If you go to Rio de Janeiro for a couple of weeks, although the city itself is wonderful with a lot of things to see, don't forget the incredible places surrounding it, inside the state of Rio de Janeiro.
One of them is Ilha Grande, one of the islands in the bay of Angra dos Reis, about 2 hours South of Rio. There are plenty of private shuttles organised if you aren't driving, and even if you are, don't even bother with the car since it is forbidden to take it to the island. For our trip, we chose "Ilha Grande Transfer", which we got for R$180 per person (return tickets), including the van ride (they pick you up outside your place) and boat across the bay.
Once there, OMG... you are in Paradise! Like I said before, cars aren't allowed on the island, it is designed for swimmers, surfers & people looking for a relaxed stay.
There's plenty of hiking trails through the jungle, over 100 beaches to either swim or go surfing, nice archeological ruins, great little restaurants for a meal out (especially in and around the main town, Vila do Abraao)... We particularly liked two of them:
- Adega Farol dos Castelhanos: for an affordable feast with fresh fish, the owner Marcello is a real character and he's very proud of his food. Freshly caught at sea every day, there are some fantastic fish to share (or meat if you're in that mood). We had the anchovy, which unlike the tiny things that come out of a tin in Europe, was a massive fish for sharing. It came with enough rice, Pirao (a delicious fish stew thickened with flour), roasted bananas and veg for the three of us, at a price of around 130 Reais with drinks, great value!
- Lua e Mar: For a romantic candle-lit dinner on the beach, with your feet in the sand. The restaurant
is just outside the main square of Vila do Abraao, going towards Praia da Julia. If you want to sample incredible local food, the restaurant is on the pricey side of things for the island but it's worth every penny. We had the Moqueca, a seafood stew cooked in a clay bowl. The dish for one was more than enough to share between the two of us, but we added a starter portion of the crab gratin cause we just couldn't resist, it was to die for! That night, Paulo Fabiano was playing the guitar with his warm voice, going through Brazilian standards as well as International tunes (we even got some French song we love, by Henri Salvador, amazing...). The bill came up to 183 Reais for the 2 of us, including a large bottle of craft beer, lovely night out!
The full island is amazing, there are great boat cruises as well, we can't wait to go back there!