This year’s trip to Brazil was more of a family visit rather than a sightseeing one. The only touristy activity I was determined to do was to spend several days at the beach.
I first had the chance to visit Ilhabela three years ago, and it immediately became one of my favourite places in the world. An island town off the coast of the state of São Paulo, the only way to reach it is by taking a ferry from the nearby town of São Sebastião, as there are no roads or bridges that connect it to continental Brazil.
Growing up, my concept of a beach was the rocky sands and ice-cold waters of English Bay, so for me, Ilhabela — with its 41 tropical beaches — is nothing short of paradise.
The only thing worth complaining about here are the bugs. They are everywhere. The most notorious type on Ilhabela are called borrachudo — tiny, black insects that slightly resemble the common fruit fly. They tend to bite around the ankles and legs, but really, no area of your body is safe. Resistance is futile, as these buggers are persistent and seemingly immune to repellent; despite slathering citronella oil/bug venom/industrial grade repellent over every inch of your body, at the end of the day, you will still end up with at least 40 bleeding, itchy bite marks. If you’re lucky, all you’ll end up with are bites that itch like mad for several days. However, if you’re like me and are allergic, you’ll end up with blistering beauties like these:
The last time I was in Ilhabela, the island was packed — it was in the beginning of the Brazilian summer, a few weeks before Christmastime. This visit, however, took place in the off-season and the island was practically empty, apart from the locals. Since the weather was “freezing” (around 30 ºC, which is about the same temperature of a hot summer day in Vancouver), we had the entire beach to ourselves on several occasions. One of the most popular beaches on the island — even more so now that boatloads of gringos (like me) have discovered it — is Praia do Curral. My favourite beach, however, is Praia Garapocaia, more commonly known as Praia do Sino. It’s referred to as such because of the large rocks found on the beach, that ring like bells when you hit them. The water here is warm and shallow, and is as calm as a swimming pool.
Spending a day at the beach is one of the most relaxing activities you can do when traveling to Brazil. Nothing beats a day of drinking and snacking and general laziness by the ocean, surrounded by nature. One thing I really love about Brazilian beach culture is that there’s no need to worry about preparing your “beach body.” Here, people have the refreshing mentality that every body is a beach body. I, myself, spent the entire week prior to this trip gorging myself on rich, fatty Brazilian cuisine, gaining about 5 lbs. before squeezing myself — flab and all — into my Brazilian bikini, with no regrets. You will literally see every type of body on the beach — fat, thin, muscular, flabby, old, young, pale, tanned — all dressed in tiny bikinis and sungas, and more importantly, all having a great time.
And really, when you’re in a place like this, how could you not?