived at  Feiticeira Waterfall. After a refreshing, but very cold bath in the river, we headed to Feiticeira beach, which is a little cute beach about 1 walk from the waterfall.  Finally we could relax on the beach with coconut water and snacks. From there we took a fun taxi boat ride back to Abraão.20151117_151305

Julia and Abraaozinho Beaches

20151119_131247After 2 days of hiking (to Lopez Mendez and Cachoeira Da Feiticeira) we wanted to do something more relaxing and less adventurous. So we went to Julia and Abraaozinho Beaches which are 15-20  minutes walk from  Abraão port (just follow the beach from Abraão North). Both beaches are really small and quiet, with blue/green water and a few bars.20151119_133608

More things to do on the island

Daytrips and snorkeling at the Blue and Green Lagoons
Saco do Céu Beach
Dois Rios Beach

Where to Eat

Cafe do Mar

20151117_175416A scenic beach restaurant in Abrrao right under a big tree with tiny lamps strung on it, great music and a of course, a beautiful ocean view. We came here to watch the sunset and had some fantastic lemon and passionfruit Caipirinhas accompanied by their tasty fries and shrimp snacks.They also have BBQ nights, which I heard are really good!20151117_180033

Sagu mini resort

20151119_14141820151119_142322We discovered this hidden, stylish and romantic spot on our first day on the island while we were walking along  the beach from Abraão. The resort is situated between the 2 tiny beaches of “Biquinha” and  “Comprida” which are about a 10 minute walk from the Abraão port.
20151119_14353320151119_14484820151119_150343The resort has  a restaurant with a beautiful ocean view, is steps from the sea, and surrounded by palm and mango trees. We dined  here twice for lunch and once for an afternoon snack. Their chef, who is Argentine, made excellent and diverse dishes and their attention to detail was amazing.

Lua e Mar

end112274760_10153368970873002_6857202281687972990_nWe had dinner here with our dear friends Raksha and Amar, on our last night in Ilha Grande and it was absolutely amazing! We sat right on the beach, with live music in the background and ate the traditional Brazilian dishes Shrimp Moqueca and Bobó de Camarão.end112274264_10153368970773002_2486169662991125099_n

Marola Bar

20151118_170144(0)A cute little spot on the way to or back from Lopez Mendez! This  floating bar/restaurant is located on  Mangues Beach, which is where you can catch a boat back to Abraão. After our long hike to the beautiful Lopez Mendez Beach, we stopped here and had an  hour to kill before catching our  boat back to Abraão, so we decided to have a little snack:  the most delicious banana cake and strong coffee!20151118_163931


  1. Hi Maureen, thanks for this very useful report + nice pictures about Ilha Grande. We plan to do more or less the same trip next moth and would also like to take the fast boat and private transport from Rio. We are a family with 2 children so we thought it would be much easier to do it this way.
    What was the hostel you stayed in Rio? We would like to contact them to stay and arrange transport to Jacarei.
    Best wishes from Holland!

    • Hi Sander,

      A private transfer from Rio to Ilha Grande definitely makes the trip a lot easier! We stayed in Rio in an Airbnb flat, and we booked the private transfer with the posuada we stayed at in Ilha Grande. You should check with the hotel/hostel you’re going to stay in Ilha Grande if they have private transfer from Rio..

      Have a fun time in Brazil!!

  2. Woowww Fantastic Blog, First Word “Love Brazil” .. lots of memories!! this Dec me and my Girlfriend flying to Rio again !!

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