By Mary Bolling Blackiston, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Just a two-hour plane ride south of Rio, Florianópolis, the capital city of the Southern state of Santa Catarina, is a favorite summer destination for many Brazilians. Not only does this popular city boast 42 beaches and some of the best nightlife in all of Brazil, it also has one of the lowest crime rates in the country and is the Brazilian capital city with the highest Human Development Index score.
Home to stunning white-sand beaches, surrounded by lush, green mountains, Florianópolis also has lagoons and even sand dunes. Its diverse topography, combined with a warm, subtropical climate, means that there is an endless assortment of daytime activities for visitors to choose from (most of which of course revolve around the water).
Surfers and aspiring-surfers will be pleased to know that Floripa (as Florianópolis is called for short) grants some of the best waves in all of Brazil. Other options include kite-surfing, scuba diving, sand-boarding, hiking, hang gliding, mountain biking, rock climbing and horseback riding, to name a few.
While sports may be the main attraction in Florianópolis, there is also a wide range of cultural activities for visitors to partake in. In addition to several noteworthy museums, churches and a municipal market, there are also many forts throughout the city (some of which can be reached by a boat tour).
To add to the charm of the area, Débora Catugy, a Carioca who visits Florianópolis from time to time, enthuses, “I liked the fact that it was a Brazilian beach city that had a bit of a non-Brazilian feel … people are more polite, customer service is better.”
With so many strips of sand to choose from, Florianópolis truly has a beach for everyone. Generally, the beaches in the north are more crowded with more of a “scene”, while the beaches in the south are more secluded.
To be in the action, many people go to Praia de Jurerê (Jurerê Beach), an affluent, exclusive beach area in the north of the island. However, prices are high, the beaches tend to be overcrowded and this upscale neighborhood lacks the relaxed vibe found at other beaches.
Barra da Lagoa, situated in the center of the island, is a casual fisherman’s community offering perfect surf conditions for beginners. Also in the center, Praia Mole (Mole Beach) is another favorable surf spot, with a vibrant beach scene, as well.
For the best place to surf in Floripa, do not miss Praia da Joaquina (Joaquina beach), also located in the center and known for its sand dunes and international surf competitions. Joaquina is also a popular area to kitesurf.
A bit further south and a short boat ride away from the main island, Ilha do Campeche (Campeche Island) is an absolute must-see. Calm, crystal-clear blue waters and more white-sand beaches make up this untainted island, which is nothing short of breathtaking. Partial credit for the pristine conditions can be given to the government, which limits the number of daily visitors and the hours one can go.
Like the beaches, nightclubs and bars are abounding in Floripa. While Florianópolis is a very laid-back city, nightlife is one exception. If nothing else than to fit in with the crowd, women should expect to dress nicely (heels at the very least).
During the summertime, the nightlife tends to be by the beaches (Jurerê and Praia dos Ingleses, both in the north, are popular spots), and when winter rolls around, Lagoa da Conceição is the place to be.
Unlike Rio, Florianópolis and Santa Catarina have distinct seasons and winters do get colder, making this city more of a summertime destination. Sherrydayne Edwards, an Australian who has been living in Rio for seven months, went to Floripa in Brazil’s winter and explained “the entire city was deserted … and it was freezing … and during the day it was really windy.”