Just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state is the small, scenic island of Ilha Grande Brazil. This peaceful island is known for it’s 100+ tropical beaches, hidden waterfalls, relaxing lifestyle and of course, it’s 150km of rugged jungle tracks.
Although the island strives from tourism alone, Ilha Grande still remains relatively untouched and undeveloped. There is only one main town Vila do Abraão – which has few hotels and pousadas (guesthouses), restaurants and bars. The island has only a few roads and no vehicles – with the only form of transport being on foot or by boat.
We arrived to Ilha Grande from Rio de Janeiro by mini van and ferry just after midday, and spent 3 days exploring the island paradise. As we were visiting Brazil during the ‘winter’, we were not fortunate enough to get the best weather for the few days we were there. Although it was never cold, it was often overcast, cloudy and we were hit with a few showers.
We made the most of our sunny days by hiking through the rugged and thick rainforest and making our way to the unspoilt beaches, waterfalls and lookouts across the island. We even saw the notorious abandoned prison on the island which housed some of the most dangerous prisoners in Brazil – think of it as the “Brazillian Alcatraz”.
One day we hiked two hours through the tropical rainforest to one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, Lopes Mendes. We spotted plenty of amazing flora and fauna during the trek, even spotting a bright green tree snake at one stage (that was a little frightening). The hike there was tough in the humid heat, but was very calm and tranquil – we only saw a couple of other people along the trail in the few hours we were there.
The beach itself was lovely, there’s no surprise as to why Lopes Mendes is continually showing up in the world’s best beaches lists. With a 3km stretch of fine white sand, clear blue water and hardly anyone along the shore apart from the occasional drink vendor – it was a peaceful outing and a well-deserved break after the intense hike. After spending the afternoon on the beach and enjoying our homemade picnic, we decided to take the easy way back to the main town; by boat, which cost us $15R ($7AUD).
When we weren’t exploring the lush rainforest paths or relaxing on the pristine beaches, we spent our time indulging on the fresh seafood and frozen açai berry from the local restaurants in the Abraão village. Delicious!
- We stayed at the El Misti Hostel for 3 nights for $228R ($109AUD) – approx $55 per person.
- We travelled to Ilha Grande with the company Easy Transfers for $155R ($70AUD) each for our return trip (ferry and van) to Copacabana. Easy Transfers was cheaper than most other transfer companies, just keep in mind that with cheaper prices comes lower quality – although we had no problems.
- Travel Tip: The island has no banks so be sure to bring cash with you, although most places do accept card.