Surfing in the East Coast
Windsurfing in Florianopolis
Paragliding in Santo Amaro
Ribeirao da Ilha
An all-time favourite holiday destination for Brazilians and South Americans, the Capital of the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina has now been discovered by the ‘outside world’.
In the past, most overseas visitors to Brazil, would never go south of Iguazu, but as travel interests become more diverse people are now starting to explore other areas of this huge country and like what they find. If you head south instead of north after leaving Rio or if you are on your way to Buenos Aires, then a visit to Florianopolis should definitely figure in your plans.
A few good reasons: glorious beaches (some people say there are 100 of them!), lush green mountains, beautiful lagoons, and a very laid-back atmosphere.
Despite its many attractions it is still the beaches that draw the crowds and as there are so many of them you won’t have any problem finding one that suits your taste or mood. The Northern beaches (Jurere, Canasvieiras, Ingleses) are the favourite territory of families, as the sea is warm and calm. They may get busy in the peak season (December to February) but are still worthy a visit, although if you want some serenity with your sea and sand then you might be better off to visit at a quieter time of year.
The East Coast (Santinho, Moçambique, Mole, Joaquina, Campeche) is a great place to "hang ten" with the surf dudes and the young, trendy crowd. Praia Mole is the trendiest, having one of the most popular gay bars in town: Bar do Deca. Next door is the nudist/gay beach of Galheta, a nature reserve accessible only by foot.
As you go south, the beaches get wilder and even more stunning. Morro das Pedras, Armação, Pantano do Sul and Açores are mainly used by the locals and still have a strong fishing community. Nature lovers will be in their element in the South too, as they will find two of the most remote beaches here: Lagoinha do Leste, probably the most beautiful in the island, and Naufragados. Both can only be accessed by trail or boat. From the southern beaches, between June and November, is common to spot the Southern Right Whales with their calves.
As well as all that sand there are also two very impressive lagoons that form part of the landscape. Lagoa da Conceição is the most famous one. Having turned from being one of the oldest fishing communities into a self-sufficient neighbourhood, it has touches of cosmopolitan life, alternative life styles, café culture and a busy nightlife. Although it lacks top end hotels, it has some charming guesthouses and it is a good base for those on a tight budget or without own transport. The other lagoon couldn’t be more different: Lagoa do Peri, slots into the southern backdrop perfectly with its wild beaches, and nature reserve with rivers, waterfalls and trails aplenty.
A great day trip is a visit to one of the smaller, rainforest-covered islands dotted around Floripa. Campeche Island is a great place for snorkeling with its emerald-green waters. It is also a National Heritage Site since it contains innumerous rock inscriptions dated from around 5.000 years ago. Arvoredo Island is part of a marine national park. Here, currents from the North and South meet, resulting in a great variety of sea life and making it the best place for diving in the South of Brazil.
As well as the diving and the lying on the beach of course! Floripa is a major center for active adventures and radical sports. Surfing, as mentioned above, is massive. International competitions come to town every year and surf schools are everyday more popular. The wind and waves draw in the kite and windsurfers, and Para gliders as well. Rafting, abseiling, diving, trekking… in fact most things sporty can be done in this land of outdoors lovers.
Just outside the Capital, in the Great Florianopolis, you will find good rafting in Santo Amaro and the hot springs of Caldas da Imperatriz. Just an hour away from there, in the Encostas da Serra region, home stays with organic farmers give a perfect opportunity to get to know rural Santa Catarina.
If you are into local culture, you will be interested in the legacy of the Azorean immigration. Its architecture is represented in the local churches (Mid-late 18th Century), and typical houses still found in the early settlements of Santo Antonio de Lisboa e Ribeirão da Ilha. The old world charm and peaceful atmosphere help create the perfect setting for an evening meal at the end of the day, as you watch the sun slowly disappear and the sky turn blood orange red. Dinner at a local seafood restaurant is a must, where a top meal of oysters and king prawns will not cost the Earth.
In the “Centro”, the main commercial area, there are also a few interesting reminders from the past. The fish market and the customs house are the most visited ones. The market is a favourite spot for locals to have a quick drink on Saturday mornings while people watching.
Summer, and specially Carnival time, is without doubt the best time if you are looking for parties. It is a fun time for all with one of the biggest street parties in Brazil.
Spring (March- June) and autumn (September-December) are much quieter but still sunny and warm enough to enjoy the beach. This is the best time for all active adventures, as the days are clear and you have wild flowers and migrating birds making a show.
Winter, the season for whale watching, is mild: even in the coldest months (July and August) temperatures don’t usually go below 12°C at night on the coast and quite often reach mid-20s during the day.
In fact, you can come to Florianopolis all year around and enjoy it. And most certainly you will want to come back again and again.