Once planning our South American trip, as usual we were looking for information about certain places, but about Ilha Grande we couldn’t find much. And even if we gathered some reviews, they were either not relevant, nor helpful, sometimes even contradictory, and in some cases a bit misleading, too. That even made me think maybe ‘let’s not to complicate’ our already fully packed schedule and ‘let’s just skip this idea’…
But in parallel you start looking for pictures about Ilha Grande, and when you read about its scenic beauty, unspoilt tropical beaches, luxuriant vegetation, and rugged landscape… the fact that the motorised vehicles are forbidden… you just simply know, if you are already there, so close to this island, you cannot just miss out this experience.
We have discovered that the easiest way to get to a Ilha Grande from Rio de Janeiro is actually via Conceição de Jacareí, which is approx. in 2-hour-driving distance. We haven’t booked any ferry upfront, we decided to go there and check with our own eyes how it works. When we arrived to the village, we tried to find a parking place close to the port, and once we parked, a local guy immediately appeared and asked if he could help with anything. It turned out that he was representing one of the ferry companies, and offered his services, a secured parking place, where we could leave our rented car while we would be away on the island, a catamaran boat that left to Ilha Grande in 30 minutes, and we could pay buy card too, the same price like all the other ferry companies were charging. Simple and perfect!
Arriving to Ilha Grande…
Most of the visitor facilities of Ilha Grande are located at Vila do Abraão. This is where we booked our accommodation for two nights, at Pousada Solar Da Praia. And this the place to where you can arrive with the ferry from the mainland, too.
The Pousada we had booked was 10 steps(!) away from the port. Since the island is super calm without having any motorised vehicles, during the night we were able to listen the waves of the ocean even in our our room. It couldn’t have been any better, like falling asleep on the relaxing sound of the long ocean waves… 🌊
First, we have decided to go for a stroll by ourselves, since the weather was perfect to have a bath and enjoy the beach. Our Pousada offered to us a free welcome drink in a bar in 15-minute-walking distance, and they warned us that some part of the walk you need to be barefoot, since little rivers would be crossing your paths without any bridges or boards to cross, so you either walk in the water or you need to find another way to get to this bar. How cool it is!
Although it has no roads and the motorised vehicles banned, the island has more than 150 km of hiking trails connecting all the coastal villages and hamlets. Lodgings have been made available near many of island’s 100 unspoilt beaches. One of the most popular activities for visitors is to trek or to bike to Lopes Mendes beach, about a two-hour hike from Abraão. Travel companies are now offering sight-seeing trips to see the island’s various beaches, mountains trails and waterfalls.
The next day we have decided to go for a walk on the beach trail to Praia Abraão and Praia Preta direction. The moment we left the Pousada a local dog accompanied us voluntarily. Overall there are many free cute dogs all over the village, and in the hope of a potential free food bite, they like to be around the tourists. But this cutie pie decided to come with us for the entire walk, wherever we went, he followed us, if we were lost he was showing us the way. I named him João. ☺️
He spent the whole morning with us, when we stopped to have a bath, he was waiting for us, and if anyone else crossed our route he still stayed loyal to us, even though we have never given him any food. In the afternoon when we arrived back to the village, approx after 3-4 hours, he just discreetly went to greet the rest of the dogs and left us, we have never seen him again…
The food 😋
Usually we like to try the local food to understand the local gastronomy, the ingredients they are using, taste their spices and so on. But since we were coming from Rio de Janeiro, where we had already tried many restaurants and tasted amazing food, I was not thinking that potentially we would be able to try something very different on Ilha Grande, and how mistaken I was!!
The most common dish variant you are able to find on Ilha Grande called Moqueca. It’s kind of a fish stew with the available fresh fishes from the ocean, local vegetables and it’s usually served in a big pan with rice on the side, and it’s more than enough for two persons.
But there is a version, I’m still dreaming of, so called Moqueca de Banana, which is done with fresh banana, boiled within the fish stew. It’s sounds weird, but if you taste once, believe me, you don’t want to eat anything else during your stay.
The next morning after a quick stroll, we had our last breakfast and left the Pousada. Since we had bought return tickets, we just simply went to the port, they had a very clear and easy to follow schedule and the catamaran was exactly on time. Sadly we left Ilha Grande, with many amazing memories in our hearts of this place and with the feeling of how many great things are still ahead of us on this trip. Our next destination was Paraty, but about that an other article will tell. 😉