Ilha Grande, Brazil: How to Get There, What to Do, Tours & Tips

Ilha Grande, one of the top ecotourism destinations in Brazil, is a stunning island home to an exuberant Atlantic Rainforest and enchanting beaches located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state.

This ‘Big Island’ with an area of 75 mi2, over 60% is a state park, is a popular weekend getaway for Brazilians and the ideal place to rest and relax surrounded by opulent nature after visiting the bustling Rio de Janeiro.

Featuring charming villages with unpaved streets, diverse fauna and flora, hiking trails, rivers, waterfalls, and pristine powdery sandy beaches dotted with luscious vegetation, Ilha Grande is undoubtedly one of Brazil’s best islands.

I love Ilha Grande and that’s why I decided to write this guide with everything you need to know to plan your trip, including the best beaches, what to do, tours, nightlife, where to stay and eat, how to get to Ilha Grande from Rio and many tips.

Pericles Rosa posing for a picture at Aventureiro Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil
You will fall in love with the breathtaking beauty of Ilha Grande

Everything You Need to Know to Plan a Trip to Ilha Grande

Where is Ilha Grande located?

Ilha Grande, an island in the municipality of Angra dos Reis, is located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, about 79 mi from the capital Rio and 280 mi from São Paulo (check the exact location on Google Maps).

How to get to Ilha Grande from Rio?

The only way to get to Ilha Grande is by ferry, which departs from Mangaratiba, Conceição de Jacareí and Angra dos Reis.

To get from Rio to Ilha Grande, you can drive/take a bus to Mangaratiba from Rio’s bus terminal (Rodoviária Novo Rio) at 5h00. The bus arrives around 7h30 and you need to take the only ferry, which departs at 08h00, takes 1h50min and costs R$ 25 (US$ 5,00). If you’re on a budget this is the best option to get to Ilha Grande from Rio. Total journey: 05h

Another option is to drive/take a 2h bus ride to Conceição de Jacareí, which is a bit further, but there are boats nearly every hour from 08:00 to 18:00. Tickets cost R$ 75 (US$ 15) one way, R$ 140 (US$ 28) round trip, and it takes between 20 – 50min (depending on the vessel). Travel time: 03h

To get to Ilha Grande from Rio the best way is to book a transfer. There are private and shared transfers departing from the South Zone (Flamengo, Botafogo, Copacabana, Leblon, Centro, Santa Teresa, Lapa and Ipanema), as well as from Galeão International Airport-GIG or Santos Dumont Airport-SDU.

Travelling from Rio to Ilha Grande on a shared transfer you take the worry out of your way and avoid the hassle of public transport with heavy luggage. This is what I did, and it was much easier and more convenient.

P.S.: Angra dos Reis is even further from Rio and my recommendation is to only choose this option if you spend some days in this city. In this case, you can book this speed boat transfer from Angra do Reis to Ilha Grande.

The best time to visit

Ilha Grande’s tropical Atlantic beaches can be enjoyed for much of the year, although you may skip the rainier months of December – March. The temperature doesn’t vary much, hovering between 20°C – 30°C all year round.

The peak season is between the New Year’s and Carnival, and June, July, and August (winter in Brazil) are the driest months.

The best time to visit Ilha Grande is April, May, September and October, when there are fewer visitors, the prices are lower and the weather is very pleasant, with average temperatures between 20°C and 25°C.

Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I visited Ilha Grande at the beginning of March, and I got caught up in a crazy storm as soon as I arrived

How many days do you need on Ilha Grande?

Four days. There are many things to do in Ilha Grande and if you stay less than four days you may leave feeling like you’re missing out.

You can take some tours to enjoy the most beautiful beaches on the island, explore the villages, go hiking, visit some waterfalls, rest, and relax.

Where to Stay

You can stay in three main villages in Ilha Grande: Vila do Abraão, Enseada de Araçatiba and Provetá.

Vila do Abraão, a small village with around 3.000 inhabitants, is by far the best option. It has a better location and infrastructure, including a health centre, and police and firefighter stations, apart from many bars, restaurants, hotels, and pousadas (guesthouses).

You can also find budget guesthouses and camping on some beaches, such as Aventureiro and Praia Vermelha, which are perfect for backpackers and those who prefer to stay in more isolated areas.

If you’re looking for a place to stay on Ilha Grande, my recommendations are:

Aerial View over Aventureiro Beach, Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Aventureiro is one of the few beaches on Ilha Grande where you can find guesthouses

Where to eat

Some of my favourite restaurants on Iha Grande are: Canoas (good food and price), Don Mario (great portion sizes and excellent price), Lua e Mar (excellent food and high price), and Garoupas (great cost-benefit).

Canoas Restaurant, Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Restaurante Canoas

How to get around

Ilha Grande is a car-free island. There are no longer roads and motorised vehicles are banned.

The only ways to get around Ilha Grande are on foot (there is more than 93 mi of hiking trails connecting the coastal villages, beaches and hamlets) or by boat.

Ilha Grande map, Brazil

Is it worth visiting Ilha Grande?

Visiting Ilha Grande is totally worthwhile. The gorgeous island covered with tropical rainforest has some of the best beaches in Brazil and a laid-back atmosphere.

It’s also close to Rio de Janeiro making it a perfect island escape when visiting the so-called Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City).

What to pack

I don’t recommend taking a big piece of luggage with you to Ilha Grande. It will take too much space in the van and boat, most of Ilha Grande’s streets are unpaved and you’ll be dragging your luggage from the pier to your hotel on the sandy streets. Leave it at your hotel in Rio or find a LuggageHero partner here.

Instead, pack a backpack with beach shorts, T-shirts, swimming suits, flip-flops, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

Do I need cash on Ilha Grande?

Even though credit cards are widely accepted on the island, it’s recommended to bring some cash with you as there aren’t ATMs or banks on Ilha Grande.

If you need a place to store your luggage before your check-in and after your check-out, you can use our partner, LuggageHero. We offer a 1-hour discount (for one bag) to all of our guests. Click on this link to book your luggage storage.

Ilha Grande, Brazil: How to Get There, What to Do, Tours & Tips 1

Best Things to Do on Ilha Grande, Brazil

1 – Explore the villages

Whether you’re staying in Vila do Abraão, Provetá, or Enseada de Araçatiba or just visiting another village, such as Dois Rios, you should put some time aside to wander around its sandy streets.

You can visit churches, and museums, stumble upon the remains of old civilizations, prison ruins, cute cafes, and restaurants. Not to mention getting a better sense of the locals’ way of living.

2 – Enjoy the breathtaking beaches

Of course, one of the best things to do on Ilha Grande is to enjoy its gorgeous beaches!

No matter you decide to relax on the beaches near the villages, take a tour to visit Ilha Grande’s best beaches or hike to spend the day on a more isolated and quieter piece of paradise on Earth, one thing is certain, you will be enchanted by the beauty of the island’s beaches.

Some of the best beaches on Ilha Grande that you should not miss are: Lopes Mendes, Aventureiro, Jurubaíba (Dentista) and Ilha de Cataguases.

3 – Take a boat tour

A trip to Ilha Grande cannot be complete without taking at least one of these tours:

Around the Island

This is the most popular tour and takes you to Praia de Cachadaço, Parnaioca, Aventureiro, Meros and Japariz. The speed boat departs at 09h30, makes a lap around the island covering a total of 61 mi, and finishes at 17h30. From R$ 220 (US$ 45).

Mero Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil
The striking Meros Beach

Paradisiacal Islands

Another popular tour on the island takes you to visit some of the most beautiful islands around Ilha Grande, including Ilhas Botinas, Ilha do Dentista, Piedade and Cataguases. From R$ 180 (US$ 36).

Aerial view over Ilha do Dentista, Ilha Grande, Brazil
Ilha do Dentista, one of my favourite Ilha Grande beaches

Green and Blue Lagoons

An easy and smooth ride to experience the natural wonders of these crystal-clear water lagoons, which are the habitats of colourful fishes, sea turtles and dolphins. The tour starts at 10h30 and finishes at 16h30. From R$ 150 (US$ 30).

Lopes Mendes

From Vila do Abraão there are two different tours to Lopes Mendes: with a schooner (R$ 50 – US$ 10), which carries more people and takes longer, and with a taxi boat (R$ 80 – US$ 16), which is much faster. Both options will drop you off at the beautiful Praia do Pouso, and from there, you need to do a 25-minute hike to get to Lopes Mendes.

You’ll discover the natural splendour of Lopes Mendes at your own pace and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Ilha Grande’s most captivating beach.

After exploring the crystal-clear waters, pristine sands, and lush surroundings, you’ll return to Vila do Abraão either at 15h30 or 17h30.

Aerial view over Lopes Mendes Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil
The breathtaking beauty of Lopes Mendes

Taking a boat tour is one of the best things to do in Ilha Grande and if you’re visiting the island during the high season, I highly recommend booking in advance. The tours are in general cheaper from April to November.

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4 – Uncover Ilha Grande’s ruins

Ilha Grande has a fascinating history! The island was occupied by Portuguese, French, Dutch, Spanish and English explorers, received a large number of slaves during the colonial time, and housed two prisons.

During your visit, you can see the ruins of Lazareto, a farmhouse that in 1884 was redesigned as a quarantine stopover for European immigrants and worked as a federal prison from 1940 to 1954.

If unveiling Lazareto and Prison ruins sounds a bit bizarre to you, check out the ruins of the aqueduct. Built with stones and whale oil in 1893, the aqueduct carried water from Abraão Stream headwater to the Lazareto. It’s 15 high and 125m long with dozens of picturesque arches.

Seeing these remains is one of the most unusual things to do on Ilha Grande and I was so surprised. Both places are within walking distance from Vila do Abraão and if you prefer to go with a guide, I suggest this Private Historic Walking Tour.

A man crossing the arches of the Aqueduct ruins, Ilha Grande, Brazil

5 – Go hiking

Whether you’re a hiker or an occasional stroller, there’s a vast number of mapped trails on Ilha Grande to choose from and it’ll be easy to find some that suit you.

The island has more than 93 mi of hiking trails connecting the coastal villages, beaches, and hamlets.

Some of the most popular Ilha Grande hikes are: T01 – Abraão Loop (4 km), T13 Abraão – Pico de Papagaio, the second highest peak on the island and the best place to watch the sunrise (6 km each way), and T10 – Abraão to Lopes Mendes Beach (6.9 km each way).

Hike through the rainforest is one the best adventurous things to do on Ilha Grande and a great opportunity to unleash the Indiana Jones in you.

A hiking trail on Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Remember to wear appropriate clothes when hiking to bring water with you. You’re hiking in a rainforest and might encounter some animals, including snakes.

6 – Cool down on a waterfall

If you want to cool down in the refreshing waters of a waterfall during your trip, you might be pleased to hear that you can visit some waterfalls on Ilha Grande, such as Cachoeira da Feiticeira, Cachoeira do Bicão, and Cachoeira Mãe D’água.

Cachoeira da Feiticeira is the most famous and easiest accessible one. To reach the 15m-high waterfall, you can hike from Vila do Abraão, around 1h30min, or take a taxi boat to Praia da Feiticeira and walk 30min instead.

The moderate and well-marked trail is full of ups and downs through the lush beauty of the Atlantic Forest. You can hike by yourself, but if you prefer you can book this private guided hike to Feiticeira Waterfall and four beaches.

7 – Go partying

If you want to enjoy Ilha Grande’s nightlife, the only place where you can shake your booty is Vila do Abraão.

Here you can find scenic waterfront restaurants with lovely lightning that are perfect to sip a caipirinha with your other half, bars with live music that attract many tourists and locals alike, and parties with DJs to dance the night away with your friends.

Che Lagarto and Aquario, two waterfront hostels situated 15 minutes from the centre of the island, are the hottest nightlife spots on Ilha Grande. They host awesome parties with DJs every night during the high season.

Other places worth checking out are Biergarten Hostel Bar, which offers live music, and Praia da Julia.

Vila do Abraao at night, Ilha Grande, Brazil
Ilha Grande nightlife can be quiet, but also very busy

8 – Eat plenty of “Comida Brasileira”

Brazil is a country with a diverse cuisine with African, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese and Indigenous influences, that vary greatly from region to region and go beyond the traditional beans & rice.

There are plenty of delicious dishes to awaken your senses and satisfy your palate during your trip, such as moqueca, feijoada, and tapioca.

Not to mention the tropical and exotic fruits, like açai, graviola, acerola… hmmm. Mouthwatering!

Moqueca de peixe (fish stew with coconut milk and palm oil)
Moqueca (fish stew with coconut milk and palm oil)

Need some inspiration to visit my lovely home state? Here it is:

9 – Try some cachaça

Are you familiar with cachaça? The “Brazilian rum” made from sugar cane? Cachaça is widely used in Brazil to make the country’s most popular drink, caipirinha.

If you haven’t tried it yet, while on Ilha Grande you can try out different types of cachaças.

Cachaçaria da Vila produces craft and organic exquisite cachaças and liqueurs that’ll awaken your taste buds. Some of the flavours available include passion fruit, cocoa, soursop, pineapple with coconut, and clove with cinnamon.

Cachaçaria da Vila, Ilha Grande

10 – Go souvenir shopping

Vila do Abraão is full of bars, restaurants, and shops. And if you want to take home a souvenir from this piece of paradise, you will find many options.

You can buy some clothing for yourself or as a gift, beach accessories such as hats and sunglasses, handmade bags, flip flops, art crafts, etc.

My favourite store on the island is Tupã, which sells extraordinary products hand-crafted by several indigenous groups.

Tupã Store, Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This is my Ilha Grande travel guide, and I hope this post will help you to plan your trip.

After your visit, you will understand why it’s one of my favourite islands in Brazil.

Safe travels and have fun on Ilha Grande.

I always recommend that you buy travel insurance! It can literally be your lifeline if something happens to you, or your luggage is lost or stolen.

Ilha Grande, Brazil: How to Get There, What to Do, Tours & Tips 2

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Travel Planning Resources For every booking made through my site I donate US$ 1 for a charitable organization.Safe travels ☺

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