Ilhabela is very popular among Brazilian tourists, but less known in the rest of the world. 85% of the island consists of preserved tropical rainforest, and for that reason alone it is well worth a visit.
1. To do and see
There are ample things to do on and around the island. Do you like to scuba dive, go into the jungle, visit a waterfall, or go surfing? Ilhabela is the place to be.
Ilhabela is one of the most popular diving destinations in Brazil. Besides the tropical fish, people also come to see the dozens of shipwrecks. We can thank the Dutch and English pirates, who robbed and sank many ships in the sixteenth century, for the shipwrecks. The island was located alongside one of the major shipping routes in those days. Additionally, dozens of ships sank under mysterious circumstances. Therefore, Ilhabela is also called the Bermuda Triangle of Brazil.
One of the most magnificent spots to dive is the Ilha das Cabras, where a bronze statue of Zeus can be found at the bottom of the sea.
Only a jeep allows you to drive straight through the jungle to the east side of the island. This 45-minute drive over a bumpy dirt road is a bone-shaking ride. However, it’s certainly worth it, as the most beautiful and cleanest beaches on this side of the island are located there, just like the highest waterfalls, where you can enjoy taking a dip. What’s easier to reach and also beautiful is the beach Praia do Julião.
Do you travel alone to Brazil? Then I do not recommend you to go to Ilhabela. The fact is there are little to no other foreign travelers. It is an island that attracts mainly Brazilian families and couples. Ilha Grande is a more suitable island for solo travelers.
The west coast of the island, where the harbor is located, is built up with pousadas and restaurants. These are relatively expensive, as the Brazilian tourists are from the middle and upper classes.
Fortunately, pousada Caxinguelê opened its doors in 2012. The pousada is conveniently located close to the old center of Vila Ilhabela and you can get a cozy suite with a garden, a hammock, and a great breakfast, for a friendly price.
Airbnb is also a great alternative to an expensive pousada or hostel.
3. Eat and drink
Kanoa da Ilha is a very cozy restaurant with typical Brazilian dishes. It is a few minute’s walk from the old town, which means it’s relatively cheap for Ilhabela.
For a good deal in the old town, I would recommend Restaurante Cheiro Verde and Restaurante Manjericão.
For a beautiful place at the beach, please go to Prainha do Julião, voted as Ilhabela’s best beach club.
You will not be disappointed.
You can take the ferry from the coastal town São Sebastião that will take you to the other side in 15 minutes.