Rio – Ilha Grande – Paraty
A common route to take down the coast of Brazil is from Rio onto the island of Ilha Grande and then back on to the main land and on to Paraty, and this is where we currently are. We have thousands of kilometers to undertake over the next few months, yet we have only made it one centimeter from Rio so far, not to worry very, very long bus trips are to come.
You have two options for making your way from Rio to Ilha Grande, public bus or using a transfer service that includes both bus and ferry over to the island. We were all for the doing it ourselves and catching the public bus with a company, Costa Verde and making our own way there, but unfortunately we ran into difficulty with buying the bus tickets online without a CPF, and as we were staying about an hour from the bus station we couldn’t pop in ourselves to buy them personally – which you can do without a CPF, so we ended up going with Green Toad Transfers.
Green Toad (which also goes by the name of Easy Transfer) offer pick-up from your accommodation if you are in the central area, Otafogo, Flamengo, Catete, Gloria and the areas of Central, Lapa and Santa Teresa (which we were not so we had to meet the mini-van in Leblon at a juice bar instead). The mini-van takes about 2.5 hours once you have picked up the last person; with one stop 2/3 of the way in at a gas station for a toilet/snack break. You will then arrive at Concepcao de Jacarei, and although confusing with the driver not speaking any English another man arrived and hustled us all aboard a smallish ferry boat on to a 40 minute ride to Ilha Grande. The ferry makes it’s first stop on the far right of the main beach and we were told to hop off here as our booked accommodation was this end, it then went on to the main pier of Abraão for its final drop off which would probably suit most other accommodation, apart from Che Lagarto, where we were at or the Aquario Hostel.
As mentioned it is possible to catch the Costa Verde bus line to Concepcao de Jacarei, and grab your own ferry from the pier, and this would probably work out cheaper but we were unable to buy our bus tickets. However once you buy your bus ticket at R$40 and then pay for your ferry ticket, between R$20-R$30, once you add it up, perhaps taking the transfer service at R$100 which includes pick-up, you might be better off, especially if this is the beginning of your trip and you are nervous about venturing out of Rio for the first time.
Ilha Grande was really quaint and laid back, I find that Brazilians are far less opportunistic than the Thai, Vietnamese or Cambodian people (countries we have recently visited) and it is refreshing after being in South East Asia for a month. You’ll find that restaurants and shops that have prime location will be closed until later in the evening until the island starts to get busier with tourists returning from day trips. However you will always find somewhere to eat any time of the day, things are a little quieter late morning and into the afternoon, unless a cruise ship is sitting in the bay, guests will come a shore and the island will liven up a bit more. I love how it really feels that you are in another country on Ilha Grande, and although you can find pizza, hamburgers and what not, you don’t have that gaudy, in your face type of tourism that every which way you turn is trying to sell you something, I only saw two places offering internet and two offering laundry services.
There are plenty of day trips to book that will take you to other parts of the island or alternative islands. We ended up walking to Lopes Mendes, which is a beautiful, squeaky sand type of beach that most tours have on the itinerary. It was a two hour trek that was uphill for the first 45 minutes and even for me, was hard work. We wore our trainers and packed a sandwich that ate had along the way. You do cross two other beaches before you get to Lopes Mendes so it is possible to buy something light to eat and drink along the way and once you get to Lopes Mendes. We didn’t trek back, instead we caught one of the ferry’s back to the main pier back around by the main beach. You can grab these ferry’s from the beach just before your final climb to Lopes Mendes, this beach is 20 minutes away from your final destination and the boats go throughout the day, make sure not to miss the last one however. You can ask the boat drivers as you walk past of the times the last boat will be leaving as not to miss it, we actually bought our ticket aboard a fast boat there and then, so we knew what time to return.
The next stop is Paraty, and determined to not take the easy R$70 transfer again, and do it our own we found a ferry that goes to Angros dos reis three times daily for R$30. From Angros dos Reis we caught a public bus for R$10 that took almost two hours exactly and terminated at Paraty bus station which is in easy walking distance to most accommodation. You can get this bus from the same side of the road as the pier you will arrive at. Walk straight out of the ferry building, past information and onto the road, cross only the railway tracks (not the actual road) and walk about 50 meters to your right. You will see a little bus stop, and there is a sign for a bus company called Colitur, you will find the bus times there too. We caught the 2:30pm bus, should you get the 12:30pm ferry (as we did) from Ilha Grande, if you hot foot it off the boat and on to the bus stop you could make the 1:50pm bus, they go every 40 minutes. Our bus was chocka and we luckily were one of the first to get on and make it to the back of the bus – which is preferable as there is more room for backpacks. The bus has no aircon and is mildly uncomfortable, until the locals start trickling off at the stops along the way and the trip becomes more comfortable.
We stayed at Che Lagarto at both Ilha Grande and Paraty, they are pretty budget as accommodation goes and as both these areas are pricey I am kind of turning a blind eye and thinking of all the lovely places we were be staying in Peru and Chile were things are much cheaper.