An island paradise (literally translated as “beautiful island”) off of the Sao Paulo State Coast, Ilhabela blends a torrid history of slavers and pirates with pristine elements of untouched nature. A moderately sized island, Ilhabela is known as a summer retreat for many outdoors-lovers, with an incredible 41 beaches along its coast and literally hundreds of waterfalls in the Atlantic rainforest that covers much of the island.
Staying on the island can be pretty expensive, especially in the summer when it seems like everyone wants to be here, so it may work for you to stay in Sao Sebastiao on the mainland and take the short ferry ride (which is free to pedestrians) when you want to explore.
The island is also big for sailors and divers, with numerous docking facilities and a lot of great ocean dives, include a number of great shipwrecks. Our favorite part is the trek to Cachoeira do Gato from Praia dos Castelhanos. The beach is beautiful, but the moderate, hour-long hike to the island’s largest waterfall is essential. There is even a natural water-slide!
Note:Getting from Sao Paulo to Ilhabela will take you under 4 hours, including the ferry ride, which there can be a wait for during peak summer months. If you’re going to be heading into the jungle, prepare accordingly!