Ilha Grande is an incredibly rewarding side trip from Rio. It takes roughly about 4 hours to get there from Rio. Two and a half hours by bus and an hour by ferry/boat.  The island used to be home to a prison which can now be visited as a rather morbid tourist attraction.

There is plenty more on offer other than just an old prison although this is itself quite interesting to see. Imaging looking out through your bars in a damp prison cell onto a tropical paradise beach. That really is cruel!

The island boasts some of the best beaches in the State of Rio including the famous Lopez Mendez beach on the other side of the island. On the north side of the island the seas are calm and you get great swimming snorkling and diving conditions. There are various diving companies in the main town of Abraao.

There are no vehicles on the island appart from a few police cars and a garbage removal truck, recently upgraded from a horse and card drawn truck. (the horse was getting too tired) This gives the town a very laid back feeling. It is pretty safe to wander round the small town at night in search of bars and restaurants.

When you arrive by boat you will be greated by many hotel owners trying to get you to stay at their hotel. Hotel Pousada d' Pilleu on Rua do Bicao is very nice, it is not on the sea front so its about 70% cheaper for this reason. The rooms are clean cheap and they all have balconies looking over the atlantic forest. The breakfast is also a feast of fruit, juices, cakes bread rolls, jams...

Basically the island is great for chilling on stunning beaches, boat rides, snorkling/diving and trecking. You can go on a 2-4 day round trip of the island. There are well marked paths all around the island but get some advise from a local before just embarking on an adventure.

Tip. try to take one of the more expensive boats to the island rather than the commuter ferry which is noisy, slow and ugly.

If you go, please please take care of the island. Tourism is putting a lot of pressure on the limited environment. Pick up your rubbish.