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Ilha Grande
Travel Guide


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Ilha Grande at a glance

Ilha Grande has had a colourful history. Once a penal colony for Brazil’s most dangerous criminals and prior to that a leper colony, this tropical oasis, which translates in English into The Big Island, is now one of Rio de Janeiro’s most popular weekend getaway spots, with city dwellers and foreigners alike coming to its shores to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. Ilha Grande is known for its unspoilt character, as it has remained largely untouched by development or the influx of big name brands. Most of the businesses, lodgings and attractions are run by native families, helping to preserve Ilha Grande’s island community and low-key atmosphere. The island benefits from white sandy beaches, crystal clear blue seas and innumerable coconut trees that are dotted throughout Ilha Grande’s lush green hillsides and beachfronts.

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Experiences around Ilha Grande

What not to miss

The island’s geography makes for some totally tropical adventures, and the obvious starting point is from the main harbour town of Vila do Abraao. Here is where most of the nightlife happens, so if you are looking for the fun side of the island, here is where to find it. However, most visitors will want to get out and experience that true island life, so check out one of the incredible 116 beaches that are hidden around the island’s 155km of coastline, which is peppered with sheltered bays, quaint coves and private alcoves that all offer a slice of paradise that is synonymous with Brazil. The island is car-free, so take in the breathtaking scenery on foot or by bike, or cruise around the island in a water taxi. There is also plenty of hiking and trekking to be done on this mountainous island, and the Pico da Pedra D’Agua peak rises to 1035m, its slopes covered by the locally termed Atlantic rainforest.  There are 13 main hikes that can be undertaken on the island. The most popular is the Dois Rios – the Two Rivers trek, but there is also a 20 minute hike from Pouso which takes you to Lopes Mendes, one of the region’s most beautiful beaches. For a more challenging adventure, take the rainforest trail for just over two hours up to the summit of Papagaio Peak, which stands at 980 metres (3,215.2 feet), making it the second highest peak on the island. There are plenty more activities to partake in on Ilha Grande, including schooner tours, scuba diving, kayaking, surfing, bodyboarding and sailing. Some other attractions include a visit to the Pico do Papagaio lookout point, rappelling at the Cachoeira da Feiticeira, a trip to the oldest lighthouse on the Brazilian coast, the Castelhanos Lighthouse, and the tropical experience of the Gruta do Acaiá, where you can observe the phenomenon of fluorescence that is produced as the sun hits the water in the underground lounge. Perhaps the most unmissable site is the Lopes Mendes Beach, which was voted one of the ten most beautiful beaches in Brazil

Fast Facts on Ilha Grande

USEFUL TRAVELER INFORMATION

This section is a quick overview to help in planning your trip to Ilha Grande.

When to go

Ilha Grande has a tropical climate, with high temperatures all year round. Rainy season lasts from April to September, and the coldest months are from May to August, but even so, temperatures remain consistent around 20° C. The summer months from December to March are the hottest and temperatures can climb to  40° C, and they are also the busiest, so if you want a quieter holiday, visit the island in October or November. If you decide to visit in low season during the winter months from July to September, prices are lower and crowds are fewer. Just speak to one of our travel experts and they can advise you on what they best time to go is depending on your travel goals.

How to get there

Getting to Ilha Grande is something of an adventure, but it is certainly worth the effort. Most visitors will fly into Rio, and get a bus from the main terminal to either Mangaratiba, Conceição de Jacareí, or Angra dos Reis, then from there get a boat over to the island.  Conceição de Jacareí has the most amount of ferries, and will bring you to the village of Abraão, from where you can access many of the island’s trails and hikes. Speak to one of our travel experts and they can talk you through the process of getting to the island and arrange all the steps of the journey for you.

Infrastructure

It is best to bring cash with you for your trip to Ilha Grande. There is no bank on the island and only one ATM, and only some of the restaurants and guest houses accept cards. The island’s guest houses, or pousadas, are dotted all over it, with no one central area for accommodation. The island has over 30 restaurants, most of them serving seafood and fish. The island is safe to walk around, so you don’t need to worry about leaving valuables or cash behind you. The beauty of Ilha Grande is that you will feel at times like you have the island to yourself, such is the secluded nature of many of the lodgings and the quietness of the hills and trails.

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