Ilha Grande is often described as Brazil’s paradise on earth. Gorgeous beaches and virgin Atlantic forest make this the ideal place to unwind for a couple of days after hectic Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. The main village of Vila do Abraão is where most people stay, but a few kilometers inland, you have the whole island to yourself!
There are 16 well-indicated trails spread all over the island, so wherever you stay you’re likely to find a trail nearby. Put on your hiking boots and join me!
The best hiking trails on Ilha Grande
1/ Vila de Dois Rios
Start: in front of the main pier of Vila do Abraão, next to the Policia Militar
Distance: 7km one way
Time: 2h30 one way
This well-indicated trail leads to Dois Rios, the name of a nearly abandoned village. Dois Rios served as a prison during the military regime and is nowadays inhabited by a few former inmates and prison guards. The nearby beach is the place where two rivers flow into the open sea. Anybody with a decent level of fitness can walk the trail, but the humidity and/or heat can make it challenging at times, especially on the way back. The first part of the walk is gradually uphill, followed by a descent towards the beach.
During the entire walk, I was accompanied by the buzzing sounds of the jungle, but apart from a selection of birds and insects I didn’t come across anything even remotely frightening. It took me a bit more than 2 hours to reach the village.
Make sure to have a quick look at the “Piscina dos Soldados”, a bathing hole where soldiers used to come and bath on their way to the prison.
2/ Praia Abraãozinho
Start: at the eastern end of the beach of Vila do Abraão
Distance: 1km one way
Time: 25 min one way
An ideal introduction on your first day in Ilha Grande! The path can be a bit muddy after rainfall, there are a few boulders to climb over and you might have to wade through the water at high tide, but nothing strenuous. Ideal if you like short walks and beautiful beaches! Upon my arrival at Abraãozinho, I had the place nearly to myself! On your way back, don’t forget to stop at one of the beach bars for a refreshing ice-cold beer!
3/ Praia Lopes Mendes
Trails T10 and T11
Start: at the eastern end of the beach in Vila do Abraão
Distance: 8.5 km
Time: 3h one way
The most popular trail on Ilha Grande. Or so I was told… If I saw ten people during my walk it was a lot, but the weather wasn’t the best, I assume on sunnier days it tends to be busier.
The walk is divided into two trails. The first one goes from Vila do Abraão to Praia de Palmas and Praia de Manguas, two gorgeous beaches that I might actually even prefer to Lopes Mendes beach itself!
The trail goes up and down the jungle-clad mountains, accompanied by the cries of the howler monkeys further up the trees.
From Praia de Manguas it takes another easy 20 minutes to Lopes Mendes.
Walk back to Praia de Manguas where you can take a small boat back can to Vila do Abraão. (or walk back all the way if you still have enough energy)
4/ Circuito do Abraão
Start: at the western end of the beach in Vila do Abraão
Distance: 1.7 km – circular walk
Time: 1 hour
One of the shortest walks on Ilha Grande, this trail takes you around the town of Vila do Abraão, along a few nice beaches and to the ruins of the former Lazareto prison, shut down in 1954. It’s a circular walk, offering you a few nice views of the coast. Halfway you arrive at the aquaduct, right next to the natural swimming hole of Poção, a perfect spot for a quick dip.
5/ Pico do Papagaio
Start: Follow the trail from Vila do Abraão to the village of Dois Rios. After 15 min, you’ll see the signpost towards Pico do Papagaio on your right hand side.
Time: 6-7h round trip
Starting from Vila do Abraão, the hike takes you up to the peak of Pico do Papagaio. The rock formation is shaped like a beak of a parrot, hence its name. It’ll take about 6-7 hours to get to the top and back, including a break at the top. The walk leads you through jungle-clad hills and bamboo forest. You’ll be climbing to an altitude of 1,000 metres where the views over the island are simply unforgettable! The final part is very steep, but you can use the ropes to pull you up.
You can do this hike at night to get to the top for sunrise. Needless to say, you will need a guide when doing this, do not attempt it on your own!
Where to stay on Ilha Grande?
The best place to base yourself is in the main village of Vila do Abraão. When coming off the ferry it’ll only be a few minutes walk to your accommodation and the village has an array of bars and eateries.
I stayed at Holandês Hostel, situated uphill and inland from the centre of town. It’s very peaceful and a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon reading in one of the hammocks.
Have you done some hiking on Ilha Grande? Or maybe a similar island? Would love to hear it in the comments!