A complete guide of Bonete Beach in Ilhabela, Brazil: How to get there, what to do, where to stay, where to eat, some curiosities and tips to help you have a wonderful trip!
Accessible only by boat or trail, Bonete Beach is one of the most beautiful and isolated beaches of Ilhabela, and it is the right place for those who need connection with nature and disconnect from social media, it is because there is no cell phone reception and internet connection is available only in your hotel.
Visiting Bonete is almost like traveling in time. The beach, which long ago was inhabited by indigenous community, still preserves a lot of the old behavior and culture like: building voga boat, cooking typical foods that you can try at local restaurants and hotels, fishing and the way they live in symbiosis with the nature, what is admirable.
In this article you will find detailed information about how to get to Bonete Beach, what to do, where to stay, where to eat, and exclusive tips that will make your experience in this paradise even better. Let’s go?!
History and curiosities
Ilhabela was for a long time inhabited just by natives, the sambaquieiros. They had that name because of the large monuments they built with shells and stones that were used a cemetery for their people.
When the Portuguese arrived at the island, in 1502, life changed a lot for the natives, one of the heritage of this time is the faith in catholic religion that remains strong until the present.
Bonete just gained that name because it was delivered for Antônio Bonete during the sesmarias – a portuguese system that distributed lands for agriculture. There, they used to cultivate cane for producing sugar at the mills – where a lot of slaves worked 😞.
A few years ago, there was no electricity at Bonete. Today, the locals rely on solar panels provided by the city hall to generate the energy that supplies the village and there is also a generator when it’s necessary.
There is no cell phone signal and no telecom company provides 4G service and internet is only available at the hotels, although it is slow.
Where is Bonete beach
Bonete Beach is on the extreme south of Ilhabela, an island located at 210 km of São Paulo, near the cities of São Sebastião and Caraguatatuba. The access to Ilhabela is made by ferry (for cars and people) or boat.
Attention! There is another Bonete Beach that is also in the north of São Paulo coast, but in Ubatuba. This article is about Ilhabela’s one.
How to get to Bonete Beach, Ilhabela
Bonete Beach can only be accessed by boat or trail. We will detail the options below, considering that you are already in Ilhabela.
LMTM TIP: Is worth going by trail and returning by boat or vice-versa. I this way you can enjoy both paths, each one with its singularity.
How to get to Bonete by boat
If you prefer to do the fastest path, or even do a day trip, it is possible to get to Bonete Beach by boat.
You need to know that this kind of transport is not always available because the boatman depends on the sea and the wind conditions to navigate with safety. Even under good weather forecast, the transport is confirmed only on the spot.
There are 3 ways to do the boat path:
- Travel agencies: You can do a day trip to Bonete hiring tours with agencies like Maremar Ilhabela, which costs R$200*
- Boatman in Perequê Beach: The ideal is to schedule the transport in advance with a boatman. If the sea is in good condition, probably you can find someone available to get you to Bonete. The Perequê Beach is located 3 km from the ferry and the estimated time to reach Bonete is 1 hour. It costs between R$80* and R$100* depending on the amount of people. I recommend Luis Cláudio, a nice “boneteiro” that did our transport and during the path showed us the beautiful beaches and attractions of the way. You can get in touch with him by his Instagram account @luisclaudios191 or by the phone +55 (12) 99184-4550.
- Boatman in Borrifos: This is the cheapest way to get to Bonete by boat, but you need to schedule it in advance because there’s no place for them to leave the boat, so they can’t wait for passengers there. y can’t stop the boat there to wait tourists. Leaving from Borrifos to Bonete it takes almost 40 minutes and the price is between R$50* and R$60*.
How to get to Bonete by trail
For the most adventurous ones, the trail of Bonete is a great option. But before we talk about the trail, let’s talk about how to get to Borrifos, because it is from there that the trail for Ilhabela State Park begins.
How to get to Borrifos by car
On the road to the district of Borrifos is where the trails begin. It is a one way road, calm and with an impressive view of the sea.
The path from the ferry to Borrifos takes 35 minutes. You can park your car in the parking lot Recanto dos Frades for R$20*/day (WhatsApp +55 12 99134-9169), or any other parking lots at the end of the road.
How to get to Borrifos by bus
If you are without a car, you can take a bus with the final destination to Borrifos. Get off in front of the Nova Iorqui restaurant and walk about 2 km on the road to the entrance of the trail.
Trail to Bonete
With 12 km of extension + 2km from the bus stop or parking lot in Borrifos to its beginning, Bonete trail takes about 4 to 6 hours to be completed.
Although the difficulty level of the trail is considered high, there aren’t many obstacles. It is well demarcated and it has handrails in some parts, bridges and signs in Portuguese and in English. The difficulty ends up being related to the distance itself and some climbs.
Don’t worry! You will be more than rewarded by the three waterfalls on the way: Waterfall of Laje, Waterfall of Areado and Waterfall of Saquinho.
It took us 5:30h to go from Bonete to the bus stop in Borrifos, but we took a break to eat and stay for a while at Laje Waterfall, which is the best waterfall for swimming and even has a natural toboggan.
Tips to the Bonete’s trail
- To make the most of the trail, start it in the morning and walk respecting your rhythm, stopping to take photos, admire the monkeys and butterflies on the way, take a rest when needed and a delicious bath in the waterfall. If you don’t have much experience, it is not recommended starting the trail after 13pm.
- Take a snack to eat on the way. If you choose to return from Bonete trail and take the bus to the center of Ilhabela afterwards, it is worth taking an extra snack to eat at the end of the journey. That way, if the bus takes a while to arrive, you won’t be hungry.
- The repellent will be a great companion throughout the trip, but to make your trail even easier, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. We recommend the Zero Rules model by Columbia Sportswear, which, in addition to having sun protection, gives off a sensation of freshness when the fabric comes into contact with sweat from the body due to the Omni-Freeze technology.
- It is recommended to use trail boots with heel protection.
- Don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle or a hydration backpack. You can refill your bottle along the way with water from the rivers, which are very pure.
- Avoid doing any trail by yourself and preferably do the trail in a group of 3 people. So, if someone gets hurt, one can get help while the other waits with the injured person. Another option is to hire guides and monitors.
What to do in Bonete
Here is a list with the top things to do in Bonete, Ilhabela:
Let’s start with Bonete Beach itself, right?! 🙃. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, Bonete Beach mesmerize with the contrast between the colors of the sky, sea, sand and forest. With rough waves, great for surfing.
At night, you can enjoy the moon and the stars and, in high season, enjoy a luau on the beachfront.
Another incredible phenomenon that can be seen here is bioluminescent plankton, small organisms that live in water and glow in the dark. The local’s tip to see the planktons is to go to Bonete between the waning moon and the new moon, in times of cold sea. Ah, and you can only see them when the water is moving, ok?! When entering the sea, move your hands in the water so that you can see the bright dots.
Trail to the Bonete’s viewpoint
In just 3,5 km of trail it is possible to reach Bonete’s viewpoit. From the top of it, you can see the entire beach and even see a little of Enchovas Beach. The trail is wide open and takes around 40 minutes.
To get to the trail you need to cross the corridor on the right side of Pousada da Rosa, go left, cross a wooden bridge that crosses the river and after the second bridge, smaller than the first, you can find a crossroads. The left path leads you to Poço Fundo, the right path leads you to the belvedere, Enchovas beach and Indaiauba beach.
Following the path on the right, there will be another crossroads identified with a plastic bag, if you go straight you will reach Enchovas Beach, if you go right you will reach the belvedere. Take the opportunity to rest and enjoy the view.
Enchovas Beach, next to Bonete Beach, is a quiet and almost always empty beach. It is remarkable for its short strip of sand followed by a strip of rocks. If you’re lucky you can find turtles there, we spotted 3 🐢.
To get there, you need to walk about 5.3 km of trail, around 1h20. The trail is the same as the belvedere, so I suggest you plan to do both tours on the same day.
There is no infrastructure for restaurants, kiosks or bars, so bring water and snacks.
If you prefer, you can go by boat. Some hotels offer this tour, but it is also possible to arrange directly with a local boatman you can find on the Rio Nema (right corner of the beach) where they keep their boats.
Located after Enchovas Beach, Indaiauba Beach is deserted and practically untouched. The easiest way to get there is by boat, since the trail from Enchovas to Indaiauba is not always in good condition.
Beach residents may charge a fee to cross the trail, which runs through a private property.
Trail from Bonete to Castelhanos beach
Castelhanos Beach can be visited after a 17 km trail. Starting in Bonete, it is a journey of approximately 6 to 7 hours. The trail is more dense than the trail from Borrifos to Bonete. It is considered difficult, and therefore it is recommended that you go with local guides or monitors.
The beginning of the trail is the same one that takes you to Enchovas Beach. On the way, you will pass by the beaches: Enchovas, Indaiauba, Vermelha and Mansa.
Take snacks, water and plenty of repellent with you. It’s important to know that this stretch is wilder and you might run into snakes along the way, but don’t worry, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.
Poço Fundo Waterfall
The Poço Fundo Waterfall is a beautiful river water well, cold and clean water, perfect for a bath. It is a 20 minutes walk from Bonete village.
It is possible to arrive there by two ways: leaving Pousada da Rosa, turning left, crossing the bridges and turning left again at the crossroads that starts the paths of the belvedere and Enchovas. Or go straight ahead after crossing the bridge that is next to Restaurante da Dona Izabel.
Prepare yourself! This is the place with the most blackflies in Bonete! 😅
Buy handicrafts from Mr. Osmar
Mr. Osmar is a very skilled craftsman, who builds voga boats in different sizes for tourists who want a characteristic souvenir of Bonete. You can find him at his house, a blue gate that is on the right side of Hostel Vila Bonete.
Curiosity: The voga boat is part of the traditional caiçara culture, originally it was made from the trunk of a single tree and preferably from noble wood. The construction of a voga boat starts in the middle of the forest, with the chosen fallen tree and with its base carved on the spot – a process that takes a few weeks. When the boat is almost ready it is time to take it to the village, several men are invited to help in this arduous mission. The final touches are done in the sculptor’s own house.
The production of these boats are increasingly rare due to the preservation of trees and today’s canoe has been modernized and can be used with oars or motor.
Enjoy the sunrise and sunset
You can enjoy sunrise and sunset directly from Bonete Beach or Bonete’s viewpoint.
Set your alarm and enjoy the morning in this paradise, or relax with a caipirinha near the sea while our king sun goes down!
Volunteering and Work Exchange
Backpackers can find volunteer and work exchange vacancies at Bonete Beach through the Worldpackers platform.
You can help Vila Bonete Hostel at the reception, cleaning, doing general daily tasks, at the kitchen or bar. Or even become an environmental volunteer in a permaculture site called Terra Pura which is only 20 minutes from the beach.
During the volunteering, you have specific tasks, free days and shifts arranged with your hosts. Some places may offer breakfast and other things in exchange. Schedules and tasks are arranged directly with the hosts.
Traveling this way allows you to stay longer on your destination, save money by spending nothing on accommodation. Get to know more about the people and the local culture. That’s how Nathalia Lourenço, who helped me to write this article, spent 18 days at Praia do Bonete.
Connect yourself with the Bonete community
The Caiçara community still maintains a lot of the traditional culture alive, through cuisine, handicrafts, terms and stories. There is a lot to discover and great conversations to have at Bonete.
In general, people are a little bit introverted, but if you are open and start a conversation with respect and empathy, you will see that soon the boneteiros will tell you a lot about them, their family stories, culture and the village where they live.
Where to stay at Bonete Beach, Ilhabela
The best way to get to know this destination is to stay for a few nights. Here are some tips for inns and hostels in Praia do Bonete:
Pousada Canto Bravo
On the seafront you can find Pousada Canto Bravo, a rustic place that captures all the essence of Bonete in its structure, without neglecting the comfort of its 12 equipped suites. Breakfast is included in the rate and the proposal here is to disconnect, so the wi-fi is only available to guests at a specific point of the inn. Facilities include a restaurant, lounge bar and deck chairs on the beach.
You can be sure that the Canto Bravo team will receive you very well. They can even help you hire tours and transport to Bonete – there’s an option of sending your suitcase directly to Bonete in case you decide to do the trail.
Chalet Canto do Nema
Couples and families who are looking for a little more privacy, it’s worth visiting Canto do Nema. Located on the right side of Praia do Bonete and opposite the river Nema.
All chalets have a bathroom, kitchen with stove and a patio with a view to the garden. If you don’t want to cook, you can eat at the Chalet’s own restaurant. Breakfast and Wi-Fi are included in the rate.
Pousada da Rosa
Inside the small village of Bonete, and 150 meters from the beach, is Pousada da Rosa. Here you will find 4 rooms: one that accommodates 2 people and other three rooms for up to 4 people.
Breakfast and Wi-Fi are included in the accommodation, and in the evening you can enjoy a delicious pizza at the inn’s restaurant.
Hostel Vila Bonete
If you want to make new friends, Hostel Vila Bonete is THE option for you! Beyond the mixed shared rooms, it has a female shared room and private rooms for couples and families. The hostel is just a few steps away from the beach and has a swimming pool, skate ramp, camp fire and rentable surfboards.
Breakfast is included only for private rooms, but it is possible to pay it apart from the rate or even use the hostel’s kitchen.
Camping da Vargem
An economical way to stay at Bonete is camping. Camping da Vargem (or Camping do Eugênio) has a place to set up tents, as well as rooms and chalets.
The infrastructure has showers, a collective kitchen and restaurant.
Where to eat at Bonete
Known for its homemade caiçara cuisine, the Dona Izabel’s Restaurant serves typical food with fresh fish from local fishing, and taioba, a vegetable that resembles kale. A lot comes straight from the garden maintained by the restaurant: tomato, mint, chicory, chayote and taioba itself.
In this family restaurant it is common to see Dona Izabel and her daughters cooking and serving the customers while Mr. Izaqueu removes the fish spines 😍. This is certainly a mandatory stop at Bonete!
LMTM Tip: The best time to try taioba is in the summer, at other times it can be difficult to find it in restaurants of the region.
Restaurante da Pousada Canto Bravo
On the beachfront, Pousada Canto Bravo‘s Restaurant offers a variety of dishes for you to enjoy flavors from all over the world or local cuisine, such as Bonete rice, which is made with saffron, shrimp, vegetables and seafood (Note: there is a vegetarian option for this dish).
LMTM Tip: You can’t leave Bonete without trying the famous tangerine leaf caipirinha with ginger and pineapple served here for R$32*.
Açai Surf Point
Snacks, a mini market and açaí can be found at Açaí Surf Point. To try the local food, we suggest a taioba snack.
Pizzeria Pousada da Rosa
Try the delicious pizzas at Pizzaria Pousada da Rosa, choose classic or even typical flavors of the region, such as taioba pizza – stuffed with braised taioba leaf, mozzarella and tomato.
Beyond the pizzas, they offer snacks and tapioca, such as taioba tapioca with mozzarella, which costs R$16*.
LMTM tip: If you do a trail early in the morning to Belvedere, Enchovas or even to return to the center of Ilhabela, you can order a snack here the night before and save it for the next morning.
Blackflies at Ilhabela
It is impossible to talk about Ilhabela without mentioning the blackflies. The blackfly is a small mosquito, it leaves a painful bite that bleeds and itches a lot. They bite to be able to reproduce and soon die, barely living a full day. Undoubtedly, this is one of the greatest challenges you will face on the island, especially at Bonete Beach. But here are some facts and tips for you to deal with them in a better way:
- The blackflies are more active in the early morning and late afternoon, during this period reinforce the use of repellent. And rest assured that at night they sleep.
- Not everyone knows that blackflies only live in regions with very clean waters! In other words, you can even drink water straight from the waterfalls there.
- It is possible to survive the blackflies with a lot of repellent, preferably very oily like the Citroilha sold all over Ilhabela or body/vegetable oils like coconut oil. The protection happens because the oily layer on the skin makes the blackfly unable to land and bite.
- The natives have a very peculiar and effective way of dealing with blackbirds. In their daily lives, they use and abuse the called “Bonete style” which involves the use of pants, long socks and flip-flops. That way they manage to avoid the stings on their feet, which is one of the favorite places of these naughty little ones.
- They say that if you take a vitamin B12 complex before the trip, you can avoid being bitten, but I haven’t tested it to be sure and this decision should be aligned with your doctor.
- If you are allergic to bites in general, bring lots of repellent, anti-allergic and know that there is a Health Center where you will be very well attended if the allergy gets worse.
A resident of Bonete said something that touched me, and I have to agree:
“I like blackflies! They’re people repellent. Anyone who can’t appreciate the beauty of Bonete without complaining about the mosquito doesn’t deserve to stay here for a long time.”
We love visiting remote places full of nature, don’t we? But for this to remain pleasant to us and to the communities that live in this destination, we need to take some precautions.
Here are some sustainable tourism tips for you to apply in Bonete Beach and Ilhabela in general:
- This is an isolated location, so garbage can become a problem for local residents, avoid generating waste during your trip.
- When buying ready-made drinks, always opt for cans. The accumulated glass is too heavy to be transported by boat, and the logistics of trash is extremely complex. Say goodbye to long necks! Many boatmen from Bonete have already cut themselves with glass, and certainly many street sweepers in your city as well.
- Use biodegradable products whenever possible.
- Energy is sparse, meaning it’s impossible to use a hairdryer, hair straightener and iron, so don’t put these items in your backpack.
- If you have found garbage on the beach, take some time to collect and leave the destination better than when you arrived 😉.
Summer: The best time to enjoy a beach party and sunbathe. During this period you’ll find more people, especially for New Year’s Eve holiday, when all the hotels are full and the luau with bonfire is practically guaranteed.
Low season: If you prefer a little more tranquility, bet on visiting Praia do Bonete in October, November, March or April.
Whale Season: It takes place between May and August, when whales migrate to the north of the country and present us with their presence on the north coast of São Paulo.
Hiking clothes: T-shirt and pants with sun protection, hiking boots, hydration backpack, appropriate socks and cap.
Lantern: There is no light at the street in Bonete and on nights with a full moon it won’t be necessary. During the night, be careful not to point the flashlight in people’s faces.
Brush: Always good to have a brush to remove sand from your feet.
Sunscreen: Preferably biodegradable.
Citroilha Repellent in cream: In the city center of the island you can find the smallest bottle from R$18* everywhere.
Electric repellent: While the blackflies sleep, the mosquitos make the party.
Anti-allergic and ointment: You will be stung and may need it.
SUS documents and card: This makes it easier for you to be attended at the Health Care unit in the community, if you require it.
Food: There is no supermarket in Bonete, just a small grocery store owned by Mr. Américo, called Mac Bone’s. Some other products were sold at Açaí Surf Point. So if you are going to stay a few days at Bonete, take food and avoid perishable products as there is just few space in refrigerators.
Bonete Beach in Ilhabela (SP) is one of those special and magical places that you fall in love with and never want to leave. If you can, stay a few days to enjoy everything. Have a great trip!
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Note: This guide was produced by me and Nathalia Lourenço, who volunteered for Worldpackers at Hotel Vila Bonete for 18 days in September/2021. Would you like to become a volunteer too? We got you a Worldpackers promo code with a US$10 discount.
* Prices quoted are from September/2021 and are susceptible to change.