Ilhabela translates to “Beautiful Island”. That is a correct description of Brazil’s third largest island, located just a few hours from São Paulo. It’s a popular weekend getaway for Paulistas with some incredible beaches, hiking trails, and waterfalls. One warning – bring lots of bug spray. The mosquitoes and flies are brutal!
There are also direct buses to and from São Paulo running roughly every hour. Without traffic, the ride should be around 3 1/2 hours. The fastest route is “via Dutra”. Other routes go through different towns making more stops.
The ferry from São Sebastião runs about every half hour during the day and is free for pedestrians and bikes. Cars and motorcycles have to pay a small fee. It only takes about 15 minutes to cross.
Getting around on foot is difficult because Ilhabela is a big island, but it’s possible to use a bicycle to get where you want. There’s also a bus that runs along the main road for about BRA$3, stopping at the settlements and beaches. To get to the other side of the island for the best beaches, you will most likely need a 4×4 or take a boat tour. I did a jeep tour to Praia de Castelhanos.
Ilhabela has one main road on the west side of the island where most of the settlements are located. I stayed at the Hostel Central in Perequê. It was about a 25 minute walk to the ferry from there. The hostel takes on the personality of Ilhabela and is a very quiet and relaxing place. If you’re looking to party, this is not the place to stay.
Hostel Central was the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed in, very comfortable, and located very close to restaurants, a supermarket, banks, and other shops. There are dorm rooms and very nice private rooms as well. Daniel, the owner, is a great guy and wonderful host. He really went out of his way to make sure all of the guests were happy. I would stay there again and highly recommend it.
There are several options for food on Ilhabela. On my first night, I had dinner at a place called Pinup Burger. It’s located at a small mall called Ardhentia. Service was great, but when my burger came out, it was just a piece of meat. No bun, no lettuce or tomatoes, nothing. Not sure where the miscommunication was, but needless to say I wasn’t satisfied.
On my second night, I walked with my hostel friends along the main road in Perequê and found an antique store/bar across the street from a gas station. I can’t make that up. We played pool and drank 500ml beers until 3am for just BRA$6! I wish I knew the name of the place but I’m sure someone on the island would be able to tell you.
On my last day, I had lunch at Brasileirinho in Vila Ilhabela. The prices were very reasonable at BRA$14 for a filet mignon sandwich that tasted great.
On my last night, our group had an amazing sushi dinner at Sushiris Temakeria at Ardhentia. The five of us shared two combos of sushi and sashimi and liked it so much we ended up ordering more.
Later that night at about 11pm, Daniel took us to Vila Ilhabela to go to a local bar called Estaleiro Bar. Every Wednesday night the locals meet there to dance. We had some drinks, danced, and had a great time.
The only thing I didn’t have time to do was visit Praia do Bonete. It was named one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in Brazil. Unfortunately, it’s only accessible by boat, which usually costs upwards of BRA$150, or by hiking four hours on a difficult trail. There is a small village there with lots of pousadas and a few restaurants. Three days a week, Hostel Central runs a boat to Praia do Bonete, depending on the ocean conditions and how many guests are interested.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Ilhabela, mostly because of the new friends I made. If I hadn’t met these great people, I don’t think I would have had such a great time. I also wish I would have stayed more than just three days!