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.
Ilhe Grande Weather (When to Visit)
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.
Best Ilha Grande Beaches
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.
Best Ilha Grande Tours & Tickets by Viator
Rio – Ilha Grande – Rio One Day Tour
Ilha Grande Tours will pick you up at 5:30 am from your hotel in Rio de Janeiro. The trip in a private car takes two hours to Mangratiba, there and our team will organize your connection to Vila do Abraão, on the island. You will arrive at Ilha Grande around 09:30. We will be waiting for you at the pier to help with more information about the island, tours and weather conditions. Learn more about the Rio to Ilha Grande One Day Tour.
Shared Speedboat Tour – Ilha Grande Route
Walk on the white, fine sand of Cataguases Island, swim with the little fish in the Blue lagoon, refresh yourself with a river bath on Camiranga beach, marvel at the shades of blue water on Grumixama beach, visit Freguesia de Santana the first village of Ilha Grande, try our Caiçara cuisine in the Japariz beach restaurant. Learn more about the Ilha Grande Speedboat Tour.
Angra dos Reis and Ilha Grande Day Trip from Rio de Janeiro
Relax on the pristine, uncrowded beaches of Ilha Grande and Angra dos Reis during this 12-hour excursion from Rio de Janeiro. Take a break from the urban pace with a sightseeing cruise through the islands, passing Ponta da Piedade, Lagoa Azul and Ilha de Cataguases. Stop to swim and snorkel in the azure waters or dig your toes into the soft sand. Enjoy lunch aboard the boat; drinks are available for purchase. Round-trip transportation from Rio hotels is included. Learn more about the Angra do Reis & Ilha Grande Day Trip.
Best Ilha Grande Option (Transfer, Jet Ski, Kayaking & Hotel)
Transfer from Rio de Janeiro. Know the islands around Ilha Grande, providing stay in one of the most beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Nautical motorbike tour by little frequented and very beautiful beaches. Overnight in a Pousada by the sea. There is free use of Stand Up Paddle and Kayak for guests to use. Breakfast and transfer to Mangaratiba pier, access to Ilha Grande. Learn more about the Best Ilha Grande Option.
Ilha Grande Boat Tour with Lunch
Begin your full day tour with a 136 km (85 miles) ride from Rio de Janeiro to Conceição de Jacareí, in the Costa Verde (Green Coast) region. After your arrival at the port, board the boat (schooner) destinated to Ilha Grande. Sit back and enjoy the views of paradise. Learn more about the Ilha Grande Boat Tour w/Lunch.
Best Ilha Grande Restaurants
Las Sorrentinas $11 – 30
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. Telephone: 55 24 3361-5063 Web: 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. Telephone: 55 24 3361-5349 Web: Dom Mario.
Cafe do Mar $11 – 30
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. Telephone: 55 24 3361-9446 Web: Cafe do Mar.
O Pescador $11 – 30
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). Telephone: 55 24 3361-5114 Web: O Pescador.
The Secret $11 – 30
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. Telephone: 55 24 99921-1124 Web: The Secret.
Best Ilha Grande Bars
Best drinks, bar staff, music and empanadas on the island! Telephone: 55 24 99902-9168 Web: 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. Telephone: 55 24 3361-5583 Web: Biergarten Bar E Restaurante.
Restaurante Morango de Palmas
Idyllic spot to relax away from the crowds. Telephone: 55 21 97268-4239 Web: Morango de Palmas.
Best Ilha Grande Hotels
Bonito Paraiso Ilha Grande
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.
Suites Encanto do Pai
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.
Pitanga Ilha Grande Cama e Café
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.
Atlantica Jungle Lodge
Just a 10-minute walk from the scenic Lopes Mendes Beach, this guest house boasts a deck with panoramic sea views, plus a regional restaurant. It features stylish air-conditioned rooms.
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.
Pousada Naturalia is located in a 1000 square metres tropical garden only 60 meters from Abraão Beach, in a quiet area. It offers accommodation with balcony and free Wi-Fi. All rooms are facing the ocean and the private balconies have hammocks.
Click here for our list of Beach Travel Essentials you will want to take with you to Ilha Grande.