Florianopolis is a Brazilian beach bum’s paradise. With over 42 beaches, it is great for everything from learning how to surf to snorkeling to tanning that very non-Brazilian bum. Aside from the standard beach activities, Florianopolis is also home to wonderful hiking trails and animal conservation centers. Use this Florianopolis Travel Guide and itinerary to help you plan your visit.
Florianopolis in a Nutshell
Florianopolis, also known as “Floripa,” is a large island in southern Brazil. With over 42 beaches and several smaller islands you can visit, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the number of options available. Unless your calling in life is to down caipirinhas by the beach or you’re seeking to reach a whole new level of sun-kissed, we recommend spending 3 full days in Florianopolis.
While you can easily spend over a week exploring every nook and cranny, we reckon they all start to resemble each other after a few days. If you’re one to tire of beaches after a while (like me), the itinerary below will be perfect for you. There are plenty of non-beach activities in Florianopolis, including things to do on a rainy day.
For those looking to add a whole new shade of brown to the tan scale, you can easily divide each day’s itinerary into 2 days, leaving ample time to lounge in that super soft pillow-y sand.
Things To Do in Florianopolis, Brazil
Beach-bumming, surfing, hiking, sandboarding, walking around the old town center and visiting animal conservation centers are all on the list. There is A LOT you can do in Florianopolis, but if you’re at all like us, 3 days at the beach and we’re tapped out. (Probably less for me, I need to MOVE.) Below we detail the MOST important things to do in Florianopolis, including non-beach and rainy-day activities.
Given the vastness of the island, it helps to think of it in chunks. The most popular areas to visit are on the east side of the island, with the exception of Daniela & Jurere.
- North west:
- Daniela (super warm water, tons of people)
- Jurere (known as the “Miami” of South America)
- North east:
- Praia da Lagoinha da Ponta das Canas
- Praia Brava
- Central east:
- Barra da Lagoa (natural pools)
- Praia Mole (super soft sand)
- Praia Galheta (nude beach)
- Praia Joaquina or Dunas da Joaquna (sandboarding)
- Praia do Gravata or Ponta do Gravata (hiking)
- Lagoa de Concepção (kite surfing, jet-skiing, pedal-boats)
- Projeto TAMAR (turtle conservation & rescue center)
- Central west:
- Historic center
- Bus Station
- South east:
- Praia Armação
- Praia Matadeiro
- Lagoinha do Leste
- Pantano do Sul
- Projeto Lontra (otter conservation & rescue center)
A few tips:
- Florianopolis has notoriously cloudy/rainy weather. While it may be raining on one side of the island, you might find sun on the other.
- Unless you’re planning to visit 1 or 2 places per day, I highly recommend using Uber or a cab.
- Download the offline map on Maps.Me for any hiking.
- Florianopolis is one of the more expensive places that we stayed during our trip. If you’re on a tight budget, plan to cook your dinners.
Our Florianopolis itinerary below combines the best of the above into a jam-packed 3 days. Make sure to keep scrolling for non-beach and rainy day activities!
Explore the east-central coast beaches from Barra da Lagoa to Praia da Joaquina.
Explore the tide pools in Barra da Lagoa, the nude beach of Praia da Galheta, the soft sand beach of Praia Mole, and go sand-boarding at Dunas da Joaquina OR hike the short trail to Ponta do Gravata.
The most important tip here is to look up when low-tide is and to plan your visit to the pools at Barra da Lagoa for that time. The hike to the pools is about 20min from the bridge and is mostly paved with clear signs. If you can’t catch low-tide, it’s still a pretty site, but pretty comparable to the hike to Ponta do Gravata.
To get to the pools, download Maps.me and follow the trail to the Piscinas Naturais.
Pick and choose what you want to do. For example, if you’ve gone sand-boarding before (like in Peru), the Joaquina dunes may not seem that special. Still, if you like sandboarding, they’re fun and only R$30 (~$8USD) per person for an hour!
If you’re in more of a hiking mood, opt for the hike to Ponta do Gravata. A 30min hike on a well-marked path takes you to a small beach with large mounds and strong hippy vibes.
Explore the east-south coast beaches from Armação to Pântano do Sul, including a hike to the secluded Lagoinha do Leste.
Lagoinha do Leste is a less populated beach that is only accessible via a hike or boat ride. There is also a large fresh water lake just steps from the beach. You can get there by going south from Matadeiro or north from Pântano do Sul, either by hiking or taking a boat, or a combination!
For the avid hiker who wants to hike it all, plan 5-6 hours to hike from Pântano do Sul to Armação. We recommend going South to North and finishing in Armação, but only if you’re set on hiking the whole thing.
You can get to the start of the hike by taking a bus or a Uber down to Pântano do Sul. The bus will cost ~R$4 reals (~$1USD) but will take approximately 2 hours. You can also Uber and the ride will take about 50 minutes. Download Maps.Me and note that the trail starts from Rua Manoel Pedro de Oliveira, north of Pântano do Sul beach.
For the moderate hikers, start in Armação and walk south to Praia Matadeiro. Once you reach the end of Matadeiro, keep walking along the paved sidewalk until you reach the trailhead. The hike to Lagoinha do Leste will be ~2 hours from there.
From Lagoinha do Leste, you can hike up to a lookout called Topo do Morro that is well worth the added effort (~2 hour roundtrip). You can continue on to Pântano do Sul from there or head back to Lagoinha do Leste to take a boat. Boats are offered both to Pântano do Sul or to Armação.
*We recommend doing this hike from South to North as that way you’ll end in Matadeiro/Armação. These are popular beaches with plenty of businesses and restaurants both on the beach and also in town. Pântano do Sul is also a cool beach and town, just less busy. There are bus stops at both Pântano do Sul and Matadeiro/Armação.
Get to know the non-beach activities around Florianopolis. Or if you’re like, “No way! I love the beach! Can’t get enough!”, visit Ilha de Campeche or more beaches in the north.
Projeto Lontra is an otter rescue and conservation center in Armação. The center is open everyday except Sunday from 8-10am and 4-6pm. Otter feedings (a MUST-see if you go!) are at 8:30-9am and 5pm. From the nearest bus stop, it is about a 15 walk down a dirt road to the entrance or you can take an Uber. Search “Refúgio da Lontra” to get the correct address.
If you want to make a day out of your visit to Projecto Lontra, pack a bathing suit and visit the gorgeous, secluded lake right next door called Lagao de Peri.
Projeto TAMAR is a turtle rescue and conservation center in Barra da Lagoa. The center is open everyday 11am-4:30pm with feedings at 3:30pm.
Florianopolis’ historic center has some saving graces, but not much. We did a self-guided walking tour by translating this page with our offline Google Translate.
A good starting point is the Mercado Publico. It’s a hard-to-miss market with both indoor and outdoor components. Go for lunch and stop by Box 32 for seafood and a caipirinha.
What to Eat
For hot plates, seafood is a must and Box 32, located in the Mercado Publico, is quintessential. We only tried 3 things, but it looks like you cannot go wrong going there. Judging by the pictures and plaques on the wall, it’s well-esteemed.
You may also note that “Buffet Livre” signs are everywhere — Brazilians love their buffets, and we found them to be a good way to try the local cuisine! Don’t be afraid to check one out. (We usually check the reviews on Google Maps and make sure it’s got plenty of locals.)
On the beach, obviously açai is a fan favorite, but also try the caldo de cana sold at many stands. It is sugar cane juice made to order with lemon and sometimes ginger!
How to Get There & Getting Around
Florianopolis has easy access to any major Brazilian city via bus or flight. The main bus terminal is located right by the historic center, and there is an international airport just south of there.
Florianopolis is large, as we’ve mentioned. It helps to have uber and some data to be able to call it when cabs are hiding (Uber also tends to be much cheaper). If you’re only in Florianopolis for a few days, we recommend using uber or a cab. Renting a car is an option but parking near the beach is always a nighmare. Public transportation easily doubles your time (if you’re lucky not to get caught on a looping highway like we did!) but is very cheap at ~R$4 ($1USD) per one way trip.
Where to Stay
Florianopolis is huge and expect traffic to be horrendous, especially around the summer months (January and February). To cut down on travel time, it is useful to pick an accommodation that is close to where you want to go. Like REALLY close. We recommend staying in Barra da Lagoa (Barra Beach Club is a great choice) or in the Armação area.
We stayed in Lagoa de Concepção, and while it’s central, getting from the center of the island to the places we listed above is a pain because of all the reasons we’ve just listed.
Where to Go Next
From Florianopolis, you have plenty of options:
- Headed East? You’re a 4 hour bus ride from the park-filled metropolis of Curitiba.
- Headed North? An overnight bus will get you to Sao Paolo in 12 hours. From Sao Paulo, you can easily get to Rio de Janeiro, or stop at Paraty or Ilha Grande before that!
- Headed South? Catch a 6 hour bus to Porto Alegre and bus down to Uruguay from there.
Or just order another caipirinha and work on that Brazilian butt tan.
All prices are current as of February 2020.