Ilha Grande, Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro!

Ilha Grande recently received the title of the 'Second Wonder of the State of Rio de Janeiro.' It has been recognized by Brazilian and foreign tourists alike as one of the world's most beautiful tourist destinations and is a place of exuberant nature!

Ilha Grande has a lot of things to do and also a rich history with stories that are far more interesting than those in storybooks. It was once a hideout for sea pirates who made their money by looting European trading ships. The thick tropical jungles provided the perfect refuge where the pirates could hide their boats. The island was also a hub for the slave trade in Brazil. Since the island is strategically located on the sea route, it was colonized by the Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese at various points in time. After the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, Ilha Grande had an important hospital and then a prison. The prison was closed down in 1994, after which eco-tourism and tourism have flourished. The flourishing tourist trade has led to the development of a number of great hotels, pousadas and hostels to cater to the increasing flow of visitors.

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Ilha Grande is a natural reserve and as such there are a number of regular activities that are illegal here. While on the island, tourists cannot feed the animals or pick plants. There are also various environmental restrictions and travellers cannot camp in several areas or light fires. No one is permitted to swim in the pristine waterfalls and lagoons if they are wearing sunscreen. There are strict development restrictions over most of the island, including the Ilha Grande State Park, as well. While large-scale development is not allowed on the island, small-scale tourism is encouraged in this verdant place that has no roads and remains off-limits for cars. Visitors can, however, access any of the 100 km of hiking trails that connect the coastal villages. You can even find decent accommodation options in these villages. Also take a look at our day tours and activities page or our destination guide for some great things to see and do.

The nightlife in Ilha Grande is lively and interesting during the summers, though most of the year life here is quiet, with people content drinking good beer (cerveja) that is served at the handful of bars and restaurants in the area. Local live music, like the bossa nova, samba, forro and pagode played in church squares, is a great hit with the tourists as well as locals.

One of the favourite activities of tourists is crowding around a crackling bonfire on the beach with their guitars, enjoying the moonlight and the music. Every month, the local backpackers' hostel organizes a rave party with a well known local DJ.

There are power cuts in the high season because of excessive rains so it's advisable to carry a lantern if you are venturing out at night. For those who enjoy camping - camping in the wild is absolutely forbidden so choose authorised locations. If you do not follow this rule, you can get into trouble with the Forest Police for flouting the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) law. Residents may report unauthorized camping to the police. Contact us for more information about camping in Ilha Grande, for hotels suggestions and a great range of tours.

The Festival of Music and Ecology is celebrated during the last weekend of June and the first weekend of July. New as well as old musicians take part in the festival and people get to enjoy world-class Brazilian music for free. The first part of this eclectic festival, which is in the last weekend of June, is held at the wharf of Santa Luzia, while the second part during the first weekend of July, is held at the village of Vila Abraão. The Feast of the Patron Saint and the procession of Saint Pedro (towards the end of June) are the two main religious events out of the several that take place at Ilha Grande.

Ilha Grande used to be called Ipaum Guaçu (Big Island), a name given by the Tupinambas and Tamoios Indian tribes who resided here. It was discovered by the Portuguese in 1502. After that it passed on to sugarcane and coffee planters who turned the island into many rich plantations. By the end of the 19th century the planters abandoned the island and it became a desolate place with forests growing over the plantations.

In the 1970s, the island was turned into a Biological Reserve and State Park. For many years (until 1994), Ilha Grande was not on the tourism map as it was a prison for hardened criminals. But after the prison was closed, tourism picked up as Ilha Grande established itself as a world class ecological reserve. Presently the people are working towards protecting the nature reserves of the island and preserving the simplicity of Vila Abraão, the main village on the island.

Our local team is committed to promoting eco-tourism and adventure in Ilha Grande in a professional yet fun manner. We work in partnership with local providers to ensure you have the best range of eco-friendly providers available including accommodation providers and tours and activities agencies.

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