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  • Ilhabela, Brazil

    Ilhabela Info and Miniguide

    Ilhabela meaning Beautiful Island is in the state of São Paulo and surely lives up to its name. Its volcanic peaks, gorgeous beaches, dense tropical forests and hundreds of waterfalls make Ilhabela one of the best holiday spots in Brazil. The island also offers hiking in the forest, windsurfing and beach-lazing.

    Read More about Ilhabela


    If you want to splurge and pamper yourself with a vacation spot meant for kings, consider going to Illhabela. This city, about 200 kilometers from Sao Paulo, is a vacation home for some of Brazil's wealthiest citizens. Packed with visitors during the summer, it's quiet and relaxing during the rest of the year. Be prepared to spend some money during your trip to Illhabela; nothing comes cheap there. However, it's an island paradise that is perfect for those who love extreme sports, beaches, mountains, volcanoes and just generally getting close to nature.

    History of Illhabela

    Illhabela was a pirate's haunt through most of the 16th and 17th centuries. Even today, its waters are littered with pirate shipwrecks, making for outstanding diving. For two centuries, Portuguese and English ships moored at this island in order to acquire supplies and then continue to Europe with precious metals. In recent times, more than 80% of Illhabela has been converted into park and biosphere areas, sheltering an innumerable variety of animal and plant life.

    Getting Into Illhabela

    Illhabela is a small island, so there is no airport there. Consequently, if you're coming from anywhere other than South America, you'll need to fly into Sao Paulo first and then drive to São Sebastião and Ilhabela. A ferry runs every half hour between 6 AM to midnight, taking you to Illhabela. It's a 15 minute ferry ride to the island.

    Ilhabela's Climate

    The one aggravating factor that you'll have to endure at Illhabela, especially in summer is a multitude of mosquitoes and other bugs. This is because of the tropical climate and the high humidity. The yearly mean temperature on the island stays at about 18ºC. The maximum annual temperature is around 27 and the minimum about 15ºC. The summer is considered the rainy season and lasts from November through March. The dry season or winter, is from March to October. Because their winter corresponds with the northern hemisphere's summer, Illhabela, like much of South America is an ideal vacation spot for those from the North.

    Getting Around Illhabela

    There are three main ways of moving about the island: driving, boating or walking / hiking. Because there is only one rugged road going around the island, most people prefer to walk or to take a boat. For those not minding the rough road, jeeps and motorcycles are available for rental, from $5 to $20 per day. There's also a local bus.

    Shopping in Ilhabela

    Most visitors save the biggest part of their shopping budget for the large malls and shopping centers at Sao Paulo. However, there is a limited amount of shopping available on Illhabella. The major commercial shopping center is the Villa. There are also more than two dozen small shops on the west side of the island. Close to the hotel district is Iguatemi Shopping Center, while one specific hotel, the Ilha Flat, has its own shopping center on its grounds. There's also the Pereque Beach Shopping Center, which is populated mostly by food and gift stores.

    Dining in Ilhabela

    Because so many of Brazil's wealthy frequent Ilhabela, there are a few cheap meals to be found. There are, however, many excellent ones. Here are a few of the top restaurants/diners.

    For unique Thai dishes, visit the Marakuthai. The atmosphere has been created to reflect an authentic Thai experience and the female Chef, a Thai, keeps the dishes authentic, as well. If you're a fan of pizza, A Redonda Forneria offers a genuine Italian taste to its pies. Located at Av. Riachuelo, 6852, the atmosphere inside is romantic and relaxing, with soft music always playing.

    Those with a hearty appetite will want to stop by Refugio da Louca for an all-you-can-eat, serve yourself experience. In addition to the excellent western-style meals, there's also WIFI Internet access, for those with a laptop. The restaurant is located at Avenida Leovegildo Dias Vieira, 1106.

    If the water has you craving seafood, some of the best can be experienced at The Deck, at Itaguassu, Av Almirante Tamandaré 805. They also serve pizza, for the non-seafood lover in your group. Meanwhile, Cheiro Verde, located at Rua da Padroeira 109, is known for their plate of the day, which usually features beans, rice, salad and grilled fish or meat.


    Few places in South America have as many scenic waterfalls in such as short space as Ilhabela has. In all, there are nearly 200 waterfalls. Most are smaller, but a few are huge and spectacular. Among the large waterfalls, three are the most visited. Cachoeira do Gato (“Waterfall of Gato”), Cachoeira da Laje and Cachoeira da Toca. Cachoeira do Gato, at 70 meters high, is especially popular because surrounding it are a dozen natural pools and hiking trails.

    Ilhabela's Beaches

    Because Ilhabela is an island getaway, it's no surprise that one of its defining features is the amazing beaches and they are literally all over.

    In the island's center is Itaguassu Beach, which hosts a small port

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    Pereque Beach, decorated with coconut plants, has a lengthy bicycle path.

    To the north is Jabaquara Beach, the largest, at 5 meters.

    Much smaller is Do Poco, 50 meters long, but notable because it is bordered nearly the entire way by stones.

    Da Fome, at 150 meters, is perfect for immersions. Access to the water is for ships only.

    On the south side of the island is Feiticeira, 250 meters long.

    Do Curral is a beach noted for its bright yellow sand.

    Bonete Beach tends to host most of the island's surfing and is an impressive 400 meters long.

    Saco Do Sombrio is notable because it's surrounded by hills and vegetation.

    Festivals / Celebrations

    Two major events bring visitors each year: The Shrimp Festival and the International Sailing Week. As you'd expect, the Shrimp Festival features mile after mile of shrimp, cooked every possible way, as well as shrimp for sale. That's not all; however, the annual festival also includes eating competitions, musical shows and contests. The event is held in August.

    International Sailing Week is South America's largest sailing event. It was founded in 1973 and currently gathers more than 400 boats and about 1,500 sailors in the month of July. In addition to the sailing competition are land-based shows, exhibits and lectures.

    Trails at Ilhabela

    Thanks to many kilometers of beaches and rocky hill terrain, hiking is popular on the island. There are at least four popular large trails.


    A 40 minute walk from the south of the Sepituba road toward Bonete Beach will bring you to Laje Waterfall. At the end of the long walk, the natural pools and slides at the waterfall make this a perfect place to stop for an hour or two to rest and relax.


    For something truly challenging, take the four hour hike up the 1000m journey toward the top of Baepi Peak. Making this trail more difficult, yet more beautiful is the heavy tree coverage. Note: You'll need permission from the park administration to hike the mountain and you must have a professional guide.


    Even more physically demanding is a 13 km hike on a trail off Bonete Beach. It's a bumpy hike, but making it more pleasant are three waterfalls. Expect to take up to four hours to travel this trail.


    Agua Branca is the trail that is best marked and signed, featuring several prime resting spots for picnics and recreation. Keeping you refreshed are natural pools and waterfalls.


    Ilhabela has always been an important fisherman's island. In recent generations, though, it has become the home of fishing competitions such as the Ocean Fishing Competition. You'll find fish such as blue marlins, white marlins, anchovies, robalos and groupers.


    The rough, punishing roads that make a leisurely drive so difficult make Ilhabela a good spot for off-road enthusiasts. You'll find people regularly driving their jeeps and ATVs on the dirt roads and up into some of the lower-level rocky hills.

    Ilhabela's Specialty: Extreme Sports

    Of late, the most important activities for vacationers to the island seem to be extreme-sport related. Some of the popular activities include:

    Wind Surfing. The São Sebastião Channel provides perfect conditions for this activity, thanks to a narrow corridor between the mountains and strong winds throughout the year.

    Scuba Diving. Fans of underwater exploration enjoy viewing the local sea life and the remains of 20 shipwrecks.

    Climbing. An island with such large mountains and rocky terrain is bound to attract rock and mountain climbers. There are small rocky walls which are great for beginners and the hillsides of areas such as Baepi Peak, more suited for the seasoned climber.

    Surfing. Of course, the king of all water extreme sports is prominent at Ilhabela, thanks to the high winds and waves.

    Ilhabela is for the adventurer—one who is not afraid to spend a holiday or vacation where Mother Nature rules and man has not yet tamed her too much.

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