Location: Sitio do Lobo enchanted us. Less than a 2-hour drive from Rio and a short speedboat ride, this is a genuine tropical island paradise with soul. Think buzzing hummingbirds, dancing butterflies, exquisite tropical flowers and delicious coco Caipirinhas. The nine bedrooms blend perfectly into the forest shore of Ilha Grande, a mountainous island of some 193 sq km of natural park where no roads are allowed. Only recently opened to paying guests, it's been Jose Serrado?s family retreat for over 20 years. Everything has been touched by years of careful nurturing ? born in part by the famed influence of Jose?s wife, Julinha (she is Ronaldo?s interior designer).
5 minutes from the village of Abraão (by speedboat), which has shops, bank, first aid clinic, pharmacies, a Military Police post and all the necessary infrastructure in the event of emergencies.
Accomodation: Hidden among the trees on the hillside are 9 simple yet comfortable guestrooms. All have been individually and tastefully decorated with rustic charm by the owner, Julinha Serrado, a well-known Brazilian interior designer. Nature-inspired details abound: bedcovers with brightly-coloured starfish motifs, a bamboo headboard embedded with tiny seashells, framed wild flower prints and glass-topped backgammon tables cleverly made out of peppercorns. Creature comforts include fine Egyptian cotton bedlinen, minibars, AC, screened windows, bathrobes and hairdryers, as well as fresh flowers. All rooms have tiled floors, wooden ceilings, en suite bathrooms, either white-tiled or built out of the local rock, with walk in showers (no bathtubs), plenty of hot water and Sitio do Lobo toiletries.
Leisure: Lazing: in one of the hammocks or the sunloungers by the pool, gazing across the calm bay to the other islands and distant hills of the mainland. In the heat of the day hide away with a book in one of the nooks in the cool pavillion.
Kayaking: there are excellent open top kayaks with custom-made cushioned seats so that you can paddle for hours in comfort. No previous experience is needed; they are free of charge and the best way to explore some of the islands deserted and unspoiled beaches (nearest is 10 mins) and the island's village, Abraao (50 mins).
Hiking: Ilha Grande has no roads, just miles of hiking trails, leading you through tropical forest to deserted beaches and mountain tops. Lopes Mendes, one of the most spectacular beaches, is a 2-hr hike from Abraao. Pico do Papagaio (980m) is a stiff 3-hr climb with breathtaking views at the top.
Boat trips: Sitio do Lobo has its own motor boat which can be chartered for excursions. Pop into Abraao, the island's main village, with it's handful of shops, beach bars and simple restaurants.
Games: Snooker table, volleyball, croquet and other games are available for guests' use (two of the bedrooms also have backgammon/chess tables). If you really feel like vegging out, there's a satellite TV and video in the sitting room in the main house (right) and a large flat screen TV and Hi-Fi in the outdoor pavillion.
Scuba Diving: the waters around Ilha Grande are crystal clear, offering some good snorkelling and diving which can be arranged - off site.
Pampering: Take a sauna followed by a refreshing springwater shower among giant boulders and orchids and then totally unwind with a relaxing Shiatsu massage (extra cost).
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