Ilhabela Brazil Things to do – Everyone will be happy when they find hidden gems. Especially those with palm trees and sand. But as previously emerging beach destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America are built with cruise ports, resort resorts, and even US megastores, it may seem that there are no more “secret” places left.
While true, there may not be many “undiscovered” places anymore, there are still some places that are underappreciated. This month, we’ll be highlighting the most affordable beach cities left in America.
Rio de Janeiro doesn’t have a monopoly on Brazil’s beautiful beaches. There are many others along the coast of this country. Just off the coast of the state of Sao Paulo, Ilhabela (Portuguese for the beautiful island) is a tropical sanctuary where Paulistas go when they are tired of the crowded city beaches. As we discovered on a visit last August, Ilhabela is also a welcoming and tempting destination for foreigners. It’s also affordable, especially if you visit between March and November.
Ilhabela presents two faces to visitors. Its west side is lined with gentle beaches, bustling resort villages, and Sao Paulo’s elite vacation homes. The other 85 percent of the island (inner and eastern, sea-facing beaches) is protected by Atlantic rainforest and undeveloped beaches.
Various Ilhabela Brazil Things to do
Life on the east coast is the same as in the rest of Brazil: Relaxing on the beach, socializing at bars, and eating out are the main activities. There are dozens of beaches to choose from, but Praia do Curral near the south end of the beach is the busiest, with casual bars and restaurants serving seafood and live music.
Hiking, boating, horseback riding, and cascading are all possibilities on Ilhabela’s wild east side. Marimar Turismo (the website is in Portuguese only) runs a variety of excursions, including jeep tours (40 USD per person) and horseback riding (34 USD per person) at Praia do Castellanos, the longest beach on the island, and one of the prettiest.
The most beautiful beach is Praia do Bonete, a small, windswept cove reminiscent of Big Sur. It can only be reached by boat or on foot. Hiking the nine-mile trail through the rainforest to Bonete is one of the island’s most rewarding adventures. It’s a challenging four-hour walk, but the views are worth it.
Where to stay:
You will need accommodation when you want to do Ilhabela Brazil Things to do. On the west coast, you can stay at Brazil’s cute Porto Pacuiba Hotel in Praia do Viana. This cozy hotel serves a delicious buffet breakfast of Brazilian fruits and European cakes and meats. We paid around 70 USD per night for a standard room in the less crowded season.
While hiking to Praia do Bonete, you can (and should) spend the night in the fishing village of Bonete. The friendly Pousada Canto Bravo offers comfortable accommodation, rustic decor, gourmet meals made from freshly caught fish, and the staff can arrange surf lessons and other activities. Overlooking the beach and lit by candles at night (no electricity in Bonete), Canto Bravo makes a great romantic hideaway. Nightly rates start at around 88 USD.
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How to get Ilhabela Brazil
May flights from Miami to Sao Paulo-Guarulhos Airport, the nearest major international airport, start at 595 USD round-trip, including taxes and fees, on Copa. From the main bus station in Sao Paulo, it is a four-hour bus ride (17 USD one way) to the ferry terminal in Sao Sebastiao. The ferry ride takes 10 minutes and is free for pedestrians.
Online resources: Find travel planning resources at Ilhabela.org and Frommer’s online Ilhabela guide.