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.
How 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.
BUT 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
In 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.
We 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.
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.
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.
Here are our recommendations on where to go and what to do:
Lopez Mendez Beach
No.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.
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.
Cachoeira Da Feiticeira and Feiticeira Beach
This 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.
After 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.
Julia and Abraaozinho Beaches
After 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.
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
A 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!
Sagu mini resort
We 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.
The 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
We 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.
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!