Lopes Mendes Beach – former leper colony, now Brazil’s most beautiful beach 2

Lopes Mendes Beach, on Ihla Grande, is often said to be Brazil’s most beautiful beach. And Brazil, you’d imagine, would have some pretty good contenders for the title.

As an Australian I love a good beach. I could feel Lopes Mendes Beach calling out to me like a siren’s song. I couldn’t resist.

Ihla Grande

Ihla Grande, Brazil

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Ihla Grande was once a leper colony, and after that a high-security prison. Not a good start, but its years of exclusion has kept the island wild and unpopulated. Today there are around 5,000 people living on the island; the majority in the town of Vila do Abraão.

Vila do Abraão, Ihla Grande, Brazil

Vila do Abraão. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Ihla Grande falls within the Tamoios Environmental Protection Area. There are no cars, and no roads. Access around the island is by sea or by foot.

Viewpoint on the hike to Lopes Mendes Beach, Ihla Grande, Brazil

Viewpoint on the hike to Lopes Mendes Beach. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Accommodation is mostly low-key, and scattered along the various beaches on the island.

From Vila do Abraão – if that is where you are staying – it is a two hour trek to reach Lopes Mendes Beach.

Lopes Mendes Beach

Lopes Mendes Beach, Ihla Grande, Brazil

Lopes Mendes Beach. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Sand: white.

Water: clear.

Backdrop: jungle vegetation.

Overall verdict: it’s a decent beach, not as empty and remote as I was hoping, and the jungle-covered hills that surround it not quite as lushly jungle-covered as I was expecting.

It’s a beautiful beach, but I couldn’t really find anything that made it stand out from the crowd.

Lopes Mendes Beach, Ihla Grande, Brazil

Photo credit: Benjamin White

But Australians are spoilt when it comes to beaches. Lopes Mendes is a brilliant beach, and Ihla Grande is a great spot for a relaxing escape.

Practical information and how to reach Ihla Grande:

From Rio de Janeiro you need to make your way to the towns of Mangaratiba or Jacarei (approximately two to three hours by bus), from where you can board a ferry to Vila do Abraão. More transport info here.

More on Brazil:

Rio de Janeiro – even prettier than Sydney? yep!

Iguazu Falls – is it the tallest waterfall? no. Most powerful? no. Greatest? yes!

More of my favourite beaches:

Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles – is it the perfect beach?

Secret Lagoon Beach, El Nido, Philippines – the true setting of Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’

Brownes Beach, Barbados – aquamarine waters walking distance from Bridgetown

The surprisingly spectacular beaches of the Freetown Peninsula, Sierra Leone

Or visit my alluring beaches page.

More on South America:


Perito Moreno Glacier – 75 metre tall ice wall straight out of Game of Thrones

Cerro Torre, El Chaltén – mile-high spike of vertical, says John Krakauer


The Moai Quarry archaeological site, Easter Island – 397 moai on the side of a volcano

Mount Villarrica – hike to top of 2840m volcano, take pic, toboggan down


Machu Picchu – Incan citadel, escaped the Spanish conquest, wiped out by smallpox

Ancient pyramid in the heart of Lima – Huaca Pucllana

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 thoughts on “Lopes Mendes Beach – former leper colony, now Brazil’s most beautiful beach

  • Karen White

    It looks pretty good from the photos. It seems a bit of a trek to get there and I suppose that’s what you wanted – an isolated beach. Australians are a bit spoilt for beautiful beaches we take them for granted.