Now that days are short and I have to roll myself into a scarf and cover my bald head with a beanie is when I feel more nostalgic about the places where, at this time of the year, I was taking a swim in the ocean and promenading in my summer outfit.
If we complete this memory putting a caipirinha in my hand –day in and day out–, then my mind brings me back to Brazil, specifically to my time in Florianópolis 3 years ago.
Florianópolis is the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, located in the south region of Brazil. Most part of its territory covers Santa Catarina Island, which is what Florianópolis is famous for.
I arrived to Floripa –which is what Brazilians call it, as well as Argentinians and Uruguayans who drop by– in a bus coming from the scorching heat and the vast wild areas of El Pantanal. We just wanted to take the fastest route to the beach, dip our feet in it and rest for a while.
It was early December, probably the best time of the year to visit Santa Catarina Island. Since this is such a popular holiday destination, it is buzzing with tourists during the summer months –January and February in the Southern Hemisphere–, making the prices sky-rocket even though they were already a bit hefty in the first place. Temperatures are perfect in the second fortnight of December, especially for the fact that you’ll be able to avoid crowds and you’ll need a lower budget.
Anyway, we hadn’t even left the deserted bus station when we had already found accommodation. A man approached us to offer an old but big one-storey house for rent, 15 metres away from the beach Barra da Lagoa, in the east of the island. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a fully-equipped kitchen for 9 euros per night and person. God bless off-peak season!
Santa Catarina Island is divided, when it comes to accommodation, type of beaches and entertainment, according to the cardinal points.
In the north, there is the area of Canasvieiras, Jureré and Jureré International (the most elitist). This side of the island congregates the most international type of tourism (mainly Argentinian) and combines leisure for the whole family and for groups of youngsters looking to party. Families tend to prefer the warmest and calmest waters in the island, and usually go for the best infrastructure outside the city of Florianópolis. Youngsters use the beach to sleep their hangovers off after a night of wild partying.
The South gathers the most adventurous travellers. Here, the infrastructure is poorer and the waters, as it’s the case of Campeche beach, rougher and colder than in the north. Here, adventurers looking for virgin coves will find their particular paradise and a natural landscape that is almost in complete isolation.
In the west, blending with the continent, we find the city itself. Florianópolis has no other interest for the traveller beyond being the capital of the state and the bureaucratic hub of Santa Catalina Island. It is connected to the continent by a large bridge and visitors are usually done with it as soon as the leave the bus station.
The east, where I spent most of my time in Floripa, is the part of the island that concentrates everything the others can offer.
Barra de Lagoa is just a small village with five or six streets where old one-storey houses have become the second rental residence of tourists. There are little shops and some restaurants so that you don’t have to get out of the village if you don’t really want to.
Our life there was quite laid-back. We used to buy some fresh fruit in the morning (mangoes, papayas, pineapples, and other tropical fruits with ridiculous prices), go down to the beach for a while, take a little nap and then go for a run along the beach until reaching the area where all signs of civilisation seem to disappear and the ocean looks like it is about to devour a lush green forest.
If you stay here and you are up for some partying, I recommend that you go to Lagoa Conceição, a close village that was build next to the lagoon of the same name.Concentrated in two streets you’ll find the nightlife you’ll be missing in Barra. Live music, restaurants and bars packed to the rafters, caipirinhas and Brahma beers, only to end the night in John Bull pub.
For surfing and kitesurfing fans, there are two beaches with the perfect conditions to practise this sport: Mole and Joaquina. Located in the east of the island, to the south of Barra, you can reach them by bus.
However, given the large number and wide range of beaches, the best way to get to know Santa Catarina Island is in a rental car. The best coves cannot be access by public transport, and sometimes not even in your own car, so you’ll have to park it a few hundred kilometres away and wade your way through thick dunes. The reward is truly worth it.
Take off your coats, throw away your scarves to the bottom of the wardrobe, and come to Floripa!
Remember that the legal tender in Brazil is the Brazilian real. You can change your euros or dollars in the branches that Global Exchange has recently opened in the country.
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