Brazil – things to do in Ilha Grande and Lopes Mendes beach

Here we are on Ilha Grande, an island in the true sense of the word. A village, a harbor, and a dozen tourist paths through the jungle, where poisonous snakes and majestic views lurk around every corner. A beach, lots of boats in the harbor, palms, and other tall exotic trees sway in the breeze. Have we reached the most heavenly place in Brazil?

Ilha Grande is the third largest island in Brazil, but it may be the most beautiful. It is a safe haven from the busyness of the cities. Here the nearest cash machine is 45 minutes away through water. Yes, this is what a tropical paradise would look like if it existed. Here even the homeless are calm and happy, the tourists relax anyway they can. All in all, everybody here goes with the flow and blends in with the sand.

traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place

We didn’t arrive as quickly as we thought. From Paraty we traveled for an hour and a half to Angra dos Reis and spend 1 hour and 45 minutes in a boat to the main and only village on the island, Vila do Abraão. We decided to stay there one more night, without even thinking about the price, just because we liked it. Maybe we needed to feel like islanders. Maybe we needed to get lost in the jungle, take a boat trip to a blue lagoon?

While I’m writing this on the beach a group of girls is dragging the wheels of their suitcases through the sand and believe me, they are the only ones burdened with something at this moment. This is Ilha Grande.

traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place

Hiking the island

We like the fact that you cannot spot a car in the whole island, there are no roads.

The only motor vehicle we saw was the garbage truck. Out of nowhere, they cleaned the streets this morning. We thought that either the village festival, or Christmas was coming (this was on 18 December).

Here the mafia is strong with the boat companies, all 50 of them offer the same services at the same prices. We chose the only one which didn’t charge extra for credit card payments. Obviously, there is no cash machine on the island and we didn’t bring enough cash. Despite those tiny hiccups, we were still islanders.

traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place

The paths through the jungle are the most alluring thing on the island itself. During your walk, you meet groups of monkeys, hear strange noises, and see brightly colored birds on the trees. For the history buffs, there is an old aqueduct, the isolation chamber for immigrants suffering from cholera and we can’t begin to imagine what else is hidden in the forest.

traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
Ilha Grande, Brazil
Isolation chamber for the infected with cholera
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place

Back to civilization, this evening the cultural and entertainment program begins.

There is a stage under the sky where musicians and actors show their talent. The drinking and eating establishment are working full-force. A lot of South Americans, Argentineans, Chileans work here, but generally, they don’t speak very advanced English. Some of them aren’t even familiar with Spanish. Is this a way to preserve the island? We like it, despite it being too developed for those who were familiar with Ilha Grande 10 years ago. It is not shielded enough from the mainland so every rich guy has built a house in a secluded cove. But it cannot compare to the show-off of money around Paraty. Here prices must be higher and only the richest show-offs can afford it. Even normal tourists like us felt the price difference. But what are we to do if we want to swim with the fish and lounge on empty beaches beneath tropical trees?

A boat trip around Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande, Brazil
A jump from the lancha into the Blue Lagoon
Ilha Grande, Brazil
More fish
Ilha Grande, Brazil
The green lagoon is not overcrowded
Ilha Grande, Brazil
Saco do Céu (Sky bag)
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place
traveling to Ilha Grande in Brazil - a heavenly place

A trip to Lopes Mendes beach

It is hard to rid yourself of the beauties of Ilha Grande. During our unexpectedly prolonged stay, we decided to marvel at the Lopes Mendes Beach as well. It is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world so we ventured on to check it out.

relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil
relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil

To be eligible for the title of the most beautiful beach in the world you’d have to be relatively untouched by those barbarians, the humans. In Lopes Mendes, it is prohibited to dock any kind of vessel. When you gaze in the water, you see only water! We were used to harbors and beaches filled to the brim with boats, wooden dinghies, ferries, and even cruise ships in the distance. Lopes Mendes is completely empty! On this special beach, you can concentrate on the most important thing – the beach itself!

relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil
relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil

On the long, curved scythe-like shoreline there are exactly three huts, or more precisely, three stalls offering water, chips, and so on. There are around 50 people and all of them sit in the shadow of the near forest. There are no umbrellas to restrict the view. If seen from a bird’s eye the beach would appear empty.

relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil

You can find shelter from the sun in the water. No matter how far you go it is always bright blue and you can reach the bottom.

The waves crash forcefully enough to make you wet from head to toe. The sand squeaks and the waves splash. Those are the only sounds. There are no beach merchants, no screams or crying.

relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil

How do you reach the beach if not by boat? On foot. There are two options – 2 hours and a half from the nearest village to Lopes Mendes or 25 minutes from the nearest beach where boats are allowed. Does that explain why the beach is so empty? Does it explain how it stayed so clean?

relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil
Lopes Mendes beach, Brazil
The boats drop you off on the next beach over, then you cross the isthmus and you find yourself on Lopes Mendes
relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil

The time spent on this beach is time gained! It is usually hard to reach the most beautiful things and they lack “charm” to the tourists. We recommend this place wholeheartedly. If you ever stumble upon something this beautiful, please share with us!

relaxing on the beautiful beach Lopes Mendes in Brazil

Let’s travel to South America! Here’s our 2-month South America backpacking itinerary.

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