Thursday, January 27, 2022

[ILHA GRANDE] Lopes Mendes & Santo Antônio

Ilha Grande was not really part of the itinerary but as travel dates loomed closer and flight tickets yet to be booked became more expensive, I had to find alternative travel arrangements via Brazil’s extensive bus and private transfer systems. Finding an okay price for a one-way transfer from Copacabana to Vila do Abraão which already included the van and the speedboat, I decided that Ilha Grande would serve as one of the pitstops for the Rio de Janeiro – São Paulo leg of the trip. I guess we’re beaching some more, after all.

Apparently, there are cheap bus tickets via Costa Verde. I guess I was just too lazy to plan a DIY trip. In any case, you have three options where you can take the speed boat headed to the island. The closest to Rio de Janeiro is Mangaratiba. The closest to the island is Conceiçao de Jacarai. The closest to São Paulo is Angra dos Reis. Take note that “closest” here is relative. What we really mean by this is that it will cut your land travel segment by half an hour to an hour max perhaps, depending on where you are coming from or going next. As for me, Top Transfer determined the transfer in Angra dos Reis, I just went along for the ride.

The trip from Rio was long and without much traffic. The speed boat ride won’t take an hour. Arriving at Vila do Abraão with heavy luggage can be a pain because there are no paved roads. You are going to be walking on paths full of sand. The good news is that the town is small and most of the accommodation options are within 10 minutes on foot from the main pier. Vila do Abraão serves as the main dock for trips to and from the mainland, but the island is much bigger and has many beaches to choose from.

Vila do Abraão springs to life in the afternoon and offers a good night life along the shores of its beach. Call it a party town if you will, but it did give me flashbacks of my first and only time in Boracay a decade ago, except that there are no fire dancers here. The vibe is almost the same, which made me realize how I missed this kind of simple island life. Oh well, who am I kidding. Perhaps a day or two would suffice, after which I end up craving the chaos of the big city once again.

The must-visit beach on the island is called Lopes Mendes. Most of the group taxi boat fares that cost BRL40 (~PHP400) roundtrip leave Vila do Abraão at 11:30 AM the latest. The return trip is at 17:00 at the latest. Any other departure later than that can be negotiated with the many taxi boat operators at the pier. The price usually doubles to BRL80 (~PHP800) roundtrip and is subjected to wait times for more passengers.

I only visited two beaches: Lopes Mendes and Santo Antônio. Both require a hike from Praia do Pouso where the taxi boats from Vila do Abraão dock. The trip lasts less than 30 minutes. Lopes Mendes is the more popular of the two, which means more people. Santo Antônio is along the same shore, but the hike is more challenging with narrower dirt paths and the jungle closing in nearer to you, as if wanting to eat you alive. The path is much more challenging and secluded as opposed to that of Lopes Mendes which is straightforward, wider, and with more people coming and going every five minutes or so.

Since I went on a cloudy day, I feel as though my camera did not give justice to either beach, the clear turquoise hues evident on Google Photos being replaced by a hazy gray. Either way, both beaches offer the tranquility you are craving for. Santo Antônio obviously rewards you with a more exclusive ambience with its big rocks along the beach. I counted and there were just 13 of us there at that time. Lopes Mendes is an easier trek from Praia do Pouso but obviously more crowded. Gorgeous, nonetheless.

While waiting for your boat at Praia do Pouso, you can have some snacks or have dinner at the floating restaurant called Ola Mar. Prices are quite steep, but who cares if you want to reward yourself with yummy seafood after that trek and relaxation at the beach, right? Your return trip via speedboat will be indicated on the paper sticker bracelet the taxi boat guys give you prior to departure. I don’t know if there are accommodation or camping options at Lopes Mendes. Most people just go there on a daytrip given its proximity to Vila do Abraão.

[ILHA GRANDE] Lopes Mendes & Santo Antônio

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