Ilhabela , Brazil

Portuguese for beautiful island, Ilhabela carries its name well. Considered a natural paradise by both locals and visitors alike, the island is a kaleidoscope of beautiful beaches, lush tropical rainforests and an incredible 360 waterfalls. Located a four hour drive (and a 15-minute ferry ride) from São Paolo, 85% of the island is a UNESCO-Biosphere Reserve. While people may come initially to Ihalbela for its famous beaches, (one of which was named as a top ten worldwide beach by The Guardian), expect much greater things that just sunning and relaxing in the shade from this little island. With almost 25 miles/40 kilometres of pristine beaches, fun in the sun is certainly always an option, but Ilhabela is also a vibrant little city, full of vivacity and history, just waiting to be discovered.

Located on the west coast of the island, Ilhabela town still shows signs of its colonial past, examples of which can be see through the local architecture. Perhaps one of the most photogenic chapels you will see on the island is the Nossa Senhora D’Ajuda. Built in 1806, the Catholic church is a pretty little white-washed building set on a hill, positioned as if protecting over the town. Decked with colourful bunting much of the time, the church is filled to the rafters on holy days with locals expressing their faith. The interior of the church has signs of faded grand charm, much like the city itself. Several miles before the entrance to town, on the way to the ferry, is the Princess’ House, an impressive 18th-century mansion belonging to the Fazenda Engenho d’Agua, one of the most important of Ilhabela’s many former sugar plantations.

tour 1 Historic City and Toca waterfalls

Discover the charms of Ilhabela on this half-day excursion that features the stunning Água Branca and Toca Waterfalls and other incredible highlights. Your guide is ready to share with you the beauties of the city as you ride in your comfortable air-conditioned coach. First, make a brief stop at the Barreiros Viewpoint, with breathtaking views of the São Sebastião Channel (including the ship). Follow this with a visit to the interior of the Church of Nossa Senhora D'Ajuda, built in 1697.

Stop at the Voga Canoe, located next to the Old Jail & Forum. Besides the beautiful view of the waterfront, admire along the way the Princess House and the Engenho D'Água Farmhouse. Make a stop for photos at the impressive and historic Água Branca Waterfall, where your guide shares how in an earlier era moved the old turbines of a small hydroelectric that generated energy for the island. Your next stop is Toca Waterfalls, located inside of an old sugar and banana farm, where sugar plantation used for the production of the traditional "cachaça" started in 1937. After an hour to wander and discover, take the "cachaça" tour to learn about the production of the most famous liquor of Brazil, which made from sugar cane. Learn about the process of the plantation of the sugar cane, its harvest and separation, the water mill used to grind the sugar cane and the fermentation of the sugar cane juice that will turn into cachaça in wooden barrels. A barman is there to show you how to prepare the caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil, made of cachaça, lime, sugar and ice. Return to the pier (30-minute drive).

tour 2 Land & Sea to Jabaquara Beach

Explore one of Ilhabela's famous beaches on this half day excursion by land and sea to Jabaquara Beach. After disembarking at the pier, take one of two transport options to the same destination. Board a Schooner or a 4x4 vehicle towards Jabaquara Beach (one-hour transit approximately). The schooner, on its way to Jabaquara Beach, passes by the beaches of Barreiros, Viana, and Sino, famous for its rocks that resemble the sound of church bells. Passing the historic Ponta das Canas lighthouse, disembark at Jabaquara Beach which is surrounded by the stunning rainforest.

At the same time the schooner departs, the jeep leaves towards Jabaquara Beach passing by Barreiros viewpoint to make a quick stop for pictures with your ship in the background. Still on the way, visit distinctive Sino's beach, where you can not only see but also "hear" the rocks. Continuing after Ponta das Canas Lighthouse is a dirt road leading you to Jabaquara Beach. Whether you arrive by boat or jeep, relax and enjoy the beauty of this beach with around 1.5 hours of leisure time to sunbathe, swim or take in the view of the magnificent sea. On the way back, all guests who went by jeep, comes back in the schooner and vice versa, making the same route back.

tour 3 Mata Atlantica Walking Trail

Discover the trails, wildlife, and waterfalls of amazing Ilhabela on this half-day guided tour, including over two hours of hiking with your knowledgeable tour guide. After disembarking at downtown pier, board of an air-conditioned van or minibus for a 30-minute drive to the State Park of Ilhabela. Get ready for an intense hike, perhaps one of the most strenuous in the region! On this trail, accompanied by your guide, take a two-hour walk through the interior of Mata Atlântica rainforest. Traipse through the deep wild rainforest landscape, enjoying the natural pools and the magic way the light falls along the way. Watch for the stunning Brazilian tropical fauna and flora species as you hike on this unforgettable experience. Make the 30-minute return trip to the pier.

tour 4 Snorkeling at Cabras Island

Discover the magnificent beauty in the waters of the Marine Refuge of Cabras Island on this half-day excursion that is not to be missed. Start at the Ilhabela downtown pier and embark on a boat for the Cabras Island, located on the beach of Pedras Miúdas on southern part of the island. En route pass by the scenic beaches of Engenho D'Agua, Itaguassu and Perequê. Once you arrive on Cabras, you have 1.5 hours to enjoy what nature presents to you, a simple swim in the sea, sunbathing, or if you're feeling active you may wish to take the option to snorkel in the Marine Refuge of Cabras Island. Established in 1992, the Marine Refuge is an inspiring underwater wildlife sanctuary that was created to preserve the fragile marine community. The protected ecosystem includes a large variety of colorful coral, tropical fish, anemones and starfish. Do not forget to bring your underwater camera to capture all of this natural beauty. Reinvigorate after your dive aboard the catamaran. On the return trip to the village, enjoy the scenery of the São Sebastião Channel.

tour 5 Ilhabela Waterfalls

Visit Curral Beach, one of the most famous beaches on Ilhabela, and discover the natural beauty the island has to offer. Board a 4x4 vehicle (no air conditioning) with your tour guide, who drives you towards the south of the island. Arriving at Curral Beach, enjoy 1.5 hours of free time to relax, surrounded by the natural beauty or take a swim in the warm waters. Then it is time to visit one of the 360 waterfalls that the island has to offer, the 3 Tombos Waterfalls. Located close to the Feiticeira Beach, 3 falls are a local wonder boasting 20 meters in height for the largest of the falls. Delight in the opportunity to swim in the natural pool at the base of the falls and enjoy the natural spray created by the running water. Stop briefly at the Cabras Island viewing point for you to enjoy the beautiful view of the São Sebastião Canal. After your adventure through the Atlantic Forest and waterfalls, head north to a famous beach restaurant for lunch and enjoy the wonderful seascape. On the return trip make a quick stop at Mirante do Barreiro, where you can take a photo with your ship in the background. Return to the pier, where before boarding the ship you are be able to walk around the Historic Center, full of typical old buildings and local handicraft shops.

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