From the moment my ferry arrived at Ilha Grande, I understood why people leave their lives, sell their house, give away their shoe collection, and move to a tropical island. It is simply paradise here – where the simplest moments are perfect. Ilha Grande is a 2.5 hour drive from Rio but could not be more different from the thrumming city. This quiet car-free island has powder-soft sand on the extensive beaches, rugged hills, and thick, lush forest. The biggest town on the island is Vila do Abraão, which seems to be where the most hotels/hostels are located and is where there is the most infrastructure. Apparently this little town (which has 3,000 inhabitants) grew once a leper hospital was built in the late 1800. Historically, the island also was a place to conduct health screenings for immigrants to Brazil, a military base, and a prison. Now, it seems to have a thriving tourism industry where you can enjoy a quiet and idyllic break. While parts of the island are very touristy (lovely restaurants that set up on the beach, for example), there are many places which have a more “local” feel. From the ferry port, you can hop on a boat and tour some of the equally picturesque islands nearby, with even more beaches, wonderfully clear water for swimming and snorkling, and trees perfectly curved for good instagram photos. Ilhe Grande does happen to be a bit rainy, but even on a grey day, these quiet island moments are rather perfect.
- There are no ATMs on the island when I was there (!) and a number of restaurants and shops do not accept cards so be sure to bring a stack of cash.
- It is super easy to get there from Paraty or Rio. As mentioned in an earlier post, I booked all my travel through Green Toad bus, and it was a short trip to either destination.
- My hostel was mediocre at best (so I won’t shout it out), but I did find that it was challenging to find accommodations, even though I wasn’t travelling in high season. Booking in advance definitely required.
- Spend as much time as possible with your toes in the sand. It is the best way to live life.