Difference between revisions of "Ilha Grande"
Revision as of 13:40, 24 May 2016
The main settlement on the island is called Vila do Abraão and most transport goes to there. There are three main ports on the mainland from where boats regularly leave for Abraão: Mangaratiba (closest to Rio), Concecao de Jacarai (the one closest to the island and with most connections) and Angra dos Reis (closest to Sao Paulo). There are slow boats with capacity of 500-1000 passengers that cost R$15 (prices in this paragraph as per Feb 2016) and they usually leave once a day from Mangaratiba and Angra. There are also more frequent fast boats for 15-30 people that cost around R$30 (to Jacarei) and there are taxi boats that cost more. This website has some timetables (all in Portuguese but easy to understand with google translate).
To get from Rio to Mangaratiba/Jacarei/Angra you can take the expensive Costa Verde  buses from the Rodoviaria in Rio. It costs R$37.50 to Mangaratiba and R$54 to Jacarei/Angra. You can also get there by changing three or four public buses for less than R$20 but you need to figure out the connections (basically from Itaguai there is a public bus for R$3.60 that goes to Jacarai). Daily buses from São Paulo to Angra dos Reis are operated by Reunidas Paulista .
There are also some tour companies that sell a door-to-island package for a van and boat. These cost R$95++ one way and they pick up from locations in the touristic parts of Rio.
To get to Ilha Grande you have to take a boat. There are three main points of departure, they are in order from north to south: Mangaratiba, Conceição de Jacareí and Angra dos Reis. There are also speedboats from Paraty a couple times a week, although they are more expensive. Ferries operated by Barcas SA  leave daily from Mangaratiba and Conceição de Jacareí'. Barcas SA are a government-run company, so have decent safety standards and you won't get ripped off. Terminal Santa Luzia is discouraged, their prices are much higher than those of Barcas SA.
Perhaps the best way to get to the island from Rio is to take the 05:00 Costa Verde bus to Mangaratiba (R$37.50 as of May 2016), it will leave you at the dock a little past 07:00 so you'll have time to have breakfast and take the 08:00 Barca to Ilha Grande (R$15). You can buy the tickets for the boat right there in a booth, it won't be full because it has a 1,000 passenger capacity. It is also possible to overnight in Mangaratiba, although options are limited - there are no hostels, only a couple of pousadas and a hotel.
From the bus terminal in Angra dos Reis you can take a taxi or walk to the port, is very close and relatively safe. Boats leave from here on a semi-regular schedule. Bus fare to Angra from Rio with Costa Verde (as of May 2016) is R$54. Daily buses from São Paulo to Angra dos Reis are operated by Reunidas Paulista .
Conceição de Jacareí is a district of Mangaratiba - this is the shortest crossing point. Barcas SA also operates this route once a day, weekday departure is at 15:30, at weekends and on holidays it leaves at 13:30. There are also many other smaller boats which make the trip at various times or when they have sufficient passengers.
From Rio de Janeiro, you can now book online for door to island transfers with the Green Toad Bus  website. Pick-up from your hostel then a 3 hours drive to the docks where the transfer to a boat to travel 30 minutes to the island. You stop at an ATM to cash-up before hitting the island which has no ATM machine. They also have bus trips starting from Sao Paulo and Paraty. Daily buses operated by the Costa Verde out of Rio de Janeiro to Angra dos Reis and Mangaratiba.
It is important to note is that there are no banks on the island, you should bring plenty of cash since not all hotels, shops and restaurants accept credit cards.
There are no roads and no private cars on the island. A good option is to use Vila do Abraão as a base and plan day trips from there. There are several hiking trails to the many beaches on the island. Some trails can be strenuous in the tropical weather, so be prepared and take plenty of fluid. Remember that night falls early and dawn is short near the equator, so carry a flashlight if you plan to return after 6PM. Many beaches can be reached by boat and several agencies in Vila do Abraão sell packages for the numerous schooners serving the island. It is easy to find one-way trips and pick ups back to Vila do Abraão on many beaches in the evening.
It is possible to walk around the outside of the island in about 4 or 5 days if you're not in too much of a hurry. Its best to start at Abraão and go in an anticlockwise direction, through Dois Rios. Note that accommodation on the back side of the island is scarce and free camping is illegal. At Parnaioca beach on the backside, arguably one of the most beautiful spots on the whole island and worth spending at least a couple of days at, you can ask for accommodation in the local houses (there are only about 8 people living there); ask for Sr. João, he'll help you out. Meals can also be purchased, but variety is very limited, so it might be a good idea to take some food. There used to be a camping ground there with some very limited infrastructure run by the locals, but in 2006 that was prohibited by the national environmental agency (IBAMA), and was still prohibited at the end of 2007, although the locals were apparently appealing this ruling.
There are beautiful beaches, some considered to be among the nicest of Brazil.
Lopes Mendes beach in Ilha Grande was voted one of the top 10 most beautiful in the world by Vogue Magazine 3 years ago. The water is shallow a long way out, making for good surfing conditions. The usual boat route takes you from the main settlement to another beach on the opposite side of the island (40' long trip, R$ 15 one way, R$ 20 return). From here, there are 20 minutes of relatively steep footpath to Lopes Mendes to get you nice and ready for a dip. Beware of strong currents a bit out.
Parnaioca best beach but only by boat or 3 hour hike from Dois Rios. Two Campings. 
Praia do Leste closed as natural reserve! 
Praia do Sul closed as natural reserve! 
Praia Dois Rios well marked easy hike from Vila Abraão 
Caxadaço well marked hike from Vila Abraão, at the end not easy 
Praia Santo Antonio Quiete alternative with same boat as Lopes Mendes 
Paria Recifes 
Praia do Aventureiro the postcard beach! 
Rent equipment in Vila Abraão
at Sitio Forte
Hiking in the rain forest at Papagaio Peak - A 2-3 hour hike to the peak. Marked, despite some warnings you may hear, and with a beautiful view at the top. Bring lots of water.
There are a few souvenir shops in Vila do Abraão selling t-shirts, magnets and other stuff. In fact, there is nothing typical or special to buy in Ilha Grande.
There are about 30 restaurants in the island. Some are expensive but there are many cheaper options like hamburgers. Try FOOD for KILO; pay about US $0.80 per 100g for very nice food.
The seafood is generally very good and could perhaps be regarded as a specialty. Many restaurants offer casseroles with several types of seafood, served as a dish for two. Although in the higher price range for Ilha Grande, they are delicious and good value for money. The best place to go for traditional Brazilian is Frutos do Mar located on Rue da Praia. Try their Brazilian fish stew, that alone is worth the journey to Ilha Grande.
There is no clubbing scene or electronic dance - at night it's drinking beer in the main square and dancing with live local music like bossa nova, forró, and samba. One recent and popular bar is the Cafe Do Mar , which is on the eastern side of Villa do Abraao. Right next to the beach, they serve cold beer, mean caipirinhas and cool music, in a very chilled out atmosphere. They also have well attended BBQ nights, which offer delicious fresh fish etc and serve narghile (also known as sheesha). Kebab is their sister bar in the town itself, offering Greek style kebabs with great juices, drinks and cocktails and the same funky atmosphere. Here there is also a little wok bar where you can see them make noodles for you. Restaurante Esquinas Bar is a good place to sit by the beach. You grab a beer, meet some people, buy some artcrafts and hear the locals play Brazilian music. If it rains, don't worry, it'll pass.
There are plenty of accommodations in Vila Abraão, plus a couple of camping grounds. Free camping is illegal, but you might get away with it on some beaches. You can bring your own hammock. Few campsites have a special place for hammocks (Camping do peixado in Abraao for example).
There are a couple of youth hostels. The best one is a small trek uphill but it is worth passing the first HI and heading up to this one which is in more natural surroundings. Wildlife abundant.
Abraão is basically comprised of two main parallel streets. One goes right by the ocean and the other goes right behind it. As you get off the boat on the pier go to the second street from the ocean and turn left. Most of the budget hostels are on this street. The first you should see is Resta 1. There are also 2 hostels at the end of the beach on the left hand side as you get off the boat. In high season a lot of hostels can be full. Several camping grounds are also available. One which is fairly centrally located and is very likely to have some vacancies is Santana´s Camping. Located on the opposite side to Resta 1 on the street connecting two main streets.
A few inns with standard prices of USD 30-45. All clean and well managed:
Out of Abraão
Aracatiba town is a cheaper option but it doesn't offer much in terms of tourist facilities, it´s more for weekend tourists who live in Angra dos Reis area already. Its location is far away from Abraão, Lopes Mendes or Dois Rios, so it's not a very convenient choice if it's your first visit to the island. Bananal Beach or Sitio Forte have nice mini-resorts, a good option for honeymooners.
In the Blue Lagoon (Lagoa Azul) is a lodge where The Island Experience () is located. This is a 7 day adventure spa which offers trekking, kayaking, yoga, massage and a detox menu. During the Brazillian summer it operates as a pousada under the name Estrela da Ilha ().