Have you ever visited an island that you think is so magical you never want it to change? That has happened to me a few times during my travels but during my recent trip to Ilha Grande it happened again. It is a beautiful paradise island, no cars, only small built up areas with no high rise buildings or 5* hotels and many parts of it are only accessible by boat. The island is home to our 5000 people and many of those live in the main town of Vila do Abraão, which is where we stayed during our visit.
You get to the island via boat which can be as quick as 20 minutes or as long as an hour depending on which boat you take and from where. Once you arrive, you can take you shoes off and not worry about putting them back on until you leave. Some accommodations will meet you at the pier with a luggage trolley otherwise will trust you can manage your luggage yourself. As you walk off the main pier you’ll notice the town is small and it is hard to get lost. Take it all in, for one day I fear this island will be full of huge hotel chains and look nothing like it does right now.
Paradise in Ilha Grande
If I’m having a bad day back in England I will often find myself thinking of those pure moments while travelling. These aren’t the everyday joys of travelling but the moments where happiness literally smothers you and you want to bottle up that very moment for when you might need it. I’ve had them before, on a trip to Koh Rong as well as on a trip to Ko Chang. Yet somehow these moments on Ilha Grande seemed to top it all. Maybe it was how hard I’d worked to be there, maybe it was sharing it with JP knowing our relationship is about to go back to being long distance or maybe it really was just a great experience. Either way, it was a happiness I wanted to bottle up and to never lose.
It was a happiness that stung because it really was that good. It didn’t hit me immediately, of course I was happy to be there but I was anxious for making sure we had a good weekend. The first wave hit me as I had a few sips of JP’s beer, after months of food intolerances including to alcohol, I decided now was the perfect time to ‘try’ it. The beer tasted better than no beer has ever tasted and it quickly went above pizza in my most missed food/drink list. But it wasn’t just the beer, or the sitting at a restaurant on the sand for lunch. It really hit while we were on a taxi boat to Lopes Mendes (one of the island’s best beaches). The driver was pumping out the tunes, I obviously felt a little lifted after the beer and as the warm air whipped at my face and through my hair, I really felt it. That happiness I described in that post about Ko Chang. The feeling of never ever wanting to be anywhere else. A smile so big plastered across my face with my hand held tightly by JP. As we bounced across the water I knew this was my happy place.
That feeling lasted for much of the trip. It was there while we trekked to the gorgeous beach of Lopes Mendes and sunbathed. It was there while we wander around the small town of Vila do Abraão and compared it to that of Ko Phi Phi. It was there later when we found our gorgeous guesthouse on top a little hill away from the main town. It stayed as we had dinner on the sand that night and ate fresh seafood. When we opened the shutters the next morning and took in the view again, that happiness was still there. Throughout our boat trip that day it reminded. Until we had to turn around to come back, until the realisation that our weekend in Ilha Grande was over.
Sometimes it is easy to feel full to the brim with happiness after an amazing weekend but with the realisation of our trip to Ilha Grande came the realisation that I leave Rio very, very shortly and go home to my life in London without JP. So that happiness feeling, I’ve bottled it up for when I need it most instead of letting it keep me full to the brim right now. Our short weekend in Ilha Grande really was paradise and I’m already plotting the next trip back.
Essential Info for Ilha Grande
We stayed at Pousada Olhos D’Água which was in the main town on Ilha Grande but set back from the main streets and up a little hill. It was the perfect place to relax and the views were gorgeous. The staff here were super friendly (FYI they speak very little English), the whole place was super cute and so well looked after. Our room was quaint but perfect for what we needed and I was so thankful we had a sea facing room. They also provided a free breakfast. The only negative would be that the AC was extremely loud. Still I would highly recommend this place.
Getting to Ilha Grande
There are many ways to get to this paradise but the easiest and simplest way from Rio de Janeiro is with Easy Transfer. They pick you up from your accommodation in Rio and drive you to the boat, where you jump on and get dropped at the main pier. The return journey is just as easy, although you have to make sure you look for the Easy representative at the pier as they may not be using the Easy boat.
I would also highly recommend a boat trip, if you only have a weekend there then chances are you’ll only have time for a half day trip but if you have more time then there are full day trips on offer. We took the half day trip and had a fantastic time. From what we could see all shops sell a very similar trip so don’t worry too much about who you buy from.