Ilha Grande is one of the wonders located in the state of Rio de Janeiro. This former prison island is nowadays a popular tourism destination that has conserved the charming intimacy and unspoiled touch.
Ilha Grande is easy to reach and we warmly recommend travellers who come to Rio, experience the alternative lifestyle of this tropical island. To reach Ilha Grande, you can choose between few options, first of all you have to travel either to Mangaratiba or to Angra dos Reis by bus or car, and then after take a ferry boat/catamaran/speed boat to Ilha Grande. The shortest boat connection is from Angra dos Reis. There is a regular bus from Rio to Angra dos Reis via Mangaratiba, however we do recommend you to take a speed transfer, which includes a van transportation directly from the capital of the state to the port and vice versa. The schedules of speed transfer are adjusted to the catamaran schedules, making it clearly the fastest and simplest way to reach Ilha Grande. We also recommend catamaran over the ferry boat, due to the time save. By crossing the sea with catamaran (about 50 min) you will save about 2 hours compared to the ferry boat. The speed boat transfers (25min) are available requiering a minimun number of participants and therefore being suitable especially for small groups.
Once you reach Ilha Grande you will quickly find out that this paradise island has no cars (expect few available only for the militar use). The streets are sandy and the peaceful atmospheare can be felt immediately. Feels like you had travelled far away from the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro. The main village of the island, Abrão, is tiny village located in a beautiful bay offering a wide range of tourism services such as pousadas (=brazilian guesthouse), restaurants, shops and bars. Due to the mountainous tropical vegetation the other villages of the island can be reached either by sea or by longer walk through the few pathways crossing the island.
At Ilha Grande you will find some of the most beautiful beaches of Brazil, the most well-known of them is Lopes Mendes, which was recently chosen within the top 10 of Brazil. This beach can be reached by one of the several boat tours departing from Abrão every hour during the morning. The boat will take you to another beach, easy to embark from where you can reach Lopes Mendes after a short walk through the Atlantic rainforest. Lopes Mendes is a white sandy beach with no beach services (sometimes you may find people selling water, soft drinks and beer). This is a perfect place to relax, enjoy the beauty of the nature and have a long walk along the beach.
If you are not afraid of longer walk through the pathways we recommend you to preserve one day for Dois Rios, a beautiful beach located further away from Abrão. Most of the year the waves of this bay do not allow boat to embark in front it, therefore Dois Rios can be reached only by walk (about 2-2½ hours/oneway). The walk through the pathways is enjoyable for those like active holidays. It allows you to be in touch with the local nature, observe the vegetation, flowers and birds. From the top of the hill you will have a beautiful view over the village of Abrão. Dois Rios itself is a small village where the former prison is located. The sea is often very strong and not recommendable for a swim. However the two river (Dois Rios=Two Rivers), one at each end of the beach, are not only beautiful but also perfect for a swim. Personally we preferred the one at our left hand side, but it’s up to you to choose your favourite. No beach services can be found from Dois Rios and there are few restaurant offering home made food in the village, so we recommend you to take at least some light snack and drinks with you before you leave Abrão.
Ilha Grande offers also a number of other activities for tourist. You can hike through the pathways, being Dois Rios one of the most popular light hikes. Another beautiful beach of Caixadaco (close to Dois Rios) requires hiking through more difficult forest areas and it is recommendable to have a local guide with you. The most challenging hike that requieres certain physical condition is the Pico do Papagaío, the second highest peak of the island. This full hike takes you up to 990 meters from the sea level and from the top of the peak you will have stunning views over the whole island.
Ilha Grande is a paradise for the lovers of water activities. From the village of Abrão, you will find a number of different tours organized in the island. One of the best places for snorkling are the Lagoa Verde (=green lagoon) and Lagoa Azul (=blue lagoon), both with large number of tropical fish. If your schedule is tight or you just want to take the maximum out of your stay, we recommend you to take a speed boat tour around half of the island. Thiss tour stops at several beaches as well as at Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde. This way you will not spend the entire day travelling back and forth by a schooner.
Check out our recommended itineraries with Ilha Grande.
Brazil Diversity recommends:
- BossaNova – a simple pousada located in the heart of the village. Located in one of the principal streests, close to the restaurants and the piers.
- Só Natureza – a pousada with large, simply furnished rooms and garden with pool area. Located in the heart of the village.
- Naturalia – Lovely pousada with excellent value for money, surrounded by the tropical vegetation and located in a peaceful corner, a short walk away from the heart of the village.
- Asalem – a small pousada further away from the village, totally isolated allowing full interaction with the surrounding nature.