Ilha Grande, located just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, is a hidden gem that has yet to be discovered by many tourists. The island is known for its unspoiled beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush rainforests, making it the perfect destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. If you’re looking for a vacation spot that offers a mix of relaxation and adventure, you found the right place. So let’s discover it together!
A Bit of History
Although the first inhabitants were the Tamoio Indians, the European navigators arrived more than five centuries ago, in 1502, to be precise. There is a house dating back to 1629 called Casa do Morcego, one of the oldest masonry buildings in Brazil. Over the years, several types of people have frequented the island or settled there. Coffee or sugar cane planters, pirates, fishermen, and even prisoners, when there was a prison on Dois Rios beach during the twentieth century.
Today, tourists have become the typical visitors to this fishing island of unspoiled natural beauty. The infrastructure to receive them has developed with the emergence of many small hotels and restaurants, mainly concentrated in the village of Abraão. That is the main inhabited area of the island. It is also the entry point to the island, where boats disembark visitors. Note that Ilha Grande is known for its environmentally friendly practices. The island has managed to preserve its natural beauty by implementing strict environmental regulations and promoting sustainable tourism. The absence of cars and vehicle traffic also helps to protect the island’s natural and wild splendor.
Activities on Ilha Grande
One of the best things about Ilha Grande is its abundance of outdoor activities. The island offers a variety of hiking trails that take you through the lush rainforest and stunning waterfalls. We can mention the hike that leads to the famous and beautiful wild beach of Lopes Mendes. Surfers love that place because of the strong waves. There is also the hike to Pico do Papagaio (Parrot Peak), one of the highest points on the island. Overlooking the village of Abraão with almost 1000 meters (3281 feet) above sea level, the peak provides stunning views you can’t miss. And there are many other hikes, such as the waterfall of Feiticeira (witch), the beaches of Dois Rios or Caxadaço. And believe us, all are worth it!
For those looking for a more relaxed experience, the island’s many beaches offer the perfect spot for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. Ilha Grande also provides opportunities for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and scuba diving. Many boat trips are also available to visit the inaccessible beauties of the island. You can discover hidden treasures like the Blue and Green Lagoons. Yes, that’s the ultimate destination for adventure and water sports enthusiasts! By the way, speaking of water sports, we wrote a post entirely dedicated to water activities in Rio de Janeiro. Take a look if you are interested in the topic. In addition, we also have an article about scuba diving in Arraial do Cabo. Indeed, it is another perfect place in the region for this sport.
Boat Access and Accommodation
As it is an island without a bridge to the mainland, the only access is by boat. And there are several ways to access it. You can take the ferry from Mangaratiba at 8:00 am or Angra dos Reis at 3:30 pm. These two small towns are located about a hundred kilometers from Rio de Janeiro, on the Costa Verde. In both cases, the crossing takes about an hour and a half and costs a small price. But there is a quicker option, although more expensive, to reach the island. There is a service of fast boats that leave every thirty minutes from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm. To take it, go to a Mangaratiba neighborhood called Conceição de Jacareí. The crossing is quicker and takes about twenty minutes. But it is also much more expensive than the ferry.
Accommodation on the island ranges from budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses to more luxurious resorts and vacation rentals. Many of the accommodations are in the village of Abraão, the island’s principal hub that offers easy access to the beaches and hiking trails. You can also find accommodations in the more remote areas of the island, which offer a more secluded and peaceful experience. Some of the accommodations are eco-friendly with sustainable practices. Overall, the accommodation options on Ilha Grande cater to a wide range of preferences and budgets, making it a perfect destination for travelers of all types.