Florianopolis is one of Brazil’s most famous beach destinations and the first stop on my four-month solo trip around South America. Located six hours north of Porto Alegre and thirteen hours south of São Paulo by bus, it’s on the itinerary of nearly every backpacker passing through Brazil during the summer months. And for good reason—the island boasts over forty stunning beaches. Whether you’re looking to surf, wade in warm, gentle waves while sipping a Capairhinia (Brazil’s national cocktail), people watch or read a book in quiet solitude— you’ll find what you’re looking for in the city nicknamed “Floripa.”
Praia [prahy-ah] - n. beach
WHERE TO STAY
Floripa consists of a large main island called Santa Catarina Island, a section of mainland, and a handful of smaller islands. Santa Catarina Island is the main tourist destination, and hosts the airport. While the city still has a laid-back party vibe, it’s not walkable like many other popular South American beach towns—nearly half a million people call Floripa home.
If you’ve looked into accommodations already, you may have noticed there are a multitude of options spread out across the enormous 33 mile-long island, with the majority of hostels centered around four main areas: downtown, Campeche Leste, Lagoa da Conceição, and my favorite, Barra da Lagoa.
In the downtown area, you will find cafes, nightlife, shopping centers, and government offices, but if you’re coming to Floripa for the beach, staying here isn’t your best option.
For those of you looking to roll off the top bunk and stumble outside onto a beach with great waves, Campeche Leste is a solid choice. This area is only fifteen minutes from the airport by taxi/Uber, and is centered around Praia de Campeche, one of Floripa’s best surfing beaches. You can also find a handful of restaurant options and ATM’s here.
Lagoa da Conceição
Lagoa da Conceição is located on a large lagoon popular for standup paddle boarding, kayaking, and other water sports. This neighborhood consists of several excellent accommodation, restaurant, and shopping options, helping it become Floripa’s main center for tourists. I stayed at the Tucano House hostel here in February 2018, which is a great place for meeting other backpackers, and overall I felt safe in this area as a female travelling solo. However, the main drawback for me about Lagoa da Conceição was that the beach is NOT within walking distance.
To get to the beach, there are two main options:
Catch bus 360 on the main road next to Restaurante Oliveira, which will drop you off at Praia Mole or Praia Juaquina, two popular surfing spots. Traffic along this road is sometimes a huge issue depending on the time of day and season, meaning the trip can take anywhere from 15 to 45+ minutes. The scenery is beautiful, and the waves are big. I spent three minutes swimming at Praia Mole, and it took three days to get all the sand out of my hair due to the strong current.
The other option is to take an inexpensive ferry across the lagoon and through a canal strewn with colorful wooden fishing boats to Barra da Lagoa. Boats leave from the pier left of the main bridge about every 30 minutes, and the ride takes around 20 minutes.
Barra da Lagoa
Barra da Lagoa has, in my opinion, the perfect combination of cozy charm, great beaches, and tasty restaurants. Basing yourself here, rather than Lagoa da Conceição, will also save you time, money, and hassle getting to the beach every day.
This small locality is centered around a large beach often populated with vacationing Argentinians. This beach has white sand, warm water, gentle waves aaaand plenty of vendors trying to sell you anything from a cerveja to sunglasses to the world’s tiniest bikinis.
If you don’t want to deal with the crowds or vendors, take the blue pedestrian bridge across the canal, then make your first left up the hill until you find Prainha da Barra. Cool off while sipping a caipirinha at this intimate spot where you can mingle with locals and backpackers alike.
Cerveja - n. beer
Continuing past Prainha da Barra, make sure to check out the Piscinas Naturais. Follow the signs along the footpath for about twenty minutes and you will arrive at the amazing natural pools where you can jump off the impressive rocks into the crystal-clear blue water below. There is a stand here that lets you store your belongings and rent snorkels and foam noodles for a couple Reals. The walk is short and relatively flat, but steamy, so don’t forget to bring water and sunscreen.
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
Theft is a major problem in Brazil, so it’s not wise to leave your valuables unattended at the beach. I normally opted to leave my phone and camera at the hostel, especially when going alone.
As a solo female traveler, I felt safe in Floripa during the day and at night. Regardless of location, it’s never a good idea to drink too much and go out alone. Always find a buddy or choose a hostel with a bar if you plan to drink.
The best time to visit Floripa is during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer– December through March. Traveling through Brazil April through November? Unless you’re a surfer sporting a wetsuit, skip Floripa and consider visiting one of the many amazing beaches near Salvador in Brazil’s relatively undiscovered North where the weather is better year round. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the North, but it’s right at the top of my list of places I would still like to visit in South America.