How to get to Ilha Grande
We booked our transfer through Green toad a travel agent, who are excellent. We were collected from our accommodation at around 12pm due to our location being (Ipanema) this worked well for us as being one of the last stops we weren’t sat in the minivan for long until we actually hit the road.
The driver makes several stops along route to use the toilet and pick up food. The seats do not recline however the drive was comfortable enough and the staff very accommodating.
The boat over to Ilha Grande is a private boat organised through Green toad and so there is no waiting around in queues. Once you reach the port you are swiftly directed onto the boat to take the 40 minute trip over to the island. The staff at Green toad really are excellent and helped us carry our bags down to, on and off the boat.
We had not yet purchased our return tickets but we did so on the boat and at a much lesser price!! It is definitely worth booking your return ticket as minivan spaces are limited and we did see people turning up to the port on the day hoping to buy their transfers but being turned away. At the very least book your return the day before.
Where to stay in Ilha Grande
We stayed at Pousada D Azul. This hotel is set back from the beach and the main street but within in a 5 minute walk from both.
When booking a hotel it is important to find one with a generator!! We were unfortunate as our hotel did not have one and we were left without electricity for 2 hours. This often the case on the island and not ideal when traveling with a toddler. So we’d recommend paying a little extra and staying somewhere with a generator just in case.
The rooms here are also very small!! With two large bags, we did struggle to manage ourselves in this room but the beds were comfortable and room clean. The breakfast consisted of fruit, bread, coffer, cheese and ham, not bad for South American standards.
There is also a pool, conveniently located just outside your door. It’s small, with shallow part for younger children. One thing to note here is that the beaches aren’t that great on Ilah Grande, you’ll need to walk away from the main town (approx. 20 mins) to find a nicer beach area to relax on and so booking accommodation with a pool can be an advantage.
Açaí (pronouned a-sa-ee)
Of all the thousands of fruits from the Amazon, açaí is the best known, thanks to its super-food status. The hard purple berry is also used in Amazonian cooking, as a sauce with fish. Also served as a sweet, gloopy, frozen sorbet, sometimes topped with granola and slices of banana, or whizzed up in juices, it can found in every café, bakery, juice bar and supermarket across the country. You can even buy açaí vodka, and açaí beer.
Fried bar snacks
Beer, served so cold that chunks of ice stick to the bottle, is the drink of choice in Brazil. And an assortment of fried foods makes the perfect pairing, be it pastéis – deep-fried parcels of crisp pastry filled with melting cheese, or minced beef, or creamy palm heart –, or crunchy batons of manioc, bolinhos (‘little balls’) most often made with salt cod. Or perhaps coxinha (‘little thigh’), with shredded chicken and potato pureed, shaped like a (very voluptuous) thigh and covered in golden breadcrumbs.
Pão de queijo
Cheese and bread, two staple favourites the world over, are brought together in glorious union in Brazil’s pão de queijo (cheese bread). This moreish snack is enjoyed as much at breakfast as it is at any time of the day or night. Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.
Cachaça is made from fermented sugarcane juice, and is best known as the fiery kick in caipirinhas – Brazil’s national cocktail
Ilha Grande is an island in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro ringed by beaches, covered by Atlantic forest and crossed by winding trails. On its southeastern shore, the long, palm-lined stretch of Lopes Mendes Beach is known for its strong surf. Lagoa Azul, in the island’s north, has sheltered, fish-filled waters. On the northeast coast, the village of Abraão has the 19th-century São Sebastião Church.
Things to do in Ilha Grande with children
Lopes Mendes – We booked or tour through a tour agency on the beach front. Tour agencies are plentiful and you will not struggle to book last minute.
We took a an hours boat ride over to the South side of the beach where we were dropped off and advised on our meeting time to be back at the port. The boat trip to the island was very wet and windy and so waterproofs are a must if the weather is about to turn.
The beach is about a 20 minute moderate uphill hike to the north side of the island. There is no other way to reach it. You’ll pass through a quitter beach on route to Lopez Mendes and here there is a lovely restaurant built on stilts in the water offering food and drinks. We did not eat here as we’d brought along a picnic but many people did and the food looked delicious. Other than this one restaurant there are beach vendors selling drinks and snacks etc.
Lopes Mendes beach is beautiful and quiet. There is ample of room to enjoy your own personal space. The waves are plentiful but one thing to note is that this is a very windy beach!!! So much so that we could only stay for about an hour and a half before heading back in land to avoid the deafening bluster of the wind. We advise to take a wind tent or wind breaker as the north side of the island faces the pacific and the wind can be very strong and deafening!
This was a short half day trip which suited travel with a toddler.
Trekking to Lopes Mendes – With about 7 km long the trail to Lopes Mendes crosses the wild beaches of Palmas, Mangue and Pouso. The level of the walks is moderate.
Cachoeira e Praia da Feiticeira – Another touristic attraction in Ilha Grande to know is the Waterfall of the Feiticeira. With about 15 meters is considered excellent for rappel. The trail is not the easy, but nothing that with a little effort cannot do it. After a refreshing bath in the River you can head to Feiticeira Beach about an hour’s walk from Abraão. There are also boats that bring you back to Abraao.
Diving– With clean and clear waters Ilha Grande is also good for diving. With several pirates ships below the waters this is a paradise for those who enjoy diving.
Dois Rios – With a river on each side of the beach (the reason for the name of Two Rivers) the beach was known to have a prison located there which now only ruins remaining.
Lagoa Azul – the Blue Lagoon is one of the Ilha Grande paradises. It is perfect for snorkelling and access is only by boat coming out of Abraao Beach.
Green Lagoon – Another must-see attraction of Ilha Grande is the Green Lagoon. The name attribute to the green coral. Green Lagoon can be accessed by trail and is perfect to admire the wild life beyond the beauty of the beach.