Thank goodness for small island towns & sandy beaches. After the “controlled” chaos & late nights that was Rio’s Carnival, a few quiet days of sun & surf was exactly what we needed. To recoup, we hopped a ride out to Brazil’s Costa Verde (the Green Coast), a stretch of coastline between the Rio de Janeiro state, to Santos, São Paulo state. This was my idea of Brazil.
Literally the “Big Island”, Ilha Grande hosts some of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, & the world. The only way on & off is to grab boat transfer from Concepção de Jacarei landing. You can of course come further from Angra dos Reis or if you are lucky enough, sail your own boat down & grab onto a mooring.
After Rio, the casual relaxed nature of jumping onto one of these floating taxis, blaring 90’s music & packed in with about 20 other people as you race across the bay, it was the deep breath of the salt air that made everything seem ok again.
During the high season, the island is hopping. Restaurants, local shops & plenty of excursion companies span the beach front. The people are friendly, many Brazilian families, have begun flocking to the area on their holidays & the island even throws its own Carnival blocos (though tamer & more manageable than Rio). Trekking up just off the beach, we found ourselves up concrete streets & stairs (no vehicles outside a few maintenance trucks exist on the island), headed straight into the jungle to the hidden Hostel Holandes. Apparently, we are drawn to places hidden in the trees, suspended in the air, plenty of hammocks around…it’s a trend we’ve noticed in picking out our lodging. Maybe we have some sort of Robinson Caruso obsession?
If you’re looking for adventure, Ilha Grande provides plenty. You can choose from snorkel trips, surf lessons, diving boats & jungle hikes. Since we basically wanted to sit our bums on the beach & not move for two days, we chose one jungle hike that led us from the center of town to the world-famous Lopes Mendes beach, named the 13th most beautiful beach in the world in 2014. As you know we’ve tackled harder hikes but this was no picnic. Maybe it was lack of practice or the increased heat & humidity but the trek estimate is 2.5 hours & it took all of that even for us. Up & over the island, into the jungle & past other perfectly beautiful looking beaches & coves, you finally spill out on the wide expanse of Lopes Mendes.
Since the beach is only accessible by walks (you can boat to the adjacent beach but still have to trek approx. 20-25 mins up & over to reach Lopes) you can lie undisturbed from boat noises, street vendors or any other reference to civilization. Only a few lone men sell cervejas, sandwiches & waters from coolers. It’s a blissful way to lie under shade trees or soak up the rays for days on end, interruption free. Which is exactly what we did.
Day two on the island: Rinse & repeat day 1. Only this time we caught the slow boat taxis to & from the beach (didn’t want to spoil our time with too much physical activity now did we?). Ending the day with a cold brew on the local floating dock bar, I decided our family & friends would be lucky if we ever came home.
Why settle for one beach town when you can hit up two? We (a bit begrudgingly) left the beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande & headed south 3 hours to the coastal town of Paraty. Paraty is a former colonial town famous for its gold exports. Its beautiful cobblestone streets (more like big rock streets than the cobblestones we think of) & Portuguese architecture make it a dream to walk through. Pops of brightly colored tiles or merchandise displayed on the backdrops of white in the historical old town.
No matter how far & wide we travel, there are always small moments when you realize the depth of what you are seeing or experiencing. Not the first, nor the last time we will say this but as we played “hop scotch” down the old road Ben paused & noted “Ya know these streets are older than our country”. Always keep things in perspective.
Instead of being beach bums again we wanted to take advantage of the landscape & do some exploring. We ended up going for a jeep tour, not something we had seen offered in many other places & I was still tired bike touring.
Early morning, we hopped into the back of an old Land Rover Defender with a few other couples & set out into the jungles of Paraty. Apparently, the thing to do outside of town is play in waterfalls & we got to spend the day splashing & sliding down rocks into puddled pools beneath great falls.
After Paraty as a port city fell out of favor, another popular commodity popped up called “cachaça”, a spirit distilled from fermented sugar cane, & the most important ingredient in Ben’s favorite cocktail the “caipirinha”. Obviously, a must for any tour we would do had to include a tour & tasting of the local beverage.
After waiting out a torrential downpour, we decided to hit the town with an Australian couple we met on the tour. We headed back to Paraty33, which we visited the previous night due to its solid food and great live music (who doesn’t love rocking out to Elvis Presley & The Beatles even in Brazil?). It turned out to be quite the night, dinner transformed from another light musical performance to sitting in the middle of a Paraty dance party (strobe lights included) with an apparently popular local band & party music all through the night! So much fun on our last night on Costa Verde.
Till Next Time Brazil… (& São Paulo)
We took off the next afternoon to São Paulo, our final destination in Brazil. After some much needed niceties of home, a massive dinner at Barbacoa, a famous Brazilian steakhouse, quick visit by Ben’s office & a much appreciated sendoff dinner we say adios to South America & head off to our next continent! For clues make sure you’re following our Walker adventure with all our social media posts!