Brazil is an immense country full of wonders: some of the most surprising, however, are not located on land but in the middle of the ocean! The islands of Brazil, in fact, are a heritage offering views, flora, fauna and emotions, which attract those who want to take a break from everything and those who want to live the nightlife on less common beaches to their shores.
The Costa cruises that stop off in Brazil allow you to discover some of these unusual destinations, with several excursions to their beaches or inland, which is often covered by the dense Mata Altantica, the characteristic forest of this corner of the planet. What makes the islands of Brazil so special and why is it worth seeing them? First of all, theBrazilian atmosphere that you can breathe on each island: maybe in a different way, but they are almost all ready to offer you the right dose of relaxation, samba music, the cahipirina and everything you expect from your Brasileiraholiday. On Ilha Grande and Ilhabela, the best known island, you will have no problem finding clubs where you can have fun and secluded nature corners to relax and regenerate! OnIlha do Mel and on Tinharé and Boipeba you can forget what it means to use a car. OnIlha do Marajò and on theIlha do Cardoso you will be amazed at how nature can create unique spectacles. On the archipelagos of Abrolhos and Fernando da Norhona you will experience the most amazing snorkelling in Brazil. On Itaparica and theIlha do Campeche you enjoy the beauty of trekking and sunbathing, feeling invigorated by both.
Every island in Brazil will leave an image, a scent or a sound in your heart that, once you get home, will turn into Saudadefor you. And probably into a desire to go travelling again as soon as possible.
Do you know Brazil's most beautiful islands? This is our list of the ten not to be missed!
The most beautiful islands in Brazil
- Ilha Grande
- Fernando de Noronha
- Ilha do Mel
- Ilha do Marajò
- Ilha do Campeche
- Abrolhos Archipelago
- Tinharé and Boipeba Islands
- Ilha de Itaparica
- Ilha do Cardoso
Ilha Grande has all the right features to be considered a true wonder of nature: 193 square kilometres of surface area and 130 kilometres of coastline, with a total of 106 beaches, including some pearls considered to be some of the most beautiful in all of Brazil. One in particular? Lopes Mendes, a haven of peace and beauty overlooking a calm bay, which is reached only after a few hours of trekking through the forest, also on a splendid Costa excursion.
Ilha Grande is totally covered with dense vegetation, the Mata Atlantica, the characteristic Brazilian forest: looking at it from above, you would see only greenery, and the golden edges of its beaches. If you love trekking, this is the place for you, also thanks to the fact that the island can only be crossed by walking, along 16 trails, or you can travel by boat around its coastline. Its waterfalls are also famous, offering you the chance of a refreshing dip during your walk. The coasts of Ilha Grande facing the mainland are lapped by calmer, warmer waters, such as those of Lagoa Azul, a small lagoon with incredibly crystal clear water, just perfect for snorkelling (you could swim with turtles!), which is located between two small islets.
The name Ilha Grande simply means “Large Island”, and is located in the state of Rio de Janeiro, more precisely in the municipality of Angra dos Reis, in south-central Brazil. It was once home to a maximum security prison, which was closed just over twenty years ago: this is why it has retained its wild character, and is a decidedly new tourist destination.
About 200 kilometres south of Ilha Grande is another famous island in Brazil: Ilhabela, in the state of Sao Paulo. In fact, the name Ilhabela refers to a small archipelago, of which the largest island is that of Sao Sebastiao, which offers its tourists as much as 130 km of coastline with about 60 beaches of all sizes, from the most secluded and hidden to the most convenient to reach, also ideal for families with children. Standing near the Tropic of Cancer, it has a tropical climate, which makes it even more popular with tourists.
On Ilhabela you can find both remote places and lively resorts: In general, the latter are on the side of the island facing the mainland, which is also the home to the most populated towns. Praia do Curral, for example, is probably the trendiest on the island, with luxurious resorts and fashionable clubs, where you could also visit on a Costa excursion. Despite this worldly atmosphere, Praia do Curral is a wonder of nature, with golden sand and crystal clear water, just like its "neighbour" Praia do Julian, with its scenic rocks close to shore and the natural pools.
Those who love an intimate holiday amidst nature must move to the east side of Ilhabela, the one overlooking the open Atlantic. Here there are several beaches that can only be reached along wonderful forest paths, which will lead you to one or more of the 360 waterfalls on the island, where you can cool off before resuming your journey through the Mata Atlantica. At the end, you could emerge onto one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, Praia do Bonete, 600 metres of golden sand and calm, shallow waters that continue for several metres from the shore. A real corner of Eden away from everything, which will make you instantly understand why Ilhabela is one of the most special islands in Brazil.
Fernando de Noronha
It is said that the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, the first to describe the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, had declared that "Paradise is here": Even today, five hundred years after Vespucci, those who arrive on these islands that lie 350 kilometres from the coast of Brazil are astounded by their beauty. The largest of them all gives the name to the archipelago, and has just 18 kilometres of surface area. There are only 700 day visitors allowed on the island, to preserve its ecosystem and charm: for this Fernando de Noronha is considered to be one of Brazil's most exclusive destinations, and is part of a protected marine park.
On the island there are beaches for all tastes and needs, it goes from the quiet Bay do Sueste, with its shallow, clear water where children can see fish swimming practically right up to the shore, to the adrenaline-inspiring Cocimba do Padre, a mecca for surfers thanks to its 5-metre high waves, to the wonderful Baia dos Porcos, "watched over" by the much-photographed rock formation of the "Dois Irmaos" , a place where water sports are not allowed so as not to disturb the peace of the place. And then there's Praia do Sancho, voted as the most beautiful beach in the world in 2019 by Tripadvisor!
One road that runs right through it, wonderful trails for trekking that leading to heavenly beaches, the best sites for diving in Brazil and a warm and sunny climate for most of the year: Vespucci's definition is still the best description of Fernando de Noronha.
Ilha do Mel
There are no cars on Ilha do Mel, or any paved roads or public lighting, since electricity only arrived just before 2000. Here you come only to plunge into the stillness of its dense vegetation, to walk its trails and to discover its beaches, big or small but always lovely.
Ilha do Mel, the Isle of Honey, is located in the state of Paraná, in south Brazil, and 95% of its area (which is only 27 square kilometres) is a permanent environmental conservation area, i.e. a protected area for local flora and fauna. The island is the shape of the number 8, with the two asymmetrical parts joined by a sandy isthmus that also forms a long beach: the larger part is practically wild, without even any paths that run along it, while in the smaller part, which is also facing the open ocean, the housing, tourist facilities and everyday life of Ilha do Mel is concentrated. At its southernmost point you'll find Praia de Encantadas, where the sea is calmer and enters the enchanting Grota das Encantadas to its left, which is said to be the house of mermaids... If you love surfing, don't miss Praia Grande: while often deserted, it is lapped by high waves to ride.
Ilha do Marajò
Is there an island almost the size of Switzerland and surrounded by fresh water on all sides? The answer is yes: Ilha do Marajò, in Brazil, is the largest island in the world located in the delta of a river, in this case the Amazon River, in the state of Pari, in the north of the country.
The fresh water of the river around the Ilha do Marajò is so great that when it meets the salty ocean, it creates a natural phenomenon called "pororoca": the water of the Atlantic goes up the Amazon for kilometres, creating very high waves that attract Brazil's most daring surfers. The island is crossed by several rivers, along which you can find small beaches with restaurants offering typical cuisine.
However, if you are looking for the most "touristy" part of Ilha do Marajò you have to head towards the ocean, in the small town of Soure, which gives its name to the surrounding marine reserve: Here the huge beaches are lapped by calmer (but still lively!) waters, and there is no shortage of restaurants and clubs all the way to the seashore.
Ilha do Campeche
A tiny paradise of greenery with a dream beach and turquoise blue waters: Ilha do Campeche is a small island (only 800 metres long!) off the larger Ilha de Santa Catarina, in the far north state of Santa Caterina, in Brazil. In addition to its enchanting appearance, Ilha do Campeche is especially famous for its archaeological site, which is home to cave inscriptions dating back to between 5000 and 3500 years ago. To see them you can join one of the organised tours of the island, which take place in its northeastern part, along the Trilha da Volta Norte, a path completely immersed in the virgin forest that allows you to cross the area where the inscriptions are located.
However, Ihla do Campeche is not only a destination for history lovers: its long, white-sand beach often also attracts those who are spending the holidays on Ilha de Santa Catarina, to spend a day away from everything and everyone. The beach is dotted with large rounded rocks, and faces the west-facing side of the island, sheltered from the strongest Atlantic currents. If you want to go snorkelling, its transparent waters will give you the best emotions! And if water sports make you hungry, you can also find a small restaurant on the island.
To get to theAbrolhos Archipelago you have to head off the coast of the Barra dos Caravelas beach in the state of Bahia, north of Rio de Janeiro: You will arrive in Parque Naciola Marinho dos Abrolhos, a marine national park of more than 900 square kilometres of surface area, consisting of five islands and six submerged coral reefs. Here, western civilisation is just a memory, the only signs of which you will find on the largest island, Santa Barbara, with its iconic black and white striped lighthouse peering across the ocean.
Tourists arrive on the Abrolhos archipelago to experience direct contact with nature: here they are in Brazil's first marine national park, created in 1983, and it is possible to set foot on only two of the islands, namely Santa Barbara and Siriba, famous for being the "home" of various species of seabirds. To disembark, you must have government authorisation, which aims to make sure that the ecosystem of the place is not compromised by the presence of too many people.
Having overcome the bureaucratic difficulties, those who arrive on the archipelago are faced with natural wonders such as the largest coral reef in the South Atlantic and some spectacular underwater rock formations in the shape of large mushrooms. Abrolhos is clearly a destination dreamed of by many fans of snorkelling, in fact there are about fifteen licensed points for diving, each one more beautiful than the next. And another incredible show is staged each year off the archipelago’s coast: hundreds of humpback whales meet here to mate and give life to their little ones, thanks to the warm waters of the archipelago, performing evolutions and dives that attract many nature lovers.
Tinharé and Boipeda Islands
The islands of Tinharé and Boipeba are in the state of Bahia, south of Salvador: they are lapped to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west by the Rio Dos Patos and are divided by the Rio do Inferno. The only way to reach these two islands is by sea or river: you won’t find cars on Tinharé or on Boipepa, but trails for walking or cycling. This is also because the area was elected as a Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to the presence of the Mata Atlantica, the forest that alternates on these islands with the savannah and the lagoons.
These are not however, uninhabited lands: vibrant villages that attract tourists with accommodation and restaurants, mostly located near the most beautiful and comfortable beaches, such as Praia das ondinhas de Garapua, a wide bay flanked on both sides by huge natural pools, or Praia em Gamboa, with its rock formations and emerald waters, can both be found in Tinharé. A particularly exciting point is the mouth of the Rio do Inferno, which divides the two islands with a landscape made of crystal clear water, golden sandbanks and palm trees: if you love off-road biking, you'll have a lot of fun here! And on the other side of the river, on the island of Boipeda, you will find a beautiful equipped from where you can enjoy the view. People also come here for the coral reef, which is spectacular on the Atlantic side of the island, and which attracts diving and swimming enthusiasts.
Ilha da Itaparica
The largest of the islands of the state of Bahia in Brazil is Itaparica, which has a whopping 55,000 inhabitants! Easy to choose a quiet life on this island that smells of coconut and mango, with its mangrove forests and beaches. The island is located between Todos-os-Santos Bay, the Rio Jaguaripe and the Atlantic Ocean, and is connected to the mainland by a bridge.
Itaparica's profile facing the Atlantic has a strip of sand overlooking the reef running along it: the island is home to both the most fashionable and luxurious resorts, such as Itaparica, with the promenade looking over the turquoise waters of the bay, and beaches with beautiful natural pools like Aratuba. The southern part of the island, covered by a typical ecosystem of the place, comprising mangrove forests and called "Pantanal Bahiano", is especially interesting for nature lovers.
Ilha do Cardoso
The southernmost point of the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, is on Ilha do Cardoso, 90% covered by the Atlantic forest and protected as Parque Estadual da Ilha do Cardoso. A few hundred people live on this ecological reserve, who have chosen to give up the car for enjoy every day the spectacle of the pristine beaches on the ocean.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ilha do Cardoso is a succession of natural pools, cliffs, dunes and hidden paths leading to beautiful waterfalls. The wide west-facing beaches are perfect for cycling on the dunes, as well as for swimming, and trekking fans will also find many hill and forest trails on the island. Ilha do Cardoso, in fact, is a tourist destination yet to be discovered.
Visit Brazil's islands with Costa Cruises
The islands of Brazil, whether wild or worldly, very close to the mainland or hundreds of kilometres from the coast, are a varied and incredible spectacle of nature. A wonderful way to discover them? Come here with a Costa cruise and take to the sea again, starting for a new adventure.