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 Angra is farther from Rio and the first two locations have plenty of parking and ferry options so are more convenient in our view. The parking service that we have used is Estacionamento Ilha Grande (the first one listed in the attached link). Marcos is the guy we talk to. Tel: (21) 9523-1326 / (21) 8624-0928 / (21) 2685-6836. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org; The address (which our Garmin was able to find!) is: Rua Projetada, nº 10 lote 12 and the web link is: http://www.ilhagrande.org/Estacionamento-Angra-Mangaratiba/conceicao-jacarei.html They are very trustworthy but only speak portuguese.
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 http://www.solardapraia.com.br/inicio-ing.html.
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.
The shortest and closest to town trail is T01 – a gentle 2 km loop trail just west of town. The trail starts along the coast,
provides lots of opportunities for self portraits,
And a chance to meet the local micos, or small local monkeys.
Interestingly there are the remains of an aqueduct along the way. Sadly, we learned very little about the history or age of the aqueduct but it felt very Indiana Jones-ish to come upon this in middle of the mata atlantica.
Along the way are also some waterfalls and pools – a lovely respite on a hot day.
The trail climbs to provide some great panoramas of the mata atlantica.
All in all, a good way to start the visit.
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. -
The trails really are pretty well marked and the difficulty ratings are pretty accurate.
Weather, however, makes all the difference. An easy trail in dry weather is just a bit more treacherous after a rain. We were blessed with fabulous weather and enjoyed the climb along the way and the look back to town.
The trail provides a fair amount of variation in growth including a section through a bamboo jungle,
After the 6 km hike we arrived at Lopes Mendes and were not disappointed. I honestly cannot say whether it is the most beautiful or whether it is in the top 10, but I can say that it was lovely and tranquil. No boats are allowed in the bay so whoever arrives has done some work to do so. As a result, it is not crowded but is served by the few vendors who have hiked in with their beverages and ice. Amazingly they did not charge ridiculous rates – very impressive. So we stayed and enjoyed.
And we posed to prove our presence.
And, more importantly, we settled in for some sun time to fully take advantage of the lovely setting.
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...
We got off the trail at one point and decided to just head down to the beach and get our bearings. In so doing, we arrived at what looked like a lovely pousada/spa right on the beach that we thought would make a lovely lodging option for our next trip.
The grounds were manicured and elegant and dappled with ponds and swans and palm trees.
Sadly, we discovered that we had entered a private property – apparently the northwest part of the island is much less rustic and much more the playground of the yacht crowd.
Having been summarily dismissed we did at least see some friendly wildlife along the beach as we headed back to the trail.
Continuing along the trail we found beer shacks and pretty classy beach restaurants. After the 8 km hike out to Saco do Ceu we decided to partake of some beer, explore a bit and take a water taxi back to Abraão.
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 - http://www.ilhagrande.com.br/