Florianopolis Guide: Exploring Magical Island in Brazil
Are you planning on visiting Florianopolis island in Brazil? Read our travel guide on top things to do, where to find the best beaches, where to stay and how to get around.
Florianopolis has been recently discovered by both tourists and locals and is one of the best places you can visit in Brazil and South America when looking for both clean beaches, clear water, and good tourist infrastructure.
There are many reasons behind Florianopolis' skyrocketing increase in popularity - beautiful nature, welcoming beaches, vibrant city life, lots of water activities to do and general safety.
Florianopolis is known as Magic Island, but locals usually call it Floripa. It's a coastal city when half of it lies on the mainland, and the other half is on the island known as Santa Catarina Island.
It might be a little bit confusing for first-time travelers looking for information about the island as the name Florianopolis is much more common than Santa Catarina island, and people usually use it when referring to the island. Unless you have to, there is no reason to stay in the city of Florianopolis - it is much better to head directly to the islands.
What To Expect From Florianopolis
You will find almost everything on Florianopolis you expect to see on a tropical island, despite the fact this one is well-connected with the mainland. Hilly jungles, lush forest mountains, long beaches, waterfalls, sand dunes, lakes and much more.
On top of that, there are cities and towns filled with great restaurants serving oysters typical for Florianopolis and other fresh seafood, bars to experience Brazilian nightlife, luxury hotel resorts, cheap hostels for backpackers.
Plus the list of sports and activities you can do on the island is almost endless, going from laying on the beach to surfing, paragliding, hiking, sandboarding to island hopping and scuba diving.
Best Things To Do On Florianopolis
The island is packed with adventures so expect to experience something new, and to have lots of fun.
Surfing | The east coast of the island is a paradise for surfers, so if this is what you like, head to this part of Floripa.
Paragliding | If you love paragliding, Lagoa De Conceicao is the place to go.
Hiking | There are hiking trails all over the island perfect for all from beginners to more experienced hikers. Our favorite hike led to a secluded beach Laguna de Leste.
Shopping | You will find several huge shopping malls in the city of Florianopolis, all are modern with 150+ shops and cinemas, but shopping is also possible on Santa Catalina Island.
Eating Out | Florianopolis is well-known for its cuisine, and you should try oysters which are typical for the island.
Windsurfing | Lagoa de Conceicao is a popular windsurfing spot thanks to its shallow waters and strong winds year round.
Boat Tours | Do you want to get to the other side of the island, but getting there by bus sounds too boring? Let's take a boat tour and enjoy a day on the sea.
Scuba Diving | There are a few places around the island offering scuba diving.
Paddle Boarding |The Lagoa de Conceicao has perfect conditions to try this favorite water activity.
Where To Find Best Beaches On Florianopolis
We prefer beaches that don't have hotels lining the coast and offer some tranquility, but luckily, Florianopolis has both, in case you like it the other way.
We found our favorite beach in the southern part of the island called Laghoina do Leste. Because it is necessary to hike about an hour to reach the beach, you can be sure that you won't find here many people even in the high season.
Another two beaches we found more than enjoyable were Praia da Galheta and Praia Mole.
If you're looking for more developed places, you might want to try one of the many beaches in the north where many hotel resorts are located. The eastern coast is great for surfing and overall for everyone who loves enjoying the waves and chilling on the beach.
When To Visit
The best time to visit Florianopolis is between December and March, which is the Brazilian summer.
You will have the best weather, which is hot and humid, and a chance of having clear skies and sun all day is higher. Note, that it is not uncommon to experience cloudy and rainy weather on Florianopolis, and if you are coming to Brazil solely to enjoy beaches and sunbath from the morning to the evening, check weather forecast carefully to avoid disappointment.
We went to Florianopolis in January and had great weather, blue skies, hot sunny days and no rain, unlike our visit to Paraty.
Winter in Florianopolis can be surprisingly cold, at least for lazing around beaches as temperatures can oscillate between 8 and 12 degrees.
3 Tips On How To Save On Traveling Around Florianopolis
Use public transport all the time | It's cheap and reliable, though more time-consuming. There is a bus line going directly from the Florianopolis downtown to popular places on the island. There is also a bus connecting the international airport with the rest of the island. Renting a car can get pretty expensive and it only makes sense, if you travel in a group.
Book in advance | We don't recommend you to come during the off-season as the temperatures drop significantly, so your best bet here is to arrive with the crowds (or, of course, during shoulder season). Do not forget to book your flights and accommodation a few months before you go to secure the best prices. The island gets extremely busy during summer when the Brazilians go to spend their holiday there.
Stay In Lagoa de Conceicao area | You can save a few hundred bucks by simply staying farther from the beach. Still, two of the most popular beaches like Joaquina or Praia Mole are only a 10 minutes drive from there. This location offers affordable accommodation for backpackers and frugal travelers, though you might need to control yourself otherwise you could spend too much on outstanding caipirinhas in local bars.
People in Brazil speak Portuguese, and it is the same in the Florianopolis both the city and the island.
Despite the fact that the island quickly became a popular tourist destination, English is still not very common here, not even in restaurants and hotels, which means, that you need to learn some words and everyday phrases to communicate.
Keep also in mind, that Portuguese and Spanish are not that similar as you might think. Although some words in written form look similar, the most significant difference for us was unquestionably the pronunciation which is totally different. One lady on the cruise on the Galapagos Islands told us that the Czech language sounds to her as the Portuguese language, but after spending almost a month in Brazil, we still can't find the similarities.
We were using a Google Translate app all the time, and we recommend you to do the same - it made us our life much painless.
Length Of Stay
After four nights on Floripa Island, we are convinced that staying three nights is a bare minimum to enjoy several beaches and have time to relax. To get the most of the island, a week would we optimal.
Remember that this is a magical island, the slower you take it, the more you get.
How To Get Around Florianopolis
From the bus terminal in the city, walk about 10 minutes to the local bus station, where you can catch one of the many yellow buses to almost anywhere in the city and the island. These buses are executive, air-conditioned, more expensive and are departing and stopping less frequently. They connect popular places and beaches around the island, and the cost is R 9.80 and you can pay directly to the driver.
There are currently two bus lines, 2120 and 2123, connecting Florianopolis and Lagoa De Conceicao, where we stayed.
When you arrive on the island, from now on you can use cheaper blue buses touring around the island for R 4.50 - you don't need to pay twice in case you will change buses on bus terminals. If you plan on staying longer and relying on public transport, consider getting an electronic card called Cartao Passe Rapido Turista which will allow you to save money on transportation around the island (each ride is approximately R 0.30 cheaper).
On the island, you can change the buses for free only at the bus terminals.
We used only public transport while getting around the island and never had any problems getting to a destination we intended. If you are short on time, we'd recommend you to rent a car to save time.
You can also call a taxi or Uber, which are usually the most efficient, but also an expensive way of getting around the island - but it is still less expensive than a regular cab.
You can rent a car in the city or at the airport, the prices are high during summer.
How To Get There
There is an international airport in the southern part of the island, so reaching Florianopolis by air is incredibly easy. When you arrive at the airport, the best way how to get on the island is by taxi.
But more common way is to arrive from either Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.
It's about 11 hours to get to Sao Paulo or 16 hours to Rio de Janeiro. The main bus terminal in the city center is called Rita Maria Bus Terminal. This is a new, safe bus terminal with free Wi-Fi. We traveled in the area with Catariense bus company, and we experienced smooth rides without any problems.
Florianopolis lies in a rich region of Brazil, and the first impression was quite different from what we had expected.
The atmosphere is more relaxed, you will see people walking along the streets with their phones popping out of their pockets and without holding their backpacks in the front as it was common in other parts of South America, for example in Medellin.
But don't be fooled, this is still Brazil.
The homicide rate on Florianopolis is about the same as in Sao Paulo, and there is still a petty theft, but we believe you should not encounter any problems when you use your common sense and mind your business.
While on the beach we never felt uncomfortable and even went to the sea together without worrying about our stuff.
Check out our personal experience from traveling around South America in this article - Is South America safe to travel?
WHAT TO PACK
Florianopolis is all about fun and sun. Pack light, protect your skin and eyes, and do yourself a favor and buy a waterproof daypack.
Waterproof Dry Bag | This is a great waterproof daypack for all water activities.
Travel Towel | Light and fast drying towel is the best choice for the sandy beaches.
Sunscreen | We used SPF 50+ every day in Brazil.
WHERE TO STAY IN FLORIANOPOLIS
Since Floripa is a quite big island, so it's essential to choose the place where you will stay carefully.
We decided to stay at Lagoa de Conceicao in the middle of the island, and it turned out to be a great choice. Not only we were close to some of the best beaches on the island like Praia Mole or Joaquina, but given the central location, it was easy to get around the island by bus.
Here are the best picks from around the island for every budget.
The Bridge Hostel Florianópolis - Almost new accommodation between the island and the city of Florianopolis offers good value.
Mar dos Acores - Free WiFi and the location right on the beach are two main features here.
Mama Africa Hostel - Perfectly situated hostel near Lagoa da Conceicao has a character and delicious breakfast.
Hotel Sete Ilhas - Amazing hotel on the northern part of Florianopolis features a swimming pool, nice rooms, breakfast, and beachfront views.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via HotelsCombined.
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