August 29th, 2011

Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro State

As Americans we are very much part of a car culture. We drive to work, to the grocery store, to visit friends – pretty much everywhere. One of the joys of living in Rio is that we rarely use the car. Public transportation takes Richard to work, I walk to do shopping and the stores deliver the goods to our home, we walk, bus or taxi to visit friends. It has been remarkably liberating. And, I must confess, the thought of having to find a parking place in this city is enough to give one pause and to leave the car at home.

That being said, we do use our Toyota for road trips outside the city. One of our favorites is to head south and west to various colonial towns and beach communities along the Costa Verde, or green coast. This August – wintertime here in the southern hemisphere – we headed out to Ilha Grande in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Ilha Grande is a lovely vehicle free island with great hiking opportunities and a lovely laid back atmosphere. We had visited last year over American Labor Day but it seems I never got around to writing about it. We obviously liked it well enough to return and hope to do so yet again.

It’s about a 2 hour drive on the Rio-Santos highway (BR 101) to the various ferry boat stations.

We made arrangements in advance to leave our car in Conceição de Jacarei but there are also options in Mangaratiba and Angra dos Reis. Parking options Collapse )

Conceição is a charming little hole in the wall but a lovely place to stop while waiting for the boat and perhaps enjoy a coconut, beer or soda.

The boat ride from Conceição is only 45 minutes which is another advantage – it is a longer trip from either Mangaratiba or Angra. The boats are very small and the water can be rough so we prefer the shorter route.

The boat arrives in Vila do Abraão, the one town on the island and luggage is hauled by hand or by wheel barrow. The only vehicles on the island are a police car and the garbage truck. Otherwise, the taxis are boats and the primary means of getting around are feet. The scene that awaits your arrival is tranquil with blue skies and the lush green tropical forest of the Mata Atlantica.

The town is pretty simple and very pedestrian friendly. Don’t be fooled by the paving in this picture, most of the roads are dirt (or on a rainy day, mud)

Restaurants are arrayed along the beach and are open air with the occasional ceiling fan. For such a small town the dining really is quite nice.

Our choice of lodging was the Pousada Solar da Praia, located right on the beach and very near to the dock

The garden dining area is charming, the breakfasts are very good and the rooms are clean and comfortable – what more does one need?

For the shoppers there is a shopping “mall” with lots of tourist and clothing shops, travel offices to arrange boat and other tours and a pretty good Italian restaurant.

But the primary attraction for daily activity is hiking. There are 16 trails that are imaginatively named T01 through T16. Interestingly the information office does not provide free maps but it is worth spending the R$10 to pick one up at one of the tourist shops.

Trail T01 – the “starter” trail. Collapse )

Living in Rio we have become total beach snobs. Ipanema, Copacabana, Flamengo – all are strikingly beautiful beaches right in our back yard. But we regularly read the guide books and take the time to visit the latest, greatest report on the “most beautiful beach in Brazil”. The phrase is clearly overused here but the beaches do not disappoint. There are just so many beautiful spots – it would be impossible for me to say which I have found to be the most beautiful. But, here we are on Ilha Grande and the guide books identify Lopes Mendes as one of the best, so off we go.

Trails 10 and 11 – A hike to one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil. - Collapse )
Our final hike brought us to yet another part of the island, to the Saco do Céu. We had no idea what we would find there but by now were pretty much expecting rustic and tranquil. Well….. apparently there is yet another aspect of the island about which we were unaware.

T02 - The trail to luxo... Collapse )

The variety that the island offers is very cool and we only saw half the island. This is a destination well worth the trip. Pack your good hiking shoes, bathing suits and a readiness to relax and enjoy.

See also -