If you need a reason to visit Ilha Grande, simply give another glance at the photo above, taken a short walk from town on the way to a secluded beach on the other side of the island. Ilha Grande has some of the most picturesque beaches we visited in all of Brazil, and we would definitely add it to any “must-see” list for South America.
Day 1: The ferry to the island leaves once per day (so check the schedule) but there are numerous schooners that make the two-hour crossing for around $12-18USD. As we rolled into this Jurassic-Park- like island, I mentioned that it resembled the movie to Anne, and the guy directly to my left interjected that he had just told his wife the exact same words–so you know it was other-worldly.
In order to remain flexible, get the best views and the best rates, we roll into every new city/pueblo/port without a hotel booked, and our entrance to Ilha Grande followed suit. At the dock, a gentleman from France, who fell in the love with the island a few years back and never left, approached us about his “hotel” at the top of town. He said it was a bit of a hike, but he guaranteed the best view on the entire island. After a 15 minute walk, and two flights of wooden ladders up into a rock-tree house, we saw the view above and debated taking up residence too.
Day 2: We explored the local beaches, strewn with huge boulders, black-and-tan sand, crystal clear water, palm trees bending for a drink of sea water, and exploding purple flowers. The one thing these beaches didn’t have? Crowds.
As this island has no cars, there are two ways to access the beaches: by boat or via the amazing system of trails that dissect the island. We opted for the later and took a two-hour hike to this amazingly secluded beach (it was a 200-meter rock scramble from Lopes Mendes beach with 200-300 people, and we had this cove all to ourselves–score!)
After dinner everyone in town stops at the most abundant and delicious sweets cart we have ever experienced. The island’s resident pastry chef spends his days spinning out magical treats, and his nights fighting off the crowds. (Note: He has an imposter that sets up closer to the ocean, who is more expensive and not as good. We know this because we did extensive testing for all our blog readers who may visit).
Day 3: In the mystical land of Ilha Grande tree trunks turn into showers and waterfalls to cool your sun-kissed shoulders and sooth your sore feet from long hikes. (Honestly, how brilliant to use an pretty old tree to cover up an ugly metal shower !)
Sacolé is a mix between ice-cream and Italian ice that you eat out of a plastic baggy pulled from Gram’s freezer…and they are fantastic. They come in all the local flavors: mango, passion fruit, caju, capuasu, coco, and– by far our favorite–peanut butter (Please don’t ask us if we have found peanut butter in the 25+ grocery stores we have looked in since we started the HoneyTrek….it’s a bit of a sore subject).
A beautiful sunset as we boarded our boat back home on Day 3. While our stay in Ilha Grande was too short (we would recommend 5 full days to explore this national park meets relaxing resort town), we had such an amazing time, and we will definitely be back in our lifetimes. Wanna join us?