Our experience in Ilha Grande
I’ll tell you all about my experience. How it was spending beautiful days there and what you can do in Ilha Grande to have the beach vacations of your life. This guide will go from how to get there, how much is everything, and so on. Also, I will add some great tips to make your stay as great as mine. This post can be your personal travel guide to Ilha Grande.
Travel guide to Ilha Grande – Best Beach Vacations in Brazil
Ilha Grande – Beach and nature even if you are not super into beach vacations or nature vacations.
As previously mentioned, Ilha Grande is part of Angra dos Reis. The region is known as the Green Coast of Rio de Janeiro. It is named this because it is where the rainforest meets the ocean. Ilha Grande is part of the Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlantica), one of the rainforests in Brazil. Angra dos Reis is around 160km from Rio de Janeiro (the city) and around 400 from São Paulo City.
Ilha Grande is just one our of 187 islands that are part of Angra dos Reis’ archipelago. Ilha Grande has a great history behind it. This paradise on earth if very important in Brazil‘s history. This place has seen pirates, the horrible slave markets common in Imperial Brazil, and everything that happened there. It was even a prison at one point. And Ilha Grande also has ruins of an abandoned asylum!
Beach vacations with a twist of urban exploration anyone? In 1903, the Presídio na Ilha Grande (Ilha Grande’s prison) located in Praia de Dois Rios was built. And it was working as a horrible prison until 1994. The place was imploded, and now you can see a museum.
How to Get There and from where
The first thing to know is: you can’t drive to or inside Ilha Grande. Cars are forbidden on the island. Ilha Grande is a protected area for its nature and biodiversity. Besides, it is an island, and you can’t drive to an island, right? Water around, you know? Cars are usually not a fan of water. If you’re with a car, drive to Angra and hop on a ferry or a boat. More info about it later in this post. And no, there are no ferries that can transport cars. No cars are allowed in Ilha Grande.
What did we do to get there?
We got a bus from Rio de Janeiro to Mangaratiba, a small city that also has ferries to Ilha Grande. From Rio de Janeiro (the city) it is more comfortable and closer to go from Mangaratiba. If you’re coming from São Paulo, get a bus to Angra dos Reis because it will be closer to you. From Rio de Janeiro, the bus was 40 reais (around 8 euros with the exchange rate of march 2020). If you’re a bit confused with currency exchange and things like this, we highly recommend getting either a standard account on Transferwise or grabbing one of their borderless cards. It works like magic, and you will never have to worry about these matters. We got the 5 am bus and got to Mangaratiba by 7:30. The ferry leaves there daily at 8 am, so waking up very early is your best option. The next ferry is very late in the afternoon, and you’ll miss the whole day.
How far are things and ferry info:
Here is a small list showing the distances and how long it takes from point A to B. All those destinations are ok to get a ferry or a boat to Ilha Grande.
- São Paulo to Angra dos Reis – 410 km (by car: 5h/ by bus 7h30min)
- Rio de Janeiro to Mangaratiba – 101 km. (by car 2h/by bus 2h30min)
- Rio de Janeiro to Conceição de Jacareí – 130 km.
- Belo Horizonte to Conceição de Jacareí – 510 km. (by car: 6h30min/by bus 7h)
You can also get a ferry from a charming city called Paraty. But there are not so many options from Paraty to Ilha Grande, and you will need to plan a lot your beach vacations to do that. I don’t recommend it unless you’re spending a few days in Paraty also, but that is a whole different topic I will not touch it now, but you’re more than welcome to ask me on our Facebook group. But from Angra dos Reis, which is the main city, you’ll find way more options for the ferry, they leave 4x a day while the others are once or twice.
Please always double-check here on this link because this article may not be up to date. Here you can find a small list of departures to Ilha Grande, hope this helps you to understand. Later I will add a map with all the cities I’m mentioning here so you can visualize the information before deciding the best route to your beach vacations in Ilha Grande.
Mangaratiba: Ferries departures daily at 8 am.
Conceição de Jacareí: Small city 20km after Mangaratiba. They have faster options on the island, but it will be more expensive.
Angra dos Reis: Main harbor to Ilha Grande. Several options of boats, prices, and time tables.
Paraty: ferries are only 3x per week. You gotta reserve in advance and takes around 1h30min. We paid in Jan 2020 around 3 or 4 euros per person (17 reais) for the slow ferry from Mangaratiba. It is the cheapest option. From Mangaratiba was around 1 hour, and if you’re coming from Angra dos Reis, it will be 1 hour and 20 minutes. The boat taxis and other faster options will be at least 4 or 5 times this price, but you’ll get to the island in 20 minutes.
Where the ferry leaves you
You’ll most probably arrive in the only real city in Ilha Grande. The name is Abraão. And by “the city” I mean a fisherman’s village with around 2 main streets and that is it. Adorable!
Most hotels and rentals are there, but in case you want to stay somewhere else like Enseada das Estrelas or Saco do Céu, you can find direct ferries or boats from Angra dos Reis or Conceição de Jacarei. Alternatively, you can just go to Abraão and get a taxi boat from there. The last one being the best option, according to all of the people we met on our days in Ilha Grande.
Please keep in mind that only Abraão has small supermarkets and a variety of restaurants. We stayed there, and we highly recommend it for first-time goers. It is by far the most comfortable, especially if you can’t speak Portuguese.
Araçatiba & Praia Vermelha:
From ferries coming from Angra dos Reis only. If the hotel or Airbnb you rented is on one of those, make sure you’re aware that the only place to hop on and off of a boat or a ferry is around 30min or more from those beaches. I only recommend this for people who are already familiar with Ilha Grande.
Another one from departure from Angra dos Reis. This time, from those two places, Cais dos Pescadores or Estação Santa Luzia. The standard version is almost 2 hours on the ferry, but there’s a faster option that will take you around 1/4 of this time.
Where to stay
We are highlighting some option of places we heard good things about it. In the very end, we’ll put the small apartment we stayed that is perfect for 2 couples to stay. The last one was where we from Fotostrasse stayed on our beach vacations in Ilha Grande. Great location, small and straightforward flat, aircon, and fresh towels.
- Atlantica Jungle Lodge
- Bonito Paraiso
- Pousada Pé na Areia
- Acqua Root’s Hostel
- Casa da Coti*
When should I plan this beach vacation in Ilha Grande?
Here is when things get tricky. The summer is the best time to go to Ilha Grande, but also it is the high season, and the prices are super high. The temperatures we got were around 30 to 35 degrees. We went in January, which is the summer in Brazil. Loads of friends and a handful of locals we met there said that the best time to go is around April or May because it is not as crowded.
September and October too. For those afraid of not going during summer, I guarantee you that Brazil is always warm and even if you don’t go there during the warmest months, you’ll definitely not wear a jacket or anything like that. Temperatures in April or September will be around 27 or 30 degrees for sure. Trust a Brazilian blogger!
How long you should stay in Ilha Grande
The island is too huge to get to know it all in just one visit. We got 4 days there, and we definitely could go longer. Maybe start by booking 5 or 6 days if you’re unsure, but you’ll not get bored if you decide to stay for 1 or 2 weeks!
What to do in Ilha Grande
By far, the best options are to explore the island either by foot, boat, or bike. We did 2 amazing tours, and I’ll tell you all about it, but in Abraão, there are hundreds of small agencies for booking what you want.
Lopes Mendes, Pouso Beach and Manguezal beach
Lopes Mendes is a must go for sure. This deserted beach got several mentions around the world as one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. For sure, it is on many guides for beach vacations around the world.
The water is bright blue, the sand is deep white, and the rainforest is everywhere. To get there, you can hike from Abraão for a few hours or just get a boat for 40 reais round trip.
We went by boat (of course, it was 36 degrees with feels like 45), and the trip is fantastic. You arrive in Praia do Manguezal. A super cool beach that has 1 lady that sells beer and food from her small house there. She is the only one.
From Praia do Manguezal (Manguezal beach), you walk in the middle of the rainforest for about 2 to 5 minutes and arrive in Praia do Pouso. In Praia do Pouso (Pouso Beach), there’s a super cool and super overpriced restaurant floating in the ocean. Skip that because the prices are just too damn high for what it is. In Praia do Pouso, there is the pathway to heaven (aka Lopes Mendes Beach).
The hike is easy to medium level of difficulty if you’re a beginner. Try to have either some Birkenstocks or sneakers for traction because it can be slippery. We got a pair of Tropicfeel, which was the best thing ever because they are made for something like this. Consider getting a pair of both for your Brazil trip. Here’s the exact Birkenstock I have and here the Canyon from Tropicfeel. Marian is using his black Birkenstock on the photos below. His version is cheaper than mine but will not last so long like the leather version I have.
The whole pathway is around 30-40 minutes hike mountain up and mountain down, surrounded by spectacular nature, monkeys, and the most curious insects ever. And mosquitoes! Bring some bug repellent if you suffer a lot with mosquitoes bites as I do. Really!
Lopes Mendes is the only beach we visited that is facing the open ocean side of Ilha Grande. The waves are incredible!
I’ll now leave you with some photos from those places and the apparent recommendation of sunscreen of 60 or more. Nobody wants to ruin the beach vacations ever by having a fever due to sunburn!
Praia Preta and that 15-minute walk from Casa da Coti that can make you go wow!
Praia Preta translates to Black beach. We went there in the nighttime, and it was only us, the stars and the moon. The name comes for the dark-colored sand that takes over this beach in particular.
The sea is calm, and we could see our feet even when the water was on our chest. This beach has a lot of small crabs and fishes, and they are not shy, probably you’ll make friends there somehow. To get to Praia Preta, you need to walk from downtown Abraão around 15 minutes in a mixture of road and hike. The difficulty level is 0 or 1.
Lagoa Azul, Barreto Beach, Feiticeira Beach and waterfalls
We took a whole day to do a boat tour offered on the island. The whole thing was from 11m all the way to 6 pm and was around 130 reais per person, or 25 euros more or less. The whole package included unlimited water, churrasco, caipirinha, fruits, and more. They also offered a free cooler if you want to drink something like beer or soft drinks.
The name of the agency we chose was Nativos Tours, but, just like any other tour agency in Ilha Grande, it is impossible to talk to them via the internet. And since the prices are mainly the same across all agencies on the island, just go there and reserve your spot for the next best day.
If you find an agency that has the option of reserving online in advance, it most probably will be way more expensive than going there in person. Beach vacations in remote places like Ilha Grande are not for planning all from home, some things are better done on the spot.
The tour starts with the Feiticeira beach. This tour has the option of going up the hill on a medium difficulty hike to reach the waterfalls from Feiticeira. Mind your shoes if you decide to go. I recommend either the Birkenstock or the Tropicfeel Canyon again.
Both are amazing for water, hikes, and more. If you decide to stay and enjoy the beach, you have many places to explore or to soak up sunlight. Feiticeira beach has tiny tents with açai, coconut water, and other Brazilian delicacies. Maybe one or two, maximum. Bring cash with you if you want to try any of those. Nativos Tour’s option also provided snorkels for the breathtaking experience in the Blue Lagoon (Lagoa Azul).
With over 90 minutes for people to swim around in the search for sea turtles and more, it is guaranteed that you’ll be amazed. I managed to see one turtle, several different kinds of fishes including a flying fish, lobsters, crabs, small weird crustaceous that I have no idea what is the name, and much more. The water there is deep blue, and the corals are super colorful. The last stop on tour is the Praia do Barreto, and it is where folks can spend their time playing football or volleyball, do some more snorkeling or just relax.
The conclusion will come in a sum up of points I’ve talked over this giant post. I believe that it is an easier way to make my view of beach vacations in Brazil like Ilha Grande sink in. First of all, about when to go.
If you’re from Europe or the USA or any place where winters are cold, and all you want is summer summer summer, hold on a bit! In Brazil, usually, the winters are just like your summer. And often, summer means rain season. So, for the sake of your wallet, try avoiding summer. Things like the number of people on the island, prices, and much more are thought.
Consider getting to your beach vacation in Brazil. Even though you can explore the whole island with a bit – a lot! – of hiking and camping, getting one or two of those boat trips is very rewarding. The experience of being in preserved nature is more relaxed since you’re not so tired, and getting to some of the beaches by sea is immensely more comfortable and easier. About places to stay, it is obvious Fotostrasse’s preferences.
From personal experience, I strongly suggest getting a house or apartment there for the freedom it grants you in opposition to getting a hotel or hostel. Besides that, having a kitchen is life-changing when you’re in a small village. You don’t depend on open establishments to get your food and drinks. It is also way cheaper and healthier this way.
After concluding accommodation, when to go and if you should or shouldn’t hop on tour boats, the only thing left to say is: bring sunscreen and bring a lot of mosquito repellent. You will be surrounded by tropical forest, and Brazilian mosquitoes are cruel. Also, get your yellow fever (non-mandatory) and whatever other shots you can get in advance.
Have fun on your beach vacations in Brazil, and if you need to ask a real Brazilian for tips, reach us on our Facebook group or send a message to us on twitter or Instagram! Also, all photos here were taken with my Huawei P20 Pro. If you want a full review of Huawei’s cameras, comment here!