Florianópolis, Brazil: The city with an island escape
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Florianópolis – if you hear it also being called Floripa, please know that that is exactly the same thing – strikes as a strong favourite for travellers in Brazil, and was officially named the best place in Brazil to live a few years back. It’s a crown well deserved, and the place really drew us in for the 2 weeks we spent there. It genuinely had us wondering if we should leave Colombia behind and set up a new life in Florianópolis for good.
But where to stay in Florianopolis, Brazil? We’ve put together a little run-down of the towns of Florianópolis so that you get an idea of where to base yourself. Florianópolis actually covers both the mainland city itself and the nearby island of Santa Catarina, which is a mix of developed city and small fishing towns. Those few travellers we met who said that the place was just ‘meh’ we assume only kept to the city. It’s the towns of Santa Catarina that are where to stay in Florianopolis!
This guide will take you through not only the vibes in the different towns, but also brief you on all the amazing landscapes you’ll find on Santa Catarina island, hikes you can do and the best way to get around. Stick with us till the end!
After this guide to all the different places on the island and where to stay in Florianopolis, you may also want to have a read of:
A vibe guide to the 8 best towns of Florianopolis:
This is among the most developed towns, with plenty going on in summer. It’s popular with Argentinians (where in Brazil isn’t, to be fair), mainly due to its good beach lined with bars and vendors all the way down. It has generally calm seas and more of a group/family vibe.
Canasvieiras is home to a fantastic pizza and churrasco buffet where waiters come round to serve you fresh out of the oven rather than the food sitting on a buffet table. You should also check out Silvestres, a popular pizza bar with music.
Where to stay in Canasvieiras, Florianopolis:
Innbox, a brand new hostel built out of shipping containers. 4 months on from our stay in Florianopolis, we still talk to some of the Innbox staff now! They’ve also just opened an Innbox in Floripa Centro.
More of a sleepy town. Daniela boasts 3.5km of lovely, isolated beach, which in the evening turns into an excellent spot for watching the sun go down over Florianópolis. Things are peaceful around here, and it’s popular with older holiday makers. To the south of the beach, you’ll see mangroves where the Ratones River ends – be careful swimming around here as the currents can be very strong.
Possessing the most beautiful and traditional-looking parts of the island, this Floripa town has strong colonial influence as it was the first place the Portuguese touched down in Florianopolis, and therefore boasts Santa Catarina state’s first paved road on along Praça Roldã da Rocha Pires.
Only 30-40 minutes from the downtown of Florianópolis city, Santo Antônio de Lisboa is where you’ll find some of the more high-end bars and restaurants, such as Villa do Porto. On the cheaper end of the scale, Maria Coxinha is a must – imagine the heaven of having a restaurant just for coxinhas?! – and Café da Praça is highly recommended.
Santo Antônio de Lisboa only has small beaches, which you won’t particularly want to be sunbathing on, but you’ll enjoy perching on the seafront to watch the boats bob along. You can catch some views of the mainland from here on a clear day.
Where to stay in Santo Antônio de Lisboa, Florianopolis:
There aren’t many well-rated budget options for accommodation in Santo Antonio de Lisboa, so one of your best options is to get a suite or chalet at Casa do Sossego holiday homes.
A quiet and lovely little town with extremely chilled out vibes and only a few bars and restaurants, Sambaqui is just a little further along the coast from Santo Antônio de Lisboa. Its beaches are a dream to stroll along, backdropped by views of the mainland Florianópolis city and bridge in the distance. It’s very peaceful, though one thing to break this peace is the handful of intimate samba bars during the week, the most popular being SAMB-Aqui.
Where to stay in Sambaqui, Florianopolis:
There are few budget options in Sambaqui, but if you’re keen to stay there on a budget you should perhaps check out Cantinho da Vovó Saionara. Alternatively, Sambaqui is only a few minutes’ drive from Santo Antonio de Lisboa, which has a better selection of budget accommodation.
Lagoa de Conceição
Lagoa de Conceição is one of Florianópolis’ most developed areas, and provides lots of action to holidaymakers. You can find good restaurants and nightlife along the lakefront, and during the day Lagoa de Conceição offers activities such as jet skiing, stand up paddleboarding and kayaking.
Café Cultura in the centre of the town is a fantastic place to work as a digital nomad in Florianopolis, or just grab a good coffee with a great vibe. A lot of traffic passes through here so it’s not the most peaceful place on the island, but the lakeside buzz more than makes up for it.
Where to stay in Lagoa de Conceição, Florianópolis:
Lagoa Nômade Hostel offers accommodation right on the lake for a very good price. Pouso Lang Guest House is to the edge of town, but goes one step further by offering a lakefront location AND a swanky swimming pool. And if you don’t mind being reeeally out of town for the sake of exceptional quality and insane views at decent prices, check out Caapuã Hostel.
Barra da Lagoa
Probably our favourite spot on the island overall. Relatively large on Santa Catarina terms, the town itself is developed enough to have everything you need, but not so much that it loses its fishing town charm. In high season, it can be very lively (we went in low season when a few things weren’t yet open full hours).
The main beach along the town is stunning, and a great spot to watch locals play football as the sun goes down. Just around the coast, over the river, there’s a much smaller beach called Prainha which is awesome, and from there it’s just a short walk to the Barra da Lagoa Piscinas Naturais (natural pools).
While in Barra da Lagoa, absolutely do not miss out on ordering Camarão na Moraga (basically dipping prawns into a cheese fondue inside a pumpkin) at Restaurante Meu Cantinho.
If you’re wanting to learn Portuguese in Florianopolis, Barra da Lagoa homes the Sun7 Portuguese language school. A few km out of the town, you can visit the Tamar turtle conservation project and research centre – entry is 15R$ (£3).
Where to stay in Barra da Lagoa, Florianopolis:
Choose the Barra Beach Club for great views and friendly surf vibes, though it’s on top of the hill across the bridge where there’s no car access, in case accessibility is a factor for you. The Search House is a little pricier, but sits near the main beach where you could park a car if necessary.
This has a built-up town feel, with a very nice long beach, but the sea here is a little colder. It’s good for surfing as it tends to have bigger waves than some of the other beaches of Florianopolis. It’s not overwhelmed with vendors, but at the same time you won’t find it difficult to find decent beach stalls or restaurants to eat at in Campeche.
You can visit Campeche Island for the day, just across a small stretch of water. This will cost you 80R$ for the return boat ride from Campeche beach, and during high season boats also leave from Praia da Armação and Barra da Lagoa. You would be wise to bring your own food and drink as options on Campeche Island are limited.
There are also many coatís, pesky little buggers that look like racoons and come to steal your food/bag/literally anything within their reach. The beach itself is real paradise though, and definitely worth it!
Jurerê and Jurerê International are two upmarket areas of Florianópolis, and are very modern and built-up. This is the place for shopping, nightlife, staying in fancy villas and going to swanky beach clubs.
Whilst Jurerê is a traditional beach resort with summer houses and the like, the nearby area of Jurerê International is where you’ll find the upscale beach clubs and events frequented by Brazilian celebrities with a Miami Beach vibe. Expect to pay big dolla around here! From Jurerê, you can take a short hike to a 1740 fort called Forte de Jurerê for a slice of the island’s history.
Where to stay in Jurerê, Florianopolis:
Jurerê Spécial House is an incredible for light, airy apartments with a gorgeous garden at a great price, but if you’re wanting something a little more social give Gokai Hostel a try.
What’s in the south of Santa Catarina?
The south of Santa Catarina island is much less built-up and developed, so it’s tougher to find good accommodation down there. However, it houses some lovely beaches, mountain-laced lakes and interesting hikes.
Some of the top things to do in the south of Santa Catarina are to chill at Praia do Matadeiro, once a bay used to trap and harpoon whales, but now the perfect surf beach; Lagoinha do Leste hike, from which you can see huge stretches of the island, and Lagoa do Peri, a lake that’s separated from the sea by a 200m of strip land. The lake is very popular during the high season, but when we went on a misty day during May we had the place blissfully to ourselves.
What’s in Floripa city itself?
In the city of Florianopolis, which is half on the mainland and half on the North-Western tip of Santa Catarina island, the main attraction is the historical centre, which in true Brazilian fashion is the proud owner of cobbled streets and colourful colonial houses. It’s still on the island side of the city though, where you can also explore the Mercado Público for fruits, veg and handicrafts.
History boffs and culture vultures may be excited by the many museums and art galleries in Floripa city, including the Eco-Museum of Ribeirão da Ilha and Santa Catarina History Museum.
Best places to surf in Florianopolis
If you want to surf in Florianopolis, the best beach in our opinion is Praia do Matadeiro, in the South, though you can also surf in Campeche. Of the two, Campeche is a lot easier to get to with a surf board, and you’re more likely to find a place to rent boards on the beach itself. From what we saw, Matadeiro pulls in the biggest waves, so it’s probably not the best place for a beginner surfer in Floripa.
Hikes in Florianopolis
Much of the Santa Catarina island (especially to the south) isn’t urbanised, so there are plenty of trails to hike on. A solid favourite is the Lagoinha do Leste hike, which takes you to a hilltop with views of large stretches of coastline and the ‘secret beach’ from which this Floripa hike gets its name.
It’s quite difficult and takes around 2 hours, but it’s a free hike and very much worth the view. To start the trail, you have two options: either pick it up from Pântano do Sul Beach, which is only 2.3km long but the steeper option, or take the steadier 4km trail from Praia do Matadeiro.
One of the easiest hikes in Florianopolis is the trail to the Museu Arqueológico ao ar Livre, which starts on Santinho Beach next to the Costão do Santinho resort. A 10 minute walk will get you to the open air archeological museum.
And don’t forget the natural pools! These are less natural pools are more a little inlet surrounded by big rocks, but beautiful anyhoo, and you can take a dip if the weather is good. To get to them, you need to cross the bridge over the river of Barra da Lagao, continue up the hill and then follow the signs to the Piscinas Naturais.
It’s really less of a hike and more of a 15 minute walk. Though there are some steep bits, Andy did it easily in flip-flops.
The best beaches of Florianopolis
One of the best things about Florianópolis is the sheer number of different styles of beaches you can find. Each have their positive points, but these are the 5 that kept us coming back during our 2 weeks in Florianopolis:
Prainha da Barra da Lagoa
Praia do Matadeiro
Praia da Daniela
Praia de Canasvieiras
Sand dunes in Florianopolis
Floripa’s Joaquina sand dunes sit right in the middle of Santa Catarina island, helpfully right next to the main (/only) road between Mole Beach and Ponta do Retiro, opposite Bar DeRaiz on the map. These sand dunes have views of both the ocean to the South and the Lagoa da Conceiçao to the North.
You don’t have to pay to enjoy these dunes, but you will be asked for a ‘tip’ of a few reales for someone to watch your car if you park there. You can also rent sandboards at the base of the dunes if you’re feeling particularly dastardly.
On the drive up the Joaquina sand dunes of Florianopolis, we highly recommend a stop at the café do Mirante near Praia Mole for views over the total stunner of a lake (as seen in the first photo of this post!).
How to get around Florianopolis
By far the best way to get around Florianopolis is by renting a car. Using Priceline, this can be pretty cheap. We recommend you also buy Questor world car insurance so that you don’t have to pay extra for the insurance that rental services offer you for a whole year. It’s saved us a lot so far!
The island is actually fairly large, and the buses aren’t frequent enough to rely on if you want to go several places in one day – we spoke to people who took 5 hours to do a one-hour drive using public buses. Having a car will also allow you more flexibility in where to stay in Florianopolis. We loved being able to drive around freely, spending a few days in each town!
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