Everything you need to know about Ilha Grande
Ilha Grande or 'Large Island' is a beautiful haven just a few hours away from Rio, surrounded by micro islands. You'll find yourself in awe of the beautiful beaches with crystal blue water, bright white sand and often some really fancy yachts too. There is very little wifi here so bring plenty of cash, and fall into the relaxed holiday vibes with both backpackers and locals alike, lapping up the sun and sea here. There's also plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs to keep you entertained!
How to get there
The most popular route to Ilha Grande is from Rio or Paraty. The following guidelines worked for us so we're confident you'll be ok too. If all else fails, once you've got on the bus, most people will be going to the same place. Make friends with your fellow travellers or alternatively, Brazilians are super friendly so just ask a local for directions to the port or bus stop.
Getting there from Rio. You will need to get the Costa Verde bus from Rodoviária Novo Rio, which costs 55 Reals (correct March 2018) to Angra dos Reis or Conceicao de Jacarei and get a boat from there.
Getting there from Paraty. Get the Collitur bus to Angra Dos Reis and then a boat from there as we mentioned above. This bus is more like a local bus and is very cheap.
The boat options. There are two main ports on the mainland, Angra dos Reis and Conceicao de Jacarei. There is also Mangaratiba, but we can't vouch for this route ourselves.
Angra dos Reis is the main port, which is cheaper but takes around 1.5 hours and has one daily service at 3:30pm on weekdays and 1:30pm on weekends but if you’re not in a rush, it only costs 15 Reals each way.
Conceicao de Jacarei has lots of speed boat companies you will see upon arrival. These boat companies are the most expensive but quickest option for reaching the islands, taking approx. 30 mins and costing around 45 Reals one way or 80 Reals return.
If you travel from Rio with Costa Verde, they will stop at Conceicao de Jacarei before Angra dos Reis, offering a connection for a boat company. Be warned this is probably the expensive speed boat option! Check before jumping off the bus.
Things to do
There are 3 main boat excursions to take from the island.
1. A boat tour around the whole island (Volta à Ilha).
2. A visit to the South of the island (Super Sul).
3. A look at the paradise islands nearby (Ilhas Paradisíacas).
All of these include approx. 1 hour on various beaches around the island. Some companies also offer another tour, which gives 3 hours on Aventureiro beach, as this is most people’s favourite one.
We recommend Mariana Tours to do these tours with as they are highly professional, have lovely maintained boats and a great team. Mariana Tours seem to know the secret to visiting the beaches when they’re not completely packed so go with them for a relaxed journey!
This is the “must-see” beach on the island, although we personally prefered the beaches on the paradise islands tour and Adventureiro beach. However, this is the beach you want if you don’t want to spend money on the tours or just want to chill on one beach all day. There are people serving beers and snacks from coolers too so you'll never go thirsty!
Lopes Mendes can be reached by either a 3 hour hike, although we heard it's pretty tough so opted for the boat. It costs 15 Reals and is then followed by a small 20 minute hike.
Top tip: Please remember your deet for the hike, whether you do the 3 hours or the 20 minutes!
Ilha Grande is a fantastic place for people who enjoy hiking. There are numerous trails available, including hiking the whole island in 10 days or the sunrise hike, which starts at 1am and ends at the highest point of the island in time to see the sun rising!
Where to eat
Ilha Grande can be an expensive place to visit but we recommend visiting Pizzaria Fornilha as they do a great deal for as much fresh pizza as you want (not buffet!) for a great price and they do yummy dessert pizzas too!
The vegan burger here is absolutely divine. So much so, we came back the next day for another one! That mix of soy sauce, oil and paprika really works - you can be naughty and add cheese if you're a veggie too!
For those who eat meat, we’re sure the other burgers are made with just as much care also.
Rua Alice Kuri (the street by the church) is lined with bars, all with various great deals on Caipirinhas!
There is only one place to visit if you want to stay out later than the bars are open until, and that is Aquario. It is a hostel/hotel that turns into a nightclub and is open almost every night. They have various themed evenings and sometimes live music too.
Where to stay
We recommend staying in BierGarten hostel. They do a great breakfast, it is located close to everything, the staff are very accommodating and the hostel is clean. It also seems to draw a good crowd so perfect for meeting nice people.
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