The Best Hiking Trails in Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro

Lopes Mendes | © dabldy/WikiCommons
Lopes Mendes | © dabldy/WikiCommons
Ilha Grande may be known for its sublime beaches and pristine waters, yet did you know it’s also great for hiking? From treks to the tops of peaks with panoramic views, to trails leading to tropical beaches, there is plenty to explore on this paradisiacal island. Here are some of the best hiking trails on Ilha Grande.

Praia Abraãozinho

This relatively easy trail is a good one to start on to ease yourself into the island’s treks. At just one kilometre in one direction, the hike takes about 20 minutes and leads to the small, untouched beach of Abraãozinho. The trek is pretty flat except a couple of rocks that you need to climb over but it’s not that challenging. Be prepared to wade through the water if you get caught in high tide, but even then it remains shallow and not really an issue. There are nearby beach kiosks for simple snacks and drinks, yet it’s recommended to take your own food and drink too as the humidity and heat can be intense.

Praia Abraãozinho © Fulviusbsas/WikiCommons

Vila de Dois Rios

This trail starts at the main pier in Vila do Abraão and leads to the almost deserted village of Dois Rios. The trail is about 8.3 kilometres one way and takes just over two hours in one direction. The uphill at the start can be tiring but its followed by a pleasant descent towards a pretty beach which the island’s two rivers flow into it. The trek is mostly through the jungle with the sounds of insects and birds accompanying you. Highlights along the way include the Piscina dos Soldados, a small pool where soldiers used to bathe before heading to the prison.

Lopes Mendes

Starting in Vila do Abraão at the east end of the beach, this hike follows an 8.5 kilometres trail to the island’s most famous beach – Lopes Mendes. Despite being the most popular hike on the island, it usually remains pretty quiet which provides a peaceful setting to enjoy the sounds of the jungle and leisurely take in the oceanic views from key points along the hill. The trail is split into two parts and is well-signposted so be sure to take the one saying ‘Lopes Mendes’. The beach is long and wide with white sands and excellent surfing conditions. Take plenty of food and water with you as options are limited along the way.

Lopes Mendes © dabldy/WikiCommons

Praia de Palmas and Praia de Manguas

This hike takes the same route as Lopes Mendes but follows the second path where the trail splits. Follow the path from Vila do Abraão through the jungle and take the second trail. From there, you can visit the two untouched and calm beaches of Praia das Palmas and Praia de Manguas. Although these two beaches often sit in the shadow of Lopes Mendes, they are arguably more serene with fewer people and raw, natural beauty. If you’re tired after the hike, you can take a boat from Praia de Manguas to Vila do Abraão.

Praia de Palmas © Otávio Nogueira/WikiCommons

Circuito do Abraão

At the other side of the beach in Vila do Abraão at the opposite end to the beginning of the trail to Lopes Mendes is the short and pleasant hike known as Circuito do Abraão. The trail is about 1.5 kilometres in total and takes about an hour to do. It’s a flat walk and goes past some scenic beaches and the remains of the island’s abandoned prison. Along the way, you will pass the waterfall Cachoeira dos Escravos which has a pool in the front for a refreshing swim to cool off.

Pico do Papagaio

Starting from Vila do Abraão, this 11 kilometre hike takes you up to the peak of Pico do Papagaio which takes about 8 hours in total or more. It’s best to start out very early in the morning to avoid being on the mountain when it gets dark. The hike is challenging climbing to around 1,000 metres in altitude but the views over the island are unforgettable. For inexperienced hikers, take a guide with you as the final part is very steep and requires a rope in some places to get to the highest point.

Pico do Papagaio © MBelu/WikiCommons

The Full Ilha Grande Circuit

It’s possible to hike around the whole island in five days. If you have longer though, it’s better so you can take in the pristine beaches and dense jungles along the way. Starting at Vila do Abraão, follow the trail around the island, passing dozens of untouched and barely visited beaches. There are small pousadas (Brazilian bed and breakfast) along the way to sleep at but at times, camping is the better option as choices are limited. Take food and water with you but there are several local restaurants and bars all along the island so you’ll always have a chance to stock up on provisions if necessary.