Florianopolis – The Magic Island Florianopolis is the capital of the Southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, and is composed

of a main island and surrounding small islets, as well as an adjoining portion of the mainland. Somewhat similar to Hawaii in terms of natural beauty, a wide variety of enjoyable activities, and a balmy subtropical climate, Florianopolis is only recently being discovered as a vacation haven. Although The New York Times proclaimed “Florianopolis is the Party Destination of the Year in 2009,” it’s not too late to join the party. Santa Catarina is connected to the continent by three bridges off the coast of Sao Jose in southern Brazil. The relative humidity averages 80%, which helps to carpet the rolling hills and mountains in green jungles and forest, and leads to some beautiful sunsets. Villages immersed in tradition and history, such as Santo Antônio de Lisboa and Ribeirão da Ilha, still exist as they have for centuries. The small fishing boats, the lacemakers, the folklore, the cuisine, and the colonial architecture all contribute to the growing tourism trade. History and Culture The Carijós Indians inhabited the islands up to 4000 years ago, but the Portuguese landed around 1514 and named it Ilha dos Patos. Official settlement began in 1673 in the renamed Ilha de Santa Catarina. Situated halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, two of the largest seaside cities of South America, the port assumed a strategic function. The Portuguese began building a ring of fortresses to defend Southern Brazil in the 1740s. Santa Cruz de Anhatomirim, the main fort built to protect the Northern bay, still exists on Anhatomirim Island and can be visited on regular boat trips from Florianopolis. More than 6,000 settlers arrived from the Archipelago of Azores and from Madeira Island between 1747 and 1756, developing the agricultural, cotton and linen industries. Although prosperous, regional landowners dissatisfied with the monarchy started a revolution. “Iron Marshal” Marechal Floriano Peixoto squashed the rebellion and shot many rebels in the fortress. To honor him, the state capital’s name changed to Florianopolis in 1893. Today, Florianopolis has a thriving, modern center. The infrastructure is surprisingly good, and the local buses are a reasonable way to get around. The wide lanes of the Beira Mar Norte highway, which takes traffic along the northern beaches or across the central hills to the lagoon and the eastern beaches, separate the city’s affluent apartment

buildings and fashionable shopping centers from the beaches. The rule of Florianopolis, as defined by its geography, is that the continental side has been residential since the Portuguese arrived. Of the 42 beautiful beaches surrounding Florianopolis Island, the northern beaches have calmer water suitable for everyone, especially families, while the central Lagoa da Conceição and the Atlantic side attracts a young crowd (especially surfers) from all over Brazil. The south takes you away from all of these to a scenic wilderness with miles of secluded tropical beaches and sea life. The restaurants of Florianopolis vary from elite establishments with wonderful views over the water to cheap seafood straight from the fisherman’s boat or oyster nets. A local secret is the Coqueiros Via Gastronomica. Heading south along the coast on the mainland side, some very decent restaurants have pleasant settings amongst the rocks, and are generally cheaper than equivalent restaurants in Florianopolis. Don’t miss churrascaria, the traditional all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbeque. There are only a few, with Ataliba and Floripana among the most popular on the Beira Mar Norte. If you don’t mind driving a bit further onto the mainland, treat yourself to what I consider to be the best churrascaria in the area, bar none. It’s called Tropelia. The More Sedate North Very close to the city are some of the oldest communities on the island, and the traditional lifestyle hasn’t changed much since they were founded. The tranquil waters and soft sands of the north coast have attracted holidaymakers for decades, with some of the busiest beaches and largest nightclubs on the island. By contrast, the marshy nature reserve of the Rio Ratones estuary has a visitors’ center where you can learn about the flora and fauna of the area. Jurerê Internacional, Florianopolis’ version of St Tropez, is the most expensive district, boasting huge nightclubs with world-famous DJs playing to teeming crowds. Canasvieiras is the original holidaymakers’ area from the 1940s. Bars and restaurants still line the roads to the beaches, although a water park is one of the popular entertainments today. The northern tip includes the larger resorts of Cachoiera de Bom Jesus. Slightly down the Atlantic side, Praia dos Ingleses and Santinho have a good mix of residents, holidaying families and surfers, with dunes, offshore islands, and rocky headlands making up the scenery. Excitement Beasts go East The eastern coast contains most of the reasons why people come to Florianopolis, featuring some of the best views and beaches that stretch for miles. Praia do Moçambique, the island’s longest beach, has strong surf along most of its length and high dunes behind. The southern end is protected by Galheta Point, containing a turtle

sanctuary and an island ecological reserve with clear waters for snorkeling. Over the hill is another sort of “naturalist” haven: Praia da Galheta, the island nudist beach, which can only be reached on foot or boat. The trail to Praia Mole is easier, and both beaches have very clean water and sand. The stunning Lagoa da Conceição occupies a large part of the eastern side of the island between the central spine of green hills and the Atlantic. The 8 mile long lagoon is complemented by mountains dropping directly into the western side, lovely waterfalls, a pine forest with tranquil trails occupying the eastern banks, and some of the best restaurants, bars and clubs. While sporting activities abound throughout the island, the most versatile areas are around the Lagoa. The most exciting surfing beaches are here, with good crabbing and fishing. While scuba diving may be too adventurous, great snorkeling can be found all over. Sailing, kite-surfing, wind-surfing, kayaking, pedal boating, and even jet skiing can be found on the calmer waters of the lagoon. The sand dunes are just a short walk away, with people of all ages sandboarding and tobogganing down them on most days. From the top of the dunes or in the center of Lagoa, you may well see para-gliders and hanggliders riding their colorful rigs. Costa da Lagoa can only be reached by boat or walking trails that lead around the edges of the lagoon through the rainforest, where toucans, parrots and monkeys keep you company. On the opposite shore, another trail leads through the pine forest, where you will view wild beaches, rocky cliffs and rugged mountains. The area is also great for horse riding and bird-watching. The rivers running down from the Serra do Tabuleiro mountains around Santo Amaro do Imperatriz have great rapids for whitewater rafting, and mountain bikers have a lot of options. The Scenic South The rugged mountains dropping directly into the sea make the wild south the most primordial, with tiny fishing villages clinging to the slopes, a convent that dates from 1782, near-deserted beaches, and rocky headlands for watching dolphins and whales swim by, especially during springtime. It also cradles the lesser known large lagoon, Lagoa do Peri, a nature park with paths for walking or cycling through the trees to waterfalls and along the stony shores. The quiet little village of Armação is one of the island’s oldest settlements, and is also the gateway to Matadeiros, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Pantano do Sul, the most southernmost beach, nestles many fishing boats and a few seafood restaurants that include Arantes, an island institution. Traditional fishing villages, such as Ribeirão da Ilha in the south and Santo Antonio da Lisboa and Sambaqui heading north, have developed into seafood centers. All have restaurants of various prices in wonderful settings. A favorite is moqueca, often spiced

with ingredients taken out of the sea just before cooking. Portions can be huge, especially if you request the Sequencia do Camarão or similar island dishes. All Around Entertainment While each quadrant has its special charms, there are certain events the entire island enjoys. The holiday season starting wtih New Years Eve through Carnaval, which is sometime in February or March, is especially lively, with Brazilians partying in every street and visitors trying to match them. Throughout the south of Brazil, festival season continues with Festa Junina, or the Festa da Sao Joao. Naturally, there are several surfing competitions, as the last few years have seen Santa Catarina play host to both the Brazilian professional circuit and the ASP World Tour. The Ironman Brazil comes to Florianopolis in late May, immediately followed by Tainha Time through mid-July, as thousands of tainha come to breed in the waters and hundreds of fishermen try to catch them. The major national sport, soccer, boasts two local professional teams. Tennis is not a big sport in Brazil, although it’s popular in Florianopolis due to the success of the island’s favorite son, Gustavo Kuerten, a former world number one. Travel and Accommodations Florianopolis lies 312 miles south of Sao Paulo and 500 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro. Aeroporto Hercilio Luz has direct flights to both those cities (around 1hour, 30 minutes from Sao Paulo) as well as Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buses also make the journey regularly at about half the price, but take up to 11 hours, and the roads in many parts of the country are not good. The best business hotels are on the Beira Mar Norte road, about ten minutes by taxi from the airport, which include major chain hotels such as Sofitel, and other luxury hotels that include the Florianópolis Palace, the Bristol Castelmar and Baia Norte Palace Hotels. The north finds more package holiday makers staying in the hotels, resorts and apartments about a 30 minute drive from the airport. There are also many expensive private vacation rentals. The east coast offers accommodations from the sprawling family- and couple-oriented resort of Costão do Santinho on the beach to places populated by the younger surf crowd. The Atlantic side of the island has everything from small pousadas through

apartment hotels to the Praia Mole Eco Village, which cater to all ages and lifestyles and are within easy walking distance of a number of surf beaches. The remoter parts of the south attract those who prefer to be away from the crowds, primarily offering smaller family-run pousadas and a few hotels. There are also a few places for some wild camping. For more information and photos please visit www.FloripaTours.com