Lay of the Land
Florianopolis is the capital of Santa Caterina, Brazil’s second southern-most state with the highest levels of income, education and public health and lowest in illiteracy and crime in the country. Famous for its beaches (forty-two in count) and drop-dead gorgeous locals, “Floripa” has 420,000 inhabitants, predominantly of European decent, spread over 168 square miles. Wealthy Brazilians and Europeans began flocking to the beaches of Floripa in the 1970s and soon what began as a traditional Portuguese fishing community became one of the hottest jetset destinations in South America. While it may lack the charm of St. Tropez or St. Barth’s (closer to Ibiza or Punta del Este), Floripa is through-and-through one raucous party full of beautiful people.
The Northern tip of Florianopolis Island is known as Jurerê Internacional, a 1970’s-built community that resembles a less-developed version of “Miami” Beach. The uber-elite have homes in Jurerê and real estate ranges between two and twenty million dollars. Day- and night- clubs dot the coast, surrounded by yachts moored in the bay and Ferraris and Lamborghinis parked in the lots. Don’t miss Praia Café de la Mustique, Taiko, Parador 12 (“P12”) and Donna. Pacha & Posh are located just south of Jurerê and host international concerts and raves throughout the year.
A large lagoon known as the Lagoa de Conceição takes up the majority of the island’s center and is made up of a lower-key bohemian community. This area offers a more local-flair with casual restaurants and bars along a main strip. Cross the lake heading east for the Atlantic Ocean and two of the most famous surfing beaches in the world, Praia Mole and Juaquina. Praia Mole put Florianopolis on the map when it held South America’s only World Championship Tour surfing in 2003. Don’t miss Barraco da Mole, a surfer-chic day club and restaurant.
Find two of the oldest Portuguese fishing communities on the Western and Southern coasts of the Island: Santo Antonio de Lisboa and Ribeirão da I’lha. These original settlements date back to the 1770s and are famous for oyster farming. Don’t miss fresh seafood at Arantes and Ostradamus in Ribeirão da I’lha.
When to Go
The weather systems surrounding Florianopolis are unpredictable, and even more so in recent years. That said, November through mid-March is high, dry season, while August through October can be cold, cloudy and rainy. Whale-watching takes place July through November. Travelers should note that the population can explode to up to two million people during New Years and Carnival.
Avianca, GOL Linhas and TAM fly to Florianopolis (FLN) from São Paulo (fifty-five minutes) and Rio de Janeiro (seventy-five minutes) while Aerolineas Argentinas flies from Buenos Aires (two hours). The region’s most luxe resort (and the only place a high-end traveler should be staying), Ponta dos Ganchos is a fifty-minute drive from the airport and offers complimentary roundtrip airport transfers.
There are three means of transportation in Florianopolis: car, boat and helicopter. On sunny weekends in high season it can take hours to get around the Island – especially to the beaches (picture Montauk Highway on a Summer Friday during rush hour). If you’re coming from the mainland (ie Ponta dos Ganchos) you can boat (thirty minutes) or helicopter (five minutes) to Jurerê Internacional for the day and return home via taxi in the late evening when there is less traffic (fifty minutes).
- PORTUGUESE is the language spoken. A Romance language derived from Latin, it is actually closer to French than to Spanish. Spanish is considered a foreign language in Rio, but many cab drivers and hospitality professionals speak it in an effort to bridge the language barrier.
- REAL is the local currency. Most U.S.-issued credit and debit cards will work at HSBC and Citibank ATMs; however, if you’re used to withdrawing cash from regional banks all over the world, you may discover that most Brazilian bank ATMs don’t recognize international bank cards. So be sure to bring traveler’s checks, especially if you plan to travel outside the metropolitan area.
- THE PHONE CODE is 21—no need to dial it when calling a local number.
- HERCILIO LUZ (FLN) is the international airport, located in the South of the Island. Average transfer time to Jurere Internacional is thirty minutes and to Ponta dos Ganchos one hour.