Portuguese-colonial architecture
Azure seas and attractive beaches
An exclusive and luxury island

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Immersed in tropical vegetation

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Immersed in tropical vegetation

Without a shadow of a doubt, Ilhabela is one of the most beautiful spots on the Brazilian coast between Santos and Rio. When you step ashore from your MSC cruise ship you’ll feel surrounded by nature.
Of volcanic origin, the island’s startling mountainous scenery rises to 1370m and is covered in dense tropical foliage. With 83 percent of the island protected within the boundaries of the Parque Estadual de Ilhabela, the dozens of waterfalls, beautiful beaches and azure seas have contributed to the island’s popularity.

Old or new, most of the buildings are in simple Portuguese-colonial styles – as far removed from brash Guarujá as you can get. The island is a haunt of São Paulo’s rich who maintain large and discreetly located homes on the coast, many of which have mooring facilities for luxury yachts or helicopter landing-pads.

Almost all of the island’s 30,000 inhabitants live along the sheltered western shore, with the small village of Vila Ilhabela (often referred to as “Centro”) serving as the main population centre. On an MSC South America cruise excursion you can visit Vila Ilhabela, which has a few pretty colonial buildings, dominated by the Igreja Matriz, a little church completed in 1806. Situated on a hill, the white-and-blue wedding cake-like building has a Spanish-marble floor and provides both a cool retreat from the sun and a good view over the area.

Following the coastal road south from Vila Ilhabela along the mainland-facing shore, the beaches are small, but pleasant enough, the calm waters are popular with windsurfers, and bars and restaurants dot the roadside as far as Perequê, the island’s second-biggest town, about halfway south along the island and the location of the port. There are more attractive beaches on the further-flung coasts of the island, most of which can be reached by schooner and/or jeep.

Must see places in Ilhabela

Discover our excursions

    South Brazil

    Past Christ the Redeemer
    Past Christ the Redeemer

    In Brazil’s south-east, the three largest cities – São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte – form a triangle around which the economy pivots.

    All are worth visiting, but the must-sees during your cruise to Brazil are Rio, which really is as beautiful as it seems in the pictures, and the ravishing colonial relic of Paraty which lies between here and booming São Paulo. North of here, the city of Belo Horizonte sits at the heart of Minas Gerais, where the old Portuguese towns of Ouro Preto, Tiradentes and Diamantina drip with colonial history.

    The south, encompassing the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, boasts the spectacular Iguaçu Falls on the border with Argentina – one of the great natural wonders of South America. From Curitiba the scenic Serra Verde Express snakes down to the coast, where you can chill out on Ilha do Mel or beach-hop around Florianópolis.

    Despite its proximity to the city, São Paulo’s 400km coast has sometimes been overlooked in favour of more glamorous Rio. North-east, towards the border with Rio state, the area is developing rapidly, but still offers great contrasts, ranging from long, wide stretches of sand at the edge of a coastal plain to idyllic-looking coves beneath a mountainous backdrop.