Florianopolis is a sizeable island filled with good eats, better beaches and really hot people. In a nutshell: It’s fantastic.
Wait, you wanted more details? I gotcha covered. Read on, my pretties!
Part 1: Campeche Beach
A slender, sandy path winds through grassy dunes, past a small cemetery, up a mound of sand and emerges into the wide open, sparkling stretch of curving shore that marks Campeche Beach.
I had the fortune to stroll this path almost daily while living in my funky triplex with the terrifying staircase in Campeche. The town doesn’t get a helluva lot of tourists. In fact, “town,” is a mighty strong word for the main street lined with a smattering of shops and restaurants and handful of other enterprises that lurked a few miles down the road.
But it’s that isolation and lack of commercialism that makes the area so darn attractive. Well, that and the ridiculously perfect beach I mentioned, above.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the surfing. Campeche’s strong surf draws scores of local surfers to this stretch of Atlantic coast. Lithe dudes pulling on wetsuits under towels wrapped precariously around their waists; surfers jogging across the sand, board clasped firmly under their arms, diving into the sea.
It all made for good eye candy sport.
Our Campeche apartment wasn’t well-located, at least not for travelers without a vehicle. Anyone planning a stay here should be certain they are in easy walking distance to more than 2 restaurants and a pharmacy, as I found myself.
Still, there’s a magic to be found at sunset, on a weekday, when clearly all the island’s surfers got the same memo: Campeche or bust!
Make yourself comfy on a sand dune, overlooking the shore as surfers flock to the sea, hopping on boards and slipping, sliding and spinning over tumbling waves.
Part 2: Centro and Jurere Beach
When the quiet of Campeche grew deafening, Ayaz and I found some affordable hotels in the Centro (Florianopolis’s main town) and at Jurere Beach, home to all the island’s pretty young things.
Centro has a slightly gritty appeal; with a fish market that’s still very much active, and filled with restaurants hawking fried fish platters and ice-cold beer. Stay late on a Friday, when the after-work crowd appears, samba bands play and a whole lotta dancing ensues.
After our night in the not-so-big-city, we made our way by bus to Jurere in the island’s north. We lucked into a room at the mighty affordable Jurere Guest House, and were welcomed by a wonderful, kind-hearted staff. Balcony views of cobalt blue ocean and the pointed white sails of yachts nearly convinced me to make the guest house my home, for, like, always.
This tiny town has a number of chill restaurants and beach bars, but also lays claim to some of the world’s hippest and priciest clubs, and most exclusive parties. No, I did not go to any — not mah scene, after all.
Still, the beach sets the scene for some killer people-watching, particularly if you enjoy seeing the hottest women on Earth parade past in a seemingly endless stream wearing remarkably small thongs.
I spent a good deal of time wondering a) Are their rounded little rears perfected by genetics or gym memberships? and b) If I had such a bottom, would I ever wear pants again?
Answers to both questions remain undetermined.
When ogling sexy beach bums grew tiresome, there was an endless stream of beach vendors to ponder. My god, they sell all manner of wares.
Bikinis? Yup. Caipirinhas and fruit smoothies? No problem. Beach coverups, hats and iPhone cases? Indeed. Coconut candy or a hunk of grilled cheese on a stick? They’ve got that too. It was a cornucopia of beach sales, really.
Lessons learned? Bring plenty of cash to the beach. Oh, and caipirinhas are very strong.
Part 3: Lagoa da Conceicao and Barra da Lagoa
Sometimes, you arrive in a town, halfway toward the bottom of the globe and something just … clicks.
You hop off a bus, take a deep breath of clean air look around and see unicorns scamper past rainbows as puppies frolic at your feet. Or something like that.
Anyway, that’s somewhat akin to how I felt when I stumbled upon Lagoa da Conceicao, a little town in the middle of Florianopolis, filled with restaurants, bars and a pay by the weight sushi buffet that left me in an unforgettable state of pure bliss.
Of course, there’s also a beautiful lake, flanked by a lush backdrop of jungly mountains. The lake may not be as rockin’ as some of the island’s beaches, but it’s pretty close. You’ll find stand-up paddleboarders, kayakers and boater a-plenty by its shores.
Just past this little slice of euphoria lies and even bigger chunk of the heaven pie.
Barra da Lagoa is a tiny town that feels straight out of a southeast Asian fishing village. There’s a little tributary surrounded by a cluster of colorful, stacked building rising up hills, and a small fishing fleet along the shore.
Just beyond this nook lies the beach, a curving bed of sand and tranquil, protected ocean water. A handful of bars line the beachfront; pick and choose one, and settle in under an umbrella sipping acai smoothies watching newbies take surf lessons in the lapping waters before your chair.
Part 4: Ribeirao da Ilha
Way down south in Florianopolis, the eatin’s good. Just off the coast you’ll find seemingly endless beds of oysters which are pulled daily and brought to the many restaurants lining the shore.
While you can eat platters of raw oysters for nice and cheap with the locals on a beachfront shack (which normally would be my way to roll).
Feeling like a treat on a blissfully sunny Friday afternoon, we decided to class it up at the island’s iconic Ostradamus, a seafaring-themed, upscale restaurant — you know, the kind of jawn where waiters wear sailor suits and oysters are served in cut glass bowls.
I highly recommend — no insist! — you order a chilled bottle of crisp vinho verde (we opted for the cheapest which was might fine), and a many plates of oysters, which you can order by the half dozen.
Ostradamus offers an impressive selection of inventive chargrilled oyster plates (think au gratin; topped with pears and gorgonzola sauce; in vinaigrette; with ginger, olive oil, honey and cognac), but I preferred to eat mine “au natural,” straight up oysters on the half shell.
The whole experience was a decadent end to our 2-week stay on the island.