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In 1502, when the navigator André Gonsalves was sailing in the canal that separates the island from the continent, he had never imagined that what he was looking at was an island. He had always thought that that land was a cove and a landslide of the continent.

On January the 6th, he discovered that it was an amazing island, and because of this special date in remembrance of the Magic Kings, he named it ANGRA DOS REIS (Angra means Cove and Dos Reis, of the Kings).


The island was visited in following expeditions since 1502, and there are written records of them for the years 1552 and 1557.

Ilha Grande (Big Island) belongs to the TAMOTO´S (natives) nation. In the TUPI language, is IPAUM GUACU, which means Big (Guacu) Island (Ipaum).

According to the explorer Segundo Anchieta, 150 natives were living in the island. They had amazing abilities to hunt even under the water. The also spoke a different dialect from the ones of the continent.


Ilha Grande has had historical importance, registrating outstanding piracy events, traffic of slaves and smuggling of different merchandising between the centuries XVI and XIX.

When gold and silver were discovered in Peru in the last part of the XVI century, the Spanish traffic between America and Europe took Ilha Grande, Santa Catarina (Florianópolis) and San Sebastian as strategic points to supply food and water.

Pirates and adventurous used to sail the area looking for Spanish boats which always had values. Besides food and water, they also found hiding places under the heavy vegetation and the irregular coasts. This was some kind of “shelter” for the boats and for this reason ABRAO means “shelter” or “refuge”.

When the mining fields were discovered in Brazil, lots of working people were needed. For this reason in the last part of the XIX century, millions of African slaves were brought to work here and the island was used as a hiding place by slave dealers. During and after this, the island became a very important and strategic point to conquer.

The Island had been under the domination of Spain, Portugal and Netherlands. These last ones left a genetical heritage in the island. You can find in the island people with native features and blue eyes and blond hair.

Later on, the French forces came and in 1827 Argentina attacked DOIS RIOS, FAROL DE CASTELHANOS and LAS PALMAS COVE with 3 boats, being rejected by Brazilian forces.


The traffic of slaves was developed between 1510 and 1540 by English, French and Dutch boats. They stayed for certain period although there is just one register of this activity in 1837 for 524 slaves coming from Africa to work in Dois Rios.


The first records date from 1591 and were made by the English sailor Anthony Knivet. In 1764 European publications indicate some houses in the Abraão Cove that belonged to the Spanish Juan Lorenzo. Old canyons can still be found in Morcego Beach.

Das Estrelas (of Stars) Cove, is the area where there are more records of houses. In 1809 it was a farm area with at least 24 houses.

PEDRO II THE EMPEROR and the "Lazareto" Hospital

Towards the middle of the XIX century, Brazil was living under the Empire of PEDRO II. A new “Lazareto” (a type of hospital) was needed to take care of ill immigrants. The boats had to disembark there people with cholera and other diseases. Several projects were designed but in December of 1863 the Emperor visited Angra Dos Reis and fascinated with the beauty of the island he ordered later the construction of the hospital in the island.

In 1884 the Crown decides to buy two farms, one in Abraão, which belonged to a Dutch man, and the other in Dois Rios, to start the building of the hospital which was finished two years later.

These works significantly contributed to the development of VILA DO ABRAAO which was included in the Angra dos Reis district on the 9th of May, 1891.

The hospital was a model hospital divided into sections of 3 different categories. There were storehouses, bacterium laboratories, nursing, pharmacy and beautiful gardens all around.

PEDRO II himself was hospitalized twice there in 1886 and in 1889 when he was a prisoner waiting for the exile.

The hospital worked till 1913 and looked after 4232 boats. From 1913 to 1939 was empty and it was used after only for military exercises.


After the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, the Lazareto suffered lots of modifications. One of them was the building of the aqueduct which could transportate 1000 liters of water per day. Today, its ruins can be visited.

In 1903, the penal colony was officially in Dois Rios.

In 1940 the Lazareto in Dois Rios was transformed into the Candido Mendes prison. This prison sheltered common prisoners brought from Angra Dois Reis who were those that worked in its construction.

The hospital which also took the name of Candido Mendes worked until 1954 and was demolished by order of the State Governor Carlos Lacerda. The aqueduct was the only work that remained.

The prison worked until 1994. Until then, the island did not receive tourists. It is for that reason that Vila do Abraão does not have so many tourist facilities although is quickly growing.

The lack of massive human presence during all these years was the reason for its preservation, making this place a true paradise in the world.

If you want to learn more about Ilha Grande History visit www.ilhagrande.com.br.