Posted on July 22, 2015
Island Life: Ilha Grande
Periodic power outages, spotty wifi, sand in the sheets, taxi boat rides, reggae music and obligatory sunburn, just a small glimpse of life here on Ilha Grande. The town consists of a handful of quaint streets lined with tour companies, surf shops and restaurants. Many have live music throughout the day and lounge chairs right on the beach where the ocean cools your feet with each wave. No cars are allowed on he island but there are plenty of pull carts and bikes to move people and goods around. Be careful not to step on the many stray dogs sleeping right in the middle of the streets or wandering around inside the markets Not sure they actually belong to anyone in particular or perhaps just collectively to the local population. Each morning men are selling fish and on the corner at the bottom of our hill and at 1pm and 4pm a new wave of tourists arrive on the ferry. Thankfully we are here during low season and the island really doesn’t feel too busy.
We again have rented an apartment through airbnb.com and are completely satisfied with our choice. Our place is a few streets off the main area which has turned out to be really nice in the evening when things get busier and noisier in town. We’ve got a main living area, full kitchen and bath, loft for sleeping in and a porch with 2 hammocks and a table and chairs all overlooking the beautiful ocean and mountains. Every morning is like waking up in a dream. I can’t believe this is real! For the first couple of days we didn’t do much. Slept in late, cooked breakfast and relaxed in the hammocks and read our books. In the evenings we watched movies and cooked dinner at home and just enjoyed the peace and quiet. Such a nice contrast to last week in the city.
Ok enough laziness. Time to get some exercise. The entire 75-square mile island (for reference Manhattan Island, NYC is about 23 sq. mi) is protected State Park land and offers a variety of different hikes and walks. We had read online about a nice hike across the island to a popular beach called Lopes Mendes. We were advised to wear sturdy shoes and I’m glad we did! It was a pretty tough 5 mile climb up and down through the jungle but the views were beautiful and worth the sweat and effort. We were fortunate to see a few small monkeys and lots of unique plants and trees. The whole hike took us about 2.5 hours and the first thing we did upon arrival at the beach was jump into the water! Ahh such a nice reward. We opted for the speed boat taxi back which only took 15 minutes. Wait a second Aaron, you mean we didn’t HAVE to walk all the way there!?!? hahaha, what a great day, but boy are our legs going to be sore tomorrow.
Date night out for the week was a wonderful dinner at Dom Mario Restaurant. Great little place tucked away on a side street provided a private and cozy evening. Our first course was a heart of palm and sun-dried tomato salad which also happened to be Aaron’s first time ever having heart of palm and he loved it. In general we’ve noticed that meal sizes have tended to be on the larger side so we split the shrimp, rice and potato dish in a decadent cream sauce! OMG paradise in your mouth. After dinner we needed to walk off the meal a bit and strolled through the town square which was alive with vendors, people and live music performances.
The next day we rented 2 paddle boards for an hour ($13 each) and explored the bay area. We treated ourselves to a beer while floating out on the open water and soaked up the warm sun. This was more fun then we had anticipated and we hope to do it again some time soon. We had about an hour left of sunlight so we stopped for a drink on the beach and laughed about how lucky we are to be here! life sure is good.
For our last day on the island we booked an all-day around the island speed boat tour with Avant Tours ($40 each). Our group consisted of 10 people from London, Wales, Spain, France and Lithuania and we enjoyed getting to meet people from all over the world. We visited 5 different beaches, spending about 50 minutes at each place. We went cliff jumping at Caxadaco beach, laid out and read at Parnaioca beach, saw the iconic bent coconut tree at Avenureiro beach and went snorkeling at Praia dos Meros beach. Our last stop was at a restaurant on Maguariquessaba beach, but we had packed our own snacks and so we just enjoyed the views. Thankfully one of the other passengers was able to translate for us as our driver did not speak English and the snorkeling was only so-so, but overall this was a great trip.
We will be sad to leave such a magical place and recommend that anyone traveling to Brazil come stay on Ilha Grande. You won’t regret it.