Ilha Grande is a tropical island with 193 square kilometers of rain forest, with spectacular beaches, walking trails and without motorized vehicles. For nature lovers and anyone seeking a slow-paced beach holiday, this island along Rio de Janeiro’s Green Coast is one of Brazil’s great treasures. Ilha Grande’s isolated setting, along with its history as a leper colony and prison, kept development at bay for centuries. Then in 1971, much of the island was officially enshrined as a state park. Today human habitation remains limited to a handful of fishing villages and the main port of Vila do Abraão. Easily reachable in four hours from Rio de Janeiro, it has become one of Brazil’s most popular ecotourism destinations, suitable for everything from an overnight break to a two-week hiking adventure.
When it comes to picturesque beaches, few places offer such rich beauty. There are more than 100 beaches on the island, each accessible only by foot or boat. The most famous is Praia Lopes Mendes, a 3km crescent of fine white sand backed by palm trees and wave-sculpted rocks. Facing the open Atlantic, it’s perfect for surfing, with rental boards available onsite. For Ilha Grande’s other swimming and water sports hot spots, walk the short trail east of Abraão to the pretty coves of Júlia, Crena and Abraãozinho, popular with kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders, or hop aboard a round-the-island boat tour. All-day tours stop at seven or eight beaches including Caxadaço, with its giant rock outcroppings; Parnaioca, a long expanse of sand peppered with local fishermen’s houses; Aventureiro, in the Praia do Sul biological reserve at the island’s remote southwestern corner; and the sparkling blue-green lagoons of Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde.
Weather (When to Go)
Ilha Grande can be visited all year round, but the best times are from March thru June, and from August thru October. During these times the weather will be clear, beautiful with a pleasant temperature. These are great seasons to visit the Island. The tranquility provided by the weather and the reduced number of visitors make the Island an exclusive paradise. Sunny days are frequent on Ilha Grande, and rainfall usually occurs in the months of November, December and January, but they are sparse and occasional. In winter, the rains are rare and the climate is very pleasant, which despite the lower temperatures, do not detract from the walks and the beach.
Immigration and customs formalities are fairly straightforward, though you’ll want to be sure to have your visa in order if you’re from a country (like the USA, Canada or Australia) that needs it. Brazil has a reciprocal visa system, so if your home country requires Brazilian nationals to secure a visa, then you’ll need one to enter Brazil. US, Canadian and Australian citizens need visas, but UK, New Zealand, French and German citizens do not. You can check your status with the Brazilian embassy or consulate in your home country. If you do need a visa, arrange it well in advance. Visas are not issued on arrival; and you won’t be permitted into the country without one. Applying for a visa got easier in 2018, however, when Brazil rolled out its new e-visa system, which is available to citizens from the US, Canada, Australia and Japan. The application fee is US$40, plus an online service fee of US$4.25. The service is valid for both tourists and business travelers.
Getting to Ilha Grande
To reach Ilha Grande you first travel by road, either to Mangaratiba, Conceição de Jacareí, or Angra dos Reis, and then by ferry, private schooner, or water taxi over to the island. Which point you depart from depends on where you’re staying. If you’re staying in or near the village of Abraão, then Conceição de Jacareí is probably the best bet, as the private schooner Saveiro Andéa offers four departures daily (six on Fri) and the trip is only 50 minutes. A large public ferry also travels from Mangaratiba and Angra dos Reis to Abraão on Ilha Grande. From Mangaratiba the ferry departs at 8am, while Angra dos Reis has an afternoon departure, either 3:30pm (weekdays) or 1:30pm (weekends). Angra is the larger town, the only one of three with banks and other services. Angra also has a number of private water taxis which offer transfers to pousadas spread out on the island. If you’re staying in a pousada on the western half of the island, the water taxi likely departs from Angra.
Ilha Grande Attractions (Their Beaches of Course!)
This amazing beach has hardly changed the last few decades. The area has no commercial activities nor hotels – just a 1,967 feet stretch of white sand framed by rows of palm trees and a turquoise sea. It is instantly recognizable for the L-shaped palm tree that hangs over the shore. It can only be accessed by boat, a fact that protects the shoreline and keeps it in pristine condition.
Often voted one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, Lopes Mendes is a 2 mile stretch of white, fine sand that is fringed with wild vegetation and forests. The shallow crystal clear water is ideal for bathing and the waves further out make a perfect spot for surfers. To get there, take a boat from Abraão, the main town on the island, to Pouso. From there, it’s a 20-minute jungle trek before arriving on the gorgeous shores of Lopes Mendes.
The yellow sands and blue-green waters of the Dois Rios beach makes for a pleasant setting for an afternoon of working on getting that sun-kissed glow. Either side of the beach is flanked by a river that runs into the ocean and gives the beach its name of Dois Rios, which translates to Two Rivers. The nearby mangroves that grow in the freshwater of the rivers create a thriving marine ecosystem that is best explored snorkeling.
With similar characteristics to Lopes Mendes yet without the high-status name, Santo Antonio is ideal for those looking for a stunning beach setting without the tourist crowds. It’s smaller than Lopes Mendes and the surrounding vegetation seems to close in around the beach, creating a wild, untouched feel. It’s a great spot for surfing – just be wary of the rocks that sit just out of sight from the water’s surface. To get there, follow the same route as you would to Lopes Mendes, yet turn right on the forest trek rather than continue straight on. The path is well-signposted so just keep an eye out for the directions.
Now an isolated beach free from human development, Paranaioca was once the home to a thriving slave community that built homes, shops and a church in the area. Nowadays, the 1 kilometre (0.62 mile)-long beach is a natural retreat with no electricity and no hotels nearby. However, it still remains a popular spot on the island due to its serene settings and stunning surroundings. To get to the white sandy shores of Paranaioca, you need to take a boat from Abraão or take the two and a half hour long trek through the forest.
Things to Do in Ilha Grande
If you are looking for a trip with a lot of adrenaline but also confort and safe, Adventure Boat is your best choice in Ilha Grande. We have the best tours and the newest boats. For more information call +55 21 99551-0555, or visit them on the web at Adventure Boat.
Resort PADI 5 star Operator and diving School located in Vila do Abraao, Ilha Grande. They have daily trips for certified divers and discovery dive! They offer PADI courses from Open Water to Dive Master, with accredited instructors. They work with covered boat, cabin with bathroom, solarium, sound, fresh water shower all structured for the dive operation, for optimum comfort and safety! You can even hire the underwater photography service to record incredible moments. For more information call +55 24 99936 4181, or visit them on the web at Elite Dive Center.
They are a company specialized in aquatic services, operating scuba diving all over Ilha Grande coast since 2004. So much experience and passion for the Island has led them to offer boat tours and underwater services. Currently they have 4 own boats to guarantee greater comfort and safety for customers. They have a young and efficient team that always works to offer the best satisfaction so that clients can live the best experience Ilha Grande can offer. For more information call +55 24 3361-5010, or visit them on the web at Dive & Cia.
LIG (Lanchas Ilha Grande) is a boat rental company that tours throughout the region of Ilha Grande and Angra dos Reis. Their boats hold up to 15 people and are super comfortable, equipped with refrigerator, sound, fresh water and much more for your comfort, leisure and safety. For more information call +55 24 99836 5302, or visit them on the web at LiG Lanchas.
Suitable for divers training in PADI certification, having owner with more than 30 years of experience. They offer daily departures all year long, needing only 2 divers, or baptisms to leave. They have dives for groups and tours as well. Their boat is adapted for diving, with cabin, bathroom, kitchen, deck and 2 ladders, taking comfort for up to 22 divers. In outings, leisure is fundamental. They do everything quietly, without the rush often found in the dive market. For more information call +55 55 24 99812-9343, or visit them on the web at Aquamarina Mergulho.
Best Ilha Grande Restaurants
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$$ – $$$ Las Sorrentinas
Superb homemade sorrentinos (ravioli-like stuffed pasta pockets) are the specialty at this breezy Argentine-run upstairs restaurant. Fillings range from gorgonzola, walnuts and mozzarella to ham, cheese and basil, accompanied by your choice of sauces. The place wins extra points for its friendly service and potent caipirinhas. For more information call +55 24 3361-5063, or visit them on the web at Las Sorrentinas.
This popular restaurant doesn’t hold back on portion sizes, serving up huge amounts for reasonable prices. The chef is locally known for his tender fish fillets and seafood dishes, yet the meat-sharing options are not to be sniffed at. The mix of a casual setting and potent caipirinhas set the scene for a fun, relaxed night. Save room for the scrumptious desserts, including his trademark caramelized bananas. For more information call +55 24 3361-5349, or visit them on the web on TripAdvisor at Dom Mario.
$$ – $$$ Cafe do Mar
This candlelit beach bar and lounge is perfect for sundown cocktails, with reasonably priced (by Ilha Grande standards!) pratos do dia (daily specials) and frequent barbecue nights. The bar-meets-lounge sets a peaceful scene, making it just as popular among groups of tourists as solo travelers who can enjoy some time out reading a book. The food comes in huge portions, a typical style of the island where businesses are run by close-knit families or groups. It’s also known for its potent caipirinhas that are flawlessly blended with a range of different fruits. For more information call +55 24 3361-9446, or visit them on the web at Cafe do Mar.
$$ – $$$ O Pescador
The Italian-run Pescador is one of the island’s best choices for a fancy beachfront dinner, with mean caipirinhas, authentic Italian risotto and Mediterranean-style fish, meat and poultry dishes such as the grigliata mista al salmoriglio (fish and shrimp grilled with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano). For more information call, +55 24 3361-5114 or visit them on the web at O Pescador.
$$$ The Secret
Every evening, Argentine expats Cris and Nel invite up to 10 pre-reserved guests into their secret garden in Abraão village for wonderful home-cooked dinners accompanied by chilled-out music and convivial conversation. Contact them via WhatsApp to check out the nightly changing offerings (typically Mediterranean, South American or vegetarian), reserve a time, get directions and learn the secret (shh!) password. For more information call +55 24 99921-1124, or visit them on the web at The Secret.
Best Ilha Grande Bars
Best drinks, bar staff, music and empanadas on the island! For more information call +55 24 99902-9168, or visit them on the web at Coruja Empanadas.
Biergarten Bar E Restaurante
This is the bar which is behind the restaurant and at the entrance to the hostel. The bartender is great and service minded. The caprinhas are great. Nice little place to hang out. They have a tv with soccer on as well. For more information call +55 24 3361-5583, or visit them on TripAdvisor at Biergarten Bar E Restaurante.
Restaurante Morango de Palmas
Idyllic spot to relax away from the crowds. For more information call +55 21 97268-4239, or visit them on the web at Restaurant Morango de Palmas.
Best Ilha Grande Hotels
Situated in Ilha Grande, right at Abraãozinho Beach, Bonito Paraiso Ilha Grande features air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi. Certain units have a seating area to relax in after a busy day. All rooms come with a private bathroom and sea views. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. You will find concierge service at the property. You can engage in various activities, such as snorkeling and hiking. Abraão is 1.8 km from Bonito Paraiso Ilha Grande. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Bonito Paraiso Ilha Grande.
Boasting sea views, Suítes Encanto do Pai is set in Praia de Araçatiba, 700 metres from Bananal Bay. The accommodation features free WiFi. The bed and breakfast has a flat-screen TV. A continental or buffet breakfast can be enjoyed at the property. Staff at the reception can assist guests at any time of the day. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Suites Encanto do Pai.
Pitanga Ilha Grande Cama e Café is located in Ilha Grande, only 200 metres from Abrahao Beach. Free WiFi access is available, as well as a well-kept garden. Each room here will provide you with a TV and a minibar. Private bathroom also comes with a shower. Extras include bed linen. The guest house is 400 metres from Sain’t Sebastian Church, 1.1 km from City Harbor and 4.7 km from Lopes Mendes Beach. Downtown Rio de Janeiro is 100 km away. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Pitanga Ilha Grande Cama e Cafe.
Pousada Cibeles is located in Praia de Araçatiba. Built in 2014, the property is within 9 km of Bananal Bay. All rooms include a patio with sea views and free WiFi. At the hotel, the rooms have a wardrobe. At Pousada Cibeles each room has air conditioning and a flat-screen TV. A continental breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. Speaking English, Spanish and Portuguese at the 24-hour front desk, staff are always on hand to help. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Pousada Cibeles.
Situated in Abraão, 300 meters from Sain’t Sebastian Church and 1.2 km from City Harbor, Casa 4 Estações provides accommodation with amenities such as free WiFi and a flat-screen TV. This holiday home is 10 km from Lopes Mendes Beach. Offering direct access to a terrace with sea views, the air-conditioned holiday home consists of 1 bedroom and a fully equipped kitchen. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Casa 4 Estações.
One of our bestsellers in Abraão! This property is 5 minutes walk from the beach. Featuring accommodation with a patio, Casa inteira Ilha Grande is located in Abraão. Guests staying at this holiday home have access to free WiFi. The holiday home is equipped with a flat-screen TV and 1 bedroom. The holiday home also has a kitchen, a seating area, as well as a bathroom with a bidet and a shower. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Casa inteira Ilha Grande.
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