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Florianopolis: Planning Your Time

The Island of Santa Catarina is like a small country. It’s so big and diverse that it contains within it, many smaller territories, towns and neighborhoods, each with a unique personality. It has a downtown area (the city of Florianópolis), at least four smaller town centers, an international airport, 100 beaches (from urbanized to completely virgin), several lakes, and a variety of ecosystems. There are national parks, trails, major highways and small villages. It’s an impressive mixture of elements in such as small place.

There are four principal zones to the island: Downtown Florianópolis, on the west side, is the metropolitan center and is split into two parts, half on the island and half on the mainland–connected by a mere thread. It has some interesting historical buildings and a popular central market, where you can find products from all over the island. The Beira Mar area is an upscale district with some of the city’s finest restaurants and shopping centers. The east coast of the island includes the large lake Conceição and has some of the most popular beaches for sun and fun in the sand. Around the lake is the island’s most active night spot with restaurants and bars that stay open until the sun comes up. The beaches have fairly large waves and cool, clear water. On the north side are the urban beach towns, popular with Argentinean travelers. The beaches here have calm waters and plenty of places to sit with a cool drink and peoplewatch. The south side of the island is the most deserted and you can find beaches with no urbanization whatever. The best trails are in this area, including a fabulous hike out to Prainha do Leste. There are some simple hotels in this region. From here you can visit the island of Campeche, one of the highlights of any visit to Florianópolis.

The options here are endless: surfing, hiking, sun bathing (including a nude beach), kayaking, paragliding and hang gliding, and dining in some excellent restaurants. Speaking of food, the island is a major producer of seafood and shellfish and has a number of small offshore farms that produce mussels and oysters. Don’t leave town without trying some of these locally-grown morsels. The best places are listed herein.

Florianopolis: Planning Your Time

Everyone has the same dilemma on their first visit to the island of of Santa Catarina: How do I choose the best spot from so many possibilities? The island is so big and diverse that it’s difficult ot know where you’re going to want to spend your time. It’s possible to see most of the island’s key locations in about 7–10 days but, frankly, not everything is going to appeal to everyone. The island is so diverse, that most everybody needs to eliminate a few spots in order to keep it manageable and not waste your time on places that are not sua praia, (your beach) as they say in Brazil.

So here’s how to not waste your time in Florianópolis: Eliminate the northern half of the island (except for the village of Santo Antônio de Lisboa) and focus on downtown, the east coast, and the south. You will definitely enjoy the less crowded conditions of the southern beaches, including the enchanting island of Campeche. Plus, the south part of the island is where all the hiking and beautiful views can be found. If you like the idea of people watching from a relaxing spot at a beach bar…well, the east coast has plenty of that at Praias Joaquina and Mole. And you won’t want for a more beautiful crowd. The best nightlife is either downtown or at Lagoa da Conceição.

Where you stay and how you get around depends largely on how much time and money you have. If you have five days and R$1500, then spend a couple days downtown, where you can explore both downtown and the east coast. Take taxis back and forth to the east coast and Lagoa do Conceição. Next, move your base to Armação or Pântano do Sul for the rest of the time. From there, you can see the southern part of the island at a liesurely pace. If you like, you can rent a car to make it easier to get between these beaches.

If you’re on a budget, then I suggest you get yourself installed in a reasonable hotel downtown or at Barra da Lagoa (the most economical) and take day trips from there (it’s easier to take day trips from downtown). You can also camp out at Lagoinha do Leste, where you may decide to spend the rest of your time.

Don’t Miss in Florianopolis

Praia Mole: You won’t find a more beautiful crowd of people than at Praia Mole. They’ll be surfing, getting some sun, and modeling their latest swimwear for the onlookers. Just a short hike to the north and over the hill and you’ll come to the nude beach of Galheta–a great place to relax and get some sun with just a few other naked people.
View of the Lake From the Hills: The most beautiful view point on the island is in the hills above Lake Conceicao at sunset. As night falls, the city lights around the lake begin to sparkle and the energy of the night spreads across the island. You can either head down to the lake or over to the Centro for the night’s activities.
Campeche Island: Known as the Easter Island of Brazil, Campeche attracts archeologists with a number of mysterious petraglyphs left behind by the islands original inhabitants some 5000 year ago. When you’re not contemplating these mysteries, you can swim in the clear blue water of the Campeche beach. In the winter, the island is a stop over point for penguins and sea lions, and whales are commonly seen right off shore.
Lagoinha do Leste: The trail that leads up and over the mountains, then down into Lagoinha has some spectacular views along the way. It’s a challenging hike, so when you arrive, you’ll be ready for a dip in the fresh-water lake or one of the small streams that feeds into it. The entire area is pristine and semi-secluded.
Florianopolis Centro Historico: A loop around the historical center makes an excellent half-day walking tour. Start at the Mercado Publico, then stroll over to Praca XV de Novembro. Don’t forget to walk around the old fig tree a few times before making your way back along Rua Philipe Schmidt, the city’s pedestrian walkway.

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