Ilha Grande & Paraty, Brazil – Beaches, hikes and beautiful scenery


Ilha Grande

abraao, Ilha Grande Brazil seen from the water

Above: Approach to the town of Abraao, Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande is a forested and mountainous island with beautiful beaches. It is relatively undeveloped (no banks) and all the restaurants and hotels are small and locally run. It is the perfect place to relax after Rio and we spent the first few days lying on the beach, drinking caipirinhas and watching spectacular views over the water and mainland beyond.

Views from Abraao, ilha grande brazil


Besides laying at the beach, a highlight on Ilha Grande is hiking – depending which hike you go on.

Abraao to Lopes Mendes beach: A great hike, up and down with some nice views of the island and the coast from vantage points, you come across some other bays and beaches along the way. It’s about a 4hr hike (return). Lots of beautiful scenery. We really loved this hike.

hike from abraao to lopes mendes
Abraao to Dos Rios. The owner of our hotel had told us about a “spectacular hike” to the “most beautiful beach on Ilha Grande”. The next day we hiked along the only road on the island, a 2hr long hike on gravel, to the town of Dos Rios. We arrived at the beach below.

beach at dos rios, ilha grande, brazil

Dos Rios used to house a prison holding some of the most violent of Brazil’s criminals. Now it is a mini, almost spooky, ghost town. We had been told by our hotel owner that we could take the boat back to Abraao. We waited at the beach for the boat but none came. We asked a passerby (about the only other person we saw on the beach) about the boat and he kind of looked out at sea, shrugged, and said the boat should come soon. He had that same indifference that every Brazilian we encountered seemed to have. We waited another half hour before deciding to walk back. Walking out of Dos Rios we saw two guards standing around. I asked them about the boat. They looked at each other and started laughing. We walked the 2 hrs back to Abraao. Honestly? It’s a hike worth skipping.

Overall, Ilha Grande is a scenic island with some restaurant options. Recommended – it was to be the highlight of our stay in Brazil.


We stayed at Pousada Naturalia. Very well run by a friendly Vietnamese man. Just kind of ignore him when he recommends that hike to Dos Rios.

Getting there: It takes 3 hours to get from Rio to Angra do Reis by bus, then another 1.5 hours by ferry across to Abraao on the island.

boat ilha grande, brazil


Paraty, Brazil from  the water
You can feel the history in this town. I don’t italicize lightly; Lissette didn’t like the feel of this town. She at one point told me “There are a lot of ghosts here” which was the first time I’ve ever heard her say anything that I would suspect a crazy person would say. Paraty was founded in 1696 and prospered in the 1700s when gold was discovered. They at that time built all the colonial buildings, churches, and cobblestone streets still standing today. Slaves built a 1200km road to the mines (called the “Gold trail”). I find it funny when browsing websites how little is mentioned about slavery in Paraty. It was obviously a huge part of the town’s history. In fact the town basically died in 1888 when slavery was abolished.

photos of Paraty, Brazil

Above, at bottom right: Igreja do Rosário, built in 1725 (the slave’s church). It is kind of spooky-looking isn’t it?

A popular thing to do in Paraty is to take a boat cruise. Its a great way to see the coastline and do some swimming.

boats in paraty, Brazil

I think I liked the town more than Lissette. She still thought it was creepy. Paraty has a small-town atmosphere, colonial architecture, and some nice restaurants. Again, the geographical setting is gorgeous. Just a beautiful area and we recommend a visit to both Ilha Grande and Paraty.

Getting there: Rio – Paraty by bus is approx 4 1/2 hours.

map of paraty and ilha grande, brazil


Related: Why I won’t be going back to Brazil.


Have you been to Ilha Grande or Paraty? Would love to hear your experiences!




  1. Your photos look like it is pretty! The hiking opportunities sound intriguing. Hikes to beautiful beaches are the best kind.
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  2. I spent one week on Ilha Grande! Loved that island. Passion and wine, that’s what I remember most about it.
    Marina K. Villatoro recently posted…Samuel Adams Boston Lager – Gotta Have OneMy Profile

  3. Here’s a tip not that many people know yet. I traveld between Paraty and Ilha Grande so easy with takes just 1h 30m instead of the trafic jams you get by going first with car then by ferriy, higly recomend there service.

    • I should start charging for this self-promotion :). But in this case I think it is of value to readers – we actually DID just this and saved a lot of time getting to Paraty from Ilha Grande. So thanks for bringing something up which I should have mentioned in the post.

  4. Nice pics of Paraty! Its a pity you didn’t enjoy it much. True that some cities like this one can be a bit heavy. During my Brazil trip, I tried to visit Paraty, but didn’t have enough time so I end up not going. Next time.. hug from Marrakesh!
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    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you for your comment. But I have to admit that, like all of Brazil that we saw, that it was scenic. We might not have loved Brazil but it IS a beautiful country.

  5. Hi Frank,
    I just would like to ask you a question,
    Which language did you use to talk with Brazilian people when you were there?
    You keep making a statement all the time how Brazilian were indifferent with you when you tried to ask them something… it didn’t occur to you that the problem could be because of the language barriers, most of Brazilian don’t understand English or Spanish , about the two guards ,too me it was one looking at each other and thinking , what he said?!!! Do not expect that simple people will understand you . That’s the mistake number one, talking in Spanish with us, our language is Portuguese.
    I sent you a comment on the post you did about Brazil , but I can’t see it there, I don’t know if you got it.
    Lara c andres recently posted…A Daytrip to Hvar town, CroatiaMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Lara,
      Thanks for having let me know about the other comment – I saw this one fine, but the other was in my spam box.
      We spoke Spanish and the word for boat in Spanish and Portuguese the same (barco). Plus I’m pointing out at the sea while I’m saying this while also indicating my watch. If they didn’t understand any of that they must have been the stupidest bunch of dumbasses in the world. No Lara, they understood – they just didn’t care to give us a second of their time.
      Like I said in my reply to your other comment, where there’s a will there’s a way. We’ve travelled the world full-time the last 3 years, mostly in places where people don’t speak English. Somehow we’ve been able to get by, but that’s mostly because people give you a chance and are patient with your hand gestures or poor pronunciation of words. We’ve met some fantastic people who were super friendly and who we still think of, even if we didn’t speak a word of each other’s language. Smiling is universal and is usually what will get you by in any situation.
      In Brazil that didn’t work, neither did trying to speak slowly in a very similar language. But if you say “that’s the mistake number one, talking in Spanish with us, our language is Portuguese” then that says a lot about the mentality.

  6. i wish i can travel like you lol this is awesome! great pics

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