Ilha Grande, 90 minutes via ferry from Angra dos Reis, is one of the most popular island destinations in Brazil. It boasts 86 idyllic beaches, some of which are sandy ribbons with backdrops of tropical foliage, while others are densely wooded coves with waterfalls tumbling down from the forest.
Ilha Grande once provided refuge for pirates and corsairs and was the first point of entry for many slaves brought here from Africa. Later it became a leper colony, but for some its use as a political prison during the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1984 was its most insidious incarnation.
Ferries, catamarans, and schooners arrive at Vila do Abraão. As there are no cars, it's wise to take only what you can carry. Men waiting at the pier make a living helping tourists carry luggage for about R$10 per bag. Take cash out in Angra. There aren't any ATMs on the island, and credit cards aren't always accepted.