I really can’t fully describe how much I loved Ilha Grande, it was paradise – pure and simple.

Me and Steve left Rio in a bit of a rush having spent five days there and hitting Lapa pretty hard the night before we left. I kind of felt like I needed more time in Rio. Not being sure when I’ll make it back, five days just didn’t seem like enough time. But we’d made our plan and –  hung over and flustered – we were trying to stick to it. We ended up missing the bus we’d intended to catch to Angra dos Reis which meant we’d miss the last ferry to Ilha Grande. Luckily in the hour wait for our next bus, Lonely Planet informed us that the Catamaran actually runs much later and our panic eased.

The total journey time from Rio de Janeiro to Ilha Grande was about 6-7 hours and the boat road over was really nice. Sitting on top of the Catamaran, zipping away from the mainland with the wind in my face I felt any stress left over from the start of the day drift away and as Ilha Grande came into site I was more chilled than an Eskimo Rasta.

Arriving on Ilha Grande itself felt a little bit like stepping back in time (except for the fact Steve was filming everything with his iPhone). There are no cars allowed on the island and the village of Vila do Abraão, where all the pousadas, hostels and restaurants are, is tiny and very relaxed. Stepping off the (admittedly modern) catamaran onto the rickety wooden pier, with the sun about to set and a sudden hive of activity as hotel touts and bare-footed baggage couriers vied for our business, it did feel to me a bit like we’d gone back a couple of hundred years. But then I’ve got quite an over active imagination. It was very nice anyway.

The hostel we found I can’t recommend highly enough – we booked it through hostelworld.com and it’s one of the nicest places I’ve stayed; Studio Beach Hostel. The breakfasts were amazing, it was really social and laid back and the room we ended up staying was just perfect. If you go to Ilha Grande, look it up – you won’t regret it. A testament to that is how many people we met staying there who have remained friends and played significant roles further along the trip (I’m writing this post retrospectively in case you hadn’t realised).

Our first evening was spent with Jonas and Parisa – a really cool Australian couple we’d hung out with in Rio. We knew they were there but bumped into them completely randomly whilst eating in a kebab restaurant (clichéd Londoners, us?) – just a sign of how everything on Ilha Grande would fall into place. We had a really nice night drinking, chatting and finding out just how expensive everything on the island is; $17 (Reals) for a plate of chips… ouch!  We also found out about the regular power cuts that had been hitting the island every time it rained (most evenings). We found this out when the whole island went black for 10 minutes while generators were turned on and candles lit, Jonas and Parisa explained how this had been happening everynight while we sat in the dark. It wasn’t really a problem though and kind of sat well with the olde worlde image I was trying to project on the place.

The next morning we discovered just how great the breakfast at Studio Beach was. A big communal table filled with cereals, loads of beautiful fresh fruit, breads, cakes and biscuits. With coffee, hot water and all sorts of different teas and fruit juices to wash it down. It was fantastic and a great way to start the day, it bought everyone in the hostel together too and after our first sitting we’d met Lev (a great guy from Edinburgh who’d become a close travelling companion), Pat (a smooth Aussie who’d pop-up again in Floripa) and Katie and Natalie (two girls from Australia who we’d meet again in Buenos Aires).

The first day was stunning – blazing hot sunshine – and we decided to head to Lopes Mendes, a beautiful stretch of beach that is a 45 minute boat ride and 30 minute trek away from the village. We were joined by Lev, Katie and Natalie for the trip and all booked onto a little boat to ferry us over. The journey was nice, we’d been warned about the potentially treacherous nature of the trek as it’s up and down a hill which gets very slippery after heavy rain. But the previous night had been dry and it was fine. The beach itself was breathtaking – about 1.5km of completely unspoilt beach, no buildings, shops, sun loungers and not that many people – 100 or so maybe. It was absolute paradise; blazing hot sunshine, beautiful warm water all surrounded by lush rainforest. Probably the nicest beach I’ve ever visited. We spent the day there, exploring a little bit and taking it all in – me managing to get some comedy sun burn in the process where I’d applied my sunblock badly. It was a perfect day.

That evening we went out for a few beers with Lev and the girls. As Ilha Grande is a conservation island and not at all built up, there is very little in the way of night life. So Lev suggested we had a couple of drinks back in his dorm – which by pure fluke he’d found himself living alone in. When we walked in we were gobsmacked – it was fucking incredible! He was staying in one of the 5 bed dorms, which as it transpired were self contained apartments – your own front door, kitchen (with a fridge), little dining area, nice bathroom, two beds downstairs and three beds on a mezzanine floor above. Needless to say with the vacant beds Steve and I moved in the next morning.

The second day the three of us decided to take a speed boat tour around the whole island. It took all day and included 9 stops at various points of interest. It was a little bit pricey but well worth it as it turned out (I think we paid $100 Reals – about £35). The scenery was fantastic, although the snorkelling at the Green and Blue Lagoons left a little to be desired, which was a shame. But all in all the whole trip was wicked. Another amazing day.

When we got back to our new bachelor pad, we were a little bit miffed to see two new backpacks propped up against the bunks that had been vacant when we left in the morning – miffed but intrigued. As it turns out we’d hit the jackpot and two beautiful girls had moved in downstairs – Laura (Swiss, razor sharp – instantly likeable) and Kari (Texan, blonde, much smarter than that sounds). We spent the evening drinking beer and getting to know each other, Katie came over as did some Argentinian friends of our new flat mates and we had, what most might describe, as a party.

The next day, the five of us decided to hire kayaks and paddle around to the first nice looking spot. Turns out Steve is some kind of champion Kayaker, he powered off into the distance followed by Lev who also knew what I was doing. The rest of us (ie me and the two girls) were not quite as fast and I managed to lose my expensive sunglasses on the paddle home. Was great fun though and the spot we found after about 40 minutes paddling was nice and had a restaurant. Another good day. That evening, our last on the island we went down to a beach party which turned out to be about 6 acid riddle hippes and a crap sound system. So we by-passed that and sat and drank Caiparinhas at a little beach bar called Cafe Dos Mar. It was a very chilled end to a nice day and a good way to finish off our time on Ilha Grande.

I was sad to leave when we set off for Paraty the next day, but our party of 2 had become a party of 5 and the three days on Ilha Grande had been unbelievably enjoyable. I’ll go back one day for sure, if you ever get the chance… go!