3 most popular hiking trails on Ilha Grande | What to do on Ilha Grande in the rain
Updated: Mar 19
We were very excited to spend 4 nights on Ilha Grande celebrating Dave's 36th birthday. We had visions of soaking up the sun on the island's beautiful beaches, scuba diving, walking through the humid forest making the most of the waterfalls and pools to cool down in and enjoying a caipirinha or two at sunset. However, the weather had other ideas and despite the original forecast looking great, we arrived in beautiful weather but the 4 days that followed had mostly overcast skies, cool temperatures and even some rain! Determined to make the most of our time there, after a little bit of sulking, we set about enjoying plan B.
Table of contents
1. Hiking the forest trails of Ilha Grande
To be honest, the cooler weather made perfect walking conditions and whilst we didn't take any of the refreshing dips we had envisaged we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the island on foot. There are 16 hiking trails across the island and whilst they are signed it is worth noting that the signs don't actually say which trail you are on, just that you are on one, so be mindful of this as some of the trails cross over. MAPS.ME is a good app to use offline, just make sure you download the area in advance. Even better, if you have premium AllTrails will give you loads more info. I've attached the AllTrails maps below which you can follow even on the basic free plan. The trails range in length and difficulty.
We completed these three trails, all starting from Abraão.
Trail 1 - The Abraão loop.
Distance - 1.38km
Time - 30 mins
Difficulty - Very easy
Overview - A really short, fairly unexciting, circular walk. Good for stretching your legs after a long bus/boat journey or if you are unable to complete any of the longer walks it will give you a taste of the forest.
Starting at the north end of the beach, you can take the route in either direction but we would recommend taking the clay track to the left, getting the only short uphill section out the way first. At the top you will reach some refreshing natural pools. Shortly after crossing the pools you will reach the old aqueduct where you need to take the right hand path. The path will loop through the forest to a small beach. At the entrance to the beach you will find a derelict prison; I believe you used to be able to go inside but it has now been blocked off with some quite impressive bamboo gates! From this small cove you return to the path and follow it back round to your starting point.
Trail 2 - Abraão to Praia da Feiticeira via Cachoeira de Feiticeira (waterfalls)
Distance - 10km
Time - 3.5 hours in total (2 hours to the beach via the waterfall & 1.5 hours back)
Difficulty - Moderate
Overview - A one way route that climbs steeply up through the forest to the Feiticeira waterfall and then back down the other side of the forest to Feiticeira beach. You can walk back taking a slightly different path that misses out the waterfall or take a taxi boat from the beach. A much more challenging but beautiful route.
Starting from the same point as trail 1 at the north end of Abraão beach, you climb the same clay track, up past the natural pools to the old aqueduct. At the aqueduct however you take the left hand path and climb steeply for about 30-40 minutes. When the path begins to flatten off you will reach a left turn off that climbs steeply up steps. Follow this path towards the waterfall. As you get closer you will reach another junction as such, taking the left path continues on to the waterfall, taking the right/straight on path takes you back down towards Feiticeira beach.
After visiting the waterfall you return to this junction and you can either return on the same path back to Abraão or take the other path downhill towards Feiticeira beach, where you will join a path coming from the right, and continue on to the beach. This is what we did. The beach is only small but there was a make-shift bar and taxi boats operate from here if you don't fancy the walk back. The walk from Abraão to the beach took us just over 2 hours with a 15 min stop at the waterfall.
If you do opt to walk back, on the return journey you will reach the turn off you came down from the waterfall on the right, ignore this and continue on on the path you are already on. This part of the path just avoids the need to climb up to the waterfall and back down again, although you will still have some ascent and descent to do. You will come upon the turn off you originally took up to the waterfall and will now be on the path you did your original climb up on. Follow this all the way back down to the Aqueduct and back to Abraão. The return journey took us about 1.5 hours.
Trail T10 - Abraão to Lopes Mendes beach
Distance - 13.4km
Time - 2.5 hours one way
Difficulty - Moderate
Overview - A beautiful one way walk through forest and across beaches. The climbs are not as steep as the trail 2 to Feiticeira and although you gain more altitude on this walk, the climbs are more spread out over the trail.
This trail starts from the opposite end of Abraão beach in the south. Taking a small track behind a hostel, within a few minutes you will reach Praia de Julia. Here you take a left turn climbing up through the forest. The climbs on this walk are not as steep and continuous as the walk to the waterfall, however you'll no doubt soon have a slight sweat on! You get some pretty views across the bay as you climb.
Just over an hour in you reach the first beach, Praia de Palmas, dropping down onto the sand you follow it right to the end. A lovely little beach with a couple of B&Bs and private homes.
Re-joining the jungle trail you follow it to Praia de Mangues. It looks like there used to be a jetty from the trail over the high tide but it is now in disrepair so it was a case of wading through the water. It was easy enough to do but quite deep in one part, so we ended up changing into our swim wear. I am only 5ft 2 but I managed to get across with the water coming to just below the tops of my legs so don't panic, you don't need to swim and there is no strong current or waves, it's just a little deep where there are dips in the sand. This beach is only small and is connected to the next stretch of sand, Praia do Pouso, by a short, 5 minute jungle path. We actually walked this in bare feet as our feet were wet from the wading and we knew we'd want to take our trainers off again on the next beach. Just be careful of any sharp stones or big ants when walking.
Pria do Pouso is where, if you choose, you can get a taxi boat to or from instead of walking. The next section of jungle trail, approximately 20 minutes long, takes you to Lopez Mendez beach. Here the beach is exposed to the Atlantic ocean and can get some pretty choppy seas and big waves, hence why the taxi boats don't come round into this open sea. We did see some cheeky little Marmoset monkeys here.
Lopez Mendez beach, described as 3 km of very clean, fine sand and crystal clear water. Personal accounts from other travellers we have met and the pictures you will see in the tour operators shops in town confirm that it is beautiful in the sun and a fantastic place for a picnic lunch and dip in the sea. Unfortunately, when we were there a strong breeze was blowing sand at us as we sat and ate our sandwiches huddled at the top of the beach in the partial protection of the trees. The sky was moody and the sea cold, rough and uninviting! There was a family with teenage boys braving the shallows, another group huddled in the wind like us, a local man chancing his luck selling soft drinks and beer from a cool box and a nice couple litter picking along the shore line, but apart from that the beach was deserted!
We walked the 20 minutes back to Praia do Pouso and got on one of the hourly taxi boats from there back to Abraão. The sea didn't look rough on this side of the island but it was still a pretty bumpy ride and would not be pleasant if you had a bad back!
2. Eating & drinking on Ilha Grande
Abraão doesn't have a wild nightlife but there are lots of restaurants you can enjoy a meal and a drink or two. If you spend all day everyday hiking I'm sure you will have worked up a good appetite!
Here are a few recommendations:
Set on the back street that runs parallel with the beach front, Brothers restaurant appears to be a family run business offering home cooked, tasty food. It isn't the cheapest option in town but prices are fairly standard and also not the fanciest, but we found the staff to be lovely and the food honest and wholesome. We actually ate here twice, sampling the fish Moqueca, which is a traditional Brazilian dish & a simple dish of grilled chicken breast served with salad, rice and fries.
As we were paying our bill on the second visit the owner asked us if we could write out a small advertisement about the quality of the food and the fact he could speak English that he could put on a board outside to encourage English tourists in. Although his own English was very good he wanted to make sure it was correct and so asked us to help. Let us know if you see the sign!
Steak and Beach
Beach front bar and restaurant on the south end of Abraão beach. As the name suggests it is a steak and fish restaurant. We shared the picanha steak dish for two which came with fries, farofa (a crumb made from cassava flour from the manioc root which is very popular in brazil) and rice. We ordered a side salad in addition and asked to swap the farofa for beans which was no problem. The steak wasn't the most tender we've had in Brazil but the flavour was good & a beautiful setting with the waves lapping on the beach.
Get there early to take advantage of the 2 for 1 happy hour caipirinhas until 8pm.
Café Do Mar
This was a favourite restaurant. Next door to Steak and Beach so still in the same beautiful setting but 3 days a week they do a fish & meat BBQ and it was delicious!
You can opt for fish or meat skewers or a combination of the two, or you can pay the plate price (which is absolutely worth it for the price difference alone) which means your meat or fish is served with rice, salad and veggies. There are also whole fish options which Dave had and it was absolutely amazing, I had gone for the fish skewer which was really tasty, but his fish was to die for! Nothing beats fresh fish cooked over coals!
I would highly recommend this place so if you are staying on the island for a few nights I would stop by on day one and check with the staff which evenings they are doing the BBQ.
We had breakfast here on Dave's birthday as was one of the only places I could see had a breakfast menu. We enjoyed coffee, fresh fruit juice and omelettes. They are open all day and we saw others having nice looking sandwiches, salads and hot mains.
They also serve liqueur coffees here which we actually had one afternoon when it as particularly gloomy! Topped with chantilly cream they are very sweet but could be enjoyed with a piece of their section of cakes.
The cake cart!
Stop by the cake cart, usually parked up from lunch time on R. Alice Kuri, a street that runs from the beach front back into town. Stocked up with a variety of different delights you can purchase by the slice. Not the cheapest at R$20 (although there is no price list so I suspect they charge whatever they feel like, especially when a tourist stops by!) but the cake was nice.
If Paraty is also on your itinerary there were lots of cake carts there too!
We had a great time on Ilha Grande despite the weather not being at it's finest and kept busy for 4 days, so I would imagine if the weather was glorious and you want to do some walking but also fit in a snorkel or dive or boat trip or just soak up the sun on one of the many beaches for the day, you could easily spend longer here.
3. Where to stay on Ilha Grande
We based ourselves in the village of Abraão, the closest settlement to the mainland and the main port so all the boats come in here. We really liked the village, not only is it a tourist destination it also had a real 'lived in' feel with the locals going about their daily business too. There are plenty of shops and restaurants and the people were lovely and welcoming. We felt perfectly safe on the island and were able to relax a little more than we had walking about in Rio.
We actually opted for an Airbnb, rather than staying in a hotel or hostel. We secured a cheap deal as we only booked last minute. It was a small studio apartment with a kitchenette, en suite bathroom and balcony with a fantastic view.
If you want to check out the place we stayed click here.
If you prefer to stay in a hostel, the place we stayed in Rio have a sister hostel here called Mambembe. The Rio hostel was nice and we have since met other travellers who stayed at the Ilha Grande one and would recommend. https://www.booking.com/hotel/br/mambembe-hostel-ilha-grande.pt-br.html
4. How to get to Ilha Grande
As Ilha Grande is an island getting to the island will envolve a boat of some type. There are a number of different options & which one is best depends on where you are & what your budget is. Due to the number of different options we have covered them on a different blog how to get to and from Ilha Grande from both the north and the south.