With Brazil’s extreme heat still up, we decided to beach hop our way from Sao Paulo to Rio, stopping in Paraty and Ilha Grande.
Paraty is a small town on a peninsula backed by jungled mountains on Brazil’s Costa Verde, between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Its Portuguese colonial center has cobbled streets (which are closed to vehicles) and 17th- and 18th-century buildings dating to its time as a port, during the Brazilian Gold Rush. Among its architectural landmarks is the waterfront Capela de Santa Rita, a whitewashed church.
We stayed in a small pousada by the beach, about 20 min walk to the old town. The pousada was pretty charming, beachfront and full of hammocks to relax in. The beaches were lined with cafes serving fresh coconut water, cervajas, Brazilian grilled meats, and of course, caipirinhas. You could rent kayaks and stand up paddleboards, but unfortunately the water was so warm (due to extremely shallow, motionless water), it was like swimming in a hot tub, giving us little relief from the heat.
We took a Schooner excursion to visit a few islands. It was a very relaxing experience! The boat took us to 4 different spots where we were able to jump off the boat and snorkel in the warm water. They cooked us lunch on the boat (delicious fish).
Each evening, we walked up and down the cobblestone streets around the old center. It was very lively, full of people dancing, singing, drinking in the main square to drum corps practicing their moves for Carnival (the following week). We ate from some of the local street food stands (grilled meats, empadao (similar to empanadas), pastels (deep-fried dough stuffed with cheese, meats of fish), and quibe (deep-fried wheat dough stuffed with meats). We washed it all down with passionfruit caipirinhas and brazilian beers.
Leaving Paraty, we drove by car a few hours to a boat launch, which sailed us for an hour to Ilha Grande. (http://www.easytransferbrazil.com/en/)
Ilha Grande is an island located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state. The island, which is part of the municipality of Angra dos Reis, remains largely undeveloped. For almost a century it was closed by the Brazilian government to free movement or settlement because it first housed a leper colony and then a top-security prison. It is now one of the most pristine remnants of Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest making it one of the richest ecosystems in the world. The island has no road nor motorized vehicle. There are multiple trails connecting the different villages on the islands or tourists can take boat taxi to go from beach to beach.
We had rented a room through Airbnb. One of our hosts, Daniel, met us by the pier and showed us the path/trail to our accommodation. The lodge we stayed in, Rainbow Forest Lodge, is located one mile up the hill from the beachfront, into the middle of the jungle. The trek up was a bit hard with our backpacks but well worth it once we saw the lodge and our accommodation.
In the evening, we trekked back down into town, exploring the waterfront of Vila do Abraão. We had dinner on the beach, a delicious fresh local fish moqueca, then trekked back up to our charming cabin style room in the jungle, equipped with mosquito netting and hammocks with beautiful views of the jungle flora and the ocean. The trek in the jungle at night was great (headlamp required), we heard lots of animal noises, sometimes a bit scary. We turned our flashlights off for a few minutes when we were half way up the path, which was pitch black (We cannot remember the last time I was outside at night in pitch black darkness without any light pollution!).
The next day, we took an all day boat tour of the Island that Ricardo (the other Rainbow House Lodge host) and Daniel had arranged for us. They were 6 of us (2 American girls and 2 German guys). The tour took us to the bay facing side of the island, making many stops where we swam and snorkeled. We went to Blue Lagoon, Japariz red sand beach, Green Lagoon, the first church on the island (Freesia de Santana), as well as a cave/grotto (Gruta Acaia), which has a under water passage to the ocean. Not knowing it was forbidden, Alex swam under water and emerged in the ocean. It was about 30m swim to exit the cave and finished about 10m deep from the surface. The current from the waves made that little free diving swim not for everyone. It is most likely the reason that is not allow to swim through. We ate lunch on a floating restaurant.
Our second day, we met back up with Alexis and Skeeter (the American gals we met on the boat tour) and hiked through the jungle from beach to beach (about 2.5 hours each way). The first beach (Palmas) was reached after 1.5 hours. With the scorching heat, it was the perfect time to stop and take a swim to cool off. The second beach (Pouso) was only 30mins away. We sat on the dock to eat acais bowls covered with granola and pineapple sauce, before heading to the third beach, the island’s real gem, Praia Lopes Mendes. Lopes Mendes beach was voted one of the top 10 most beautiful beach in the world by Vogue Magazine 3 years ago. At the end of the 2.5 hour trek, we were welcomed by a breathtaking view of nearly 2 miles of the whitest, finest sand that stretches out to a calm, crystal blue ocean. We spend a couple of hours breathing in the view, walking the length of the beach and playing in the surf. On our way back, we opted to take a boat taxi back to town (20 minute ride), instead of hiking through the jungle in pitch darkness.
Our last dinner, was a bbq on the beach, under the branches of a large tree, lit up by hanging lights. The food was amazing! They offered a variety of grilled cheese, meats, and locally caught fresh fish, accompanied by vegetables, rice, and beans. We reflected on how wonderful our time on the island had been. Watching the view of lights and boats reflecting into the water, both beautiful and peaceful, was the perfect way to finish a wonderful couple of days and send us into the mad chaos of celebrating Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
We would highly recommend Ilha Grande as a “must see” place on any trip to Brazil.
Paraty; Pousada Acqua Marine.
A charming beachfront pousada with plenty of hammocks. Our room was clean and simple. The breakfast was buffet style with fresh fruits, juices, cakes, meats and cheeses.
Ilha Grande; Rainbow House Lodge.
Very unique experience. You can stay at one of the many beachfront hostels/hotels the island offers, but how many times will you have the opportunity to stay at a lodge high up in the jungle with views of the bay? The hosts, Ricardo and Daniel were amazing! They were extremely helpful with setting up an incredible and memorable all day boat excursion (much cheaper and with far fewer people than any of the tours we saw offered), and well as informing us on how to beach trek between islands, where and what to eat, making our experience all the more fabulous. The breakfast was our favorite so far. A large variety of fresh fruits (pinapple, mango, passionfruit, watermelon, yellow melon) all from the jungle, the largest avocados We have ever seen, covered in local honey and granola, cereal varieties, and Daniel cooked our eggs made-to-order.
We hope you enjoy reading our blog. Please visit our Gallery to see more of our photography from Paraty and Ilha Grande. If you have any questions for us, please comment on the post as we will respond as soon as we have an internet connection:)