Rising steeply from the narrow strait that divides it from the continent, the 350-sq-km Ilhabela (Beautiful Island) earns its name from its volcanic peaks, beautiful beaches, dense tropical jungle and some 360 waterfalls. Almost 85% of the island has been turned into a park and Unesco-protected biosphere, which shelters a remarkable profusion of plant and animal life, including toucans and capuchin monkeys. A haunt of pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries, its waters are scattered with shipwrecks, many of which make for excellent diving. The island also proffers jungle hiking, windsurfing and beach-lazing.
Be aware that in the height of summer the bugs are murder, especially the little bloodsuckers known as borrachudos. Use plenty of insect repellent at all times. Summer is also when the island is packed with vacationing paulistas. Also try to avoid arriving on Friday evening and/or leaving on Sunday evening, especially in summer, as traffic, the line for the ferry and spikes in accommodations prices can tarnish your experience of paradise.