So I’ve been calling Rio De Janeiro my home for the last 3 and something months. Living in a favela and working in a Kiosk on Leme/Copacabana beach. We just decided last week to take a couple of days off to head to Ilha Grande a big island located a couple hours outside of Rio. In this post, I will be explaining how to get there and coming with some suggestions of what you can do there. This is my guide to visit Ilha Grande on a Backpacker budget!
How to get to Ilha Grande
There are a bunch of ways to get to Ilha Grande from Rio de Janeiro. From taking a tour from Rio in all price classes to taking a bus from the terminal. Direct buses range from 45-55 reales from Rio to Anglo dos Reis. More economic options like would be blablacar or hitchhiking.
There are three ports that have boats daily to Ilha Grande, Angra dos Reis, Conceição De Jacarei or Mangaratiba. Angra dos Reis is the more economical, but also the slowest way to get there. This because the town is the furthest away from Rio and also have the slowest ferries, because of longer distance to the island. They have ferries for the price of 16.60, 4 times a day.
Mangaratiba is closer to Rio but also have more expensive boat alternatives. In between Angra dos Reis and Mangaratiba, about 2 hours from Rio, is Conceição De Jacarei. All the buses pass by here, as well as a bunch of blablacar and this is the harbor we ended up going via. Check out all ferry times.
But the cheapest option is to go by metro and bus. This is how you do it;
Take the metro to the last station Coelho Neto, from there take a bus to the terminal in Itaguai. You’ll have to ask around but people are usually super friendly and more than happy to help. From there, find a vans/”combi” that drives to Conceição De Jacarei. From there simply walk the two minutes to the boats. And get across.
Boats in Conceição De Jacarei.
There are two main options to get across from Conceição De Jacarei to the main town on Ilha Grande, Vila do Abraão. The fastest option is a taxi boat as they call it. It will take you across in 15 minutes. For the price of 80 real round trip. We opted for the other slightly cheaper option, getting across for 50 reales roundtrip, but in 45 minutes. This anyway beats the transport from Angra dos Reis that takes about 1h40 min.
Ilha Grande on a Backpacker budget
Total 139.8 reales or about 41 dollars round trip.
Stayed at Camping da Cachoeira in a double room, with private bathroom. Super cosy place but a good 15 minuttes walk from Abraão Town. The place has an outdoor kitchn and eating are and a river next to it where you can cill out! Would recommend it for all budget travelers.
Accommondation 3 nights: 3 x 65 reales
Total of 195 reales!
What to do on a backpacker budget
So getting to Ilha Grande is easy enough. But what is there to do there, the answer is sooo much. But as you might get from the name, “grande” it’s a pretty big island. And to get around on the big island is time-consuming, expensive and some places can only be accessed by boat. With that said for a 4-5 days stay there is still a bunch you can do at little or no cost.
Waterfall and beach
Hike through the forest about 1,5-2 hours to the waterfall, Cachoeira Da Feiticeira. On the way you’ll pass by parts of the old water supply system for the Island bade in the 1800s. Get to the waterfall and relax in the fresh water or get a free massage underneath the waterfall if you’re up for it. The waterfall is about 15 meters tall and the name Feiticeira basically means witch or enchantress. After the waterfall, you can eighter head back the way you came or hike down to Praia da Feiticeira. The beach is really small and if you arrive late in the afternoon the beach will be even smaller due to the tides. But, it’s has a beautiful view and if you’re too tired to hike back you can catch a taxi boat here for 15-20 reales. If not you’ll have to hike back the 2 hours. It’s an easy hike and you can do it even if you choose to sleep in a little longer like we did.
Hike or rent a bike to go to Praia Dois Rios.
Dois Rios is one of the other towns on the island and they have a huge beautiful beach there. The beach has a river on each end of it, hence the name “two rivers”. We didn’t get to do this activity as we were enjoying having time off work(read: slept in a lot). But judging from what the locals told us, and all the photos we saw while in town, it’s worth spending a day to go there. Renting a bike is about 35-45 reales for the day, depending on where you ask. The ride by bike is supposed to be a bit challenging as a part of the road is uphill, so if you’re not too fond of biking, maybe use your legs. Dois Rios is about 9 Km one way so it’s recommended to start about 9 or so in the morning. That way you’ll have time enough to enjoy the beautiful beach, surf the waves, as well as checking out the free prison museum in town.
Hike or take a boat to Praia Lopes Mendes
This I honestly one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been on. Beautiful turquoise water, and 3km beach, with white powder sand that actually creaks when you walk on. I also loved that the beach has lots of shade underneath the trees on the back edge of the beach. If you’re a surfer you might be lucky enough to catch some waves here too, as it’s supposed to be one of the Islands best surf spots. They rent surfboards for 30-40 reales an hour if you don’t have a board.
There are two ways to get there. You can eighter take a boat from Abraão to Praia Pouso, from here its a 30 minutes hike. There are two types of boats, a slow one that costs 25 round trip, and leaves town 4 times a day, taking about 1 hour. The other option is taking a taxi boat that will take you there in 15 minutes, but is more expensive. Depending on who you talk to they’ll charge 35-45 per person for the taxi boat.
An alternative is also to hike, it’s about a 6 km trail and it’ll take you past various other beaches as it goes along the coast of the island.
Spend a day chilling and walking between the beaches close to town.
There are several beaches just 10-30 minutes out of town. Spend one-day hiking between them, stop to have a beer in one of the beach bars on the way (although some are more pricey than others). Praia Preta is a beautiful black beach just minutes from the town. Praia da Julia and Praya da Bica are just 20 minutes hike on the other side of town. In front of the city itself, there’s a big beach as well. The Island also has various rivers to check out if you want something more secluded, as there will usually be other people on the beaches, depending on the season you’re going.
There are of course way more activities to do on Ilha Grande. There are even more beaches relatively close to town where you can spend the day if you don’t feel like hiking or catching a boat. Various boat tours that take you to beaches that can only be reached by boats. There are also small islands and a natural reserve where you can only enter with a guide. You can also go scuba dive or get certified on Ilha Grande. And if you’re up for it, you can hike to the second highest peak of the Island to see the sunset(on my list for next time I go!). Cause of heavy rain at times as it’s a tropical climate it sometimes leads to trails in bad condition and the animal wildlife. Always ask the locals what its’ recommended to do on your own or in what condition the different trails are in at the moment of the visit.
Hope this guide was helpful, let me know if you have any questions.