Since Florianópolis is an island, it has more than 40 beaches, each one more beautiful than the other. Challenge yourself to get to know all of the beaches on this magnificent island. There are beaches with huge waves like Joaquina, Mole, Morro das Pedras, etc and then there are some with almost no waves at all, like praia (beach) forte, Daniela (has no waves at all, it’s insane!).
2- Lagoa da Conceição
This is one of my favorite places on the island. It is near a beautiful lagoon where you can do a bunch of water-sports such as canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddling, kite-surfing, etc…
This is a very lively, hippie town with various vendors on the street usually from the bordering countries or the south of Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul), selling beautiful jewelry made of stones and seashells, dream catchers and other decorations. There are also people playing music on the streets as you walk towards the plaza where events and concerts are occasionally held. As you cross the bridge where you can see the lagoon on your left, you come across various bars and restaurants where you can enjoy meeting Brazilians who are very approachable and friendly, while listening to cheerful Brazilian music.
3- 3- Take cultural classes
- Capoeira – This is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that is the mix of dance, music and acrobatics. It is such a beautiful sport and is definitely worth taking some classes to experience it yourself. There are two versions of capoeira: Capoeira regional and capoeira Angola. Both are special in their own ways, although it is hard to tell the difference for someone who is not familiar with capoeira. During capoeira, you might also get the chance to play capoeira music with specific Brazilian instruments like the berimbau, pandeiro, atabaque, agogô, etc… Capoeira reveals so much about the Brazilian culture (coming from the Afro-Brazilians), and about their history. It developed during the 16th century when the African slaves in Brazil started teaching it amongst themselves as a form of self defense disguised in dance movements. At some point, it was banned and the people practicing it were tortured/killed.
- Forró – This is a genre of Brazilian music originated from the Northeast of Brazil. You usually dance to it with a partner. It is one of my favorite Brazilian genres and dance styles that I encountered. My favorite place to dance forró in Florianópolis was “Casa do SambaAqui” at Sambaqui, which is such a beautiful place to visit. After forró classes, they hold forró parties, when you can enjoy the party with the dance moves being fresh in your mind. The people I met there were very kind and patient to teach me or guide me through the moves during the party. It is definitely a to-do activity!
- Samba – There is way more to Brazil than just Samba, but since it is the most known Brazilian dance, why not just go ahead and take a few classes while you are there.
- Maracatú – If you go to Brazil during the carnival time, you will most probably see Maracatú performances everywhere on the streets. They are a group of people playing instruments, singing, dancing with colorful costumes, glitter and huge puppets. You can even take Maracatú classes and play during the carnival with the group. Whether you are playing, dancing or just watching, it is super fun and worth having this experience!
- Zumba – this is not specifically Brazilian, but they usually dance zumba on Brazilian funk, which could be fun if you are into that genre. You can also take some funk dance classes.
4- 4- Try local fruits, GET AÇAÍ!
You can find açaí almost everywhere on the island. It is a fruit very common in Brazil, blended in a smoothie style drink or ice-cream. My favorite is with powdered milk, bananas and granola. Passion fruit – maracujá in Portuguese, is also another one of my favorites, but be careful not to drink it during a party, it makes you sleepy and relaxed (speaking from experience). You should eat tons of papayas (mamão), pineapples (abacaxi), star fruit (carambola), dragon fruit (pitaya), jabuticaba, lychee, jackfruit (jaca)… and many many more fresh Brazilian fruits.
Also, try caldo de cana (sugar cane) juice and coconut water fresh from a green coconut fruit!
5- 5- Try local Brazilian food
Coxinhas, rice with beans (arroz e feijão), churrasco, shrimp (camarão), farofa, goiabada (romeu e julieta), pão de queijo, brigadeiro, feijoada, tapioca, mandioca, etc… The best dishes are homemade! And lucky for you, Brazilians are super hospitable and it is no surprise if they invite you to have lunch at their house, or cafezinho – which I have explained before, is in between lunch and dinner, when Brazilians drink coffee with snacks such as pão de queijo, brigadeiro, pastels, etc…
6- 6- Drink chimarrão/matte made by a Gaúcho (the locals of Rio Grande do Sul – the state furthest south of Brazil- under Santa Catarina, where its capital and the magical island, Florianópolis is located). Chimarrão is an herbal drink prepared in a special container called “cuia”. Gaúchos are famous for their love for chimarrão.
7- 7- Watch the sunset at Santo Antônio de Lisboa where the port is. It has one of the most beautiful sceneries of the island, especially during sunset. While you are there, don’t forget to also visit the church (Igreja Nossa Senhora das Necessicades), which is one of the oldest churches in Florianópolis built by the Portuguese. This town has a huge Portuguese influence since it was one of the first colonized locations. The town is filled with Portuguese restaurants and decorations.
8- 8- Try to do as many trails/hikes as possible.
There are so many different hikes that you can do in Floripa (Short for Florianópolis). Locals would love to accompany you and show you the different trails. Most of them lead to a beach or a waterfall. You can easily find brochures with the maps of the different trails with their names.
9- 9- What to do at the center
The center of the island is usually full of people rushing back and forth from home to work or vice versa during the week. The city infrastructure looks more European, different than other parts of the island. You can go souvenir shopping at the public market (Mercado Público) and eat seafood while watching live performances there (food is expensive there!). Walking around the center, you can see a lot of vendors with Brazilian jewelry and handcrafts, people selling random things on the streets (such as shoes, clothes, electronics, spread on a cloth on the floor). There is a shop called “Tudo Dez” (Everything ten), that sells everything for 10 Brazilian Reals (2.68 USD), they have a bunch of random stuff, including shirts with “Florianópolis” or “Brasil” prints – good for gifts. You can also go to the park called “Praça Quinze de Novembro”, where you can sit, enjoy some açaí and get to meet bored locals willing to have a conversation with you! (Although, it isn’t common for people to speak English). Finally, you can visit the church next to this park, and the various museums at the center.
10- 10- After going to the center (centro), you can either walk or take a bus to Beira Mar, which is located next to the center with the beautiful view of the waterfront. You can’t swim there, but you can go play volleyball with the locals, who would gladly include you in their game, sit on the grass and listen to music (there are usually events held there) or go to the mall called “Beiramar Shopping” (that has a beautiful view of the waterfront from the roof).
11- 11- Projeto Tamar, Projeto Lontra, R3 Animais
These 3 are non-profit organizations that take care of animals.
- Projeto Tamar rescues sea injured turtles and takes care of them. They are found at “Barra da Lagoa”, which is a beautiful town. You can go there and see the huge sea turtles, get a tour to understand more about them and the organization, and don’t forget to bring your bikini because it is located right next to a beach. (Actually, just carry your bikini at all times, you never know…)
- Projeto Lontra rescues and takes care of otters. It is located at the south of the island (Armação). The otters are some of the cutest and most playful creatures I have ever witnessed! While you are there, you can also do a trail that leads you to some waterfalls or to “Lagoa do Peri” (A lagoon).
- R3 Animais rescues, rehabilitates and reintegrates wild animals into their habitat. They have a variety of animals. I have personally never visited here, but I have heard really good things about it.
12- 12- Surfing!
It’s no surprise that surfing is one of the most common sports on this island, with 40+ beaches and all…
13- 13- Sand dunes
The sand dunes in Floripa are really beautiful places that make you feel like you suddenly teleported into a desert! There are several sand dunes around the island, the ones that comes to mind are at “Lagoa do Conceição”, and at “Joaquina”, where you can also go to the beach, and to a lot of parties!
14- 14- Brechó
These are thrift stores that sell very cheap clothes (either used or new). They are all around the island, and you can actually find good clothes there (although you have to do a lot of digging at some stores). You can also donate clothes here; try to find the thrift shops that work with NGOs.
15- 15- Parque Ecológico do Córrego Grande
This is where I worked. It is a beautiful park where you can enjoy walking around the beautiful nature while seeing animals in their natural habitat (like small monkeys, different types of birds, chickens and ducks walking around – yes seriously, an alligator in the small lake – that sometimes escapes so you have to watch out if there’s a danger sign, etc..) People from the organization called “Floram” at the park can organize a tour of some of the trails if you are in a group (you might need a Portuguese-English translator), the workers there are super friendly and open to answer any questions regarding the environment and sustainability. If this area is one you are passionate about, consider volunteering with them!
16- 16- While you are at the Ecological park stated above, you might as well visit the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina – UFSC), where you can meet students, go to parties at the university, do some activities (like maracatú, capoeira…), students also screen movies sometimes. It is the perfect place to make friends (keeping in mind again, that English isn’t widely spoken, but people will try their best!)
17- 17- Boi de Mamão
This might seem a bit strange at first (actually it will seem very strange at first!), but it is definitely a must see show while you are on the island. It is very specific to the region; other parts of Brazil might not be familiar with it. It is a folkloric manifestation that comes from the Azorean (the Portuguese) influence on the island. There are a various animal characters (costumes) dancing with a very tall European-looking lady doll, the doctor and the healer etc… and telling a story by performing (it’s always the same story). It is super interesting how famous this folkloric performance is around the island!
18- 18- Ilha do Campeche (Island of Campeche)
Yes, you can go to the island of Campeche from the island of Florianópolis! Campeche is a beach town at the south of the island (where I was living) that faces the island of Campeche. You can take a boat (which is quite pricey) and go to this island to enjoy the crystal blue water of the beach. It is a very small place meant for tourism and leisure only, nobody resides there. I have never been there but I imagine it being like “watching the Earth from the moon”.
19- 19- Ratones
Ratones is the only town on the island that does not have a beach. It looks like a little world of its own. You can see a lot of farms there. There is nothing much to do in this town but the nature itself is breathtaking.
20- 20- And FINALLY, meet people, make friends, Brazilians are generally SUPER approachable and amazing people. Knowing some Portuguese helps a lot, but if you don’t, they will still try their best to connect with you! Florianópolis is such a special place full of stories, it’s not called the island of magic for nothing! I would recommend diving deeper into the culture than being a typical tourist if you decide to visit, it has so much to offer. And of course, if you are planning to visit, don’t hesitate to contact me for more information and guidance and awesome people that you could meet there!