A peaceful island with no cars, pristine beaches, rainforest hikes and eye-capturing waterfalls is certainly the making of a weekend in paradise. For Ilha Grande this hasn’t always been the case. Formally, it hosted a high security prison for Brazils most violent criminals. Fortunately, it is now known as one of the safest places in Brazil!
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We escaped city life for some well earned TLC a few weeks into our Round the World adventure. Here is what we got up to in our budget weekend in paradise.
This was once voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by Vogue Magazine. However, to earn the rewards of the beach there is a 3 hour hike ahead of you! Admittedly, this was the first time I had a tantrum on our trip (poor Duncan!). I was lagging behind a bit, struggling with the climb in the heat and flip flops. I think I was more annoyed at myself as I did the research for this day and blatantly ignored the advice I read… so I recommend trainers and take flip flops in your bag for the beach. So when Duncan made the slightest comment about my slowness… that was it… ultimate tantrum!
Luckily this was short lived and I apologised and returned to appreciating the beauty of the rainforest and both of us realising how far we had walked, it was a challenge but worth it. En-route you will pass Praia das Palmas and Praia dos Mangues beaches which are great pit-stops along the way. But be warned you will pay a lot of money for water here as we did, so stock up.
3 hours later, we arrived at the white sandy beaches with crystal clear water and great waves too! We pulled out our towel, flip flops off, suncream on and I had a well earned rest before going for a swim to cool down.
The sand is very fine which annoyed Duncan. It literally doesn’t come off so you will have a sandy bum for a while! There are strong currents in the sea and we saw this for ourselves when a lifeguard went to save a man who was a long way out struggling to get back.
After the 3 hour trek you may not want to go through all of that again and risk another tantrum. So we opted for a new experience and took a water-taxi back. It is important to note that you can do this both ways but they drop you off at Praia do Pouso and you still have to do a small hilly walk for 15 mins to get the beach (so not disability friendly at all!). For 25 BR (£5.51) each we jumped on a speedboat with 12 other people which was one hell of an experience. The closer you are to the front of the boat the less wet you get, but it was one hell of a bumpy ride! You would go up, up, up the wave and then drop! We both were hysterically laughing with a girl from London sat beside us! 20 minutes later we arrived safely on the beach.
How to get to Lopes Mendez
The trial you want to follow is T10 but this isn’t as well sign posted as I had read (or maybe we are blind!). There are smaller signs directing the way to the different beaches and if you feel lost don’t be afraid to ask the locals… they are happy to help.
The island has 15 different trails for you to enjoy. I have read of a people taking 5-10 days to cover the entire coast, setting up camp along the way. With our 2 days we opted for a shorter easier trail for the second day… or so we thought.
Trail 1 is an hour and a half walk that includes the Praia Preta beach where the Ruins do Lazareto are, Praiz do Galego beach, the aqueduct and natural pool. We spent a good few hours at the first beach with a beer and went for a proper swim as there was no waves. Duncan saw something in the water so keep your eyes peeled as theres no lifeguards about but this still didn’t deter him as he swam pretty far out.
We got sidetracked and saw a sign for the Cachoeira e Praia da Feiticeira (Waterfall of Feiticeira). We were convinced that this was on our trail but we were wrong. An hour and a half walk ended up extending by 2-3 hours! It was so worth it though! I didn’t think we could have walked much higher when we reached a stunning waterfall that we could get relatively close to. It would have been great if we could have got a shower under it because we must have stank… but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
Top Tip: Take a picture of the map you want to follow so you can keep on track.
I love talking about our big boo-boos, it leads to so many top tips for you all!
Top Tip: Don’t book accommodation with no reviews unless you are afraid of nothing!
We were the ultimate paranoid and pessimistic Brits when we saw that the flimsy door, half a window and a suspicious back room at house we stayed at! We assumed the worst and were anxious about leaving our belongings in the room. However, after one night we acclimatised to the chilled vibe of the island and booked a third night haha!
Were we Stayed:
Katrina e Sophia House
Price: 50 BR a night for a private room
Pros: Plenty of space, utensils in the kitchen and warm shower, live like the locals.
Cons: Didn’t feel too safe, no lockers, locals staying the back room that wasn’t advertised.
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Getting to Ilha Grande
From our research we found very conflicting pieces of information about how to get to Ilha Grande, how much it costs and which ports were open. Armed with 3 options we aimed for the cheapest option which worked out well for us.
This started with a bus journey from nearby Rio Forest Hostel to the main bus terminal in Rio (Rodoviaria Rio). In this bus station there are stands for coaches to different locations. Coste Verde offer a journey to Ange dos Reis for 57.50 BR each. There is then a short walk (which feels like forever with your backpacks on) round to the ports. There are three main ports on the mainland and this route takes you to the furthest one away (hence the cheapest). We walked to Cais de Lapa and jumped on a ferry for 17 BR each. This option leaves once a day at 3.30pm. This was a steady 2 hour journey with beautiful scenery and we even saw dolphins jumping alongside the ferry!
We hope this inspires you for a visit to Ilha Grande or helps you in your planning. Find information on ‘Things to Do in Rio’ here
Go the Distance in Ilha Grande,