Posted by: Alex MacGregor | July 13, 2013

A Change of Pace in Ilha Grande

A ways outside of Rio (actually only 60 miles as the crow flies, but in Brazil that’s some serious distance), lies the picture-perfect tropical island of Ilha Grande.


In Brazil, this relatively short journey takes a solid four hours. As we arrived, the island was shrouded in rain and fog.

morning view

Come morning, the crystal-clear view from our pousada’s breakfast terrace was almost unrecognizable.


Ilha Grande is similar in a couple ways to Morro de São Paulo–it’s an island getaway from a major Brazilian city, where cars aren’t allowed.


But the similarities seem to end there. Ilha Grande served as a penal colony for much of the 20th century, thus protecting it from development. Nowadays, nearly the entire tourist infrastructure lies in the town of Abraão, far away from the island’s main tourist attractions and beaches. Thus if your goal is to jam out to techno music on the beach at 2AM, you’ll have to head elsewhere (shucks!).


Abraão is instead a pleasant tourist town, with lots of decent pousadas to crash at after a long day of hiking. During the daytime, the town empties as tourists head to the island’s many natural delights.

Our daytime destination was a common one, and most likely the island’s most famous: Praia Lopes Mendes. The beach is a three-hour hike from town.


Caroline in the forest.


Abraão from the trail.


The view back towards Brazil’s mainland.


A washed out bridge along the trail.


At times, the trail follows beaches. Perfectly nice-looking beaches, but not what people travel around the world for.



Eventually, we piked up a “guide” of sorts in this little black dog. He had a collar and all, but seemed content in following us for well over an hour.


Our dog guide watches as Caroline descends an unsteady stairway.


Made it!


Lopes Mendes consistently ranks among the best beaches in Brazil, and cracks lists of the top beaches in the world as well.


With clean, powdery sand, absolutely zero development and crowds, and waves for both surfing and swimming, it’s hard to imagine a beach getting much better than this.


Marine life washed ashore


We wanted to hike back to town as well, but an annoying recurring knee injury made me feel it would be better to take the ferry, which runs from a nearby beach.


Since we traveled during the low season (how much better can summer be?), we were able to get a nice room at the charming Pousada Pedacinho de Ceu at a good price…


…complete with Snow White themed gardens.


On our way back from the island to Rio, the ferry landing point of Conceição de Jacareí occupies yet another stunning piece of Brazilian shoreline. There’s just too much to explore!

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