Sadly our trip to Brazil is over now. We spent the last part of our vacation on Ilha Grande, an island a few hours outside of Rio. We feared the trip to the island might be a bust because of a bad weather forecast, but it still turned out pretty good.
We took a transfer from Rio early in the morning and arrived on the island just after lunch. It rained our whole way to the island, so we weren’t feeling up for beaches, but we decided to go on a little 3km hike that somehow turned into 8+ kilometers. Our intention was to hike up to an old aqueduct that still transports water down to the main city of Abraao, but the rain cleared up a bit, so we decided to continue on another few kilometers to Feiticeira Waterfall. It looked pretty small compared to what we saw in Iguazu, but it was still quite nice. Our hiking boots have definitely seen better days though! The whole trail was covered in red clay, which got incredible sticky thanks to all the rain and got caked all over our boots and legs.
The sun was trying to poke out the following morning, so we rose early to complete a 7km hike out to Ilha Grande’s best beach, Lopes Mendes. We seemed to be the first ones out on the trail and even though it was mostly uphill, we enjoyed the first few kilometres of the trail. There’s a lot of dogs on the island, mostly strays unfortunately, and we picked up two doggy friends at the start of our hike. At first we tried to shake them off because I’m usually pretty weary of animals in other countries, but they were very sweet and hiked most of the way to Lopes Mendes with us! There was a little brown one that was always taking off into the woods and a bigger white dog that would run ahead after the smaller dog and then wait for us to catch up (he was sweet and I really liked him). They disappeared after about an hour and we weren’t sure what happened to them, but they eventually caught up with us later on with another group of hikers.
I read before we came here that Lopes Mendes was ranked as one of the best beaches in the world and it did not disappoint! It’s definitely near the top of my list! It was just miles of the finest, cleanest sand I’ve ever seen. It was so soft and we spent a lot of time just hanging out in the shallows. At first when we saw the waves at Lopes Mendes we were a little disappointed because they looked really large and we had gotten pummeled by the large waves at Copacabana, but they ended up being perfect. The slope of the beach is very small, so the waves would break really far out and were great for jumping around in. Everyone in Rio told us the water would be too cold for swimming because it was almost winter, but unsurprisingly, we didn’t find it cold at all and thought it was the perfect temperature!
On our second day in Ilha Grande we decided to explore the island by boat. Tourism definitely plays a large role for most of the locals living on the island and there were dozens of little agencies offering a number of excursions around the island. We decided to do a snorkeling tour of the north half of the island. We spent the day on a nice high speed motor boat with a dozen other tourists and visited several different beaches.
The sun was out when we left and fortunately it stuck around for most of the day. Our first two stops on the boat were the snorkeling locations, Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, which translates to blue and green lake. Lagoa Azul had better reefs, with lots of bright fish and some coral, but I ended up having more fun at Lagoa Verde. Our boat driver had some fish food that he threw in the water while I was snorkeling near the boat and I got a great view of all the fish as they swarmed around. He gave me some to feed them as well – they’re these little pellets that you hold in the water and all the fish bite at them. I was surprised at how aggressive they were and they quickly devoured all the food! A few of them gave me little bites on the arm and I realized there was another kind of fish swarming around my feet when they bit me on the legs too! It was all fun though, everyone else seemed a bit reluctant to be in the middle of all the fish, but I enjoyed it.
In the afternoon we stopped to a different beach for lunch and then toured another few beaches on the way back to Abraao. The tide had come in by then, so unfortunately the beaches had shrunk quite significantly, but it was still nice to get a tour of the island. Emily and I both agreed though that Lopes Mendes was the best beach and that overall, the boat tour and snorkeling we’re probably a little overrated. We were glad to support the livelihoods of those living on the island, but our preference probably would have been to do some more beach hopping by hiking rather than boat. But it’s a very beautiful island!
On our last night in Rio we decided to go all out and go on a pub crawl with the group that organized our walking tour when we arrived. The pub crawl goes all around Lapa, which has the best night life in Rio and we had a blast! Emily has a friend from Rio, so he joined us for the evening and we all had a great time sampling some of Rio’s best bars and clubs.
We started at a Cachacaria. Cachaca is the key ingredient in Brazil’s favourite cocktail, the caipirinha, so we visited a small bar called Cana Kriok that makes its own cachaca and got a lesson in how to make the perfect caipirinha. The other ingredients include just lime, sugar, and ice; I picked up a bottle of cachaca to take home, so I’ll have to try them out myself! The caipirinhas at Cana Kriok were easily the best ones I had the whole trip. Apparently they’re best made individually and the large batches of caipirinhas they sell on the beach just can’t compare.
Our second stop was to a “typical Brazilian bar”, Antonio’s, which Emily and I had unknowingly visited earlier in the trip. The last two clubs we visited we’re where we finally sampled some samba! The first club was Sacrilegio, which is a very old club that is known as the birthplace of samba. There was a live band and we had a great time attempting to learn some samba moves! We were so bad at it, you have to move your feet so quickly, but we had fun nonetheless.
The last stop was Rio Scenarium, the most famous club in Brazil and ranked one of the top 10 clubs in the world by The Guardian. It had three floors and was enormous! The main floor had more Brazilian music and samba and the second floor had electronica. Brazil just hosted it’s first Tomorrowland festival in São Paulo last week, so the second floor was packed. We spent some time on both floors and were more then happy to spend the remainder of our night at the Scenarium!
Our flights didn’t leave until after 9pm on our last day, so we took it easy and spent the day walking along the beaches again. We did a little hike up to a small fort located near the beach to finish off the trip with one last view of Rio. It was definitely a rewarding view and hike. We met lots of little marmosets on the way up and we had a great view of all Rio’s famous attractions, the Sugarloaf, Christo Redentor, and Copacobana Beach. It was a pretty satisfying way to end the trip.
As with most trips, I’m sad to leave but happy to be home. I don’t have too much of a break though as my parents are coming for a visit in just 3 short days!! I hope you enjoyed the blogs about Brazil, I really enjoyed writing them. Check my Facebook for pictures soon!
Otherwise, I’m sure I’ll have lots of fun summer adventures to share with you soon!