The Green Coast: Ilha Grande to Paraty

When in Brazil we had two weeks, we knew we were starting in Rio de Janeiro and we would be ending in Sao Paulo (soon to change if you’ve read our Rio de Janeiro post!) So, where to go? I don’t know if you know this, but Brazil is massive, like absolutely huge. How were we going to make a meaningful stamp on this country in such a short amount of time?

We looked and looked for ways to cover as much ground as possible without running around like headless chickens completely missing the little charms of the country. After much deliberation and many tense chats, we settled on the Green Coast. I’m not sure why I just said we ‘settled’ as we didn’t settle, we were ecstatic!

The Green Coast runs from just south of Rio de Janeiro down to Paraty which is ‘the gem’ of the coast. It is a luscious setting of hill, forestry and waterfalls which make for some of the most beautiful adventures and hikes.

We left Rio de Janeiro on a rather misty morning, gutted to be leaving the bustle but also thrilled to be heading towards some down time. It was a simple bus and boat journey which can be booked at many of the hotel front desks. We opted for a multiple pick up jobbie, after the amount of money we spent on caipirinhas we were in no state of affairs to be getting a private taxi.

Now, this journey was going to be another life changing moment because it is the first time we tried Coxinhas. We had been eating pretty authentic Brazilian dishes while in Rio so far (the sushi and the drunken Pizza Hut were yet to come) but we hadn’t stumbled across these yet. How? We do not know but better late than never. They are shredded chicken balls covered in dough and then deep fried to look like chicken legs (sorry veggies and vegans but they were delicious!) We picked them up from a local street vendor on a stop off and we had to go back for seconds.

Anyhow, enough of the food, back to the Green Coast. The drive got more and more beautiful as we got closer to the port which was going to take us to Ilha Grande and when we got to the port we were beside ourselves with excitement.

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Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande is an island off the main land of Brazil. It has no roads, no cars, limited supplies and no irrigation system. It’s an eco-friendly paradise and we had booked into Asalem, a beautifully rustic hotel with two story rooms scattered throughout the rainforest. It was a dream and far enough out of town you could really relax. As far as you had to get a boat to town, so it was down time galore.

The day we arrived we has typical rainforest weather which made the boat crossing a sheer delight, we joke. But, once we were settled into our room we headed back down to the veranda overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The cool sea breeze was refreshing, and it looked beautiful. We sat for a long while just watching the rain trickle off the leaves and make patterns in the sea. We know you’re not going to believe us, but this is when the hotel staff gave us a tip ‘when it rains, drink caipirinhas!’ It was like we were kindred spirits finally being reunited in paradise. As everyone knows it’s rude to turn your host down, so that’s how we spent our first evenings, drinking caipirinhas, getting to know the hotel staff and playing rummy while watching the storm come in harder and harder.

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The next morning, we woke up with fresh heads, something about the Brazilian air prevents hangovers like a charm. The storm had subsided, but it was still drizzly and overcast. However, this wasn’t going to stop us. We had limited time in this paradise and we wanted to see all it had to offer. We had heard rumours that the most beautiful beach in the whole world, jesting… Brazil, was located on Ilha Grande and it was only a two-hour trek from our hotel (hence no cars nor roads) so we slapped on the converse (should have thought that through better) and Lopes Mendes hear we come.

It was a hard trek we’re not going to lie. We’ve trekked up Snowdon and Scafell Pike, the highest points in Wales and England, we’ve even trekked around Petra in Jordan in 40-degree heat, but this was hard. It wasn’t so much the hight but the intense muggy heat, the uneven footpaths, the lack of grip that converse give you and the sheer embarrassment of locals running past you in flip flops without a care in the world, while you’re having to sit on the floor with a soggy bum to get down a rock. One the other hand, it was magical! You were completely immersed in the rainforest, surrounded by different birds calling to each other and the distant sound of trickling waterfalls. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Once we got to Lopes Mendes we were sweating, like bucket loads but my gosh was it an adventure. The clouds had yet to part and there was still a dripping of rain, but the beach was everything you could have ever wanted. Palm tree draping over the crystal white sand, boulders at each end shoe horning the beach. Picturesque!

We spent many hours here climbing the rocks, swimming in the sea and walking along the beach with our toes playing in the sand, but the weather man wasn’t playing ball. So, eventually we got a taxi boat back round the island to our hotel where we fell into another rummy playing, caipirinhas drinking evening with the hotel. As they said, ‘when it rains, drink caipirinhas!’ 

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The next day, sunshine. Glorious, glorious sunshine! So, we booked a boat tour with two of the other guests in the hotel to see the rest of the island. The guide asked us where we wanted to go and all we could say were ‘the best places!’ And he did the rest. We spent the day snorkelling, finding untouched beaches, scaling rocks and meeting more locals.

That was one thing about Ilha Grande, in Rio de Janeiro you are removed from the locals with not too much interaction either way, we suppose we could liken it to London, but in Ilha Grande they were the most welcoming and warmest people, always wanting to find out more about you and tell you more about them.

Many hotels and hostels on the Island have their own boats and we would recommend letting them take you where is best. That day although there was sunshine on our side of the island and to the south, surrounding Lopes Mendes was still cloudy with rough seas. They know best and we were more than happy in their capable hands.

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After we felt like we had had enough down time we decided to catch a boat to the main town by the port for dinner. There is a number of amazing restaurants serving the most delicious seafood, freshly caught that day. You might not always be able to pick what you want but whatever they’ve caught… they’ll cook it well.

On our final day in Ilha Grande we headed down to one of our hotels local beaches. Although a lot smaller it had Lopes Mendes leaning palm trees and white sand, so we called it mini-Lopes and worship the sun gods. After the most relaxing last day it was time to leave this little island of paradise and head to Paraty.

Paraty

Our trip to Paraty was as simple as our trip to Ilha Grande, a boat back to the mainland and then a bus to the colonial town. Paraty is an old Portuguese colonial town which was developed durning the Brazilian gold rush in the 17th and 18th century. We had obviously done our research and knew that it was going to be a picture paradise, but I don’t think we were ready for how beautiful it was going to be.

We checked into our hotel Recanto das Andorinhas Pousada, a modern spa hotel on the outskirts of town. If we were going again we would have preferred to stay in the centre of town, but it can be quite expensive so Recanto das Andorinhas Pousada was a good compromise and the massages are top notch!

We arrived in the evening, so we went to bed early for a full day exploring the town. On our first day we hadn’t really planned a great deal, we just wanted to explore and walk down every single cobbled street that Paraty had to offer. It was a day well spent. All the houses are white washed which multicoloured arched doors, there are different coloured flowers reaching over the walls and surrounding the windows and the cobbles are all different shades of grey and brown. We were mesmerised.

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We decided to stop of a late lunch in Gina Restaurante, a little Italian in the heart of town. You felt like you were in someones living room and it was charming. We had a very lazy lunch, but maybe a little too lazy. By the time we wanted to leave the town had flooded and we were stuck. There was no way of getting back to our hotel without wading through water. Now, although the power had to be turned off it was still light and there are worse placed to be stuck than somewhere with a very extensive wine menu… queue surprise daytime drinking. We sat with the owner a finished off another bottle. Oh, did I forget to mention that we’d already had one with lunch? Things escalated, and the owner convinced us to try a hot Brazilian chilli. We were giving it the front, ‘oh it will be fine, I’m sure we’ve eaten hotter…’ Well turns out we hadn’t. About thirty seconds later we were be hand fed yogurt and bread by the owner absolutely laughing his head off. Cheers!

After a longer lunch than expected the water had started to drain and we were able to head back out into town. We ended up repeating our morning activities because the reflecting of the traditional buildings in the water was beautiful. After an amazing day, massages and bed were the only two cards left.

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The next day we headed out, we wanted to head more into the mountains as we had heard there we some beautiful streams and waterfalls. Who doesn’t love a good waterfall? We headed to Cachoeira Toboga, you can get a local bus but for some reason we forgot the trip was all up hill and we decided to get a bike – do not do it. We repeat do not do this. The gentleman we hired them from was perfectly lovely, but the bikes weren’t in amazing condition, so it made the 8km uphill struggle even harder.

Once we had reached the entrance to Cachoeira Toboga, by an old white church, we were dripping. I cannot explain to you how hard it was. It makes the trek to Lopes Mendes seem like a doddle. But, out of sheer stubbiness we pushed through. Worth it though. There was a natural water slide which you can spend hours playing on, natural pool and streams boxed in by all sizes of boulders and a swing bridge taking you across to Bar du Tarzan when you can build up some Dutch courage for the downhill cycle. It was a beautiful day and a must do if in the town of Paraty!

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On our final day we were craving the beach before heading to Sao Paulo. We had read about the beauty of Cachadoco Beach near Trindade and we had our blinkers on. Thats where we were going. We caught a local bus to Trindade and then from the beach took a short 5-minute hike to Cachadoco Beach. A natural rock pool has formed, and the water is shall and warm. We spent the day relaxing on the rocks, again, worshiping the sun gods before heading back to Paraty.

Our time in Ilha Grande and Paraty was surreal. The beauty of the Green Coast is breath-taking and we are so happy that we decided to spend our two weeks there. The combination of city, meets town, meet eco-friendly secluded island was the perfect balance and we didn’t feel rushed or that we had missed anything out.

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Next stop; Sao Paulo.

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