The best way to discover Ilha Grande ’s beaches, coves, and grottoes is by boat; many sites are otherwise inaccessible due to the dense and tangled jungle surrounding them. Sudoeste SW Turismo (Vila Abraão, tel. 24/3361-5516, www.sudoestesw.com.br ) offers eight-hour day trips on schooners and on motorized launches (for up to 20 people), which can circle the island. Trips usually include visits to seven or eight beaches with stops for snorkeling, diving, basking in the sun, and lunch. The eight-hour-long trip costs R$70 per person (on a fishing schooner) and R$150 (on a private launch for small groups of up to 10).
You can also target individual beaches by hiring a boat at the Associação dos Barqueiros de Ilha Grande (tel. 24/3361-5046). Depending on the destination and the number of people traveling, prices can range from R$25–50 per person.
To concentrate specifically on Ilha Grande’s spectacular underwater treasures, take advantage of the diving and snorkeling opportunities. Elite Dive Center (tel. 24/3361-5501, www.elitedivecenter.com.br ) offers lessons, equipment rental, and excursions to the most scenic aquatic spots around the island. A six-hour outing (including a snack and drinks) costs R$145. A four-day basic course for beginners (with six diving excursions) costs R$850.
Jungle enthusiasts can tap into their inner Tarzan and Jane by tackling the numerous hiking trails that weave through the spectacularly lush Atlantic forest that carpets the island. The rainforest is home to wildlife that includes monkeys, parrots, hummingbirds, and (unfortunately) many mosquitos (for your sanity, repellent is a must). Most trails are well signed, but it’s best to take a few precautions, such as informing your pousada of your route and equipping yourself with water, snacks, and sun protector. Also carry a flashlight since night can fall quickly.
For serious treks into the interior, such as the five-hour hike across the island to Praia da Parnaioca or the three-hour climb up to the summit of Bico do Pagagaio (Parrot’s Beak), it’s wise to hire a guide. Sudoeste SW Turismo organizes day trips as well as overnight camping and hiking excursions (R$150 per person) to these and other destinations for individuals and small groups, led by knowledgeable bilingual guides.