Ilha Grande is a beautiful island located 150 km southwest of Rio de Janeiro. It is Brazil’s third largest island and has a tropical scenery and nice beaches. The hillsides are covered in lush forests which are remnants of the Mata Atlantica ecosystem. The land area is 193 km ² and the highest point is Pico da Pedra D’Ãgua, at 1031 m.
This Atlantic rainforest holds some of the largest remaining populations of many endangered species, including the red-ruffed fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus), the brown howler monkey (Alouatta fusca), the maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus), the red-browed Amazon parrot (Amazona rhodocorytha), and the broad-snouted caiman (Caiman latirostris).
The seas around the island, which are also protected, has a unique mix of tropical, subtropical, and temperate-zone marine life, and may be the only waters in the world where it is possible to see corals and tropical fish along with Magellanic penguins and southern right whales.
The entire island is a protected area, with most of its territory included in Ilha Grande State Park, and the rest subject to stringent development restrictions. Small-scale ecotourism, however, is encouraged, and the island, which is road-less and off-limits to cars, features over 150 km of hiking trails connecting the handful of coastal villages and hamlets, where lodging is available, to one another and to the many beaches, mountain peaks, waterfalls, and pristine forests.
I visited there during the winter of 2009, but the weather was still pleasant. The island was the scene of a devastating mudslide on January 1st 2010 killing at least 19 people.