Ilha do Mel, The island of honey – Brazil
August 9, 2014 – August 12, 2014
After traveling through the South American interior we finally arrived at the Atlantic Ocean! Our first sight of it was near Ilha do Mel (Island of Honey) a popular vacation spot for Brazilians. Since we arrived in August which is during their winter, we enjoyed a nearly deserted tropical island getaway, though we had to endure the frigid 75 degree Brazilian winter weather.
The oddly shaped tropical island offers several beaches, lots of hiking, a lighthouse and even a 18th century fortress used to keep the trading ports further inland free from pirates and the Spanish.
After our overnight bus from Foz de Iguacu to Curitiba, we boarded a bus to Pontal do Sul on the mainland, where we hopped on a ferry for the short 20 minute ride to Ilha do Mel, just offshore.
The island only has two towns, the small Brasilia and the even smaller Encantadas. You can find a large selection of small hotels and posadas, small privately owned residences which rent out rooms, similar to a hostel. Since this was the off season for the island every hotel and posada was nearly empty and there was no reason to make any reservations. We just showed up and had our pick, so we toured half a dozen until we found one we liked. We stayed at Recanto Pelicano, which was simple, clean and cheap, though there were so many choices we did not tour them all.
The island was also our first prolonged experience with the Portuguese language. We found our knowledge of Spanish along with English was enough to get by. Many Brazilians we met spoke at least a little Spanish and/or English and we didn’t run into too many problems.
The Beaches and our Hikes across the island
There are no roads or vehicles on the island, the only way to get from one end to other, and to see the other town of Brasilia was to walk along the beaches and trails or to take the ferry.
The main areas of the island are small enough to walk from one end to the other and back, but it will take most of the day, especially if you stop for photos or lunch.
The 18th century Fortaleza – Portuguese Fort
Beyond the small town of Brasilia at the northern end of the island lies the Fortaleza, which began construction in 1767 by the Portuguese to defend the nearby trading port of Paranagua. The fortress is free to tour, is nearly unchanged from when it was built and was our destination for our second full day on the island.
Good food can be found on the island, shrimp stroganoff is very popular here and many restaurants have it.
We found Ilha do Mel’s beaches to be a great change from the mountains and jungles of South America. Arriving in Brazil’s winter months we had our pick of hotels and restaurants, however the island can be overcrowded during their summer months. We preferred Encantadas over Brasilia since Encantadas is centered around the beach. It was also our first experience with prices in Brazil. Brazil had the highest prices of any of the South American countries we visited and even though we thought prices on the island were high, we found prices to be even higher as we continued to travel through Brazil towards Rio.