Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ilhabela: Eaten alive

We went to Ilhabela 2 weeks ago and I still have the bites to prove it (they're still itchy!).

Had my mother-in-law in town and decided to take her away for a long weekend as Tim couldn't get much time off work. Ilhabela is one of the dozens of places on our list of places to visit here -and decided it would be ideal, the weather was going to be good, it wasn't too far to drive and technically off-season so wouldn't be so busy. We've heard that the summer months can be awful there - too many people, too many mosquitos and too much rain. But we figured that if people still go there, that this island must be pretty amazing!

We drove up on a Friday morning and it took us just under 3 hours to get to the ferry point at Sao Sebastiao. We had read other blogs which advised to pre-book the ferry online, but we couldn't find the link and it turned out to be fine particularly since it wasn't a public holiday in peak season. We arrived 10 minutes before the next ferry was scheduled (they go every half an hour at this time of the year)

We booked a little chalet up on the hill next to Praia Grande which is half way down the island, using the website Alugue Temporada. It's low season so it was only R$150 a night but next time I would like to definitely be walking distance to the beach.

The little town was cute - a few restaurants and shops. The first night we were recommended Cheio Verde which serves local food. There is no menu - you choose from 4-5 daily plates that they have. Ilhabela is a popular sailing destination and this is restaurant is a favourite amongst old-school sailors for a good hearty meal after a long day at sea. My seafood spaghetti was OK but I personally wouldn't go back.

It was a really lovely weekend and we were really lucky with the weather considering it's winter. Though the first morning, one of Madeleine’s varicose veins burst!! It must’ve been from the pressure of her flight over from the UK. Not the best thing to happen when you are settling yourself into a hammock for a morning cup of tea. So Tim rushed her down to the hospital in town and luckily they didn’t have to wait too long for a doctor to check her out and give her some pills. Spent a day on Praia do Curral (where DPNY hotel is located) which was the busiest beach. I love to people watch and the water there was great for Sophie. The only thing that spoilt it for me was two cars that had put on loud dance music (e.g. electronic version of 'I had the time of my life'). We went to Restaurant Nova Iorqui (at the south end of the tarmac road) where we were told had the best seafood on the island. We had a lovely seafood stew but got pretty cold sitting on their balcony - would recommend going there for a late lunch and watching the sunset.

The next day we drove up as far north as we could go to a beach called Jabaquara. It was stunning as it was much more off the beaten track than all the other beaches we had seen so far. We had a plan to do a boat trip to the other side of the island where we heard the beaches were even more stunning (because they are harder to get to I assume) but we didn't plan our day properly. But we we were quite happy to stay on Jabaquara - during the day we spent there, there couldn't have been more than 50 people on the beach. Spent the morning watching a kite surfer fail abysmally at taking off. We had a gorgeous prawn risotto there and left to drive back mid-afternoon when we couldn't take the borrachudas (a special variety of sandflies) anymore! Note to self: take cash to this beach, they do not accept cards.

We also decided to stop off at the hospital again, for Sophie this time. She had a nasty allergic reaction to the bites, and even though they didn’t seem to bother her they were so ugly (on the second day it looked like acid bubbles had formed under her skin). Again, luckily, there were not very many people waiting so we go to see the doctor pretty quickly. He prescribed her some cream, and it took 3 days for her bites to dry, scab and peel off. I’m now going to have to smother her in Vitamin E cream to try and get rid of her scars : (

We went for dinner at Manjericao which is a new restaurant in town. We were impressed with the food - the fish dishes were excellent -  but it was pretty empty. I guess everyone had already started heading home that Sunday night.

Not the best night sleep. All of us woke up every other hour to itch a bite (or 20). All our creams (I’m a big fan of tiger balm to help relieve the itching) didn’t last the whole night. Madeleine spent the next week pouring boiling water on her bites, and we were also told to use a hairdryer on full heat to stop the itch but if anyone has any other tips on how to stop getting the bites in the first place that would be great! All the deet and citronella did not work with these little buggers.

On Monday morning I spent it down at the café on Praia Grande while Tim took Sophie and Madeleine for a walk to a waterfall. It was a gorgeous 27 C and the beach had 10 other people on it. Fresh fruit juices, and no sandflies here made it heaven! It’s morning like these that remind me of why we moved here to Brazil. We just need to make the most of the opporunities here.

We caught the 6:30pm ferry back that evening and were back in Sao Paulo by 10pm. Certainly worse ways to spend a weekend : ). Next trip back to ilhabela, I will be armed with vegemite (I was advised by fellow kiwis that eating vegemite every day the week before your visit would keep the little pesky biters away) and definitely organise a boat trip to the beaches on the other side of the island. Any other tips on must-see's or must-eat's would be much appreciated!


  1. I loved Marakuthai, we had xmas dinner there and its right on the water. I haven´t been to their restaurant here but the one in Ihlabela was great! I dont think Ill ever go back though because I was so badly eaten that literally 5 months later I am still scratching (and thats after tons of sprays and lotions!) But its certainly beautiful!

  2. I only got 1 bite .. my husband came back with dozens of tiny red bites, that turned into scabs eventually from the itching. He echo's Jana's enthusiasm in returning.

    Growing up in Hawaii we had tons of mosquitos. I found that soaking them in rubbing alcohol took out the itch and dried them up quicker. I also used teatree oil --eucalyptus oil-- when hiking you kinda stink like a eucalyptus tree but the bugs didn't bite me either.. so you know which is worse right?

  3. Thanks for the tips! I will certainly try the rubbing alcohol as I STILL have marks that are STILL itchy!