Ilha Grande is located south of Rio de Janeiro Brazil and is surrounded by numerous large and small jungle covered islands. It’s a haven for the adventure enthusiast as each place feels like a new unexplored treasure. When we journeyed to Ilha Grande it was a nice contrast from the all the excitement and vibrance that is Rio, especially because we opted to stay at one of the wellness retreat centers Paraíso Azul Retiro along the coast of one of the small islands that make up the Ilha Grande area.
Getting to Ilha Grande is pretty straight forward, but does take a bit of time. Definitely not something we would recommending to go there and back in the same day from Rio, but rather consider spending the night there or in one of the surrounding areas (though you may want to think about staying up to a week in this paradise).
We would suggest departing from Rio De Janeiro and proceeding to one of the ports that have regular boats to the island. You can take either a private car/taxi or bus to one of the ports and then take a ferry or boat from there. The main ports to choose from are Mangaratiba (which is closest to Rio), Conceição de Jacareí (the closest point to Ilha Grande and with the most boat departures) or Angra dos Reis (which is the closest to São Paulo). We went down to Angra dos Reis because it was the closest port to where our retreat center was located. We suggest coordinating with the hotel you will be staying at, as there are multiple ports and you want to make sure you are dropped off at the right one. If you are just going over there for the day then you’ll want to head to Ilha Grande through Vila do Abraão which is the main port of the island and has most of the restaurants.
There are not many motorized vehicles on the island, as most places you access via boat or foot. This makes it very relaxing with super crisp air, but a slight inconvenience if you need to transport heavy luggage. So make sure you plan ahead of time as to which port you want to go to. Ferries, though, can easily be purchased upon arrival to the port.
The Retreat Center
Nestled on a secluded beach near the beautiful Blue Lagoon, away from Ilha Grande's touristic rush, the retreat center of Paraíso Azul Retiro is located in one of the most beautiful spots on the island. The retreat center is only accessible via their own private dock, which makes for undisturbed peace and tranquility.
The Retreat Center: This houses an infinity pool and jacuzzi looking over into the ocean, as well as a spacious yoga shala raised up among the trees and a dry sauna for after. There are also board games, kayaks, paddle boards, and a private beach to enjoy throughout the day.
Meals: You can have all your meals here too, as they make a healthy and refreshing spread from the local produce sure to appeal to all appetites (it certainly did for ours!). Dinner and breakfast are served family style while lunch is ordered by the plate.
Rooms: Each of their bungalow-style rooms comes equipped with a hammock and their own ocean view balcony to relax on during the day. When we weren’t out during the day, we’d open up the full French doors and just let the ocean breeze come trailing in.
What to do
Definitely take the time to discover the area as there are many activities you can do to explore this island paradise:
Boat Trip: It would be a shame to not make your way out on a boat trip for at least a few hours while you are here. With so many docks and bays to see, the best way to truly take it all in is with a boat. Here is the company we used while we were out there and they did a fantastic job of showing us the area. They have many different options from half to full day tours with many different routes to go see.
Water Sports: There’s many other ways to get out and see the water, even if you don’t book a boat ride. At the retreat center they had kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and snorkel equipment. Most places will also have these available for rent along the beach and can be a great afternoon activity amongst the clear blue water and lagoons!
Rejuvenation: Take some time to slow down and enjoy the island vibes while you are here
Yoga: As we mention there was a yoga shala at our retreat center Paraíso Azul Retiro , but even if you don’t choose to stay there, you can come and hang out for the day and enjoy their private beach with tree top yoga room. There’s a small fee involved, but a great way to experience the tranquility. There are also many other yoga studios along the coast you can pop into and practice amidst the ocean breeze.
Massage: There are many massage options in the area and most of the resorts/ hotels will be able to book you with their services even if your not staying there. The prices are relatively affordable, so go ahead and indulge in some good old Rest & Relaxation!
Hiking: Similar to Rio de Janeiro, The islands of Ilha Grande also have some gorgeous jungle mountains. You can take some time to hike around and explore the island. Especially since many of the islands don’t have cars, this is another great way to get out and see multiple beaches. Be careful to not hike to close to sunset time, because it definitely gets dark faster when you are in the jungle! We hiked to a beach to watch the sunset, but had to come back with head lamps…
See the Wildlife: Like much of Brazil, Ilha Grande has plentiful wildlife and a lush rainforest atmosphere. You’ll be sure to see lots of beautiful birds and butterflies. You can also see others flora and fauna, such as the wide variety of tropical fish in the bays as sloths in the jungles.
What Not to Miss
Blue Lagoon - Here you’ll find some of the bluest water in the area. It’s a sheltered lagoon with turquoise blue water and incredible snorkeling. If you book a boat trip, this is well worth including.
Exploring other parts of the island - Ilha Grande has a main port that houses most of the stores, restaurants and hotels. But there are also lesser known parts, like the backside where Paraiso Azul is located. So if you decide to set shore at the main dock, take some time to explore other ports.
Sunset on the west side of the island- Our favorite part about visiting any island is you can catch sunrise on the eastern side as well as sunset on the western. Take advantage and see sunset from the beautiful ports of Vila do Abraão.
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