Florianopolis, Brazil, is a hot spot for travelers. // c 2012 Florianopolis e Regiao Convention & Visitors Bureau
Florianopolis — nicknamed Floripa by Brazilians — is emerging on to the tourism map in a big way. Popular with the Brazilian elite, such as model Gisele Bundchen, who hails from the country’s south, the city serves as an alternative to Rio. Here, resorts and hotels are newer, the beaches are cleaner and it is overall a much safer environment than other cities in Brazil. Floripa is also easily accessible by flights from Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, sometimes with a connection in Porto Alegre.
The resort city of Florianopolis is set on an island in the province of Santa, one of the last parts of the country to be colonized by the Portuguese in the 1700s. By the 1800s and the early 1900s, Italian and German immigrants, among others, established a presence in the area.
While high-rise hotels proliferate in the center of Florianopolis, the city still retains its colonial core, complete with Portuguese architecture. There’s a sense of the provincial here — a green city full of lovely parks where everyday feels like Sunday, even during the work week. Along the old port area, you’ll find a few old market buildings now filled with modern eateries and souvenir shops, overlooked by a suspension bridge reminiscent of San Francisco’s Golden Gate.
Beach resorts abound in this area, where many tiny towns are centered around churches, and a mix of fishermen and beachgoers can be found along the shores. The most beautiful of these is the picturesque Ribeirao da Ilha, with its perfectly preserved colonial center and a simple, yet stunning, church on a hill overlooking the town. Oyster bars and other restaurants line the waterfront. It’s the oldest of the original colonial outposts on the island — dating from the 1700s — and many of the original inhabitants come from the Azores.
The most important beach area is Jurere International, where hotels, posadas, shopping centers and open-air clubs and bars line the beach. During high season, visitors are sure to find top models and stars here as well. Major resorts include Il Campanario, with its central tower rising like a beacon. Here, like in all the coastal areas of Florianopolis, the beach is well protected — development is not allowed within 300 meters of the beachfront, meaning wide, beautiful sandy shores perfect for long romantic walks no matter where you choose to stay.
All throughout the area, watersports and activities include sailing, surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as whale watching and other activities along the varied beaches.
One of the most amazing options on a visit to Florianopolis is a trip to Parrot Island, a private island turned resort run by the Sehn family. About 20 individual cabins rise up on a small cliff overlooking the beach, giving it the feeling of a luxurious Gilligan’s Island. It’s not cheap — a few hundred dollars per night in high season — but it’s worth it for the secluded and informal atmosphere that is particularly ideal for honeymooners.
Campeche is another beach resort area, known for its small posadas. Naturcampeche, owned by Talmir Duarte, has a homey feeling. Each room has a kitschy international theme, ranging from Mexico to Israel, France and others. Another small posada, with an award-winning tropical garden, is Pousada Vila Tamarindo Eco Lodge, owned by Paolo Mascheretti.
An ecologically minded tour company for exploring the area is Brazil Ecojourneys, based in Florianopolis. For other touring options, Borello Travel, in New York, specializes in Brazil, Argentina and other South America destinations, often combining Florianopolis with other cities in the region.