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Away from the highway: Ilha Grande

West of Rio de Janeiro lies one of the most beautiful landscapes in Brazil: the Costa Verde (Green Coast). No greater contrast is imaginable: Rio’s overpopulated favelas, loud traffic jams and droves of tourists make way for tropical rainforest, colonial towns and quiet tropical beaches. The highlight along the Green Coast is Ilha Grande, the ‘Large Island’, which has been declared a national park.

Ask any Carioca, a Rio local, what paradise looks like and the answer will most likely be: Ilha Grande. The island can be reached by (rental) car or bus (2.5 hours from Rio de Janeiro to Angra dos Reis), and then a ferry (1.5 hours). Therefore, it certainly is not a day trip; Brazilians reserve a charming pousada (bed and breakfast) and make it an overnight getaway.

Rio’s paradise: Ilha Grande
Rio’s paradise: Ilha Grande

Rio de Janeiro

Boating along 107 tropical beaches

The red-ruffed fruitcrow, brown howler monkey, maned sloth, red-browed Amazon and broad-snouted caiman are just some of the endangered species that make their home in this pristine Atlantic Rainforest. The entire island is a protected national park and therefore completely car-free. Stay at an eco-lodge or pousada in the main town of Vila do Abraão and explore the almost 200-square-kilometre island on foot along 16 marked walking routes.
You can also ride a mountain bike through forest-clad hillsides to visit various waterfalls or take a boat tour along the many bays, coves and beaches. The island’s beaches are perfect for spending a lazy day in a hammock or enjoying a picnic. You will also find excellent diving and snorkelling sites. In addition to large schools of colourful fish, you may also come nose to nose with a sea turtle or dolphin. Cariocas are right: Ilha Grande is paradise on earth.

“Explore car-free Ilha Grande on foot or by boat along 107 beaches”

Paradise on earth

Eco-hostel, boutique hotel or jungle lodge?

Because of its protected status, Ilha Grande only offers small-scale, eco-friendly accommodations. A great budget option is Aquario Hostel, located next to a beautiful beach with a natural swimming pool. Another option is the Jungle Lodge, which is situated in the rainforest just outside of the village and offers various boat and hiking tours. If you’re looking for a more exclusive stay, take a short boat trip from Abraão to the Asalem: a luxurious hide-away on a blue bay. Keep in mind that the exuberant biodiversity of Ilha Grande means that insects also have free reign – so come armed with a hefty supply of insect repellent.
Sunset at Lopes Mendes beach