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Ilhabela -- a Brazilian island escape

We decided to spend some time along the coast north of Santos, going to Ilhabela first. Ilhabela is a large island (plus a few small islands) about 4 miles off the coast of Brazil, about 3 1/2 hours drive north of Santos. Most of the island is preserved as a state park, and almost all the people live along the west side of the island. 

The drive from Santos to Ilhabela passes through some beautiful tropical and beach areas, but we'll get into that in another post when we talk about the way back. 

Ilhabela island in the background

BritBra: Wow... I didn't remember the island being that big!! The west side of the island doesn't just comprise the locals, but also the majority of the beaches, all very beautiful. 

We drove up the coast to San Sebastian, where we stopped for groceries before taking the vehicle ferry to the island. We later found out that wasn't necessary, as the island has large grocery stores. Anyway, with plenty of food and wine along, we took the ferry across and settled into our Airbnb apartment, which was only a few blocks from the port.


BritBra: On the ferry. That was a good hint... soon enough we would find out that the images in the rear view mirror would reveal the most breathtaking images.   

 The view from the lodging was spectacular, as it was on the hillside next to the water. The apartment was OK, clean but rustic, but sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine was special -- watching the ferries traverse the channel and viewing the ships in the port opposite. 

The view from the balcony in Ilhabela

The next day, as we were having a morning coffee, we spotted a toucan in the tree just down from the balcony. Yes, we were in the tropics. 

The view from the balcony in Ilhabela

BritBra: Yeahhhh, I guess could live with this view first thing on the morning for a few days... 

Around town

The first day was spent exploring the town of Ilhabela and some beaches just north of the town. The historical area was a great place to walk around browsing the shops. The Frade grocery store was large with a lot of gourmet items and a fantastic wine selection. 

BritBra: While Yankee got lost in the wine section of the Supermercado do Frade,  I stumbled across  the bakery section. Ohhh, life is good! Among lots of tasting things I spotted, this lovely Broa de Fuba which is a traditional Brazilian king of cookie made with corn flour. I tried the other one (on the left) that I had never seen before. It was orange flavored and, oh boy,  it was scrumptious...  

The central beaches of Ilhabela were lovely and uncrowded. The water was calm, and it was a tranquil day.

Itaquanduba Beach

Itaquanduba Beach

Pereque Beach

Barra Velha Beach

 BritBra:  After delighting ourselves with such beautiful scenery we got hungry and decided to find a place to eat. As we were close and following the reviews on Lonely Planet website, we stopped at Pimenta do Cheiro restaurant. Yankee had one of the daily specials and I had a mountain of lettuce so called "Cesar Salad", not the most tasteful thing I had, but so big that we both shared the left overs that very night. Not a very memorable meal I can tell, again, the view compensated any disappointment on the food. 

Yummy Juices with a view. BritBra: watermelon. Yankee: Mango with Passion Fruit. The best part of the meal...

The northern beaches

Day 2 was a trek north along the main (only) road stopping at beaches along the way. Our goal was Praia do Jabaquara  (Jabaquara beach), at the north end of the road. About half way there, the road became unpaved and rough. Luckily our rental car had good suspension. I would not attempt this drive after a rainstorm. 

BritBra: After a while on our way, passing by so many beautiful beaches  we started questioning ourselves if it was a right move, voila! A place that was worth for all bumps and jumps we had on the way...  

Praia do Jabaquara

 Luckily we were rewarded with a beautiful bay and beach and the end of the road. The only annoying thing were the borrachudos, small biting flies that itch like mad.  Be sure to buy some citronella-based repellent in town, as it works much better than the normal insect repellents. The waves were bigger here, as it opened to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Wahoo, we finally have arrived !

BritBra: Impossible not to fall in love for this place. Ok, it's full of borrachudos, which attacked me in seconds, but boy, this is sooo beautiful! One of those places that you feel really connected. 

Jabaquara Beach

BritBra: The water was way too cold for us, and the waves too strong for everyone on the beach as no one attempted to refresh more than the feet. It's not a kid friendly type of beach for that very reason. It's what we call a surfer dudes' beach, as most of the beaches in Ilhabela seem to be --for very experienced swimmers. But there is a small lagoon where kids (and adults) can have fun without risks.    

Jabaquara Beach's little lagoon

BritBra: On our way back, we decided to stop at Armacao Beach. It was not that easy to figure out where the entrance of the beach was, but we saw many cars parked and took the chance. The entrance itself is quite cute, and when you're able to see the sea, there's no way to get disappointed. The right side of the beach is more for aquatic sports, with boats, jet skis and all sorts of boards.  

Armacao Beach - Right side

Armacao Beach - Left side

BritBra: For us it was worth it to walk along the shore towards the left side. The little chapel, the big tree, and the rocks all  add a bit of quaintness to this beautiful spot.Walking onward holds a little surprise, as we reached the Pinto's Beach and then the lovely Ponta Azeda Beach, that looks more like a lagoon, small, but so pretty and perfect for kids!  

Pinto's Beach

Keep walking  and you will find yourself in a little bitty paradise, great for kids and the ones who appreciate calm waters with a quaint view.  

Ponta Azeda Beach, one of our favorite beaches. perfect to chill out.

Down south

On day 3, we drove south along the road. 

BritBra: Only after having some breakfast with a stunning view... of course! 

Breakfast with a view

Our goal was Restaurante Nova Iorqui (New York Restaurant), which was exactly at the end of the paved road. 

Restaurant Entrance

The lunch was wonderful, and the view was beautiful, with a tree-house feel. 

Nova Iorqui

Yummy Calamari

The bigest Casquinha de Siri ever!! Glad we shared...

BritBra: We had the lovely surprise of the chef paying us a visit while there. Stunning view, refreshing drinks, yummy food and a very attentive staff is usually a recipe for success.   

 After lunch, we walked down the hill, following a small path through the jungle (wear walking shoes) to the bar at the water's edge. 

After some junglish adventure type of path, surprise, surprise!!

 Although we didn't, this would be a great place to spend the afternoon sunbathing on one of the big rocks, then watching the sunset. 

View from the waterside bar at Nova Iorqui restaurant

Drinks at the bar and the view looking south of Ilhabela

BriBra: We left that place with a heavy heart, but absolutely enchanted with everything. A place that we would like to come back for sure... 

We stopped at several beaches along the way. Some a bit crowded and others really beautiful and almost deserted like Veloso Beach, where we chilled out for an hour or so. 

Veloso Beach[

BriBra: I do love a secluded beach... 

Oscar Beach

Praia Grande's quaint little Chapel

Praia Grande

Praia Grande

 All over the island there are some piers and "mirantes" that allow a great view of the surroundings. 

Mirante do Cabarau.

In the end, our favorite beach was Praia da Feiticeira. The waterfall on the little stream beside it, and the lagoon behind it were absolutely beautiful and wonderful. We liked it so much that we came back the next day before leaving the island. 

Praia da Feiticeira

Praia da Feiticeira's little waterfall

Praia da Feiticeira

 After so may months of lockdown with all these beautiful places off limits, Ilhabela  turned out to be a wonderful choice to experience being back to a "new normal".