Complete Guide to Ilha Grande, Brazil
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Ilha Grande, Brazil is a beautiful island not far from Rio de Janeiro. It’s a popular holiday destination for locals as well as travelers. This blog includes everything you need to know before visiting Ilha Grande, Brazil including things to do, where to stay, and more!
Ilha Grande is one of Brazil’s most beautiful islands. The island is surrounded by pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and an array of wildlife. To put it simply, Ilha Grande is an island paradise.
During our 2 month stay in Brazil, we spent 6 days on the island of Ilha Grande. We enjoyed the many hiking trails on the island, explored stunning beaches, and drank way to many caipirinhas!
I’d say we enjoyed all best things to do on Ilha Grande…and more!
However, planning our trip to Ilha Grande wasn’t easy! Despite being very touristic, Ilha Grande is still somewhat elusive, especially to an international visitor.
So, in this guide to Ilha Grande, Brazil I’ll share with you all the info you need before you go. This includes how to get to Ilha Grande, where to stay, things to do, and important tips you need to know before you visit!
About Ilha Grande, Brazil
Ilha Grande is a beautiful island located off the coast between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in Brazil. The island is home to one major town called Vila do Abraão. This town is where all of the ferries and water taxis access the island from.
In Vila do Abraão you’ll find a few shops selling groceries and booze, lots of restaurants and bars, tour agencies, hotels, and campgrounds. The most popular place to stay is here, however, there is accommodation all over the island including at secluded beaches such as Praia de Araçatiba and Provetá.
Ilha Grande is a popular tourist destination for both international travelers as well as Brazilians. It is without a doubt a highlight in Brazil and a must-visit place for any traveler visiting the state of Rio de Janerio.
Despite being called an island paradise (by me), I must warn you that Ilha Grande is a popular place in Brazil, and as such, gets very busy!
During the busiest months of December to March and especially around the holidays of Christmas and New Year, Ilha Grande becomes “the place to be” for locals from Rio and São Paulo.
Of course, this is a very fun time to visit the island but also the busiest. With that said though, you can avoid the crowds on the island and I’ll show you how in this guide to Ilha Grande, Brazil!
How to Get to Ilha Grande from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo
There are 3 different ferry terminals you can get to Ilha Grande from the mainland of Brazil. All are accessible from Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Paraty. Each ferry station has pros and cons and different ferry times. Below, I explain all of your options so you can decide the easiest way to get to Ilha Grande for you.
Please note: Ferries only go to the main town of Abraão on Ilha Grande so this is your destination on Ilha Grande.
Mangaratiba is the closest town to Rio that you can get the ferry to Ilha Grande from. You can get the bus from Rodoviário Novo Rio Station in Rio de Janeiro and the journey costs around R$45 with Costa Verde and takes around 2 hours.
This bus will actually take you to all of the different towns That are listed below) where ferries leave from.
The company that runs the ferry from Mangaratiba is called CCR Barcas and their ferry can fit well over 500 people. This ferry costs R$17 and takes 80 minutes. However, it only leaves at 8 am in the morning to Ilha Grande and comes back from Ilha Grande at 5 pm daily.
This means you’ll need to be up really early to get the bus to Mangaratiba and also get the ferry very late back when you leave. For this reason, I did not take this route to Ilha Grande.
2. Conceição de Jacareí
Conceição de Jacareí is the second closest town to Rio and the most popular place to take the ferry to Ilha Grande. The town is actually the closest to Ilha Grande and as such, the ferry takes the least amount of time. By bus you can reach this ferry station from the Rodoviário Novo Rio Station with Costa Verde, it takes just over 2 hours and costs around R$48.
The boats to Ilha Grande from Conceição de Jacareí run between 8:30 am and 6:30 pm every day and leave when full. On the way back the boats leave between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm. The trip only takes 20 minutes on the fast boats and costs R$30.
There is a slow boat option that also leaves from here and takes 50 minutes and costs R$20. This boat leaves at 9, 11:30 am, 3 pm, and 6:15 pm, with two extra times on Fridays at 6:45 pm and 9 pm.
3. Angra dos Reis (best option from São Paulo)
This is the option I took to Ilha Grande. The town of Angra dos Reis is the furthest from Rio (where I left from) but closest to São Paulo. The bus to Angra dos Reis from Rio leaves from the same station as the other two and costs around R$50. I used this option as I was going to Paraty afterward and it is the closest to Paraty.
From São Paulo, you need to get a bus from the Rodoviário Tietê Station and this journey takes over 7 hours.
From the bus station in Angra dos Reis, it is a 2-kilometer taxi ride to the ferry terminal. You can either take a fast boat or slow boat to Ilha Grande from here. The slow boat with CCR Barcas only costs R$14, takes 90 minutes, and leaves at 3:30 pm. The fast boats cost R$50, only take 30 minutes and leave once they have a minimum of 4 people.
I took the slow ferry and really enjoyed a comfortable journey to Ilha Grande.
You can use the website busbud.com to search for busses from Rio, São Paulo, or Paraty online in advance.
You can also book this private transfer all the way to Ilha Grande from Rio fro only $45 USD.
11 Best Things to do in Ilha Grande, Brazil
1. Day Trip to Lopes Mendes Beach
Lopes Mendes beach is one of the most popular beaches on Ilha Grande. The beach itself is an easy day trip from Vila Do Abraão. At Lopes Mendes, you can enjoy a day at the beach and even try some surfing if you’d like.
You’ll find small vendors selling drinks, food, and renting surfboards at the beach. You will need cash for all purchases though so be sure to bring some!
To reach Lopes Mendes you’ll need to either hike or take a boat. To hike to the beach, take the T10 hiking trail that starts in town. The trail takes about two hours. Alternatively, the fast boat costs R$30 for a flexible return trip and takes only a few minutes.
The boat tickets are the same price everywhere and can be bought at almost every tour office in town. There are boats leaving every hour from Abraão between the hours of 9:30 am until 12:30 pm. For the return trip, you can get any boat back between 3:30 pm until 6:30 pm.
You will also have to walk about 20 minutes from where the boat drops you off to the beach, so don’t bring too much stuff with you!
Safety tip: Please swim between the flags at Lopes Mendes Beach. When we were there, there was a very strong riptide that was marked off by flags, but people kept swimming there anyway! The poor lifeguards must have made about 20 rescues that day!
2. Visit Secluded Beaches on a Boat Tour
Since Ilha Grande is such a big island, it is impossible to get to all of the beaches by land. In order to see many of the best beaches, we decided to go on a speedboat tour which took us to 9 different beaches along the northern coast of the island.
Boat tours are arguably the best thing to do on Ilha Grande and the most popular tour is the half-day beach tour. We spent the day drinking beers, exploring stunning beaches, snorkeling, and swimming all while our driver did the work.
Some of the highlights on the speedboat tour were Lagoa Verde, Lagoa Azul, Saco do Ceu Beach, and Praia do Amor. All of these spots are absolutely stunning – crystal clear ocean water and great snorkeling opportunities. Our tour also provided snorkeling gear and noodles for floating around.
Our boat tour cost R$170 ($30 USD) per person and in my opinion, was great value. You can book the exact tour we did online in advance or just book when you arrive.
3. Walk to Cachoeira da Feiticeira Waterfall
Cachoeira de Feiticeira Waterfall is the largest waterfall on Ilha Grande. Starting from the town of Abraao it takes around an hour to reach the waterfall via a beautiful hike.
The water at Cachoeira de Feiticeira is refreshing (actually pretty cold) and the area is all shaded which makes for a nice place to escape from the sun and heat for a while.
Along the trail, there is also a natural swimming pool and some pretty cool lookouts. Near the waterfall is also a beautiful beach called Praia de Feiticeira which is normally pretty quiet and relaxing.
If you aren’t up for the hike, you can take a taxi boat to the Praia da Feiticeira beach and then walk just a few minutes to the waterfall. The hike back to town is not as bad as the way there because it is mostly downhill.
4. Enjoy a Hike to Dois Rios Beach
Dios Rios Beach is a secluded beach accessed via an 8-kilometer track from Abraão. The trail can be pretty hard in the heat but only took me 2.5 hours to complete. The walk itself is beautiful and you can see monkeys along the way, enjoy breathtaking views of Abraão, as well as enjoy a beautiful tropical forest.
Once you arrive at Dois Rios Beach you can relax in the calm water and rather deserted beach. The beach sits in between two rivers and the place is really beautiful!
There is a small “town” at the beach and you can sit down at one of the restaurants for a meal or drink. Also, there is a historic museum about the old prison that used to be at Dois Rios. It’s free and an interesting place to visit on Ilha Grande.
Before going, I had heard of water taxis taking people back to Abraão but the day we went there were none. So, be prepared to walk the 8 km back too!
5. Hike to Pico do Papagaio (Parrot Peak)
If you’re going to do one hike in Ilha Grande make it the hike to Pico do Papagaio (also known as Parrot Peak.) This is the best hike on Ilha grande and it takes you to one of the highest viewpoints on the island.
If you can handle an early wake-up call on your holiday then I highly recommend going for sunrise. This is what we did and we loved it! We left Abraão at 2 am to race to the top. It took us just 3.5 hours with a few quick breaks.
You don’t have to go at sunrise but during the day the heat would really make this track much harder. Be sure to keep a lookout for wildlife along the way.
Traveler beware: I will warn you that if you don’t like wildlife (i.e spiders) don’t do it without a tour – there are tons along the way especially at night! Sunrise Pioneers is a tour company that does the sunrise trek so you won’t have to face the creepy crawlies alone. Plus, they have really good torches and know how to spot them!
6. Have an Açaí Bowl on the Beach
While on Ilha Grande, Brazil I was addicted to Açaí Bowls! Every day after exploring a beach or going on a hike we would head to this small ice cream shop that sold Açaí for a delicious and healthy treat to refuel.
For those who don’t know, the Açaí berry is a superfood from Brazil and they’ve been eating in for hundreds of years. When blended and frozen it tastes and feels like ice cream. It’s jam-packed with goodness and when served with things like honey, banana, and almonds it’s the perfect healthy treat.
The shop we got Açaí on Ilha Grande was called Ally Sorvetes. The store was located at the main pier in Abraão on Ilha Grande. When you go on a boat trip to a nearby beach this is where you’ll likely be dropped off, so be sure to pop in for a delicious Açaí bowl!
7. Watch an Epic Sunset
This goes without saying, but be sure to head to the foreshore on Ilha Grande every afternoon to enjoy the magical sunset. Although the town of Abraão doesn’t face the most ideal way, you still get some magical colors and cooler temperatures!
During my stay, we didn’t just watch the sunset, we enjoyed a drink too! Pop into one of the beachside restaurants and bars and enjoy a cocktail as the sun goes down!
Bar e Restaurante Lua e Mar was our favorite place to go and watch the sunset with a drink in hand. The tables there are right on the beach and the service is really good. They also sell food, but we only came for happy hour!
8. Eat Fresh Seafood
You can’t come to Ilha Grande without trying some local seafood! Everyday fresh seafood is delivered to the many restaurants on the island. Honestly, if you love seafood you won’t be disappointed in Ilha Grande so long as you choose the right place to eat.
Restaurante Dom Mario came recommended to us by a friend who frequents Ilha Grande. This place was so amazing! The seafood was fresh, full of flavor, and cooked perfectly.
They also serve steaks that looked amazing but to me, the seafood was too good to turn down!
There are lots of other places on Ilha Grande you can get seafood around the island including Bar e Restaurante Lua e Mar (mentioned above) but I can’t speak for them. Once I found Dom Marios I was there most nights!
9. Hire a Luxury Boat for the Day
Going on a group tour of Ilha Grande was fun, but if I had the budget I most definitely would’ve preferred going on a private luxury boat cruise. On the private cruises, you’ll board a luxury boat to cruise around the island at your own pace visiting the best-secluded beaches.
Onboard there is a BBQ you can use and a bartender to serve and make drinks. To make things cheaper, you can either bring your own food and drinks or send a list to the company and they’ll get it all for you.
This specific tour is one of the best value available. For up to 13 people the tour costs under $1000 USD for 8 hours of cruising. Of course, this still isn’t as cheap as the group tours, but you’ll get a much larger boat, the bartender, BBQ, and 3 extra hours to explore and enjoy your day as you please.
This is one of those once in a lifetime tours, so if you’re in a large group or you’re not on a tight budget this would be one of the best things to do in Ilha Grande, Brazil!
10. Party Brazilian-Style
If you haven’t yet arrived in Brazil then you may not know just how much Brazilians love to party. I’ve been all over the world and by far Brazil is the best place to party!
So, it would be such a shame to come all the way to Ilha Grande and not head out to some of the bars and clubs to party the night away with the locals at one of their favorite island destinations.
But how? Well, it’s likely you’ll rub shoulders with some Brazilians at your hotel or on a tour, so get to know them and don’t turn down an opportunity to join them for a party.
I personally met lots of Brazilians at our hotel and spent some very fun nights drinking Caipirinha’s and doing shots of Cachaça.
11. Go Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is a passion of mine and something I’ve done all over the world. Of course, no place is the same nor are they all amazing. However, I can confirm Ilha Grande is a great place to go scuba diving.
It must admit that it’s not as good as diving in Australia, but the crystal clear waters and the array of wildlife will still give the most advanced divers an exciting experience.
The company I went diving with was Aquamarina Mergulho. I actually didn’t know anything about them before the dive and just walked past their shopfront on Ilha Grande and booked a dive.
The company was great and the dive locations were beautiful. As I haven’t dived there before we just let the guide lead the way and we had a great time. The equipment was in perfect condition and the safety briefs were good!
I’d say scuba diving is easily one of the best things to do in Ilha Grande and a must for any divers out there!
Important Things to Know Before You go to Ilha Grande
1. Take cash with you
There are no ATMs on Ilha Grande. Although most shops accept cards it’s still very wise to bring a substantial amount of your spending money in cash.
2. Book accommodation before you go
This sounds obvious, but lots of people just show up to Ilha Grande and walk to nearby hotels. However, this is very unwise especially between December and March when the island is busy.
During this time it’s unlikely you’ll find anything left that’s good value and will pay more for less. Also, on websites such as Booking.com (who we always use), you are guaranteed the cheapest price or they refund the difference!
Keep reading below for our where to stay on Ilha Grande section!
3. You’ll want bug repellent
Ilha Grande is a tropical island and the mosquitos here will eat you alive if you don’t bring repellent. Although you can buy it on the island, you’ll pay a heavy premium as opposed to the mainland.
4. Bring booze with you
As with most things on Ilha Grande, alcohol is much more expensive on the island. If you plan or drinking lots consider bringing a few bottles of booze to enjoy during your stay. You’ll save yourself a ton and be able to bring what you want as the selection is limited on the island.
5. The power goes out…a lot!
During our 6 nights on Ilha Grande, the power went out on four of those nights for hours. Of course, lots of places had generators but our hotel didn’t. That meant lots of time with no power.
Although this didn’t bother us, it’s something to be aware of before you visit Ilha Grande. The power always went out in the late afternoon and night (right when most people get ready for dinner.)
6. It rains a lot from December to March
December to March is the rainy season on Ilha Grande and also the most popular time to visit. If you visit during these months, be aware that it rains almost every afternoon.
Don’t stress though, during our stay (in the middle of the rain season) the weather was amazing during the day and only rained for a few hours in the very late afternoon/evening!
Where to Stay on Ilha Grande, Brazil
Camping on Ilha Grande
There are many campgrounds within the town of Abraão (the main town of Ilha Grande) and some also walking distance from town just on the outskirts. Some of these campgrounds have websites, but many do not.
Camping is a good option if you can stand the heat, get the right campsite, and have good gear as it is much cheaper than most of the accommodation on the island (especially if you already have a tent and sleeping bag.)
The campgrounds all have kitchen facilities so cooking equipment is not necessary. They all have bathrooms and showers as well as WIFI (well they advertise they do but it was not necessarily true.)
Some campsites you can stay at are:
Cantinho de Ilha: This is a busy campsite right in the heart of town. It’s close to the beach and shops and it is very cheap. Apart from the really busy season after New Years, you can get a spot here without booking. It costs R$30 per person per day here with a tent rental an extra charge of R$20 and air mattress 10R.
Camping das Palmeiras: This next campsite was across the road from Cantinho. This place was much smaller and far fewer people stayed here. In my opinion, this is a far better option with nicer facilities. It costs R$35 per person to stay and tent rental was R$35. This is where we stayed for a couple of nights.
Hotels on Ilha Grande (Vila do Abraão)
There are lots of great hotels on Ilha Grande, and personally, I recommend staying in one as opposed to camping. Some of the best places to stay are:
Sítio Vagalumes Hostel (Low- Budget)
This hostel is right on the edge of town and only costs $10 a night for a dorm bed in an air-conditioned room. The onsite pool is perfect for relaxing and meeting other travelers. It books out quickly for being such an affordable and comfortable option, but if you do manage to snag a booking you will be impressed!
Pousada Só Natureza (Medium Budget)
This gorgeous hotel is very affordable at only $84 a night for a double room. Rooms are air-conditioned, come with breakfast included as well an ensuite bathroom. The hotel has an onsite pool and bar but is also only a minute walk from many bars and restaurants (as well as the main ferry terminal!)
For those looking for luxury on this island paradise, Asalem is a perfect choice! The property is beachfront and includes a lounge of hammocks. For under $200 you can get a room that sleeps three, has a balcony, includes breakfast, has a minibar, air-conditioning, a safe, as well as a sea view! Guests rave about the delicious onsite bar and restaurant!
Hotels outside Vila do Abraão
The hotels mentioned above are only hotels in the town of Vila do Abraão. However, there are other hotels around the island at more secluded beaches you can stay at. To search them click this link to Booking.com and hit the map setting. That way you can see all the hotels around the island.
If you’re staying at any other location around the island, there are water taxis you can get to your hotel. You can see them at:
This website is the Ilha Grande website and although hard to understand (get Google Translate ready!) has the info you need.
Before you go…
Ilha Grande, Brazil is one of my favorite island destinations around the world. The place is so beautiful and a perfect for getting involved in Brazilian party culture.
If you’re visiting Ilha Grande I really hope our guide to the island will help you plan your trip there. Of course, if you have any questions at all we are always here to help our readers, so just leave a comment below or email us!
Also, if you loved this guide then be sure to jump over and check out all our other Brazil travel guides here or these related articles below!
July 27, 2020