The best tourist destination in Brazil is, without a doubt, the city of Rio de Janeiro. Not only it is a spot of wonders, like the Statue of Christ the Redeemer and the Car cable at Pão de Açulcar Hill, but it also gives visitors a joyful atmosphere and an adventurous feeling. With this in mind, getting on the road to discover new exotic places makes total sense. However, if the road is not enough for you, what about a boat trip? Getting to know Ilha Grande, a paradisical island of Rio, might be the best discovery in this part of Brazil.
Even though Ilha Grande is very close to the continent and the capital, the trip can take nearly 3 hours. The name of the island, which in Portuguese means "Big Island", is accurate considering that it is the largest island in the State of Rio de Janeiro and the sixth-largest maritime island in Brazil. With a total area of 193 km², the mountainous relief presents itself at the highest point, the Pedra D'Água hill, with 1,031 meters, a nice spot for extreme sports.
In one of its bays, you can find the main village - Abraão Village (or, Vila do Abraão), one of the best points to know the local culture, with approximately 3000 inhabitants. There, you can find most of the island's infrastructure, such as hotels and restaurants. A ferry departs daily towards the continent, to the cities Angra dos Reis and Mangaratiba.
Keep in mind that the day starts early in Ilha Grande, so try to arrive as early as possible in Abrãao Beach (the same place you arrive with the ferry) to get a boat trip and fully enjoy the whole day. Tours depart between 10h and 10h30, so the best plan is to do this tour on a day when you will wake up already in Ilha Grande. My advice, for the first day after you arrive, is to visit the village center to get in touch with the locals. But also try to explore the nearby beaches of Abraãozinho and Praia Comprida, more or less 20 min walk from the village center. Another amazing place is the beautiful Palmas Beach, but for this one, you will have to do a slightly longer trail through the forest that can take approximately 1h30. The trail ends at the wooden pier that will leave you facing the sea, an incredible experience.
If you are in the explorer mood, be prepared to pass some hours or even an entire day at the boat visiting the paradisical beaches around Ilha Grande. By the way, there are some options for trips that you can choose from. Options may vary between "Meia Volta" (or, halfway around the island), "Volta Ilha" (complete way around the island), "Ilhas de Angra" (Angra Islands), and "Super Sul" (just the beaches at the south of the island). Each of them has a different route, so take into consideration the time you have and your budget. In any case, you can schedule your trip in advance with a local agency, or directly on the beach with the boat owners.
Depending on the trip you choose, you might pass through the beach Lopes Mendes, one of the best and most beautiful beaches in Brazil. It was even top of the list in this category in specialized magazines. In total, the place is 3 km long, with no constructions of any kind, being a wild beach of fine white sand and mixed shades of blue and green water with incredible transparency.
The little beach of Caxadaço is also one nice spot to relax. The strip of sand there is narrow, but there is a short trail to climb the rocks nearby the beach. The water is super green and crystalline, great for snorkeling. Not too far, by boat, you can come to the next beach "Dois Rios". A fun fact about this one is that in the past the access was forbidden because there was a prison there, imploded in 1994. Nowadays, it is possible to reach Dois Rios through a trail from Abraão, although this is recommended only if you have a more athletic preparation.
Besides all other places, the beach of Aventureiro is indeed the most famous and the high point of this trip. It is a perfect place for extreme sports like surfing, but also a great spot to relax and enjoy the day. One of its most famous sights is the coconut tree leaning over the beach. Also, Aventureiro has more structure than others, with restaurants and camping spots. Plus, do not forget to visit the viewpoint "Pedra do Sundara", with an amazing view of the whole beach from the top. The climb is not so tiring and is recommended for all ages.
I would recommend that you bring at least two swimsuits as well as some light and comfortable clothes. Also, pack your walking shoes for the trails and flip-flops. In your backpack, do not forget to add water, fruits, an insect repellent, and a sunscreen (very important). Even though some boats offer a sun shelter, you can severely burn your skin, even when swimming. It is also very important to bring cash, as several places do not accept credit cards or bank transference. My advice here is to schedule the maximum of things in advance and only bring the amount you are planning to use.
Finally, I hope you find my tips useful, and I am sure you will enjoy this amazing and exotic boat trip to Ilha Grande, Rio's paradise island, as much as I did.
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