Getting to the dock was simple! From Copacabana, we hired Easy transfer. They charge $30 each way per person for 2.5 hour bus and 45 minute ferry to the island. They will pick you up at your hotel in a one-hour time frame. Reserve on their website in advance and choose one of three pickup times. Both there and back, we chose the mid-morning pickup which got us in early afternoon. Because of the long transfer, we spent 4 nights on the island so we got 3 full days to enjoy and relax.
The town has plenty of options for lodging, many within easy walking distance from the dock. We stayed at Bugio Posada, which we liked for its location, air conditioning, and breakfast buffet. Pick a place based on your needs and know that it will be more expensive than typical prices (and worth it!).
Get Your Adventure On
Lopez Mendez Beach: This gorgeous strip of soft sand and rolling waves is accessible via boat or hike. We hiked through the jungle for about 2.5 hours from town. Difficulty depends on your fitness level, but keep in mind there are uphills and downhills on sometimes slippery rocks. We passed 2 small beaches on our way there. The last one is where we reserved a return boat for R$25 each (15 min gentle speedboat ride). The beach was spacious, with ample room to spread out on the sand. Despite being there during busy season, it was not crowded. We packed our own lunch, as there are very few vendors available. Only a couple guys selling soda, water, and pre-made sandwiches could be found.
Half Island Boat Tour: We paid R$100 each for a full day tour including 5 stops along the North coast. A small amount of water was provided, along with a cooler of ice shared among 13 guests. The famous spots for snorkeling (Green Lagoon, Blue Lagoon) were less than impressive. I assumed fish were scared away from many tourists passing through. Overall an enjoyable day spent riding along the coast and swimming in various stops.
Kayak Ilha Grande: This high-quality tour is led by a lovely Argentinian couple. We paid R$70 for several hours of adventures. We kayaked to a smaller beach for a break. Then, we went across to a small island where we got out and snorkeled all the way around. We got lucky to see many fish and a couple sea turtles!
Eats & Drinks
Biergarten: A buffet of home-cooked dishes including vegetarian and vegan options. Easy, affordable, and filling.
O Pescador: A nicer place beachfront with fresh seafood dishes. Everything we ordered was high quality and delicious.
Lua e Mar: We stuck our toes in the sand and watched the boats coming in and out while they prepared great caipirinhas for us. We ordered the special of the day, which was a giant pile of grilled seafood: fish fillet, shrimp, prawns, calamari, and mussels. Pricey but worth it.
We enjoyed the kayak trip so much, we wanted to sign up for a trip around the island with them. They typically offer these with plenty of advance notice, so we would have to set that up first. Kayaking all the way around Ilha Grande? Yes please!