Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most spectacular tropical island destinations in the world – in our opinion. Sitting comfortably off the bustling coast of Rio, this emerald eden is the definition of jungle and beach paradise.
Ilha Grande is a sun seeker’s utopia and adventure lover’s dream, and offers a wealth of water-based activities from snorkelling to kayaking, surfing and diving. The lush Atlantic forest criss-crossing over the island is home to a network of trails and paths, each worthy of exploring. A mere 45 minute sea crossing from the mainland, Ilha, makes it a perfectly accessible destination for a day trip from riveting Rio.
Because this rugged and picturesque island is largely uninhabited, accommodation is scarce. As a matter of fact, there aren’t even cars or banks on the island – it really is untouched and remote. The main village on paradise is called Vila do Abraão; situated just above a cove. This is the main centre where you will find plenty of visitor information to book your tours.
The island’s wild terrain and remoteness, means that it’s not a destination overrun with 5 star resorts. Here you’ll find rather humble accommodation options in the form of guest houses and “pousadas”, which are intimate boutique hotels. We suggest you head to Aratinga Inn, a jungle hideaway offering incredible accommodation and expert first-hand travel advice. The team will even advise their guests on restaurant selections (a firm favourite are two restaurants, Dom Mario and Lua e Mar) in the area.
It is certainly worth staying at least one night on this Robinson Crusoe style island for an idyllic ecotourism escape, just so that you have enough time to get involved in the below activities.
Explore the beaches and rugged trails of Ilha Grande
Abraão beach stretches on for miles and offers breathtaking views of the endless turquoise ocean. This beach is ideal for casual strolls and beach relaxation. When you’re done with easy beach walks, spend the afternoon sampling traditional cocktails at the ever-famous Cafe do Mar.
Avid hikers are encouraged to tackle the easy-to-walk Abraão circuit which meanders past ancient ruins and natural pools. The Witches’ Waterfall is a mesmerising curtain of water cascading into blue pools, and can easily be added onto the Abraão circuit for fitness fanatics seeking a more challenging route.
For extreme hikers there’s always the Pico do Papagaio, the second highest peak on the island. It’s a hard and challenging walk, but the panoramic views at the top are completely worth the straining slog.
Another easy-ish hike is to the Two Rivers, which offers exquisite natural views and plenty of wildlife viewing en route.
Diving and snorkelling in Ilha Grande
Water babies will not be disappointed with the underwater kingdom surrounding this densely forested island. There are a handful of places on the island that offer scuba and snorkelling equipment – don’t stress about bringing your own. Activity centres will divulge their favourite diving spots to keen divers. One of these spots happens to be the surfing beach of Lopes Mendes and Gruta do Acaia.
Surfing in Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro
Lopes Mendes is a popular beach for surfing and swimming and is the perfect place to kick back and relax. Take a jungle trail to this beach, catch a few barrels and trek back to the main village for a few refreshments and storytelling sessions.
Boat trips and kayaking in Ilha Grande
Take a boat or kayak trip to the Green and Blue Lagoons, and enjoy numerous swimming stops en route. These famous lagoons provide the perfect habitat for colourful fish, turtles and elusive seahorses to thrive in a natural environment. If you’re passionate about marine animals, the Green and Blue Lagoons are not to be missed.
A delectable seafood lunch stop is in order, and we have it on good recommendation that Point de Verão is the spot for freshly caught and exquisitely prepped seafood.
Want to explore more of Rio? Then click here to read about things to do in Rio.