Must-sees in Florianópolis: beaches, dunes, hikes and more
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Whether you like adventure, nature or just chilling on different beaches, you won’t be short of things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil. This guide is going to help you navigate them and decide what to do during your stay! However, there are so many different vibes across the area that your experience can vary greatly depending on which towns and villages you visit, so make sure you have a gander of my guide to where to stay on Florianópolis before jumping on a plane.
What’s a little confusing about Florianópolis (also known as Floripa) is that the area actually covers both the mainland city itself and the nearby island of Santa Catarina, which is a mix of developed city and small fishing towns. These are joined up by a bridge from the city.
Those few travellers we met who said that the place was not too worth going to generally only kept to the city. Santa Catarina is the place to be, and those who ventured out to the island usually struggled to leave. It was the same with us, staying a total of 2 weeks despite a planned 4 days.
After this guide to the things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil, don’t miss:
In the city of Florianopolis, which is half on the mainland and half on the North-Western tip of Santa Catarina island, the main attraction is the historical centre, which in true Brazilian fashion is the proud owner of cobbled streets and colourful colonial houses.
It’s still on the island side of the city though, where you can also explore the Mercado Público for fruits, veg and handicrafts.
History boffs and culture vultures may be excited by the many museums and art galleries in Florianópolis city, including the Eco-Museum of Ribeirão da Ilha and Santa Catarina History Museum.
What’s in the south of Santa Catarina?
The south of Santa Catarina island is much less built-up and developed. Some of the top things to do in Florianópolis’ southern part of Santa Catarina are:
Chill at Praia do Matadeiro, once a bay used to trap and harpoon whales, but now the perfect surf beach
Take the Lagoinha do Leste hike, from which you can see huge stretches of the island
Visit Lagoa do Peri, a lake that’s separated from the sea by a 200m of strip land. The lake is very popular during the high season, but when we went on a misty day during May we had the place blissfully to ourselves.
The best beaches of Florianópolis
One of the best things to do in Florianópolis is float about trying out the sheer number of different styles of beaches you can find. Each have their positive points, but these are the 5 that kept us coming back during our 2 weeks in Florianópolis:
Prainha da Barra da Lagoa
Praia do Matadeiro
Praia da Daniela
Praia de Canasvieiras
Best places to surf in Florianopolis
If you want to surf in Florianopolis, the best beach in our opinion is Praia do Matadeiro, in the South, though you can also surf in Campeche.
Of the two, Campeche is a lot easier to get to with a surf board, and you’re more likely to find a place to rent boards on the beach itself. Praia do Matadeiro is a lot more remote and pulls in the biggest waves, so it’s probably not the best place for a beginner surfer in Floripa.
Hikes in Florianopolis
Much of the Santa Catarina island (especially to the south) isn’t urbanised, so there are plenty of exciting things to do in Florianópolis for hiking-lovers. Here are travellers’ favourites:
The Lagoinha do Leste hike, which takes you to a hilltop with views of large stretches of coastline and the ‘secret beach’ from which this Floripa hike gets its name. It’s quite difficult and takes around 2 hours, but it’s a free hike and very much worth the view. To start the trail, you have two options: either pick it up from Pântano do Sul Beach, which is only 2.3km long but the steeper option, or take the steadier 4km trail from Praia do Matadeiro.
The trail to the Museu Arqueológico ao ar Livre, one of the easiest hikes in Florianopolis. It starts on Santinho Beach next to the Costão do Santinho resort. A 10 minute walk will get you to the open air archeological museum.
The trail to Barra da Lagao’s natural pools; well, these are less natural pools are more a little inlet surrounded by big rocks (below), but beautiful anyhoo, and you can take a dip if the weather is good. To get to them, you need to cross the bridge over the river of Barra da Lagao, continue up the hill and then follow the signs to the Piscinas Naturais. It’s really less of a hike and more of a 15 minute walk. Though there are some steep bits, Andy did it easily in flip-flops.
Sand dunes in Florianópolis
Floripa’s Joaquina sand dunes sit right in the middle of Santa Catarina island, helpfully right next to the main (/only) road between Mole Beach and Ponta do Retiro, opposite Bar DeRaiz on the map. These sand dunes have views of both the ocean to the South and the Lagoa da Conceiçao to the North.
You don’t have to pay to enjoy these dunes, but you will be asked for a ‘tip’ of a few reales for someone to watch your car if you park there. You can also rent sandboards at the base of the dunes if you’re feeling particularly dastardly.
On the drive up the Joaquina sand dunes of Florianópolis, we highly recommend a stop at the café do Mirante near Praia Mole for views over the total stunner of a lake.
How to get around Florianópolis
By far the best way to get around all the things to do in Florianópolis is by renting a car. Using Priceline, this can be pretty cheap. We recommend you also buy Questor world car insurance so that you don’t have to pay extra for the insurance that rental services offer you for a whole year. It’s saved us a lot so far!
The island is actually fairly large, and the buses aren’t frequent enough to rely on if you want to go several places in one day – we spoke to people who took 5 hours to do a one-hour drive using public buses. Having a car will also allow you more flexibility in where to stay in Florianópolis. We loved being able to drive around freely, spending a few days in each town!
Recommended time to stay in Florianópolis, Brazil: 4-5 days
Now that you’ve reached the end of this guide to the things to do in Florianópolis, don’t miss: