It was August – the dead of the Brazilian winter. Cachaça-laced caipirinhas and Itaipava had been our drinks of choice while in Brazil, and the night prior, they kept us warm while drinking mid-street in Paraty’s historical center. Unrested and a bit hung over, we were up before the sun because even in the crisp weather, our search for a remote island fantasy was taking us to Ilha Grande, one of several hundred islands that comprise Brazil’s Costa Verde. So our pousada host in Paraty arranged for a cab to pick us up and drop us off in the town center where we caught our bus to Angra dos Reis almost two hours away. And from there, we caught a schooner to Abraão, Ilha Grande’s main town.
Lacking sealed roads, cell phone service, supermarkets, ATMs, and banks, Ilha Grande is full of secluded beaches that were once hideouts for pirates and bases for slave traders. More recently, the island served as the site of a hospital and a prison which closed in 1994. Apart from its renowned beaches, the draw to Ilha Grande is the chance to disconnect and to withdraw from the world and into oneself – back to life.
I’d been told that a schooner would get us to paradise faster than a ferry, but the ride to Abraão seemed just as slow, delaying us for another two hours. At sea, we tried to shield ourselves from the ocean spray and cold breeze as we sailed past fishing boats, isolated island homes, and a Japanese cargo ship. Tired, hungry, and cold, giddy relief ensued when Abraão finally appeared in the distance – we’d made it to paradise.
But with all of our transportation delays and poor planning, we were way behind schedule, and this one day that we had to explore this tropical promised land was lost. Our hopes of setting foot on Lopes Mendes, voted by Vogue as one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world – gone! Our plans to withstand the cold to snorkel in Gruto do Acaiá, a tavern with a fluorescent blue-green color – failed! Our dream of seeing Lagoa Azul – out the door! Deferred hopes – a recurring theme of our journey throughout Costa Verde.
The bright side? Pousada Naturalia – our Ilha Grande hotel. This small boutique eco hotel is about a 15-minute walk from Abraão’s center where there’s not too much activity apart from a few bars and restaurants, a church, and an internet café. Porters were available for hire to help us carry our luggage, but we opted to rough it.
The pousada is just a hop away from the beach, and the rainforest serves as its backyard. Upon booking your room, you’ll receive an email confirmation advising you to bring cash payment along with plenty of mosquito repellent, sunblock, and a flashlight. Because nights on Ilha Grande are quite dark, and if a snake slithers past your feet, you at least want to be able to see it – right?
Pousada Naturalia delivered its website promise – “a perfect place for relaxation, both of body and soul”. After a restful night’s sleep in our simply decorated, television-free room, we took in our soothing balcony view before making our way downstairs for breakfast.
After checking out, we took the 5-minute beach route back to town to catch our ferry back to Angra dos Reis for our journey to the final Brazilian destination on our list – Búzios.
Yes, we should’ve planned better and opted to spend at least two to three nights on Ilha Grande. Yes, we probably should’ve held off on going to Brazil altogether until the weather warmed up. But the bigger lesson: sometimes you’ll travel for an entire day only to get to your destination to rest your weary head. And sometimes, that’s okay.
Click here to send a reservation inquiry to Pousada Naturalia.