Santa Catarina Island, Brazil
Located just off Brazil’s southern coastline, Santa Catarina Island hosts Florianopolis, the capital of the Brazilian state that goes by the same name and is linked to the mainland via 3 bridges. Santa Catarina Island is the largest of a 30-plus island archipelago. But while all these facts are no doubt significant, Santa Catarina Island’s claim to fame is largely derived from it being one of the most picturesque locations in Brazil. And for a country that’s the custodian of the world’s largest rainforest and thousands of miles of beach, that is saying something.
The Santa Catarina coastline varies from the serene but crowded beaches of the north to the rugged, precarious shores of its southern bays. But the over 100 beaches tell only half the story of the island’s irresistible charm. A swathe of protected pine forest shields the eastern coast while acres of rolling sand dunes give sections of the island a near lunar landscape. A mountain range forms a spine on Santa Catarina and experience a sudden plunge to the Conceicao Lagoon.
As one of the most popular summer hotspots in the country, Santa Catarina can get pretty crowded and prices are generally higher than most other tourist destinations in Brazil. The high price of almost everything should not be surprising though when you consider that Florianopolis is one of Brazil’s most affluent cities per capita. There is a huge number of residents who settled here or are descendants of settlers that came from Germany or Italy. The north is also heavily developed and this has sometimes threatened to ruin an otherwise picture-perfect scenery.
Top Attractions and Activities on or Near Santa Catarina Island
Victor Meirelles Museum
Victor Meirelles was an influential 19th century Brazilian artist. The museum now named after him is the artist’s former home and contains several of his best works. Meirelles was particularly recognized for his role in documenting through art form, important events in Brazil at the time.
Mocambique Beach’s allure has a lot to do with its legendary surf waves and the protected reserve that insulates it from overdevelopment. The 14 kilometer long beach is just north of the picturesque Barra Lagoon.
Though not part of Santa Catarina Island per se, Campeche Island is near and attractive enough to be included on many Santa Catarina Island travel itineraries. There is of course the fact that the two islands are remarkably similar ecologically only that Campeche is smaller. The deep green native logwood forests, hidden coves, beautiful underwater landscape and rugged interior makes a visit unforgettable. To crown it all there are the remnants of the ancient civilization that once inhabited the island. Note that Campeche Island should not be confused with Campeche Beach which is located on Santa Catarina Island itself – Campeche Beach is right opposite Campeche Island.
For an island with more than hundred beaches of which at least forty are considered world class, there can be no unanimity on which of the hundred is the fairest of them all. However, it is pretty clear that Campeche Beach would come near the top of any such ranking. Highly recommended for any first time visitor, it draws considerable crowds in the summer and is a magnet for windsurfers and kite surfers. The five kilometer long stretch of sandy white beaches has a thriving party scene especially because of the giant reflector that illuminates parts of the beach.
Though there is one beach here named Bombinhas, Bombinhas Beaches is a term often used to refer to a collection of roughly 40 beaches 75 miles north of Florianopolis. Ideal for kids, many of the beaches feature calm and serene waters that do not pose as much danger to children as the significantly stronger currents in other areas of Santa Catarina. The busiest in this group are Bombas Beach and Bombinhas Beach itself. Other calm but far less crowded beaches include Mariscal and Zimbros.
Do not be surprised if you find more Argentineans here than Brazilians. Separated from the neighboring Santinho Beach by a slew of sand dunes, there is just as much fun activities in the water as there is on land. Sand boarding is one of them – not many people know that this sport was in fact invented in Florianopolis.
Joaquina was relatively unknown internationally before the early 1970s when surfers from different parts of the world stumbled on its excellent waves. Today, Joaquina is at risk of overdevelopment thanks to the many hotels, restaurants and bars that have come up.
The historical buildings, extensive sand dunes, powerful surf and the famous lace making tradition are just some of the reasons no visitor should leave Santa Catarina without a visit to the Conceicao Lagoon and its surroundings. And if you want a place where you can get a feel of authentic southern Brazilian cuisine, few other places can match Conceicao Lagoon. Eateries range from sophisticated and up market restaurants, to affordable and open air food joints.
Florianopolis is the epicenter of south Brazil’s cultural life. During the low tourist season, the state capital’s traffic is by far one of the most organized in the country. This however is replaced by chaos in the summer when not just North Americans and Europeans descend on the city, but also Brazilians, Argentineans, Uruguayans and Chileans.