A few weeks ago, I went to Florianópolis (aka Floripa), located in the Southern state of Brazil, Santa Catarina. I went with my friend Mallory, who is currently taking a six-week trip around South America.
Before visiting, I had heard from many people how incredible Florianópolis was. But I still didn’t expect to totally fall in love with the place like I did.
The never-ending beaches and turquoise waters set against a backdrop of verdant mountains and bright blue sky…the scenery was out of this world. But that was only part of what made Floripa so amazing.
The neighborhood where we stayed, Barra da Lagoa, was a fisherman’s village–an incredibly laid-back, beach community that looked a little something like this…
The neighborhood was home to a multitude of dive and bikini shops; restaurants; and a few surf schools. And here I thought that Rio was a relaxed city!
I also found people to be friendlier. MSN Travel apparently agrees with me; the publication rated Floripa as the #1 friendliest city in the world.
Another plus: Floripa is one of the most developed and safest cities in Brazil. So you can actually walk around with your phone out and not worry about being robbed.
To get to our hostel, we crossed a little bridge from the main town in Barra da Lagoa that took us to a dirt path…
We then climbed up the path and our hostel was at the top of the hill, overlooking a magnificent little beach.
This was the view from our room/balcony (which, to add to the easygoing vibe, even had a hammock):
So, that is what I woke up to each morning. And this was the view from the patio of the hostel (I swear I’m not being paid to promote this place!):
You can see why it was hard to leave.
The first day, we went down to this little (semi-private) beach and ordered caipirinhas (only R$6 or like $2.5 USD per caipi!! Far cheaper than I have ever found on any Rio beach! Not to mention delicious–and quite strong!).
It felt like paradise.
Okay, done with the photoshoot!
For being as secluded as it was, this beach was actually pretty popular, and at night, it turned into quite the party. So if you didn’t feel like making the trek out to the bars and clubs, you could just hang out on the beach.
While this little beach was my favorite, the main beach (across the bridge) had the best waves…it wasn’t too bad on the eyes either:
As if just soaking in all of this beauty and sunshine wasn’t enough, on top of that, our options for outdoor activities were endless (plus, our awesome hostel provided free equipment for snorkeling, surfing and a few other water sports).
Attempting to Surf
Surfing is probably one of the most popular sports in Floripa, since it’s got some of the best waves in Brazil. So we decided to give it a whirl!
Even though I barely rode any waves on my own, I found it incredibly peaceful just being out there on the water, lying on the board and letting the waves crash down over me. And then there’s that exhilarating feeling of when you finally catch that onda (wave) and ride it to the shore.
I also really enjoyed surfing because it was very social. During my surfing attempts, one random guy (who wasn’t surfing, but apparently knew how to surf) approached me in the water and started giving me some tips. I’ve heard that the surf culture can be quite cut-throat and competitive (when it comes to waves, at least), but here, I found it to be just the opposite. Everyone on the water was eager to help one another.
In addition to the abundance of water sports available, Floripa also boasts a variety of great hiking trails.
And then there’s Ilha do Campeche, an island off the coast, where the water is an even clearer blue and the sands are even whiter…this is what it looks like…
Want to go? Head to Campeche beach and ask for the boat (barco) to Ilha do Campeche. The boat ride takes about 10 minutes and is 100 reais round trip I believe (as of 2018).
The island limits the number of people who can go each day, so make sure that you go early (like 9AM or 10AM); otherwise, you might be turned away.
Partying it up in Floripa
To top it off, as if Floripa didn’t have enough to offer in the daytime, the nightlife in Florianópolis is known for being off the charts. NY Times even labeled it as the “party destination of the year” in 2009.
So, we had to test out the waters…One night, we went out to Lagoa de Conceiçao, which is probably the most hopping part of the island, with tons of bars, restaurants and shops. The vibe is super laid back and hippyish.
Another night, we went out to a place that just oozed Brasil: a bar, resembling something like a log cabin, that faced some sand dunes. Inside, performers were playing forró music and people were dancing along to the beat (forró style of course).
Side note: Forró is a very specific type of Brazilian music and dance that originated in the northeast of the country.
Although you can’t see any dancing in this video, this is was what the music sounded like…
One thing I love about Brazil: you don’t even have to go to a bar to hear live music. You can literally be anywhere and hear high quality music. Music and dancing runs in peoples’ blood here.
And last but not least…
A few tips for aspiring Floripa-goers:
- If you want to stay somewhere super relaxed and low-key, stick to Barra de Lagoa (I promise you won’t be disappointed!). If you want someplace more upscale and posh, head to Jurerê. Jurerê, known for its lavish nightlife, is also a great place to break out those high heels once the sun sets.
- Be sure to visit Floripa in the summertime (peak season). I had a friend who visited in the winter and hated it (I would have thought that would be impossible!) because it was freezing cold and super windy (well, “freezing” per Brazilian standards anyway!).
- If you are looking for the beach to see and be seen, go to Jururê, a hotspot for beautiful people. For a more secluded beach, check out Praia da Daniela in the north of the island.
- Take a walk around Lagoa de Conceição, a charming village located in the center of the city, with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. It is also one of the best places to wind-surf.
- If you’re a beginner surfer, go to Barra de Lagoa. Meanwhile, experts will find good waves at Praia Mole and Praia de Joaquina.
- Hike to Lagoinha do Leste, a secluded beach that can only be reached by boat or foot. The views will not disappoint, I promise!
- Go to the mercado (market) in the center of the city, which has displays of everything from various types of seafood and fruit to cheap trinkets. For all you seafood-lovers out there, it’s the best place in the city to buy fresh fish!
- If you are a guy, be sure to pack your sunga (the Brazilian equivalent to the speedo). As for females, the smaller your bikini, the better. Don’t have one? Not to fret. Floripa has no shortage of shops that sell exclusively bikinis – which are much cheaper than you will find the U.S. Whatever you do, do not wear those American “diapers” (as Brazilians refer to them) from back home – unless you want to be made into a laughingstock.
- Spend a beach day soaking up some rays and enjoying some caipirinhas on the stunning island, Ilha do Campeche.
- Then dance the night away to forró music at Bar Deraiz, in the Dunas de Joaquina.