Surfing and stunning nature trails: 10 best things to do in Florianopolis
Brazil is growing in popularity as a tourist destination for British holidaymakers.
With sparkling lagoons, lush vegetation clinging to mountains and 42 beautiful beaches, Florianopolis is a holiday destination worthy of the Caribbean.
You only need spend a few days here to understand why those born on the island never leave and those visiting always plan to come back.
Here’s our pick of the best things to do in Florianopolis:
Florianopolis remains refreshingly light on tourists, so locals aren’t sick of the sight and sound of us Brits just yet. That means you’re guaranteed a warm welcome everywhere you go on the island, including bars and nightspots mostly frequented by those born and raised here.
You can dance the samba – or at least give it your best shot – without feeling silly. If you’re lucky, a friendly snake-hipped local will grab you by the hand and teach you some moves.
The best spot is the fishermen’s shack on the beach in Sambaqui, where the party continues until the early hours every Sunday.
A great place to kick off the night is La Na Ponta blues bar, just across the road and right by the sea. Watch the sun dip down while tapping along to live music. Dance with locals to bands covering classics from The Beatles, Little Walter, Stevie Wonder and Muddy Waters.
2. Dive into nature
Nature lovers will be in their element, with a variety of trails to hike up and around, rewarding all that sweat and grit with stunning views over the island.
We hiked up two peaks from Barra da Lagoa, picking our way through pine forests and around huge boulders, emerging on Galheta beach, a wide stretch of flat white sand dotted with nudists, which can only be reached by boat or on foot.
The centre of Florianopolis is worth a day trip for a taste of street food. Take in the 17th century architecture and explore the local markets for souvenirs and handicrafts.
Another good spot for shopping – including the requisite Havianas – is Lagoa Da Conceicao. While there, pop into brilliantly named Books & Beers – all higgledy-piggledy bookshelves, leather armchairs and retro touches like old typewriters.
This all comes with a tasty tapas menu, outside seats overlooking the pretty harbour, and a generous dash of Brazilian flair.
4. Stay in the “Beverly Hills of Florianopolis”
Jurere is the poshest, most monied part of Florianopolis – and the swankiest place to stay here is Il Campanario. The chic rooms are laid out like apartments in different blocks overlooking the pool, with lovely touches including flip-flops and robes on the beds.
In addition to the pool bar, the hotel has a beachside chill-out lounge Simple On The Beach. Choose from an impressive menu of caipirinhas – passionfruit, kiwi, pineapple or classic lime.
Authentic Brazilian Bar do Cris is a short walk away, on Alameda Cesar Nascimento. And you’ll find gigantic hot dogs (more like paninis) with every topping imaginable at Sergio Lanches, a cool retro bar with vinyl records stuck to the walls and light shades made from CDs.
Stay at Il Campanario Resort from around £150 a night for a junior suite. See ilcampanarioflorianopolis.com.
Florianopolis is a haven for surfers, who head to beaches including Praia Mole to catch a wave or 10.
If you want something less taxing but fancy getting out on the water, head to Barra da Lagoa for paddle boarding.
Ankle strapped to the board, you have to stay standing while steering with an oar.
Simple enough – until someone comes whizzing past on a jet-ski.
5. Mingle with the in crowd
The Roof at Majestic Palace is the place to be on a Thursday night, but it doesn’t get busy until around 11pm/midnight. This is more of a showy place, where groups buy vodka by the bottle – they don’t even sell national spirit cachaça.
But if it’s dancing and rubbing hips with the most beautiful of the beautiful people you’re after, this is the spot.
For something more low-key, head around the corner to Cafe da Corte – a very cool chill-out spot with lots of outside seats – many covered with bobbly rugs.
A great place to sample traditional Brazilian food is Cirrus – a buffet with crab, patties, chicken pie, black beans and meat, fish croquettes and salad.
Brazilians also have a penchant for pasties or “pastels”, wolfing them down like peanuts between sips of beer or caipirinha.
8. Go off the beaten track
About an hour’s drive south of Florianipolis town centre or downtown, Ribeirao da Ilha is a sleepy coastal town settled largely by the Azoreans. This is reflected in the Portuguese architecture, with rows of pastel single-storey buildings popping out against the deep golden sand and soft blue sea.
This is one of the best places to enjoy a Florianopolis speciality – oysters.
Wander around the historic city square and pop into the Museum of Ethnography, which houses artefacts of Santa Catarina and Azorean origin, and visit Igreja Nossa Senhora da Lapa do Ribeirao – a church that has looked down on the village for three centuries.
From Lagoa da Conceição you can take a boat to Costa da Lagoa, joining school kids and workers on their scenic commute home. The last 6km to the lakeside village can be accessed on foot, by bike or boat, as no roads can be built in this protected area.
Jump off at Porto 16 and walk 15 minutes or so up to the stunning waterfall, which cascades into a crystal clear pool just beckoning you to jump in. Back at the pier, stop for lunch at Lagoa Bonita. The “medley of shrimps” is an endless stream of delicious prawns, fried white fish, chips, rice and salad – supposedly for two people, but enough for three or four.
If you have room for anything else, a local mother and daughter often do the rounds with tubs of homemade sweets from peanut brittle to coconut biscuits.
10. Sample the local spirit
Don’t miss a real Florianopolis institution – Box 34 in the Mercado Publico.
This bar in the middle of the public market serves fresh seafood and makes its own cachaça – the Brazilian national spirit made from fermented sugar cane.
Every region of Brazil has its own cachaça, and within that you’ll discover endless variations. Box 34’s version is caramel in colour (more often it’s clear) and beautifully, mellowly sweet.
You can drink it straight, in a classic caipirinha or a cachamel – with honey and lime juice. And if you want to take a little of Florianopolis’s unique spirit home with you, buy a bottle from the bar for around £10.