America,  Brazil,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Ilha Grande (Brazil): a small paradise on earth

Only 3 hours from Rio, Ilha Grande (“big island”) is an island with no road/motorized vehicle. Once reserved for prisoners and lepers, this island has become a must-see in the Rio region. It is spelled IL-HA and not IH-LA

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

Day 1 :

This morning I discovered with horror red patches covering my arms, neck and legs. It itches a little. I don’t have a fever. But we still leave for Ilha Grande, hoping that the fresh air will calm me down and cure my allergy

We go to the bus terminal of Paraty and finally someone explains us that we have to go to platform 8 and pay directly to the driver to go to Angra. For Angra, there is no tourist bus, just a city bus, which costs 16 reais/person. That’s why everyone turned us away yesterday at the terminal, because no ticket is sold in advance

It will be the least comfortable trip in all South America, the bus stops every 5 minutes, and even for this 2 hours trip, I managed to get motion sickness

On the other hand, by being placed on the right, I was able to enjoy the landscape. There is a “praia brava” that you can’t see on this picture, but it is as beautiful as Copacabana

The city bus drops us off at the port of Angra. Everybody goes to the tourist office, which informs us that we have to cross the road and buy a boat ticket at “Dolce Angra”, 50 reais. I don’t know what happened but since my allergy, I understand Portuguese very well 😀

The guy from the office didn’t talk to us at all about the ferry option, cheaper (16 reais), but I’m happy to be able to take a speedboat, more comfortable (0 sea-sickness possible if you put yourself at the back of the boat), and faster (40 minutes)

This is the port ofAbraão, where most tourists go when they go to Ilha Grande. As soon as we arrive, we see an MSC cruise ship, the MSC Preziosa. We haven’t stopped seeing cruise ships for a few weeks, since we only visit cities with important ports or accessible to cruise ships. The trip that this MSC Preziosa makes takes 4 days, passing through Santos, Ilha Grande and Buzios, for 400€/person

With our stuff laid out at the Pousada, we embark on a one-hour trek (one loop), exploring old prisons, a natural pool and a viaduct

Unfortunately, we don’t find the loop right away, and we sink into the jungle where the path is slippery. We cross a walker who informs us that the waterfalls that we want to see are at 1 hour of walk, whereas it is already rather dark in the jungle. We decide to turn back. In fact, it is necessary to cross the natural swimming pool near the viaduct, to reach the way back

We stop in a restaurant selling a kind of “cardboard” pancakes. I try the famous açai, a kind of smoothies made from the açai fruit. It’s edible!

Day 2: Lopes Mendes

We bought the tickets the day before at a travel agency. We leave at 11:30 am for Lopes Mendes (30 reais/person round trip by boat)

We take a boat of this type

We are dropped off on a small beach. It is then necessary to cross the jungle during 20 minutes (rather slippery way) to reach this splendid beach of 5km

We are warned: the waves and currents are strong, this is a beach suitable for surfers, not for swimming. You can still swim, but stay in places where the water does not exceed the belt. JB takes the opportunity to go jogging barefoot and bare-chested, a real pleasure

We will stay there until 3pm, the time of the first boat back

Back in Abraão, MSC hasn’t left yet, there are a lot of people, we walk along the small beach of the port, there is live music in some restaurants along the beach, wild dogs are basking in the shade… We are well

My allergy is still there, I think I’m allergic to Brazilian tap water (which smells very bad), or to Brazilian mosquitoes that leave imperceptible bites. I drink a lot of lemonade to detoxify, but I think it’s not enough

Day 3: Boat tour

Today’s tour takes us to 2 lagoons and 3 beaches. We paid the tickets the day before, 100 reais/person. Here, the prices are the same everywhere so we choose the agencies by feeling. If the saleswoman speaks an incomprehensible Portuguese then we go to another one, who speaks about English

There are about ten of us taking the speedboat for today’s tour. We make half of the island just to go to Lagoa Verde

The water is transparent but it is a little too crowded. I believe that people should not know how to swim, they take buoys in the shape of French fries even if the water only reaches the chest. So JB goes swimming on the other side, where the water is deeper there is nobody. I don’t know if there are a lot of Brazilians, in any case, the girls have very low-cut bikinis, it’s like the Kardashians. Here, it’s 0 complex: orange peel skin, cellulites, stretch marks? Who cares!

There are a lot of fish, but they concentrate around the boats because people feed them from time to time. The fish are less colorful than in the Philippines I find, less pretty

We then head to Lagoa Azul, which has only Azul in name because the water is rather turquoise/green. There are no fish here, and the water seems to be a little colder than the other lagoon. During the whole trip, I stay dry on the boat because the water is too cold for a cold woman like me. The other tourists are swimming less and less, they are cold too

We stop on another beach for lunch (50 reais/person, fried fish, super good). Then another small beach without interest, without fish, to be with 10 other boats (I still wonder what is the interest of this stop)

And finally, we arrive on a really beautiful beach, where they sell us Caïpi, coconuts… not too expensive

JB is a bit disappointed, he was expecting to enjoy the snorkelling a bit more. There are no corals around the island, it’s going to be difficult to get the same fish as in the Philippines. But we are soon going to Cuba, JB will be able to enjoy it a lot more

In the evening, we dine in an unpretentious restaurant on the beach. We are served a fillet of beef, red beans, rice, cassava flour (salted) and French fries. It’s not the best dish of my life, but it’s edible. It seems to be a typical dish because I heard about it in my Lonely Planet guide

We’re fine here, the air is pure, it’s very safe. Internet is super fast while we are on the island. There are some power cuts from time to time but our pousada has a generator. We have hot water, two supermarkets, full of restaurants and cab boats with very accessible tariffs especially if we are numerous. I recommend you a few days on this island

My allergy is still there, but with a frame like this, I don’t think about it anymore. Tomorrow we return to Rio

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Transportation

    • Paraty -> Angra dos Reis : 16 reais/person by city bus
    • Angra dos Reis : 50 reais/person in speedboat (tickets to be bought at Doce Angra, in front of the tourist office)

  • Lodging : Pousada Horizonte dos Borbas, 208 reais/double room, private bathroom, breakfast included
  • Food

    • 50-60 reais/person/meal
    • Mineral water: 5 reais

  • Visits

    • Transfer Lopes Mendes: 30 reais/person round trip, several departures and returns/day
    • Tour 5 stops Lagoa Verde : 100 reais/person, departure at 10:30 am

Practical advice

  • There is no ATM on the island, please withdraw money before coming here. Restaurants, hotels and travel agencies accept credit cards. Take cash to pay for cab boats (R$30-50), food trucks (R$15), caipirinha (R$14), restaurants on boat tours (R$60 per person).
  • When you take boats (whether normal or speedboats), get in the back to avoid seasickness.
  • As there are no cars/motorcycles on the island, it must be explored by boat or on foot. Cab boats allow you to go to less frequented places, and tours allow you to visit famous beaches such as Lopes Mendes, Aventureiro…
  • Pay attention to the weather, if it rains, there isn’t much to do on this island.


Here is the map of the island and the treks (click to zoom). The trek we did the first day is the T1, be careful, to find the way back, you have to go down to the natural swimming pool near the viaduct, you will see the way back in front

A few brave tourists went around the island in 5 days by trekking with their tents and sleeping in campsites. Personally, I don’t recommend it, just by walking alone without a backpack, I almost fell many times

Boat tours on Ilha Grande

Here are the tours offered by all agencies on Ilha Grande and the prices as of March 2017

  • Meia Volta is the trick we took: 100 reais/person
  • Volta Ilha: it isn’t every day, it depends on the weather: 150 reais/person
  • Super Sul: it’s not every day, it depends on the weather : 150 reais/person
  • Transfer Lopes Mendes: 30 reais/person, transfer provided every day. You are dropped off at Pouso beach, you have to cross the jungle for 20 minutes (sandals recommended because it’s a bit slippery) to reach the beach of Lopes Mendes
  • Ilhas de Angra : we move away from the island, 130 reais/person
  • Transfer (ask any travel agency) :

    • Ilha Grande -> Rio de Janeiro via Conceição de Jacarei (with deposit in front of your hotel): 110 reais/person. Three departures per day, 9:30 am – 1:30 pm – 5:30 pm
    • Rio de Janeiro -> Ilha Grande via Angra: 160 reais/person. Pick-up at 6:30 am in front of your hotel (+ another schedule but I don’t remember at what time)

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