How NOT To Visit Angra dos Reis: I Did It All Wrong So You Don’t Have To

How NOT To Visit Angra dos Reis: I Did It All Wrong So You Don’t Have To

Published September 17, 2020

I recently spent two weeks in the town Angra dos Reis, and I have to admit right away that this is my first truly negative travel blog post. Angra was just such a weird town to visit (and not in a good way). Despite being a popular tourist destination in the state of Rio de Janeiro, there was very little to do there and the town lacked a sense of charm.

However, Angra dos Reis is the nearest city on the Brazilian mainland to Ilha Grande, a very famous tourist destination known for its beaches, hiking, and nature reserves. In between Angra and Isla Grande lie hundreds of tiny islands. These islands have some world-class beaches, which is why so many tourists flock to the region, not because of the town itself. Don’t just assume that Angra dos Reis is a gorgeous waterfront town. It’s not.

One of the main roads in Angra dos Reis. Not exactly picturesque...

This post will start with a brutally honest review of Angra dos Reis and what you can expect if you do decide to stay there. That section ends on a good note, with a mention of the one part of town I really did enjoy and recommend checking out if you have time. After that, you can find some tips on how to make the most out of a visit to the area!

All About Angra dos Reis

Overall, this medium-sized town left a lot to be desired. There just wasn’t anything interesting, curious, or out-of-the-ordinary that I was able to find there. Here are some specific issues I had.

The Town Vibe

The town center was pretty busy but it seemed to lack any unique restaurants or shops that would pique a visitor’s interest. The area had a little bit of a run-down feeling, although I never felt unsafe walking around during the day or the early evening.

As mentioned above, the waterfront views here just aren’t spectacular. The center of Angra dos Reis is surrounded on three sides by green mountains, but these are home to what appear to be favelas. It’s clear from the way they look that you probably don’t want to venture too far up the hills, especially on foot.

I'm not sure if these neighborhoods technically get the label of 'favela,' but I would steer clear of them regardless.

A Main Highlight of Angra: A Shopping Mall...

One of the main points of interest in Angra is a mall called Shopping Piratas. Shopping Piratas is nice enough and offers a couple of different dining options in a food court setting, but it’s hardly an amazing mall and it definitely feels like a throwback to the 1990s.

The one interesting thing about Shopping Piratas is that the mall is right on the water and is connected to a small marina. Since the mall has a grocery store, it’s an easy place for boat owners to stock up on food and drinks for a day out on the water.

A Lack of Dining Options

I would frankly be a lot less critical of the town if there were at least some interesting places to eat. Unfortunately, Angra dos Reis has a major lack of restaurant choices. Shopping Piratas is arguably the most convenient place to get lunch or dinner, which is a little sad since it only has about a dozen or so restaurants including standard fast food chains. A few more options can be found in Centro (the town center), but nothing that looks especially quaint or inviting. I absolutely love Brazilian food, so this lack of choices was kind of a bummer.

I found myself eating fast food in the mall way more often than I would've liked.

Where I Stayed

The final issue I had was the area where I ended up staying. I chose an economical Airbnb in Marinas. If you look at a map of the neighborhood, you’ll see why I expected it to be nice and scenic. However, it turned out to be kind of a letdown.

Although my rental had a good-ish view from the front porch (shown above) because it was further up the hill, the main road had no views of the water because of a massive concrete wall that ran the length of the street. Add in the fact that the center of Angra was either an hour walk or a twenty minute bus ride away, and this area had little to offer visitors in terms of beaches, views, or convenience.

From my Airbnb rental to Shopping Piratas was about half an hour on foot or ten minutes by bus. Notice the huge concrete wall blocking views of the water from street level.

These are the main reasons I just didn’t love Angra dos Reis. However, the town has one area that you should still check out if you have a morning and afternoon to spare. Read the section below to learn more!

The Walk From Centro to Praia Grande

The area known as Praia Grande (‘Big Beach’) is the one part of Angra that I actually enjoyed a lot. Not only is the beach itself nice and picturesque, but the walk along the waterfront from the center of town to Praia Grande is actually pretty beautiful.

If you decide to walk, it’ll be about an hour each way. After leaving town, you’ll first notice a large naval academy (Colégio Naval). The main building is pretty impressive, and you’ll also pass by what appears to be student housing.

The next area you’ll pass through is Bonfim. It’s is a pretty small beach, but the most interesting thing here is Igreja do Bonfim, a small church located on a tiny island just offshore. It looks like it’s even close enough to swim out to if you want.

Igreja do Bonfim, a church on a tiny island

Finally, you’ll reach Praia Grande. Aptly named, this wide, flat beach has a number of hostels with beachfront restaurants, so I decided to get lunch here: a delicious serving of steak strips and heart of palm with a caipirinha.

If you’re wondering why I recommend stopping at Praia Grande and going back after grabbing lunch there, it’s because the road stops offering nice waterfront views further west. I also lost cell service around Vila Velha, so I figured for safety reasons that it would be good to turn back at that point. A bus service actually runs from Centro to Vila Velha along the southern shore of the peninsula, but I’m not sure if one goes all the way around.

Day Trips to the Islands

As nice as Praia Grande was, the main reason people from Rio de Janeiro visit Angra dos Reis is to spend time on the islands nearby. Having done a day trip to Ilha Grande, by far the biggest and most famous one in the bay, as well as a boat tour on another day, I can say with certainty that you should absolutely visit at least one island if you decide to go to Angra.

A beach on the tiny Ilha de Cataguas, one of the most popular islands in the bay

I’ll be writing two separate blog posts in the next week or two: one about how to do a day trip to the town of Abraão on Ilha Grande, and another reviewing the boat tour I did. Click or tap the images below to read them [coming soon]!

How To Visit The Right Way

A successful visit to the area of Angra dos Reis and Ilha Grande really comes down to where you stay. I figured that Angra would offer a wide variety of restaurants, shopping, and things to do; that turned out to be wrong.

I was also worried that if I stayed on Ilha Grande, I wouldn’t have reliable internet (which I need to work remotely). I can’t speak for other parts of the island, but the main town of Abraão seemed to have good cell service, and I imagine that accommodations there would have WiFi, but I can’t say for sure. Other more remote parts of the island such as the southern shore may not.

A beach on Ilha Grande

With that in mind, I highly recommend staying on Ilha Grande. Abraão had a large number of restaurants and bars, as well as souvenir shops and lodging options.

Abraão, Ilha Grande

If you’re set on staying in Angra dos Reis, at least be sure to stay downtown, where you’ll be a short distance from the docks and piers that will connect you to the other islands. There’s really no reason to stay anywhere else, especially in one of the neighborhoods further away like I did. Even for a great deal on housing, you’ll be far from food, panoramic views, and beaches. If you’re interested in browsing Airbnb listings in Angra, Ilha Grande, or anywhere else in the world, feel free to use the widget below!

This is probably the most negative blog post I’ve written to date (except perhaps the one about being mugged in the Dominican Republic). If you happen to be a resident of Angra dos Reis, I mean no offense or disrespect, but I just didn’t find the city to be extremely accommodating to visitors. I shared these feelings with some Brazilians I know, and they generally agreed with the sentiment.

Most tourists to this part of RJ will probably pass through Angra dos Reis, but I just don’t recommend spending more than a day or two there. There are so many more amazing things to see only a short boat ride away.

What do you think? Have you been to Angra dos Reis or Ilha Grande before? Did you feel the same way I did? Leave a comment and let me know! And if you’d like to learn more about this part of the state of Rio de Janeiro, don’t forget to read other related posts! Have a great day, guys!

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This post was published on Sept 17, 2020

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Emma Riggs

    Oh damn, what a shame it didn’t turn out to be as you thought it might. I’ve definitely been to places that have way underrated my expectations as well… even when others raved about them! But, it’s all part of exploring isn’t it. I like that you’ve shared what you didn’t like with honesty, but then shared how it could be done better for others who go after you.

  2. jeffalbom

    I always try to be careful when picking lodging to make sure I am in an interesting part of town or at accomodation that is something special. I think I too would feel let down if I was up a hill far away from the action in town.

  3. I love to read an honest review of a place that someone did not like. We visited lots of great beach towns in South America. I am now glad we did not visit Angra dos Reis. That hill with colourful houses might have fooled me into wanting to wander the streets. Good thing the promenade at Praia Grande redeemed the town. Great to know that you do recommend a visit to the islands. All good points when we plan a return to Brazil.

  4. Smita

    It’s a bummer you didn’t have the best time at Angra Dos Reis. A lack of food choices would turn me off a place too. The walk along the waterfront to the Big Beach does look beautiful – love your pictures of the place!

  5. Umiko

    It looks like the city is a based for exploring the small islands around the area. And like you said in the beginning, it’s like a run-down city, trying to pick up its glory from years ago. It reminded me of a tourist destination in the Midwest of USA that made me wonder why do people still flocking there. But you got a delicious lunch at Praia Grande. I would like to have some of those steaks!

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