Costa Verde – Ilha Grande

Green mountains rise up steeply from the island’s shore leaving only enough room for a few pristine beaches along their edges. Surrounding them is crystalline, turquoise water. These are the islands of Brazil’s Costa Verde and Ilha Grande is its shining star.

As we drove toward Costa Verde we noticed that the landscape has changed. No longer were the hills arid as they were in Búzios, on Rio’s east. We were now driving through the lush Atlantic Forest that climbs from the shore to the tops of the Sera do Mar Mountain Range. This landscape hugs the 280 km long coast between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and is what gives the area its name. Costa Verde translates in English to Green Coast.

The tree covered mountains continue on the islands. All we can see are tall green peaks surrounded by water. We visited a few spots along Costa Verde and one of the most picturesque is Ilha Grande.

As we travelled on the ferry from the mainland across Baia Ilha Grande the scenery made it feel like we must be on an exclusive cruise rather than a slow, clunky ferry. Behind us, the rainforest covered peaks go on for as far as we can see. In front of us, the views kept getting better and better. The islands’ mountains seemed to come right down to the water’s edge allowing only a few places for homes and beaches.

Ilha Grande

Its name translates in English to Big Island so we knew it would be large. In fact it is the largest of the islands in Baia Ilha Grande. There are many hiking trails on this mountainous island. Some take you across the island to various beaches, but as we arrived by ferry and saw Pico do Papagaio (Parrot Peak), we knew we wanted to hike to its top.

If you are walking from town it is 6 km to reach the top, but the first 2.3 km are easy on a dirt road. The real adventure doesn’t start until you’re on the hiking trail. The route is very steep and travels over slippery mud, roots and rock as it climbs 980 m in only 3.7 km. It was tough gaining that much elevation in a short hike. The skies were a bit cloudy so the temperatures were fairly cool and we had high hopes the clouds would disperse by the time we reached the summit.

The dense rainforest didn’t allow us to see what awaited us. In fact, it wasn’t until we got to the very top of Parrot Peak that we had any views at all. First we saw the Parrot feature from below. It looked completely different than it did from the beach. From this angle, instead of a parrot it looked more like a teddy bear with big ears.

Finally we climbed to the top of the peak. As we arrived the clouds lifted and presented us with a 360° view of the island. Laid out in front of us were multiple mountain ridges leading down to form coves that are filled in with sandy beaches. Gorgeous turquoise water tops off the beauty of the island.

The peak is directly above the main town, Abraão. We could see it filling in the lowland between two long, green points. What an amazing view.

Lagunas Verde and Azul

Many parts of Ilha Grande are only reached by boat. Having received a taste of the scenery from the ferry, we knew we wanted to see more so took a boat tour to visit some of the idyllic spots on this island as well as visiting a few other islands. The two most popular spots are Lagunas Verde and Azul. Neither is a lake or lagoon but instead are shallow inlets on the edge of Ilha Grande. The sandy bottom and clear water in Laguna Verde results in a fabulous green coloured water. Laguna Azul has gorgeous blue water lapping up to a rocky shore. The day was spent visiting these and many more pristine spots.

Large storm clouds were forming in the distance making a dramatic change to the scenery. It was the end of our day, but we didn’t quite make it back to our hotel without getting wet.

Vila do Abraão   

Since Ilha Grande has so many pretty spots and it is easy to access from the mainland, it is a very popular tourist destination. Despite that popularity, the main town, Vila do Abraão, is very laid back. Funky restaurants, coffee shops, small hotels and tour operators line its sandy roads. Personal vehicles aren’t allowed on the island and there are only a few local vehicles so the few roads that exist are mostly pedestrian walkways. The lack of cars in Abraão adds to its appeal.   

How to get to Ilha Grande

The only way to reach Vila do Abraão on Ilha Grande is by boat. Ferries and fast boats leave from the coastal towns of Mangaratiba, Conceição de Jacareí and Angra dos Reis. We took the ferry one way and a speed boat the other. The speed boat gets you there in half the time, but the ride is very choppy and it doesn’t allow you to enjoy the views. Buses leave frequently throughout the day from the Rodoviaria in Rio de Janeiro destined for these port cities. There are also tour agencies that offer door to door service including boat transfer.

We couldn’t arrive in time to catch a ferry on the same day so stayed overnight in Angra dos Reis. We had no expectations, but found it to be a nice town with a few good restaurants, safe streets and a nice downtown shopping district.

Where to stay on Ilha Grande

There are almost too many choices on where to stay on Ilha Grande. Most of the hotels and restaurants are located in Vila do Abraão. It really doesn’t matter what part of this small town you stay, nothing is very far away. There are resorts scattered around the island’s edge if you prefer a quieter setting. We stayed in Pousada Guapuruvu and enjoyed their lovely garden where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast each morning.

When to visit

With all of the greenery on Costa Verde, you must know that it rains a lot. December to February are the rainiest times with as much as 250 mm of rain a month. We were there in November, before rainy season, and still experienced quite a bit of rain. Spring (Sept to Nov) and fall (March to May) are considered the best times to visit with temperatures 23-27°C and less rain. Winter has the least amount of rain, but temperatures can be much lower from 11-23 °C.

To read about our other adventures in Brazil click here.

Coming Next – Costa Verde – Ilhabela

For pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at

To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.

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