Ilha Grande (“Big Island”) is a popular getaway from Rio de Janeiro. From the city, it’s only two hours by car and a short boat ride. The island has white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and exciting forest trails, making it the perfect tropical retreat.
One of the most exciting features of Ilha Grande is that it is a car-free zone. All the cobbled streets and dust tracks are totally pedestrianised. So if you have a late night out, whether at a bar or star gazing on the beach, make sure you know your way back on foot as there will be no Uber or taxi to come and get you.
There are no ATM cash machines on the island, so you need to take plenty of cash. Credit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants, but sometimes you need cash to pay for the taxi boats, and for the boat tours.
It gets really busy there. So, make sure you book accommodation well in advance to save the hassle of trawling around searching for the few rooms left on the island.
The Candido Mendes Prison is an abandoned maximum-security prison on Ilha Grande. It was once home to hundreds of Brazil’s most dangerous criminals until it was closed in 1962. All the inmates were relocated to other prisons around the country. You can do a trail to see that. I did a trail which was supposed to be one of the easiest ones.
Ilha Grande is not a lone island and is surrounded by dozens of nearby, smaller uninhabited isles. Take a boat tour from the main hub of Ilha Grande known as Vila do Abraão and visit these tiny, tropical islands. The beaches there are wild and untouched with marine rich waters offering great snorkelling and diving opportunities. It is very important to take insect repellent. Bringing trainers with you is a good idea due to the fact the whole island is totally car-free, and there are plenty of trails you can walk throughout the forest, another thing is to bring an umbrella – it can get really wet sometimes.
This kind of holiday was really unusual for me. I don’t normally go to places like this in the wild, but it was quite exciting to do a new thing. I will be talking about my boat trips from the island in the next blog.