Ilha Grande is one of the most mesmerizing islands, located just off the South Atlantic coast of Brazil in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Although it is known by few, its crystal blue waters, unique colored beaches, and abundance of outdoor activities with quite the history make it an island of pure paradise.
Things to do and see in Ilha Grande
One of the most fascinating beaches located on Ilha Grande is the “Black Beach”. The sand is mixed with both a charcoal-like color and regular sand, making it extremely unique. Not only is it packed with amazing minerals which you can rub on your skin to exfoliate, bit it is wonderful to look at. The water is perfectly warm where many locals and tourist go to bathe in the sun or go for a lovely swim.
The Black Beach leads to a river where that flows from a natural pool and waterfall area further up in elevation. If you follow the river, there is a trail that will lead you to Lazaretto, an old abandoned prison and the natural pool and waterfall.
In 1940 the Lazaretto in Dois Rio was made into Candido Mendes Prison which was closed down in 1994. There are still remnants located by the river in the forest you can visit today.
Cachoeira Da Feiticeira
Cachoeira Da Feiticeira is a small hike inland into the jungle. It is very mild, but you may sweat a lot because the island is humid and hot in general. There is an extremely refreshing pool of water waiting for you once you arrive.
Lopes Mendes is one of the most gorgeous beaches on the island. It has ridiculously crystal blue waters which are so heavenly and warm, it makes you never want to leave. There are two ways of getting there. From Vila do Abraao, there is trail that starts just past Praia da Julia, which takes about 3-4 hours. It is mostly switchbacks and uphill climbing, then eventually goes through a couple of beautiful beaches.
If you aren’t that into hiking, you can take a boat from Vila do Abraao, which costs about $25R. Most people hike in on the way there, then watch the sunset on the boat coming back. Once you do get there, it is a sanctuary of ultimate relaxation, tanning, and swimming.
The beach is nice and huge with plenty of space to do your own thing. There are some vendors selling ice cold beer and drinks but, it is better to bring your own from a hostel or a small restaurant along the way. This is for sure the number one thing to do on the island, especially if you are only there for a couple of days.
Places to stay
Because Ilha Grande is an island, things are more expensive in terms of accommodation than the rest of Brazil. Here are two really cool places to stay right on the beach of this paradise island:
Che Lagarto Hostel Ilha Grande: $17 US dollars/ night:
Includes free breakfast, AC, and a beachfront view.
Aquario Hostel: Between $25-$95 US dollars/ night
Includes free breakfast, AC, a cool aquarium, Kayak rentals, bar with reasonable drink prices, lots of events for backpackers, private beach area
What to eat
Pato Crepes: Even though crepes are far from Brazilian cuisine, if you are looking for some amazing stuffed crepes, this is the place to go. There are various options on the menu from sweet to salty to fulfill all your hunger needs. It is also vegetarian friendly.
Parque da Ilha Grande – R. Getúlio Vargas, 39 – Vila do Abraão, Angra dos Reis – RJ, Brazil
Acai: a heavenly blended frozen dessert made with a fruit from the amazon. MUST TRY! You can find it on the street and in dessert shops.
Classic Brazilian Plate of Food: You can pretty much find this dish at any brazilian restaurant on the island and it is all delicious. This includes rice, beans or feijoada, vinaigrette, sausage, brazilian salad, and often fried potatoes.
Caipirinha: Although technically it isn’t a food, this is a must. A Caipirinha is an alcoholic drink with Cachaca (a brazilian alcohol made from sugar cane), lime, sugar and ice. It can be found on the streets and in all the bars.
Brigadeiro: Brigadeiro is very dangerous food for chocoholics. It is chocolate melted down with condensed milk and butter then cooled down and rolled into a ball dipped in either sprinkles of coconut. There are many street vendors on Ilha Grande who make them.
Coxinha: A fried doughy raindrop shaped ball filled with shredded chicken. The best I have ever had in my life actually came from a little convenient store where you catch the ferry in Mangaratiba on the way to Ilha Grande.
Pastel: A fried rectangle shaped dough filled with either cheese or ground beef. It is very similar to an empanada, but not quite the same. These are sold on the streets in most places.
You could honestly spend years just exploring this island. There are so many things to do, places to stay, and delicious food to eat. This is only a glimpse of one side of the island and there are so many more things to do. It has truly incredible beaches, even better than Rio, with less crowds and twice the adventure.