Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ilha do Mel – sweet beaches in Southern Brazil

I had planned on having some chill out days after carnaval in Floripa and before my zouk marathon that awaited me in São Paulo the following week. And obviously since I was on the Brazilian coastline I looked up where are the nicest beaches between the two places. The answer was pretty clear: the island of Ilha do Mel, “the island of honey”.

There’s two main villages where you can stay on Ilha do Mel: Encantadas and Brasilia. I chose the Encantadas and it turned out to be a safe bet: about a 100-200m stretch of sand, lined with restaurants, hostels, pousadas and camping sites – and even one mercado. Our hostel – like all of them – had a lovely porch straight on the beach and a huge breakfast. On the Brasilia village the hostels were in the woods, off from the beaches. You quickly notice why there are no cars on the island: there are no roads, just some trails that connect the different villages and beaches.


The main sights on the islands are the beaches. And that’s about it. But who doesn’t love beaches! And there’s plenty of them; the beaches are big and there’s hardly any people. Well, at least when we were there – but they only allow a limited number of people to the island so you can know it won’t be packed. I most liked the Praia Grande: to get there (and to all the nice beaches) from the Encantadas you first have to cross the woods to the other side of the island, there are a few sandy trails covered by woods that lead there. You’ll arrive on the southernmost beach (at the south end of which where you’ll find a cave), from there you’ll continue left along the beach, cross a hill to Praia do Miguel, walk to the end of it and cross some rocks to get to the other side – to Praia Grande. If the tide is low going over the rocks is easier, or at least seems more sensible :D

The best part about the beach: the water is warm. Yes, warm!! The bad thing is that the tides are a bit dangerous – we ventured on the waves in any case (we had a life guard among us) and it was amazing! Sadly my old waterproof camera decided here to not be waterproof anymore…

View to Praia do Miguel
Yes, this is the way to Praia Grande

Miles and miles of sand, just for you
Be careful with the tides
To get to Brasilia you continue from Praia Grande across the woods to the other side. There you’ll find more restaurants, hostels and beaches and you can walk to the other Ilha do Mel sights: the lighthouse, where you’ll have great views over the island, and in the other direction there’s the fort, Fortaleza (about an hours’ walk from Brasilia). Just be careful about the tides thought that may cut your way in between Brasilia and Fortaleza. The fort was nice but nothing special - but if you're looking for a couple hours stroll on the beach then go for it!

Going through the woods to Brasilia

Up from Brasilia - more beaches
View from the lighthouse

Three days passed quickly on the island by just walking around, swimming, tanning a bit, eating some nice local foods. I also met up with Chloe who I met in Floripa, that was really nice!­­­ I tried to be a little productive and sort some things like do laundry but wasn’t really all the successful, since they never dried completely (should have known even 1,5 days is not enough in that humidity). Typical sweaty island air… But the good things about islands like that is that there isn’t that much to do so you can get some rest for a change!

So... how to get there? From Curitiba (where I spent one night – not a bad looking city either) it’s about two hours on the bus to Pontal do Sul where there are boats every half hour from 8am to 8pm, the boat trip takes a half an hour (25R$ for a round trip, the bus was 26R$ one way). You can also go to Paranaguá and catch a boat from there, it’s about 1,5-2 hour boat ride and they go less frequently but Paranaguá is a bit closer to Curitiba – it’s your call how to get there. But if you’re around during high season you could try to make your way there early in the day as only a limited number of people are allowed on the island at any given time.

The boats that take you around the island (from Brasilia to Encantadas to be more specific) cost 6R$ (one way) and go pretty much every hour until 7pm – it takes about 20 mins, and will save you at least 2 hours of walking. There are also various other boat trips you can do from the islands, to the “bay of dolfins” or to Fortaleza. All you need is sunblock, towel, swimsuits and something easy to wear (and you can get that all from the island I think) - you can even leave your flipflops home. Just relax, have some fresh juices and enjoy the beach life!

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