Ilha de Santa Catarina
The capital of the state of Santa Catarina—Florianópolis—is located on the island of Santa Catarina. If you worry that the state and island sharing the same name might have confusing ramifications—don’t. More confusing is that when Brazilians refer to “Florianópolis,” they aren’t just referring to the city, but to the entire 420-square-kilometer (162-square-mile) Ilha de Santa Catarina, all of which lies under the municipal jurisdiction of Florianópolis. That said, the city itself is invariably and affectionately referred to as “Floripa.”
Nomenclature aside, Ilha de Santa Catarina is a microcosm unto itself, and an extremely attractive and varied one at that. Over 40 percent of the island consists of rolling hills covered with lush Atlantic forest and punctuated by two lagoons. However, the main attraction is the incredible array of stunning beaches. Officially, the island boasts 42 praias, but when the tides are low, there are closer to 100.
Contrasting with Floripa’s modern urban bustle are centuries-old Azorean fishing villages, lined with pastel houses, where you can watch pescadores haul in the day’s fresh catch and then savor the fruits of their labor while seated at barracas overlooking the sea.
Roads on the island are in top shape, and municipal bus service is quite extensive. However, since the island is big—54 kilometers (34 miles) from the northern tip to the south—exploring its many beaches in a short time can involve an inordinate amount of traveling (particularly if you don’t have a car). If you’re intent on doing a lot of beach-hopping and want urban amenities, you’re best off basing yourself in Floripa’s Centro. If, however, you’re after R&R, choose a beach on the prettiest coasts—north or east—and leave the hard-core exploring for another time.
Getting to Ilha de Santa Catarina
By air, Florianópolis can be reached directly from Rio, São Paulo, Curitiba, and Porto Alegre. The Aeroporto Internacional Hercílio Luz (Av. Diomício Freitas, 48/3393, tel. 48/3331-4000) is 12 kilometers (8 miles) south of the city center. Taking a taxi into town will cost around R$40. Regular municipal “Aeroporto” buses take around 45 minutes to get to Centro.
Buses from around the state and country arrive at the modern Terminal Rodoviário Rita Maria (Av. Paulo Fontes 1101, tel. 48/3212-3100), located between the Hercílio Luz and Colombo Machado Sales bridges.
Across from the front entrance of the main rodoviária is one of several municipal bus stations. From here buses serve Florianópolis and points along the south coast. From another terminal at the corner of Rua José da Costa Moelmann and Avenida Mauro Ramos, buses depart to beaches on the east and north coasts. Regardless of your destination, you can usually choose from simple (often crowded) municipal buses and more expensive, plush, air-conditioned executivo minibuses.
Although bus service around the island is extensive and dependable, buses themselves are infrequent and service can be slow. For this reason, if you’re going to be moving around a lot or if you want to explore a maximum number of beaches, you’re much better off renting a car (but bear in mind that in summer traffic jams to the most popular beaches are quite common). Tropix Turismo (tel. 48/3239-2217, www.tropix.com.br) rents both cars and motorcycles, which is an excellent way to explore the island.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition