Paradise Found: A Few Days Spent in Floripa

A few weeks ago, I went to Florianópolis (aka Floripa), located in the Southern state of Brazil, Santa Catarina, with my friend Mallory, who is currently taking a six-week long trip around South America.  Before visiting, I had heard from many people how incredible Florianópolis was.  But I still did not expect to totally fall in love with the place like I did.

The never-ending beaches and turquoise waters set against a backdrop of verdant mountains and bright blue sky…the scenery was out of this world.  But that was only part of what made Floripa so wonderful.

The neighborhood where we stayed, Barra da Lagoa, was a fisherman’s  village – an incredibly laid-back, beach community that looked a little something like this…

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The neighborhood was home to a multitude of dive and bikini shops, restaurants and a few surf schools.  And here I thought that Rio was a relaxed city!

I also found people to be friendlier.  MSN Travel apparently agrees with me, as the publication rated Floripa as the #1 friendliest city in the world.  Another plus:  Floripa is one of the most developed and safest cities in Brazil.

To get to our hostel, we crossed a little bridge from the main town that took us to a dirt path…

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The  hilly, dirt road that led to our hostel

We then climbed up the path and our hostel was at the top of the hill, overlooking a magnificent little beach.  This was the view from our room/balcony (which, to add to the easygoing vibe, even had a hammock):

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So, that is what I woke up to each morning.  The hostel itself was very open and airy -the main common areas and bar were outside.  And this was the view from the patio of the hostel (I swear I’m not being paid to promote this place!):

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You can see why it was hard to leave.  The first day, we went down to this little (semi-private) beach and ordered caipirinhas (only R$ 6 or like $2.5 USD per caipi!! Far cheaper than I have ever found on any Rio beach!). Not to mention delicious (and quite strong!).

It felt like paradise.

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The beach in front of our hostel

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Ok done with the photoshoot!  For being as secluded as it was, this beach was actually pretty popular – and at night, it surprisingly turned into quite the party – so if you didn’t feel like making the trek out to the bars and clubs, you could just hang out on the beach.  

While this little beach was my favorite, the main beach (across the bridge) had the best wavesit wasn’t too bad to look at either: 

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As if just soaking in all of this beauty and sunshine wasn’t enough, on top of that, our options for outdoor activities were endless (plus, our awesome hostel provided free equipment for snorkeling, surfing and a few other water sports).   

Attempting to Surf 

Surfing is probably one of the most popular sports in Floripa. So we decided to give it a whirl!

Me and my friend Mallory after our surfing lesson :)
Me and my friend Mallory post-surfing lesson 🙂

Even though I barely rode any waves on my own, I found it incredibly peaceful just being out there on the water, lying on the board and letting the waves crash down over me.  To me, there is nothing more relaxing than being in the ocean.  I’m sure all surfers know that exhilarating feeling of when you finally catch that onda (wave) and ride it to shore.

I also really enjoyed surfing because it was a very social sport – for instance, during my surfing attempts, one random guy (who wasn’t surfing but apparently knew how to surf) approached me in the water and started giving me tips, as were some people from the hostel that I went with.  In general, I’ve heard that the surf culture can be quite cut-throat and competitive (when it comes to waves, at least), but here, I found it to be just the opposite.  Everyone on the water was eager to help one another, and I found that it’s easy to make conversation when you are out in the ocean, waiting for that wave.  Surfing (or at least trying to surf) was definitely one of the highlights for me in Floripa and I recommend you try it out if you go to Floripa.

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Me struggling to get up on the board – and kind people from my hostel trying to help

In addition to the abundance of water sports available, Floripa also boasts a variety of great hiking trails.

A hike of Lagoinha do Leste in Floripa, photo by Flickr Creative Commons License.
A hike of Lagoinha do Leste in Floripa; photo by Flickr Creative Commons License.

And for those of you who need an even greater escape than Floripa, there is an island off the coast where the water is an even clearer blue and the sands are even whiter – this is what it looks like…

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Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 

 

Doesn’t get much more paradisiac than that. And yes, the waters are actually that greenish-blue – I know because, even though I didn’t make it there myself, a girl from my hostel went and I saw a photo that she took.

After spending a relaxing day at the beach, the hostel we stayed at offered a free caipirinha to each guest around sunset time.  Not a bad way to spend the early evening…

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View from our hostel post-sunset 

Partying it up in Floripa  

To top it off, as if the daylife were not enough, the nightlife in Florianópolis is known for being off the charts.  NY Times even labeled it as the  “party destination of the year”in 2009.

Unlike Rio, in Floripa, women dress up to the nines when they go out.  So, one of the nights, we got all dolled up…Floripa style…

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Another night, we went out to a place that just oozed Brasil – a bar in the middle of nowhere, which resembled something like a log cabin, with performers playing forró music and people dancing along to the beat (forró style of course).  Forró is a very specific type of Brazilian music and dance that originated in the northeast of the country.  It’s the kind of scene you just wouldn’t see anywhere else but in Brazil.

Although you can’t see any dancing in this video, this is was what the music sounded like…

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The crew from the hostel out and about 

One thing I love about Brazil: you don’t even have to go to a bar to hear live music. You can literally be anywhere and hear high quality music. Music and dancing runs in peoples’ blood in this country.

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Another plus of our hostel: the adjacent bar/restaurant that often had live music playing 

A few tips for aspiring Floripa-goers: 

  1. If you want to stay somewhere super relaxed and low-key, stick to Barra de Lagoa (I promise you won’t be disappointed!).  If you want someplace more upscale and posh, head to Jurerê. Jurerê, known for its lavish nightlife, is also a great place to break out those high heels once the sun sets.
  2. Be sure to visit Floripa in the summertime – peak season.  I had a friend who visited in the winter and hated it (I would have thought that would be impossible!) because it was freezing cold and super windy (well, freezing per Brazilian standards anyway!).
  3. If you are looking for the beach to see and be seen, go to Jururê, a hotspot for beautiful people.  For a more secluded beach, check out Praia da Daniela.
  4. Take a walk around Lagoa de Conceição, a charming village located in the center of the city, with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops.  It is also one of the best places to wind-surf.
  5. If you are a beginner surfer, go to Barra de Lagoa.  Meanwhile, experts will find good waves at Praia Mole and Praia de Joaquina.
  6. Hike to Lagoinha do Leste, a secluded beach that can only be reached by boat or foot.
  7. Go to the mercado (market) in the center of the city, offering displays of everything from various types of seafood and fruit to cheap trinkets – for all you seafood-lovers, it’s the best place in the city to buy fresh fish!
  8. If you are a guy, be sure to pack your sunga (the Brazilian equivalent to the speedo).  As for females, the smaller your bikini, the better.  Don’t have one? Not to fret. Floripa has no shortage of shops that sell exclusively bikinis – which are much cheaper than you will find the U.S. Whatever you do, do not wear those American “diapers” (as Brazilians refer to them) from back home – unless you want to be made into a laughingstock.  One of the many beautiful things about Brazil is that it doesn’t matter your body type or age – all women wear small bikinis to the beach.
  9. Spend a beach day soaking up some rays and enjoying some caipirinhas on the stunning island, Ilha do Campeche. Tickets to get there are just R$60- R$80.
  10. Then dance the night away to forró music at Bar Deraiz, in the Dunas de Joaquina.
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