Watch our video, where we explore the Brazilian paradise of Ilha Grande.
How to get to Ilha Grande & where to stay?
We just spent three days on Ilha Grande, which is Portuguese for “Big Island”. This tropical paradise is located a 4-hour-drive west of Rio de Janeiro with an additional 30-minute boat ride from the quirky town of Conceição de Jacareí.
How to get to Ilha Grande is easy. You can go with the main ferry from Angra dos Reis, but the easiest and quickest way is from the town of Conceição de Jacareí.
We paid 100R$ per person each way, but you can also rent a private boat for 500R$, which is the best and cheaper option if you are at least five people going.
We were staying at Hotel Asalem, which is one of the most expensive options, although a bit overpriced, as the room was very basic. We paid 200€ per night.
Most people who visit Ilha Grande will stay at the hostels or pousadas.
The cool thing about this hotel was that it was located close to the main town of Vila do Abraão, where you find lots of great restaurants, bars and shops.
Why is Ilha Grande, Brazil’s true paradise island?
Before going to Brazil we had already lined up a ton of cool places to visit and things to do, but what we were looking forward to the most was Ilha Grande. This is Brazil’s biggest island, but it’s still small in the sense that you are in the middle of the jungle along with some of the rarest and most endangered animals in the world including the howler monkey.
There are no roads and no cars, except one ambulance and one garbage truck. Getting around the island is via, at times, challenging jungle walks, but the main mode of transportation is taxi boats. Something that makes the experience of visiting Ilha Grande extra special.
It’s such a cool feeling to jump on a boat and then just sail somewhere new, find a restaurant, a bar or even crash a Brazilian yacht party, as we did, haha!
We rented a nice boat with a captain for half a day, which we paid 1200R$ for although we agreed on 800R$ beforehand, but apparently the yacht party robbed us of too much time, however this was certainly worth the extra investment!
Even though we had terrible luck with the weather, we were still able to see how much of a paradise Ilha Grande really is.
The sheer lushness and tropical feel was almost overwhelming. Here you are in the middle of an island that is 84% protected meaning you can only go select places that makes it feel like a much smaller island. It’s just such a beautiful place!
The overshadowing feeling that made Ilha Grande such a special place was the sense of freedom, we felt. It’s just you and nature… and caiparinhas, beers and delicious food!
What more can you ask for in life?
Speaking of the food…
Normally, we don’t expect much of island food. Not sure why exactly, but perhaps it’s based on subconscious experiences from travelling around the world, over the years.
Anyway, we had fantastic food on Ilha Grande. Most of the food we had was in the town of Vila do Abraão, where we had incredible picanha right by the beach. We also went to La Isla restaurant, which is only accessible by boat, which probably made the food taste extra good.
Here we are eating moqueca, which is one of the best Brazilian seafood dishes, you can have.
So why do you NEED to visit Ilha Grande?
Because it gives you a feeling of pure freedom that simply exudes happiness. Go there alone. Go there with your better half, and/or perhaps ask good friends to tag along.
No matter the setup, you will have an amazing time and subsequently look back at the experience with joy. Ilha Grande offers everything you need in life.
As mentioned, you have excellent food, drinks and even some shopping in Vila do Abraão, but you also have lots of beautiful beaches that reminds you of the Maldives. The nature is nothing short of amazing and if you are lucky, you’ll get to see some of these rare animals. We saw the cute monkeys known as the Common Marmoset.
Ilha Grande is life as it’s meant to be.
One of Ilha Grande’s most popular beaches, Lopes Mendes, where you have the squeaky silica sand.
How long should you stay? And is Ilha Grande safe?
Yes, Ilha Grande is safe. In fact, it doesn’t get much safer!
We stayed for two nights meaning we had almost three full days. For us it didn’t feel like enough though. We could’ve stayed for at least a week!
It’s an incredible place to come and detach yourself from the hustle and bustle of modern civilisation. Something that many locals from Rio de Janeiro take advantage of.
It really all depends on how much time you have. If you are a tourist visiting Brazil with lots of other places to go, two or three nights should be enough to get a grasp on the island.
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Big hugs from us two!