Florianopolis and the island of Santa Catarina have always been a popular holiday destination for Brazilians, but until recently most of the foreign visitors were Argentineans on their summer holidays. Over the last 5-10 years though, the charms of Florianopolis have attracted visitors from all over the world. The winning combination of wonderful natural scenery in the stunning beaches, mountainous interior covered with Atlantic Rainforest, dunes and lagoons, plus a thriving nightlife full of beautiful Brazilians have put Floripa firmly on the map, and the island is now second only to Rio in terms of the number of visiting foreigners.
With good reason too. There are somewhere between 46 and 100 beaches in Florianopolis, depending on who you believe (the island of Santa Catarina is also known as Florianopolis or 'Floripa', which is the name of the city. Florianopolis is also the state capital of... Santa Catarina State!) and whether you include only the island beaches or those on the mainland too. Most beaches attract their own crowd, with those of the west overlooking the two bays north and south of the postcard Hercilio Luz Bridge which connects Florianopolis with mainland Brazil. This side of the island has calmer waters in Sambaqui, Santo Antonio de Lisboa and Ribeirao da Ilha, with oyster farms and restaurants serving them on decks over the water as the sun sets over Brazil.
The eastern side looks out over the Atlantic Ocean and the sunrise. This is the wild side of Florianopolis with miles of sand both busy and empty, strong waves and some of the best surf and kite-surf conditions in Brazil on beaches such as Mole, Joaquina and Moçambique. In between the two coasts run a spine of gorgeous green mountains, circling lagoons and closing off beaches to anything but boat and trail. At the north end of this lie the more developed holiday beaches of Canasvieiras and Jurere, while the south has the remote beaches of Pantano do Sul, Matadeiros, Lagoinha do Leste and Naufragados. Beaches around the island all have fishing communities still living and working off the sea, many having their roots in the Azores Islands off Portugal.
The Heart of Floripa though is Lagao da Conceiçao, with the stunning lagoon of the same name. Bordered by its renowned seafood restaurants, the shallow lagoon also hosts sailing, kite-surfing and kayaking, with instructors and guides for each if necessary. The mountains also have trails from beach to beach, with magnificent panoramas from the highest rocks that take in half the island, a lagoon or two and sands galore. Some of these sands are blown by the Atlantic breezes into huge dunes. You can ride horses through the dunes, a special treat under a full moon, although most of the action takes place during the day. As well as being things of beauty, they are also some of the best fun you can have in the whole of Brazil, with laughter ringing around the slopes as people tumble down them on sandboards and toboggans.
As the sun sets and the daytime fun ends, the night-time fun is about to begin! Floripa boasts a thriving bar, club and live music scene based around Lagoa da Conceiçao, with some of the very best clubs in Brazil on the island and within an hour's drive of Florianopolis on mainland Santa Catarina. The people in them are possibly the most beautiful that can be found in the whole of the country. Quite a boast in a country like Brazil. With all the sun, sea and sand to play in, you can expect to leave in better shape than you arrived after spending some time in Florianopolis!
Suitable Destination For: Those who like a little island living, with as much action in the waves, dunes and lagoons as in the nightlife.
Best Time to Visit: Florianopolis has summer and winter seasons, although the difference can be difficult to notice on sunny days. The high season of January and February can be busy on the beaches and the roads.
Essential Sights & Activities: Most of the island is an Essential Sight. Florianopolis has beaches all around its circumference, some far more developed than others. The surf beaches of the Atlantic coast and the quieter beaches of the south are the reasons most people visit. The Lagoa da Conceicao lagoon and the Joaquina Dunes are as good for activities as they are for scenery. The nightlife around the lagoon and in the clubs of Jurere in the north also essential.