Are you in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro and you are waiting for a weekend getaway? Craving to visit a magical island with beaches, waterfalls and jungle? Then let me introduce you the incredible island of Brazil called Ilhabela, which literally means “beautiful island”. Check out how we spent 3 days in Ilhabela discovering beaches, waterfalls and the jungle.
How to spend a long weekend in Ilhabela, Brazil?
Ilhabela is a perfect weekend getaway destination, spending a weekend is an ideal time. However, it won’t be enough to see and experience “everything”.
Our 3 days in Ilhabela, Brazil
- By car from São Paulo to São Sebastião
- By ferry from São Sebastião to Ilhabela
- Arriving at our accommodation, Pousada Mirante da Praia Grande
- Beach time at Praia Grande
- Dinner at Joãozinho Restaurante
- Booking Praia Castelhanos tour with Landpoint Turismo
- Natural pool of Cachoeira da Toca
- Mirante de Castelhanos
- Praia Castelhanos
- Lunchtime at Quiosque do Alemão
- Almost visiting Cachoeira do Gato
- Dinner at Joãozinho Restaurante
- Cachoeira 3 tombos
- Praia Do Julião
- Lunch at Restaurante Prainha Do Julião
- Dinner at Emirados Esfiharia Cervejaria
- Ilhabela viewpoint, Mirante do Piúva
- Going back to São Paulo
On the following map (My Maps by Google Maps) you can see the main beaches, waterfalls, restaurants and the schedule for our 3 (+1) days.
By clicking on the tab next to “Ilhabela travel guide”, you can see the actual points, and it’s also possible to turn off and on layers. Furthermore, you can also save this map (if you have My Maps account) by pressing the star next to the map title.
Day 1 – Getting to Ilhabela from São Paulo
We left São Paulo around 11 am, that time the GPS said we’ll need 4 hours to get to our accommodation in Ilhabela. There were many constructions on the way, especially after the highway, it took almost 6 hours (including queueing to the ferry) to reach our accommodation.
It’s possible to buy tickets in advance to the ferry, the tickets online are more expensive, and the website of Ferry Crossings System requires creating an account. Read more about the ferry and its fees in my other blog post about Ilhabela: Ilhabela travel guide – what to do and where to go.
Our accommodation, Pousada Mirante da Praia Grande
We booked our accommodation, Pousada Mirante da Praia Grande in advance on Booking. Pousada is a Brazilian-style bed & breakfast, so the breakfast was included in the price. The staff was welcoming, at the reception they even spoke English.
The rooms are located on the hillside, so we had a great view from our balcony, though we had to climb like 70 steps.
After checking in and packing out, we headed to Praia Grande, which was only a few minutes walk from our accommodation. As its name shows, it’s one of the biggest beaches of Ilhabela. The long and wide beach provides many places on the white sand. We were just relaxing after the long drive, enjoying the waves and watching the sunset.
We didn’t want to sit back to the car, so we just visited a nearby restaurant, Joãozinho Restaurante for dinner. They are specialized in seafood, so we shared a large portion of seafood mix (caldeirada de frutos do mar), which was served with rice. We were satisfied with our choice.
Day 2 – Praia de Castelhanos tour with Landpoint Turismo
Our goal for the 2nd day was to visit Praia Castelhanos, which is located on the eastern side of the island facing the Atlantic ocean. It’s only accessible by boat, 4×4, motorcycle, bicycle or on foot.
At the reception, we received the brochure of Landpoint Turismo tourist agency, so the owner reserved us a day trip to Praia Castelhanos. You can also request a hotel pick-up if you book your trip in advance, though in lack of time, we drove to their kiosk in the centre and left the car in their private parking.
Before heading to the 15-km long road through the jungle, make sure to use sunscreen and mosquito repellent! At the kiosk, a special repellent against Ilhabela flies called borrachudos is available. We used only a standard repellent, though we had some bites after the trip.
The 4×4 vehicle left around 11 am with 2 friendly Brazilian families and us on board and headed to the jungle of the Ilhabela State Park. Our driver, Valdo was very friendly and at every main point, he told stories to us. With my weak Portuguese, I didn’t understand everything, but my boyfriend translated everything for me.
The natural pool of Cachoeira da Toca
Our 1st stop was at a waterfall called Cachoeira da Toca. There’s a longer trail to reach the top of the waterfall, and we checked only its 1st part to enjoy the cold and refreshing water of a natural pool.
Make sure to wear your swimming suit, there’s only a small toilet to change clothes at the entrance of the park.
Then we continued our trip on the shaky road of the jungle. The jungle tour was superb, the super green nature with magical tropical trees and colourful flowers. We could even hear some monkeys but didn’t have the luck to see them.
Mirante de Castelhanos
The other main attraction was a viewpoint called Mirante de Castelhanos, where we had a great view of the coastline. Our driver, Valdo even took lovely photos of everyone.
A bit before 1 pm we arrived at the parking place, where loads of 4×4 cars parked, but on the vast beach, there was space for everyone.
Our meeting point was at the restaurant of Quiosque do Alemão, where we had some tasty shrimps for lunch and then enjoyed the waves of the ocean. The water is clean and the waves are perfect for jumping because the slope of the beach is very light.
From the beach, a viewpoint is accessible with a short walk, so you can adore the beach from above.
Almost visiting Cachoeira Gato
Instead of the viewpoint, we choose to visit a waterfall called Cachoeira Gato, which is located on the other end of the beach and it’s the tallest waterfall of Ilhabela with its 50-meter height.
We walked 20 minutes till the supposed spot of the waterfall, where we found out that there’s another 2 km long trail to the waterfall and the whole 4 km long trip would take 1,5 hours. We didn’t have that much time because we could spend only 3 hours at the beach, so wouldn’t make it till returning time.
If you want to visit Cachoeira Gato, learn from our mistake and schedule it sooner (and tell me in comments how did you like it) 😉
After our tiny disappointment, we just stayed at that abandoned part of the beach and enjoyed the waves, then walked back to the meeting point.
It’s also a possible trip option to go by 4×4 vehicle and return by boat or the opposite. On our way back, we stopped at the main attraction again because we had new tour mates. Though Valdo didn’t share as much information as on the way to the beach.
We planned to finish the day with a sunset at Praia Pereque close to the kiosk of Landpoint Turismo. But before the tour has finished, heavy rain started, so we didn’t have a chance for a sunset, just ran to the car and drove back carefully to our pousada.
A few streets were flooded by water and we didn’t want to drive back to the centre for dinner. So we went to have dinner in the same nearby restaurant, Joãozinho Restaurante. This time we chose seafood spaghetti and medallions, though they weren’t as good as the meal the previous day.
Day 3 – Waterfalls and beaches
Our original plan was to attend a tour to Praia Bonete located on the southern part of Ilhabela. Praia Bonete can be reached by boat or hiking 12 km (about 4 hours). We wanted to try the boat tour, but the weather wasn’t that promising, so we decided to explore different parts of the island and leave Praia Bonete for our next time in Ilhabela (don’t know the time, but hopefully we’ll return one day…).
Cachoeira dos Três Tombos
Cachoeira 3 tombos was around 5 minutes drive from our accommodation, so we left the car at the entrance of the trail, and started the 700 m long walk. The waterfall has 3 drops, all of them are beautiful and unique in their way and well connected with the trail. However, the path in the tropical forest is not steep but can be slippery after rainy days.
The 1st drop of the waterfall was the widest and you can refresh yourself in its big pool. The 2nd drop was smaller, but the view was fantastic. The 3rd was the most amazing with its height and power.
Praia Curral vs Praia do Julião
After the waterfall, we attempted to discover other beaches like Praia Veloso or Praia Curral, but the free parking was full of cars and the other places close to the beach were overpriced, so we turned back to our accommodation to leave the car at our free parking space. After 10 minutes of walking, we reached Praia do Julião.
This beach is smaller and more tranquil than Praia Grande. At its sides, big rocks can be found in the water, where many people were snorkelling and looking for fishes in the clean water.
First, we were hiding under the trees and enjoying the clean water. Then tasting some caipirinhas under the umbrellas of Restaurante Prainha Do Julião. But when it started to rain, we ran inside and ordered risottos for lunch, which were very delicious but not so low-cost.
When the rain stopped, we went back to the pousada to refresh ourself and drove to the city centre to walk and have dinner. During the tour, a friendly Brazilian couple recommended a good and budget restaurant called Emirados Esfiharia Cervejaria, which is specialized in esfirra. Esfirra is an Arabic dish, which looks like a small pizza and it’s served with different toppings like meat, shrimp, cheese.
Day 4 – The way back to São Paulo
After our last breakfast in Pousada Mirante da Praia Grande we checked out and on the way to the ferry station we stopped at a viewpoint called, Mirante do Piúva, where a huge “I love Ilhabela” sign is located. The terrace overlooks to the mainland of Brazil, the coast of Ilhabela and you’ll also see the nearby island of Isla das Cabras.
Our waiting time for the ferry was only 15 minutes, not like on Friday afternoon. So we paid the tourist fee and said goodbye to Ilhabela.
Costs of our 3-day Ilhabela trip
Our Ilhabela trip for the two of us costed BRL 1683,45 in total, including the fees on the way from São Paulo, accommodation, tours, food and drinks. We went by the car of my boyfriend’s mom, so if you’re renting a car, also calculate that.
- Accommodation, breakfast included (paid previously on Booking) – BRL 683,00
- Highway toll fees from São Paulo (cash only) – 3,90 + 3,60 + 3,60 + 4,00 + 7,60 = BRL 22,70
- Ferry car fee from São Sebastião to Ilhabela (cash only) – BRL 19,00
- Big açaí ice cream to share on the beach – BRL 25,00
- Dinner at Joãozinho Restaurante (sea food mix with rice + drinks + 10% service fee)- BRL 130,00
- Tour with Landpoint Turismo – BRL 220 (BRL 110,00/ person)
- Lunch at Quiosque do Alemão (Shrimp + caipirinha + mango juice + 10% service fee) – BRL 120,00
- Dinner at Joãozinho Restaurante (spagetti with sea food, medallions + drinks + 10% service fee) – BRL 128,00
- Lunch at Restaurante Prainha Do Julião – (2 risottos + drinks + 10% service fee) – BRL 240,00
- Dinner at Emirados Esfiharia Cervejaria (6 esfirras + drinks + 10% service fee) – BRL 64,00
Day 4 – back to São Paulo
- Ferry station – Tourist fee for cars (cash only) – BRL 9,05
- Highway toll fees to São Paulo (cash only) – 7,60 + 4,00 + 3,60 + 3,60 + 3,90 = BRL 22,70
These were the prices in January 2020. So that might change in time…
Now you know how to spend 3 (or even 4) days on the magical island of Ilhabela. As I mentioned before, 3 days in Ilhabela are ideal. Still, a more extended trip might be even better, so you can discover more beaches and waterfalls. Visit the website of Ilhabela, Ilhabela.com.br, where you can find even more beaches, waterfalls and trails.
Read my other blog post about Ilhabela called Ilhabela travel guide – what to do and where to go, in which I shared what to do, where to go, where to stay and the best time to visit.
Interested in more Brazilian beaches and destinations?
So tell me, did you add Ilhabela to your Brazilian bucket list? Leave a comment below.
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