Comprising mostly of Santa Catarina Island, the Brazilian city of Florianópolis is an outdoor lover’s paradise, and home to a huge assortment of natural wonders.
The capital of southern Brazil’s Santa Catarina state draws large numbers of visitors every year thanks to its enticing white-sand beaches, world class watersports, hidden coves and lush rainforest trails. If you’re planning a trip to Florianópolis and are seeking some inspiration for your Brazilian adventure, we’ve picked out 10 of the most unique things to see and do here.
Discover a magical island
Located some 1250 metres southeast off the coast of Florianópolis, Campeche Island is one of the jewels in the region’s crown. Considered a site of archaeological interest due to paintings found throughout the island, Campeche can be visited on an organised boat tour which takes you to the pristine sands and calm waters of Armacao Beach where you can explore hidden coves and enjoy the views of beautiful cliffs and rock formations. The tour departs from Igrejinha da Praia da Armação at 8am and the length of stay on the island is around 4 hours.
Go on a rafting adventure
The main rivers of Greater Florianópolis are a mecca for water sports enthusiasts and one of the most popular activities here is white water rafting, which involves navigating the rapids downstream in an inflatable boat. This thrilling two-hour rafting tour will see you traverse the gushing water of the Rio Cubatão as part of a group of adventure-seekers and in the company of an experienced guide, and is destined to leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Santa Catarina History Museum
If you’re seeking some respite from Florianopolis’s natural attractions, the Santa Catarina History Museum is a great place to head. Housed in the city’s Palace Cruz e Souza, the building alone is worth a visit, boasting a striking pink façade and Italian-inspired architecture. Inside, visitors will find an array of fascinating exhibits and artworks relating to the region’s rich cultural and social history, including the first domestic light bulb used in Florianopolis, in 1910.
Praca Quinze de Novembro 227 Centro / Tue-Fri 10am-6pm Sat-Sun 10am-4pm
Learn how to surf
Featuring long stretches of golden sand framed by rocky capes, the Atlantic beaches of Santa Catarina Island are a hugely popular surfing spot, with conditions to suit everyone from beginners to seasoned surfers. If you’re among the former, then you may want to book yourself onto one of the many surfing lessons that are on offer in the area. Floripa Surf Club, based directly on the beach, offer classes for all ages and standards, with board rentals included.
Embark on a hike
Florianopolis and its surroundings draw large numbers of hiking enthusiasts throughout the year and one of the most popular trails is the Trilha do Morro das Aranhas. Taking you through Spider Mountain, the precipitous path, which rises over the rocky headland in the island’s south, hugging a steep cliff face that falls into a pounding ocean, makes for an ideal hike for experienced trekkers with good fitness levels. The views over the forest and bottle-green ocean to the ragged Spider-Island archipelago just offshore are sublime.
Explore a quaint fishing village
Within easy reach of Florianopolis are a number of small towns and villages and among the most delightful is Barra da Lagoa. Nestled between Galheta mountain, a golden beach and shimmering Santa Catarina lagoon, the quiet, tranquil fishing village makes for a wonderful leisurely stroll. As well as quaint cobbled streets and exceptional views over forested hills, the village also has plenty of cafes and restaurants with terraces that are ideal for people watching or simply relaxing over a drink or local dish.
Soar through the sky on a paragliding adventure
At the heart of Santa Catarina island are a series of salt-water lakes that are surrounded by mountains featuring several launch ramps for paragliding. A flight over the area’s picturesque beaches and rainforests, dropping low over the lagoons, is simply a breath-taking experience and there are several local clubs that offer tandem flights suitable for all ages, as well as classes leading to full paraglide certification.
Visit a historic public market
There are few better ways of getting to know a city than by visiting a local market, and in Florianopolis the Marché Public de Florianopolis is the place to head for local chatter and local goods. The historic market is situated in a charming cobbled square, where stalls sell everything from clothes to fresh produce to souvenirs, all surrounded by elegant neoclassical arches. Meanwhile outdoor tables and chairs allow visitors to gather for lunch from one of the market’s enticing food stalls.
R. Jerônimo Coelho, 60 – Centro / Mon-Fri 7am-10pm Sat-Sun 7am-5pm
Take a look around a former military fortress
In the bay north of Santa Catarina Island is the small outcrop of Ratónes Grande, which is home to an extremely well-preserved 18th-century fortress. Built by the Portuguese to uphold the occupation of southern Brazil, Fortaleza de Santo Antônio de Ratones served as a quarantine station for maritime voyagers. Then, after centuries left to degrade, a series of renovation projects brought the fortress back to life and helped it become a popular tourist spot thanks to its eye-catching structures made of island granite and aged cannons.
Ilha de Ratones Grande s/n Baía Norte, Florianópolis / Mon-Sun 9am-6.30pm
Oyster Growing Marine Farm Tour
The cultivation of oysters is an important economic activity in this part of Brazil and visitors can learn all about its history and modern practices on this 1.5-hour oyster farming tour. Taking place at an Oyster Growing Marine Farm in the Ribeirão da Ilha neighbourhood, a 20-minute drive north of Florianopolis, you’ll be welcomed by a farmer who will talk you through the oyster farming process, as well as the history and significance of oysters in the region, before inviting you to try oyster tasting accompanied by locally produced sparkling wine.