By Sílvia Oliveira
I would like to begin this text in a more original way, with some stunning information about this fascinating piece of the coast of Parana, located just over an hour from Curitiba. However, when we talk about Ilha do Mel (Honey Island), it is best to get straight to the point: it is the most beautiful part – and boasts the best preserved beaches – of the state. Cars are prohibited on the island. The number of visitors is controlled.
The streets are narrow trails of sand. Moreover, at night, a torch is a must in your bag. Do not go thinking that the island ekes a living from country bumpkins or picnicking simpletons. The truth is just the opposite. The island’s infrastructure is improving all the time, despite all the rusticity.
Guesthouses with TV, air conditioning, bed box and Wi-Fi internet in the rooms spring up every day, not to mention the charming little restaurants to be found there. With almost three thousand acres of preserved forest, Ilha do Mel was designated an Ecological Station by UNESCO. The title helped to foster an area of unique geography filled with swamps, hills, cliffs, trails and several historical attractions such as the Fortress of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres (Our Lady of the Pleasures) – built in the 18th century to protect Paranagua Bay.
Other attractions listed by the Historic and Artistic Heritage of Parana are the Farol das Conchas (Lighthouse of the Shells) and the Gruta das Encantadas (Grotto of the Enchanted Ones). The cave is formed by a huge crack in a rock and is at sea level. Therefore, it can only be visited at low tide. It is 10 minutes walk from the pier in the village of Encantadas. Those who are not afraid to face the 150 steps that give access to the base of the Farol das Conchas will see the most beautiful view of the island (Free of charge!).
When I was first here, I made the sacrifice and climbed to the top. This time I made my husband do penance and waited at the bottom, making a sandcastle with my daughter Mariana. Without a doubt, 10 out of 10 tourists disembark on the island in search of the beaches. Deserted, packed, good for surfing, calm-watered or full of natural pools… it does not matter. There are beaches for all tastes. Encantadas beach is busy in high season. It is home to many restaurants and inns.
At low tide – in addition to access to the cave – it is possible to reach the beach in Nova Brasilia via a trail that takes 2 hours. Not to mention that five minutes from the cave is Fora das Encantadas beach, where there is a kind of food court; A huge structure full of small restaurants and kiosks.
Fortaleza beach – the island’s largest – is 2½ miles long and boasts, as its name suggests, the Fortress of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres. It is a 40-minute walk from Nova Brasilia (only to be attempted at low tide) or 10 minutes by boat. There are nautical taxi services available. There are still yet Limoeira (Lime tree) beach, which is semi-deserted; Grande (Big) beach, the surfers’ favourite; Farol beach, reasonably popular; and Fora (Outside) beach, with small pools at low tide.
Baia dos Golfinhos (Dolphin Bay): to go dolphin watching you need to take a boat ride. The boats leave from the Nova Brasilia and Encantadas piers. Prices vary from R$ 25 to R$ 50. Deal directly with the skippers.
1. Leave Rex at home. Pets are not permitted on the island by law.
2. There is a medical post (for small emergencies), but there are no chemists. So take your favourite medicines with you, and do not forget an antipyretic, seasickness pills, Ralgex, antacids, plasters, lip balm and sunscreen.
3. Ilha do Mel is divided into three villages: Nova Brasilia, Encantadas and Fortaleza. Disembark on the pier closest to your accommodation, as the only ways to get around on the island are on foot, by bike or by boat. The nautical taxi service between one village and another costs around R$ 8 per person.
4. Porters with small handcarts are available on the Nova Brasilia and Encantadas piers to carry your luggage from the landing site to your hotel. Prices range from R$ 20 to R$ 35, d’epending on the distance to your accommodation.
Photo: Raul Mattar
Read more about Curitiba:
The “ecological” Curitiba (by Sílvia Oliveira)
A train ride through the Serra do Mar (by Sílvia Oliveira)
Largo da Ordem Street Market (by Sílvia Oliveira)
The Ukrainian Memorial (by Sílvia Oliveira)
How do you get from Curitiba’s Airport to the city centre? (by Sílvia Oliveira)
Estrada da Graciosa, Paraná – in English (by Sílvia Oliveira)
The Wire Opera House: Curitiba’s Most Original Theatre (by Sílvia Oliveira)