The historic beachfront village of Santo Antônio de Lisboa on Florianópolis

Florianópolis, or Floripa as it’s known to the locals, was the last stop on our month-long journey through southern Brazil last fall. But it certainly wasn’t the least in terms of history, culture, and knockout scenic beauty. The capital of Santa Catarina state, the city of Florianópolis straddles the mainland and Ihla de Santa Catarina, a 54-km-long island famous for its fantastic beaches and centuries-old Portuguese heritage. Although technically the city encompasses the entire island, we didn’t have to drive far out of the urban area to encounter some of the wildest and most unspoiled natural beauty of our entire trip.

Floripa is the most popular tourist destination in southern Brazil, with special appeal for lovers of ecotourism, wildlife, and extreme sports. The Lagoa da Conceição, a saltwater lagoon, is home to rare species of animals, many of which are found nowhere else. And of course, with a seafaring culture that goes back at least 250 years, Floripa’s seafood is to die for. Of all the places we visited in Brazil, Florianópolis has the most comfortable, easy-going vibe – a place in which we could picture ourselves living someday (if only Portuguese weren’t so daunting!).

Here’s how we spent four short days exploring Florianópolis – not nearly enough time! Some of the photos are in galleries; just click the first to see larger versions.

Getting There and Getting Around

From the colonial town of Paraty, we took a door-to-door shuttle operated by Paraty Tours to São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport – a journey of about five hours. Then we hopped an 1.5-hour flight on LATAM to the almost-new, modernistic Florianópolis airport.

Floripa’s sleek, ultra-modern airport

In Florianópolis we rented a car, a good decision since our stay was limited to four days. Although public transportation does exist, navigating Ilha de Santa Catarina is time-consuming. With the exception of a couple of freeways in the north near the more urban areas, the roads are two-lane, and there’s seldom a direct way to get from point A to point B. We were very happy with Movida, our rental car provider; not only do they provide outstanding service from their shiny new facility near the airport, but we only paid about $36 a day for a brand-new 4×4 Jeep. Well worth it!

Experiencing Floripa’s Azorean Roots

The first European settlers arrived to Florianópolis from the Azores in the 18th century, and that heritage is reflected everywhere – especially in villages like Santo Antônio de Lisboa, Ribeirão da Ihla, and Armação. There, you can still hear people speaking an Azorean dialect of Portuguese that isn’t found anywhere else in Brazil. Local festivals, colorful fishing boats, and old-world crafts such as tatting (lacemaking) are keeping the Azorean culture alive, especially in the more remote areas of the island.

With a beautiful beach that bears the same name, Santo Antônio de Lisboa is one of Floripa’s oldest neighborhoods – with Europeans arriving as early as 1648. We had a nice stroll through Santo Antônio and a great lunch at Chão Batido, one of many restaurants on the picturesque waterfront.

Traditional Azorean architecture along the Santo Antônio waterfront
The landmark church in San Antonio de LIsboa dates to 1750.

On another day, we drove further south to the fishing village of Armacão along Floripa’s wilder Atlantic coast. To us, Armacão felt worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the island’s more urban areas.

Looking back on the pretty hamlet of Armacão, from the adjoining islet (connected by this footbridge)
Colorful fishing boats along the waterfront at Armacão
Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, The Black Madonna, first appeared to Portuguese fishermen in 1717. She’s very important to Floripa’s Azorean community.

Exploring the Historic Center

The downtown historic district of Florianópolis is filled with beautifully preserved and architecturally significant buildings dating to the early days of Portuguese settlement. Many of the streets are pedestrian-only, so it’s easy to spend at least a day wandering around the district.

The Public Market is a foodie’s delight, filled with eateries, bars, and unique food stalls.
Ladies practice the traditional art of tatting (lace-making) in front of the market
Formerly the governor’s residence, the Palacio Cruz e Sousa now houses a history museum (closed the day we were there).
Just beyond the Palacio is a famous mural honoring its namesake, renowned poet João da Cruz e Sousa.
The Catedral Metropolitana de Florianopolis was completed in 1773.

Beaching It

Floripa has some of the most beautiful praias (beaches) in Brazil, drawing hordes of tourists in the summer months. Since we were there in October, many of the beaches we visited were completely deserted and took on a wilder and more mysterious feel. It was too cool for much sunbathing, but we were glad not to have to contend with tourist mobs.

Visiting the Sea Turtle Sanctuary

Projeto Tamar is a foundation dedicated to protecting many different sea turtle species from extinction along Brazil’s Atlantic coast. Projeto Tamar operates 22 bases all along the Brazilian coastline, with its flagship base and turtle rehabilitation center on Florianópolis. Opened in 2005, the center now receives more than 200,000 visitors every year, making it one of the most-visited ecological sites in southern Brazil. We stumbled on the center by accident while exploring further down the western coast of Santa Catarina. It’s well worth a visit.

Eating and Drinking

Our two favorite dining experiences in Florianópolis were the beforementioned Chão Batido in Santo Antônio de Lisboa and Zeca Bar, a friendly, family-run beach bar on Praia do Campeche. Both had some of the freshest and tastiest seafood of our entire Brazil trip.

Fresh oysters grown right out in the bay at Chão Batida. John was in oyster heaven (I, not so much)!

Our Lodging

Located right on Jurere Beach on the north shore of Floripa, Hotel Sete IIhas was a great midrange choice at a little over $100 a night (off-season price).

Summing Up

In only four days, we didn’t even come close to experiencing all of the incredible natural beauty and cultural delights that Florianópolis has to offer. We can envisioning spending a month or more there, someday. We’ll be back!

That’s it for our October Brazil trip! We can’t wait to return to this fantastic country in July.

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  1. Once again you’ve taken me along on your amazing trip to Brazil! I loved the beaches and turtle sanctuary.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Mimi! Floripa was really special. Just writing this post made me want to go back there. Happy Easter!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      I loved her too. She was sitting up there in the rocks, very unassuming, near Armacão. She took my breath away.

  2. You have gorgeous pictures of Florianópolis. Funny what a difference weather makes. It poured for a large part of our time there so we don’t have the best feeling for it. We stayed on the other side of the island from you in Barra da Lagoa it was nice and quiet unlike the city, but the continual torrential downpours didn’t let us explore much. ☹ Maggie

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Sorry you had so much rain! We got lucky, although it was overcast and cool for a good bit of our visit. We loved that Barra da Lagoa area – wish we’d had more time to explore it. Looks like we both need to plan a return visit!

  3. What a lovely stroll through beautiful towns – love the photo of the lace-making ladies. The Turtle Sanctuary looks like a great place to visit … but oh my, I’m with Susan on the oysters (I love seafood, but not so much in its raw form).

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, yeah, I’m not fond of the slimy little buggers 🙂 But I had a wonderful local fish – wish I could remember what it was. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. What fun I have had following you guys around Brazil. And because of your excellent travel guide posts, I’ve added Brazil to my to-do list. Floripa was another treat. Not only was the scenery gorgeous, so were the sights of the city. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      So glad you two have put Brazil on your radar! We’re already planning our return visit in July. It’s such a vast country that we don’t know how we’ll ever see everything. And Floripa is the place that’s really calling us back – such a beautiful, exotic, and yet livable place. Thanks for always leaving such lovely comments! 🙂

  5. I’ve vaguely heard of Florianópolis, but I never realized just how colorful it is! I’ve only dipped my toes into Brazil, so I hope to return some day to discover more! 😊

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Rebecca! We feel the same way about Brazil, even after the three weeks we spent there. There’s SO much to see! Looking forward to our return trip in July.

  6. What a great intro to a place I’ve never heard of. You guys and Monkey’s Tale are both posting about Brazil at the moment. Enough to make me want to finally go see it for myself!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Alison! Yes, we’ve been following Monkey’s Tail’s Brazil journeys, and also Hungry Travelers. Above Us Only Skies are some more blogger friends who are there now. It’s been fun comparing notes! Hope you can see Brazil someday.

  7. It sounds like you found your favorite of this trip in Florianopolis. That mural is incredible and I love all the historic buildings – and blue skies! Haven’t seen those in Colombia in months!

    With 200,000 visitors a year, I have to wonde how “eco” the turtle sanctuary still is…

    I hope you get to return one day. It does look like more time on the island would be ideal.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Liesbet! We got lucky on the weather in Floripa, since it was October. As for Projeto Tamar, the more visitors, the better if it spreads awareness about endangered sea turtles. A lot of them are school children who are learning about the turtles and how important it is to protect them. It doesn’t get more “eco” than that, as far as we’re concerned.

      Do you think you’ll make it to Floripa when you get to Brazil?
      – Susan

  8. When Jakarta had its first Brazilian restaurant some years ago, I asked the chef where in Brazil he comes from, and he said Santa Catarina. Then I looked up a little bit about this state in the southern part of the country as well as its capital. But I didn’t really realize how interesting Florianópolis is until I read this blog post! I also love its past connection with the Azores and how people there still speak Azorean Portuguese. How fascinating!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Bama! Floripa really does have it all – a thriving big city vibe if you like that, with fantastic beaches and wild, natural surroundings within easy reach. Plus the history and culture. it was hard to leave!

  9. Some places just grab you and you know you could stay there long term, it obviates happened to you in Floripa….and in Alicante if I remember correctly. You can never predict where it’s going to hit you!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We did, Henry! We know she would really like to move there someday. Hope it comes true for her.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We hope you can visit Brazil someday, Hannah! There are wonders around every corner 🙂

  10. What a great area to explore with you today! I love how it is all so gracefully and unassumingly beautiful the whole place is with nothing in your face or overwhelming. Seems like a perfect spot of paradise 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Meg! We say this everywhere, but Florianópolis really was a hard place to leave. It gets in your blood 🙂

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