Nestled just south of Rio de Janeiro lies Ihla Grande, a stunning island off Brazil’s rustic coastline and an up and coming destination for tourists and backpackers alike.
When you think of Ihla Grande, think tropical paradise; beaches to die for, small island vibes, powder sand, long lazy days and boats (lots of boats).
While it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, there is a couple of tidbits of information that would have been useful to know beforehand. Like the fact that we had no access to cash there and a 24-hour long electrify outage is totally the norm.
Here is a comprehensive list of everything you should know before checking out this stunning destination:
Get an inclusive transfer in and out
Ferries to and from the island take about forty minutes and go from one port. This means you need a transfer there if you are coming from close by (from Rio de Janeiro or Paraty for example).
Transfers can be booked through your hostel or hotel but make sure it includes the drive to the port and the ferry transfer.
We used Easy Transfer to manage our trip to and from Ihla Grande and had a great experience. They picked us up from our accommodation in Paraty and dropped us to the front door of our accommodation in Rio (which was a relief). Transfers cost from between $70 – $130 BRL (roughly €17.50 – €30).
Boat is the mode of transport
Forget taxis, tuk-tuks or even bikes – the only way to get anywhere on this island is to walk or take a boat taxi.
To get to the prettier beaches on the island you will need to do a hike for a couple of hours so I’d recommend hopping on the taxi boats. These can be found on the main street but make sure to book a return trip and haggle the price down!
There are frequent blackouts
We heard that power outages were a thing in Ihla Grande but we had no idea how bad it would be. There was a period during our four-night stay where there was a power cut for a full 24 hours.
Most restaurants, hostels and hotels have generators which means it is business as usual during a power cut. However, it may be worth checking that your accommodation has a generator (because our hostel did not).
There are no ATMs
And with frequent power outages, there is not always the guarantee card machines will work.
So basically, bring cash!
It might be a climb to your accommodation
If you are not situated on the main street of Ihla Grande, it is very likely your accommodation is uphill. Bear this in mind when you arrive with all of your luggage.
If it is a long way up, it is possible for your accommodation to book a transport for your luggage in most cases (these are small trollies) but you will usually have to pay extra for this.
Day-long boat trips are a must
While you can make the most of Ihla Grande by taking taxi boats to different beaches, its sometimes better and works out cheaper to take a day trip. You will see much more of the island.
There are plenty of day trips to choose from: a full island or half-island tour, a tour of all of the local lagoons and tours of local smaller islands and their beaches.
You can book these along the main street but shop around to get good value. You can usually bring your own beers and drinks; they will have ice on board to keep them cool.
Most of the trips offer a stop at a lunch place but this is usually not included in the price. Check the menu beforehand because it can be extremely pricey (you may want to bring your own grub!).
One of the best beaches is a trek
Lopes Mendes Beach is the nearest and most popular beach on the island and a favourite for visitors. It is very beautiful with clear waters and the softest sand ever. It is also one of the few beaches that boats cannot drive into!
Just be prepared for the journey. While you can hike three hours to this beach, most people take a taxi boat; this takes 15 minutes and costs about $40 BRL return (€10 or so but you may be able to haggle this down).
Once you arrive here, it is another 15 – 20 minutes walk to the beach, half of which is up steep mountainous terrain. It is of course totally worth it but be prepared!
There is one nightclub on the island
The only place that stays open until late is Aquarium (which is a hostel and nightclub) and it cannot be found unless you know about it or are staying there.
It is located just off Praia do Abraão, past the Che Lagarto Hostel. It cannot be seen or heard from the main street so definitely map your way there before heading out.
It is about a ten minute walk by beach from the main part of Ihla Grande. No point heading there early though as it does not get going until at least after midnight.
You will pay more for everything on the main street
Head off the beaten track for better deals on food, drinks and groceries.