By Lakshmi: (Updated Sept 23, 2014)
The March 2012 issue of Outside magazine names Ilha Grande as a runner-up for the coveted award of one of the best set of beaches in the world. As we read the article, we smiled and reflected on our hiking adventure.
In Rio, we had already hiked Sugar Loaf, gone hang gliding, seen Christ the Redeemer, toured the Favelas, and bummed on the beaches of Leblon, Copacabana and Ipanema. We needed some intense hiking and our friends at Rio Hiking (who helped us scale Sugar Loaf) sent over Eduardo early the next morning to guide us through our day long adventure at Ilha Grande.
Located off the coast of Rio, this 75 square mile island, once a home to prisoners, is now a spectacular reserve. On our 90 minute journey to Magaratiba port, Eduardo chatted excitedly about Ilha Grande, raving about its beaches, warning us about the hike and there being no food or facilities for long periods of time and chastising Siddhi for showing up in jeans for an active endeavour. We had hiked Sugar Loaf with Eduardo, so here he was like an old Brazilian friend!
At the Magaratiba port, the first order of business was to stock up on fruits and water to last us for the several hour hike. We picked bananas, guavas and mangos and along with many cases of McCain frozen french fries, boarded a ferry-boat to the village of Abraao.
That was the easiest part of our trip. Soon we were winding our way up hills and rainforests, parting tree limbs, jumping over crater like holes, spotting some of the biggest , most intricate spider webs we had ever seen, climbing up slopes for some spectacular views, and pausing periodically for sips of water. Eduardo led the way, pointing out monkeys, sloths, parrots and vistas. Our hike was dotted with stops along four beaches: Palmas, Mangues, Pouso and finally, Lopes Mendes. Each beach pretty desolate, with a dozen or so locals and tourists.
By the time we got to the jewel, Lopes Mendes, we were pretty tired from the hike and found a nice spot under a tree to lay down, eat some fruits, and take a nap. Eduardo chatted animatedly about his love for surfing here, the beauty of eating a mango without peeling it, his search for the ideal life mate who we ruled was close to impossible to find….has to be beautiful (easy), has to share his love for the outdoors getting up to kayak at 5:00 am (tougher) and must be really smart (getting harder) and get along with his widowed mom who he cherished. Siddhi ruled that Eduardo was better off being single, since his idea of perfection without trade-offs was a tough find.
As Sathya and Eduardo swam and rode the waves, Siddhi and I lazed, admiring the pristine beauty and the handful of gorgeous men and women with perfectly sculpted bodies that blended into the landscape. It was indeed an idyllic time, far away from civilization, being one with nature.
As we were in this dreamy state, Eduardo announced it was time to head back to catch the ferry to the mainland and then drive back to the hotel. We stopped for a brief snack of sandwiches and Acai and boarded our ferry. As the ferry pulled away, the tropical landscape seemed even more beautiful at a distance, leaving us in a dream like trance.
After what seemed like eternity in Rio traffic, we finally got back to our hotel tired, sleepy and content. As Eduardo said his good byes, he looked sternly at Siddhi and with a smile emphatically stated, “Siddhi – next time in Rio, no pants!’
We highly recommend Rio Hiking, a local adventure outfit run by a mother-son team. You can learn more about them and their tours at