If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to how to get to Ilha Grande, Brazil you’ve come to the right place!
I spent an unforgettable week on the slice of heaven that is Ilha Grande and – yes – it’s just as gorgeous as it looks in the pictures.
In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about how to get to Ilha Grande. From the best transportation options to helpful tips and tricks for making your journey smooth and stress-free.
Why Visit Ilha Grande?
Before diving into the logistics of getting there, let’s take a moment to think about why you should make the trip to Ilha Grande in the first place.
Located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Ilha Grande is an untouched paradise.
With an area of approximately 193 square kilometres, the island offers a range of spectacular landscapes, pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and rugged mountains.
It’s an epic natural playground and a perfect escape from city life, with endless opportunities for swimming, hiking, and exploring.
Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, Ilha Grande has something for everyone. It’s also one of the most gorgeous tropical islands I’ve ever seen.
Trust me, this Brazilian gem is more than worth the journey.
See also: 7 Reasons Why You Should Visit Brazil
Getting to Ilha Grande
Whether you’re coming from Rio, São Paulo, or the other side of the world, getting to Ilha Grande is part of the adventure.
The nearest major airport is Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport (GIG). From there, you can take a bus to one of the ferry terminals (see below for more info on each one). Or book a private transfer.
If you’re already in Brazil, taking a bus is the most budget-friendly way to get to Ilha Grande. Several bus companies offer direct routes to the Ilha Grande ferry terminals from cities including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Paraty.
If you’re planning on renting a car, you can drive from Rio or São Paulo and park your car at the ferry terminal. Keep in mind that cars are not allowed on Ilha Grande, so you’ll need to pay for secure parking during the time you’ll be on the island.
This is fairly easy to organise, and there are lots of secure parking lots close to all three ferry terminals. Just keep an eye out for signs and advertisements.
I parked at Estacionamento Larangeira Park in Angra dos Reis for R$30 per day.
How to Get to Ilha Grande from Rio de Janeiro
Coming from Rio, there are several different ways to get to Ilha Grande. Assuming you don’t have your own car, your main options are to hop on a bus or book a transfer.
Take the Bus – the budget-friendly option
Catching a bus from Rio to Ilha Grande (well, the ferry terminal on the mainland) is relatively straightforward.
Head over to the main bus station (Rodoviária) and look for Costa Verde Transportes. They’ve got services to Angra dos Reis, Conceição de Jacareí, and Mangaratiba.
You can catch a ferry to Ilha Grande from any of these places. The bus costs between R$34 and R$75 ($7–15 USD), depending on which one you go to.
See below for more info on which ferry terminal to choose.
It’s cheap, cheerful, and you’ll get some cracking views on the way.
I recommend booking your ticket online in advance to secure a seat. You can also buy tickets at the bus station if you’d rather keep your timings flexible.
Transfers – quick and easy
If you’d rather not have to deal with public transport, and don’t mind paying a bit more, private or shared transfers are the best option. They can pick you up straight from the airport or your hotel in Rio.
Of course, you’ll pay a premium for the privilege. But it might be worth it for those who want a hassle-free start to their island adventure.
Day trips to Ilha Grande from Rio
It’s technically possible to visit Ilha Grande as a day trip from Rio. However, I’d only recommend this if you’re extremely pressed for time and wouldn’t otherwise get to see the island.
It’d be a very rushed, long day and you’d only get to experience a tiny fraction of what Ilha Grande has to offer. You really want to come here for a few nights at a minimum. But the option is there if you want.
How to Get to Ilha Grande from São Paulo
If you’re starting your journey in São Paulo, the easiest way to get to Ilha Grande is by bus (and then boat).
There are no direct bus services from São Paulo to Conceição de Jacareí.
However, Reunidas Paulista operates daily buses from São Paulo to Angra dos Reis. From here, you can take a boat to various destinations on Ilha Grande, including Vila do Abraão, Araçatiba, and Praia Vermelha.
Again, it’s a good idea to book your bus ticket online in advance.
How to Get to Ilha Grande from Paraty
From Paraty (one of my favourite towns in Brazil), you can either take a public bus and then a boat to Ilha Grande, or book a transfer.
By bus + boat
The cheapest way is to hop on a Buser bus from Paraty to Angra dos Reis, where you’ll catch the ferry (or a speedboat) to Ilha Grande.
By private transfer
If you’d rather have someone else handle all of the logistics, the best option is to book a transfer from Paraty directly to Ilha Grande. This costs a bit more than doing it yourself but will save you time and hassle.
Which Ferry Terminal?
Assuming you haven’t chartered your own luxury yacht, you’ll probably be catching a ferry or speedboat to the island from either Mangaratiba, Angra dos Reis, or Conceição de Jacareí.
But what’s the difference between these ferry terminals? Which one should you choose?
Simply put, it depends on where you’re coming from and your budget. Mangaratiba is the closest ferry terminal to Rio, followed by Conceição de Jacareí, and then Angra dos Reis.
Here are some more details, including the pros and cons, of each.
Angra dos Reis
- The town has more going on, which means more things to do while you wait for your boat.
- An excuse to have a nose around another Brazilian town before island life kicks in.
- Closest terminal to Sao Paulo and Paraty.
- Afternoon ferry departure so no need for a crazy early start.
- You can either get the slow boat (to Abraão) or a speedboat (to various destinations on the Island).
- Boats don’t run as often as from Conceição de Jacareí, so timing is key.
- It’s the furthest ferry terminal from Rio.
- The ferry terminal is 2 kilometres from the bus station in Angra doe Reis. You either need to walk or jump in a cab.
Boats from Angra dos Reis to Ilha Grande
- A one-way ticket to Ilha Grande from Angra dos Reis costs R$20.50 (about $4 USD) for the regular (i.e. slow) ferry, operated by CCR Barcas. These ferries are pretty big and can take up to 1,000 people on board.
- The slow ferry departs only once per day, at 3:30 pm on weekdays and 1:30 pm on weekends and holidays. The trip itself takes about 80 minutes.
- Returning to Angra, there’s also only one ferry per day. It leaves at 10 am each day.
- Alternatively, there are several small schooners and speedboats in Angra harbour that can take you to Ilha Grande in as little as 30 minutes. Some providers allow you to pre-book tickets online in advance.
- For the fast boats, it can be cheaper if you just turn up at the harbour and ask around. They usually leave pretty regularly until around 6 pm. Although, of course, you sacrifice the peace of mind of knowing you have something pre-booked.
- The price for a fast boat to Ilha Grande tends to vary, depending on who you go with and how many other people are there. But it’s always more expensive than the big ferry.
- I paid R$100 (20 USD) for a fast boat from Angra to Praia Vermelha.
Conceição de Jacareí
- It’s the closest port to the island, with the shortest crossing time.
- More departures than from the other two boat terminals.
- Less to see and do if you’re hanging around for your ferry.
Boats from Conceição de Jacareí to Ilha Grande
- The crossing takes about 20 minutes and costs R$50 (10 USD) for a one-way trip.
- Boats leave every hour from 8:30 am until around 6 pm.
- These boats are smaller than the regular ferries and usually carry up to 60 people.
- The boats are operated by various smaller companies rather than a single ferry company.
- Boats from Conceição de Jacareí mostly stop at Vila do Abraão. However, there are a few that go to other destinations on the island, such as Araçatiba and Praia Vermelha.
- Closest to Rio out of the three ferry terminals. It only takes about 2 hours to get here from Rio.
- Boats are larger so less likely to get booked up (although it’s still wise to book in advance).
- Limited departures (usually only one per day).
- Ferries can be crowded.
- It’s a longer crossing so more expensive.
- Not ideal if you suffer from seasickness.
- The ferry only goes to Abraão.
Boats from Mangaratiba to Ilha Grande
- The CCR Barcas ferry from Mangaratiba to Ilha Grande takes around 80–100 minutes.
- There’s only one boat per day, leaving Mangaratiba at 8 am daily, and returning to the mainland at 5:30 pm.
- Tickets cost $20.50 BRL ($4 USD).
- These are big ferries, carrying up to 1,000 people.
Important extra info – all terminals
Whichever option you choose, be sure to check the boat schedules in advance and plan accordingly. When I travelled to Ilha Grande, I nearly missed the last boat and almost had to spend the night in Angra dos Reis.
If you’re prone to seasickness, I recommend taking a speedboat instead of the larger “regular” ferry. It’s faster and smoother, although slightly more expensive.
Also, note that the ferries (from Angra dos Reis and Mangaratiba) only go to Abraão on Ilha Grande.
If you’re planning to stay on another part of the island, you can either go to Abraão and then catch a water taxi. Or, do what I did and take a speedboat from the mainland (I left from Angra) directly to where you’re staying.
Depending on where you’re staying, your accommodation host will be able to recommend the best option for how to get there.
Getting Around Ilha Grande
Congratulations, you’ve made it to Ilha Grande! Now, how to get to where you’re staying?
As mentioned before, cars are not allowed on Ilha Grande. The main modes of transportation are walking or taking a boat taxi.
Note for hiking fans: There’s an epic 70-kilometre long-distance hiking trail (called the Ilha Grande Circuit) that runs around the entire island. It takes 5–7 days and passes through diverse and beautiful scenery, from lush forests to wild beaches.
If you don’t have a lot of luggage and are up for some exercise, walking is a great way to explore the island’s many trails and beaches. Just be sure to bring comfortable shoes!
By boat taxi
Water taxis are the best way to get to more remote parts of the island or if you’re carrying a lot of luggage. They link the main village of Vila do Abraão, various smaller settlements, and a few isolated beaches.
Sometimes you can pre-book, although I just turned up and asked around, which worked fine.
Pro tip: Be clear on the price before hopping on the boat taxi to avoid any surprises. And don’t forget to bring enough cash.
Returning to the Mainland from Ilha Grande
Just reverse your outward journey and bask in the afterglow of an epic trip. Be sure to double-check with the boat people on the outward journey what time they’ll be leaving Ilha Grande for the return trip.
Exploring Ilha Grande
Now that you’ve settled in and figured out how to get around, it’s time to start exploring! Here are some of my favourite spots on the island:
Lopes Mendes Beach
This long, gently curving white sand beach is often considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil.
Its wild jungle backdrop and relative inaccessibility definitely add to its charm. And it’s big enough that it’s always easy to get away from any other people here.
To get to Lopes Mendes Beach, take a boat from Abraão to Pouso and walk the 15–20 minute trail to Lopes Mendes. Keep an eye out for marmosets along the way, I saw loads of them here!
Alternatively, this full-day guided hike will take you to Lopes Mendes beach as well as several other beauty spots including Curva da Morte, Poço dos Soldados, and Caxadaço beach.
If you’re looking for more amazing beaches in Brazil, Praia da Almada, near Ubatuba on the mainland, is another of my favourites!
Pico do Papagaio (Parrot Peak)
For the adventurous hikers among us, this 985-metre (3,232 foot) peak is one of the highest on Ilha Grande and offers breathtaking views of the island and its surroundings. It’s a fairly challenging trek, but well worth it.
Be sure to pack plenty of water and consider hiring a guide to make it safer and more enjoyable.
Some people hike up in the dark to watch the sunrise from the summit. Only attempt this if you’re experienced and well-equipped. And be prepared for lots of spiders and other bugs…
Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon)
You need to take a boat trip to get to this picturesque lagoon. It’s a fairly popular spot, but still definitely worth visiting.
The sparkling blue waters are perfect for swimming and snorkelling. I saw more fish and other marine creatures here than anywhere else on Ilha Grande. Highly recommended!
Praia de Araçatibinha
A small secluded beach near the western tip of Ilha Grande. It’s an easy walk along the jungle path from Praia Vermelha (where you can catch a taxi boat).
There’s a little stall here selling food and drinks. I love this place and came here several times during my time on Ilha Grande. It’s never crowded, and a perfect spot to spend a peaceful hour or two.
Lagoa Verde (Green Lagoon)
Another hidden gem, about 3 kilometres further along from Praia de Araçatibinha. It’s another great location for snorkelling, or just sitting and watching the local fishermen.
Cachoeira da Feiticeira Waterfall
The largest waterfall on Ilha Grande, Cachoeira da Feiticeira is hidden away in the thick rainforest. It’s a beautiful shady spot and you can take a refreshing dip in the natural pool to cool off.
To get here, it’s about an hour’s hike from Abraão. Alternatively, catch a water taxi to Praia da Feiticeira which is only a few hundred metres from the falls.
Or, check out this full-day private hike that visits Cachoeira da Feiticeira as well as the beautiful beaches of Enseada das Estrelas.
Ilha Grande Boat Trips
I highly recommend doing at least one boat trip during your time on Ilha Grande. True to the name, it is a big island, and many of its best spots are tricky (or downright impossible) to access other than by boat.
There are several different tours to choose from. Each one offers opportunities to visit secluded beaches and snorkel in the crystal clear waters around the island.
Some of the best boat trips include:
- 5-Stop Ilha Grande Speedboat Tour: Half-day shared speedboat tour visiting several beautiful spots including Lagoa Azul and Freguesia de Santana beach. Multiple opportunities for snorkelling and swimming.
- Blue and Green Lagoons Boat Tour: 6-hour trip exploring and snorkelling in the iconic Blue and Green Lagoons of Ilha Grande.
- Paradise Islands Full-Day Speedboat Tour: An exhilarating speedboat journey around Ilha Grande and some of the other idyllic islands of Angra dos Reis.
- 6-Hour Speedboat Trip: Customizable private boat tour of Angra and Ilha Grande (departing from Jacuecanga, on the mainland)
Best Places to Stay on Ilha Grande
Ilha Grande has a good range of accommodation options, with something for all budgets and preferences. From cheap guesthouses to luxurious villas, there’s no shortage of places to stay on this stunning island.
If you’re looking to visit Ilha Grande as cheaply as possible, there are several campsites in and around Abraão. It’s as wallet-friendly as it gets, and honestly, falling asleep to the sound of the waves and waking up to the sea breeze? Priceless.
Note that camping is only allowed in designated campsites on Ilha Grande.
Hostels and budget-friendly guesthouses
If you’re not big on camping, don’t worry. You’ll find a good number of hostels and cheap guesthouses where you can meet fellow travellers without breaking the bank.
As you’d expect, some places are better than others. Check out Bela Casa Quartos e Hostel, Lila Limao Hostel, or Hostel Holandes. They’re comfy, they’ve got character, and you’ll get to meet plenty of other fellow travellers.
Fancy a bit of comfort after a day of adventuring? Pousadas are mid-range guesthouses that tend to offer more comfort and privacy than hostels.
They may be slightly pricier, but the added amenities and personal touches make it worth it.
I stayed at Pousada Lagamar and would absolutely recommend it.
It’s located in a quieter, more secluded part of the island, near Praia Vermelha. This place is ideal if you want to get away from it all and immerse yourself in untouched nature.
If you’re looking for a luxurious retreat, Ilha Grande has that too. There are some stunning villas available for rent with private pools, beach access and all the amenities you could need.
These can be quite pricey, but if you’re travelling with a group or celebrating a special occasion, it may be worth splurging for a few nights.
Additional tips for choosing accommodation
- Location is key: Consider what activities you want to do on the island and choose accommodation that’s centrally located or close to water taxi locations.
- Book in advance: Ilha Grande is a popular destination, especially during peak season. Make sure to book your accommodation in advance to avoid any last-minute stress.
- Read reviews: Before booking, make sure to read reviews from previous guests. This will give you a better idea of what to expect and help you choose the best option for your needs.
What to Eat and Drink on Ilha Grande
After a long day of exploring, you’ll undoubtedly have worked up an appetite. Luckily, Ilha Grande has no shortage of delicious food and drinks to satisfy your cravings.
When in Brazil, do as the Brazilians do and try some of the local dishes! Seafood is always a good choice on an island, so don’t miss out on fresh fish, shrimp, and delicious moqueca (a traditional seafood stew).
If you’re a meat lover, you can’t miss the Brazilian BBQ experience. Try the picanha (sirloin cap), a Brazilian BBQ staple.
What’s better than sipping on a cold drink while admiring the beautiful ocean views? Ilha Grande has plenty of beach bars where you can do just that. My personal favourite was Aloha Bar, on the western end of the island.
Ilha Grande may not be known for its nightlife, but there are still a few spots where you can dance the night away. Several bars in Abraão host live music and DJs from time to time. Just follow your ears!
Essential Tips for Visiting Ilha Grande
Cash and banking facilities: Cash is king on Ilha Grande. However, unhelpfully, there aren’t any ATMs on the island yet. An increasing number of establishments accept card payments, but you can’t rely on it everywhere. Bring enough cash for the duration of your stay.
Book in advance if possible: This goes for both transport and accommodation, especially in high season.
Flexibility is key: Be prepared for boat and/or bus delays, especially during peak tourist season or inclement weather.
Pack lightly: You don’t want to drag a hefty suitcase onto a boat, or along a dirt track through the jungle once you get to the island…
Wear sunscreen: That Brazilian tropical sun doesn’t mess around.
Explore beyond the main beaches: While Lopes Mendes and Abraão are popular spots, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path and discover some hidden gems on the island.
Respect nature: Ilha Grande is known for its amazing natural beauty, and it’s important to keep it that way. Take your trash with you and avoid damaging any wildlife or plants. Don’t take any shells or coral away.
Stay hydrated: Don’t forget to drink plenty of water while exploring the island. It can get hot and humid, so staying hydrated is essential for a happy trip.
What to Pack for Ilha Grande
Overall, pack light and practical. You’ll thank yourself when navigating the island’s dirt tracks and secluded beaches.
- Swimsuit and beach towel
- Comfortable walking shoes or sandals
- Lightweight, breathable clothing
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- Waterproof bag for electronics
- Cash (preferably in small denominations)
- A reusable water bottle
- Snacks for hiking or long boat rides
- Camera to capture the beautiful scenery
- Rain jacket (especially if you’ll be visiting between December and April)
- Portable charger for your electronics
- Hiking gear if planning on trekking through the island’s trails
Frequently Asked Questions About Ilha Grande
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about visiting Ilha Grande.
How do you get from Rio to Ilha Grande?
To get from Rio to Ilha Grande, take a bus or drive to Conceição de Jacareí or Angra dos Reis. From here, frequent ferries and private boat services are available to reach Ilha Grande. The journey usually takes 3-4 hours in total.
Is Ilha Grande worth visiting?
Yes, Ilha Grande is definitely worth visiting. It’s a beautiful, car-free island known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and relaxed atmosphere. Ideal for nature lovers and anyone seeking a tranquil tropical escape.
When is the best time of year to visit Ilha Grande?
The best time to visit Ilha Grande is between May and October. These months offer drier weather, making it ideal for outdoor activities and beach exploration. The island is less crowded during this period, providing a more serene experience.
How long should you spend in Ilha Grande?
A stay of 3 to 5 days is enough to get a good taste of Ilha Grande. This allows enough time to explore the island’s main attractions, including beaches, hikes, and water activities, while also enjoying some relaxation.
Is Ilha Grande safe to visit?
Yes, Ilha Grande is perfectly safe to visit. However, as with any destination, it’s always important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings, especially at night.
If you go hiking, keep an eye out for poisonous snakes and be sure to carry enough water. Beware of strong ocean currents.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Ilha Grande
Ilha Grande is truly a paradise on earth. Its natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere, and range of activities make it the perfect destination for any traveller seeking adventure or relaxation.
Pack your spirit of adventure and an open heart, and let this special place spin its magic into your soul.
I was genuinely upset when the time came for me to leave Ilha Grande. I could’ve stayed there for weeks. Have a great time in paradise – I’m sure you’ll love it!