Santa Catarina island is more commonly referred to as, and actually forms part of, the city of Florianópolis. However, once the bridge connecting it to the mainland has been crossed, the hustle and bustle of a big Brazilian city quickly fades away. On the island side of 'Floripa', the city actually feels a million miles away.
Despite its popularity as a summer destination, and its easy accessibility by road, Florianópolis has remained true to its roots and continues to feel authentically - painstakingly - Brazilian. And, although there is no doubt that a significant section of the summer crowd is composed of young Brazilians coming to divide their time between the beach by day and the popular clubs by night, it is easy to avoid this element entirely and experience Floripa on your own terms.
Find your Own Perfect Beach
Travellers seeking out the best beaches for fun and sun should make a beeline for the stylish Praia Mole, touristic Barra da Lagoa or family-friendly Joaquina, which also has excellent surf. Each is large enough to find your own spot and enjoys good facilities with meals and drinks available from sellers dotted along the beach or from cool beach bars, like Kookoon in Praia Mole.
For a little luxury alongside the rich, famous and body-conscious of Brazil, then Jureré in the north – which also doubles up as nightlife central – is the place to be, however it does suffer from large crowds. If that isn't your travel style, then Santinho in the north and Matadeiro in the south are gorgeous, undeveloped and secluded beaches.
Discover one of Brazil's Hidden Gems
However, the best 'off the beaten track' option in Florianópolis requires walking shoes rather than Havaianas. Rightly viewed as one of Brazil's hidden gems, the untouched beach at Lagoinha do Leste - flanked by lush green rainforest and warm lagoons - is the stuff of dreams and only accessible via a two-hour trail through rugged rainforest. We recommend hiring a guide to get the most from your day and to ensure you stay on track.
Sandboards, Oysters and Cobblestones
If travel is more about new experiences and adventure than spending all your time sunbathing, then Florianópolis also provides the perfect environment for outdoor sports and leisure.
As well as the chance to sand-board down Joaquina's dunes (no booking necessary), SUP boarding, jet-skiing, wind and kitesurfing are offered on the banks of Lagoa da Conceição. For the true thrill-seeker, paragliding from the cliffs overlooking Praia Mole with Zona de Moo will give you the best panorama on the island.
There is also no better place to learn how to catch a wave in South America than here in Brazil's surf capital. Private lessons can be found with the Evandro Santos Surf School, or you can rent your own board for the day and head to Barra de Lagoa's perfect learner waves.
Half day-trips to the beautiful fishing villages of Riberão da Ilha in the south or Santo Antonio de Lisboa in the north also offer a nice change of pace and scenery. As well as picturesque colonial Portuguese architecture and narrow cobblestone streets, foodies will adore the popular lunch of fresh locally sourced oysters by the beach. Ostradamus restaurant in Riberão is arguably the pick of the bunch.
Despite only covering 164 square miles, Florianópolis and its forty-two beaches offers up so much of what each type of traveller loves about Brazil that the easy choice is deciding to visit this part of the country; the difficult one is deciding when it's time to leave.
How to get around
Public buses are the most popular way to navigate the island. A one-way journey costs 3.10R but long waiting times and crowded carriages are not uncommon. If you are visiting for only a few days, car rental is an excellent way to cover a lot of the island and something Latin Routes can arrange for you ahead of your visit.