Stunning, amazing, beautiful and breathtaking are all words you’ll hear people use to describe Ilha Grande. It’s a paradise island, dense with Mata Atlantica rainforest and surrounded by incredible beaches and clear lagoons. There are places to surf or snorkel, and with so many beaches, it’s not hard to find a spot for yourself.
Most people stay in Alemao, the main town, which is touristy with lots of bars, restaurants and shops, but still not too hectic. That said, we went during the week and we hear it has quite a bustling nightlife at weekends. Steve and I were looking for nature rather than a party so we stayed a 15-minute walk out of Alemao in the jungle at Dinho’s Jungle Lodge. The view was stunning and it was great to sleep amid the jungle sounds. We even heard a frog that makes a sound identical to a hammer. Dinho, the owner, is an excellent man from the Pantanal who gave us loads of tips and delighted us with his sunny, relaxed outlook on life. We did one of our favourite interviews so far with him for If I had a Superpower.
Dinner and caiprinhas at the lodge were delicious but we also ventured into town some nights to enjoy some drinks on the sand. Luckily, we remembered our head lamps as getting back through the jungle was quite an adventure, often one step away from the cliff’s edge. A good spot for dinner is Biergarten, a great per-kilo restaurant with plenty of vegetarian options.
What to do during the day in Ilha Grande
During the days, to get to some of the more interesting parts of the islands, you have to be prepared to walk. The island is a hiker’s dream so some of the shorter routes are marked as easy. Don’t be deceived into thinking this equates to a flat walk as even the easy routes can be quite demanding with steep inclines in sweltering heat. It’s all worth it though for the beauty of the forest you encounter and the sea or waterfall you can dip into once you reach your destination. Steve and I trekked to see the waterfall one day and to Las Palmas and Lopez Mendes beaches on another. All of this was stunning. At Lopes Mendes, the sand is so fine that it squeaks beneath your feet. One of the best things was the little sagui monkeys we saw along the way. Some of the lodge’s other guest reported seeing howler monkeys too.
In different circumstances, we could have stayed on Ilha Grande for longer, but unfortunately the internet was very slow and Steve needed it for work. It’s also quite an expensive place and there are no cash machines on the island so you have to budget beforehand. It’s certainly worth it though for a glimpse of unspoiled nature.