Florianópolis comes with many names. Officially, it’s Ilha de Santa Catarina — but most people call it Florianópolis, or “Floripa” for short. Others call it “Magic Island,” which is self-evident the moment you sink your toes into the powdery white sands of one of its beaches.
Located in Southern Brazil, sun worshippers have flocked to Floripa for decades.
You have your pick of experiences here. The northern beaches have the warmest waters and most plentiful visitors, while the Atlantic and southern beaches draw laidback adventurer lovers, like surfers and sailors.
Florianópolis offers visitors an endless array of beaches, tasty fresh seafood, quaint Azorean fishing villages, and a wild nightlife scene. It’s an especially popular stop for young backpackers looking to have some late-night fun!
I’ve put my best tips into this Florianópolis travel guide to help you travel cheaper, better, and smarter during your next visit.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Florianópolis
1. Visit Lagoa de Conceição
2. Try the seafood
3. Enjoy the beaches
4. Go surfing
5. Take a hike
Other Things to See and Do in Florianópolis
1. Experience the nightlife
In the summer, most of the nightlife in Florianópolis is concentrated around the beaches, while in the winter, the fun moves to Lagoa da Conceição. P12, Cafe de la Musique, and Milk all throw wild parties. But if you’re out of the club scene, go to Fields for a sampling of local Brazilian sertanejo, a country-like musical genre.
2. Try sandboarding
Floripa is covered in white sand dunes, and sandboarding is an exciting way to spend an afternoon. Basically, you’ll lie on a piece of wood and hurtle down the dunes at a breakneck speed. Try to take in the panoramic views over Lagoa da Conceição while you’re at it! Take a tour with Lagoa Sandboard for about 20 BRL ($5.50 USD) per hour.
3. Visit Riberão da Ilha
Riberão da Ilha is an Azorean fishing village in the southwest where you can go for delectable oyster dishes, secluded beaches, cobbled streets, and jellybean-colored houses. Head to the pretty town plaza for some colorful photography and to visit the Acoriano Casario Church.
4. Visit the old forts
The forts around Florianópolis were originally built in the 18th century to help combat the threat of invasion from the Spanish, but nowadays they’re manned by a roving band of camera-wielding tourists. The four major forts around Floripa are Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, Fortaleza de Santo Antonio, Fortaleza Santana, and Fortaleza Sao Jose da Ponta Grossa. Some are only accessible by boat, and you’ll have to arrange transportation from shore.
6. Celebrate Carnival
Brazil is famous for Carnival, and while Rio gets all the glory, celebrating anywhere in Floripa is guaranteed a good time. Throughout the month of February, the area becomes a giant outdoor festival with food, fun, drinks, crafts, parades, and a lot of samba dancing. Make sure you book accommodations well in advance, and expect inflated prices.
7. Visit the market
This public market has been around since the 18th century, where tents were rented out to vendors to sell fish, veggies, rice, and beans. Nowadays the area has expanded to also sell crafts and other foods, and there are about a dozen restaurants onsite as well. On the weekend, local musicians gather to play as samba takes over the market!
For more information on specific cities in Brazil, check out these guides:
Florianópolis Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms with six to eight beds are about 30 BRL ($8 USD) per night, while a four bed dorm is slightly more expensive at 37 BRL ($10 USD) per night.
Standard twin or double private rooms start at 75 BRL ($20 USD), but many are priced at about 101 BRL ($27 USD) per night for two people.
Budget hotel prices – Prices for a double room in a two-star hotel are around 112 BRL ($30 USD), although it will be more like 150 BRL ($40 USD) along the coast.
Airbnb is another affordable option, with shared accommodation (like a dorm) starting at 67 BRL ($18 USD) per night. For a private room, expect to pay about 150 BRL ($40 USD) per night, while a full home or apartment averages about 430 BRL ($115 USD) per night.
Average cost of food – Florianópolis has lots of affordable food options, including pastels and coxinha for less than 7.50 BRL ($2 USD) each. You can find full pizzas for less than 18 BRL ($5 USD), while a meal at McDonald’s is about 29 BRL ($7.75 USD).
A meal with a drink will set you back about 60 BRL ($16 USD). A beer is about 11 BRL ($3 USD). Grocery shopping is very cheap, costing about 70-100 BRL ($19-27 USD) per week for bread, meat, veggies, and other basics.
Backpacking Florianópolis Suggested Budgets
If you are backpacking Florianópolis, my suggested budget is about 150 BRL ($40 USD) per day. This is assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, eating street food, cooking some of your meals, visiting a few attractions, and using local transportation.
A mid-range budget of about 337 BRL ($90 USD) will cover staying in a budget two-star hotel, eating out for all your meals at traditional restaurants, guided tours and activities, and public transit.
For a luxury budget of about 748 BRL ($200 USD) per day, you will stay in a four-star hotel or resort, eat out for all your meals, enjoy lots of drinks, take taxis everywhere, and enjoy all the tours and activities you want, including surfing lessons.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Florianópolis Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Florianópolis has lots of free activities and attractions to enjoy, like beaches and hiking trails. If you’re staying in nicer hotels and eating out a lot, your money will disappear quickly! But, if you want to lower your costs, here are some ways to save money in Florianópolis during your visit:
- Eat por kilo – As with elsewhere in Brazil, restaurants that have you pay by the kilo for your food is a good deal. Look out for these cheap options.
- Visit the market – If you’re staying at a hostel with kitchen facilities, it’s a good idea to stock up on food at the market and eat like the locals.
- Couchsurf – Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.
- Stay in Lagoa da Conceição – This part of Florianópolis is backpacker central, and it has all the facilities you need (including hostels and supermarkets). You’ll have to use a bus to get to the beach, but staying here is much cheaper than in the coastal areas.
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will come particularly in handy here. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a bottle that can purify the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw ($49.99).
Where To Stay in Florianópolis
Need a place to stay while you travel to Florianópolis? Here are my favorite and suggested places to stay:
How to Get Around Florianópolis
Bus – Local buses are the only public transportation around Florianópolis, but they’re slow and unreliable. They run on an integrated system called SIM (Sistema Integrado de Mobilidade), with buses leaving from the TICEN terminal. You can reach the beaches via three stations: TIRIO, TILAG, and TICAN.
Tickets cost 4.20 BRL ($1.12 USD) each way. Use floripanoponto.com.br (and download the app) to plan your journey.
Taxis – Taxis start at about 5 BRL ($1.35 USD) and cost an additional 2.45 BRL ($0.65 USD) per kilometer. A three-kilometer trip is about 12.35 BRL ($3.30 USD), while a longer journey (like 15 kilometers) is about 41.75 BRL ($11.16 USD).
Use the 99Taxis app to get a safe, metered taxi.
Uber – Uber is available in Florianópolis. You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
When to Go to Florianópolis
If you want to escape North America’s chilly winter temperatures, October to December is the best time to visit Florianópolis. There isn’t much rain during these months, and temperatures are consistently 77-86°F (25-30°C) each day. January to March is rainy season.
Despite that, most people visit around Christmas, and tourism traffic remains busy leading into Carnival in February. Prices increase a lot during this time, and beaches get crowded too. Things slow down after Carnival, but pick back up again at the end of March for Semana Santa.
If you’re looking for less crowds and better prices, October to December is the best time to come.
How to Stay Safe in Florianópolis
Florianópolis is very safe to visit, and violent crime is rare. Your biggest concern here is petty crime, and even that is rare.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
People are generally friendly and helpful, and you’re unlikely to get into trouble.
Always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Florianópolis! Follow that rule, and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Florianópolis Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Florianópolis. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engine which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Brazil, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Florianópolis Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Florianópolis Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Heliopolis, by James Scudamore
Ludo was born in a Sao Paulo shantytown, but is rescued and rasied by Zeno Generoso, a plutocrat. Suddenly, Ludo finds himself behind the gates of Brazil’s ultra-rich community. At 27-years-old, Ludo begins working for a company that sells unnecessary, overpriced goods to the poor lower-class he was born into. His involvement in a supermarket launch for the favela’s poorest population throws him into a world of violence, turning this rags-to-riches book into a series of surprising twists. This book will keep you on your toes.
Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil through Soccer, by David Goldblatt
I promise that even if you’re not a soccer fan, you’ll enjoy this read. There’s no country in the world that feels as passionately about soccer as Brazil does. This book details the chronicles of a country that has won the World Cup five times and regularly churns out famous players Ronaldo and Zico. But Goldblatt also explores the dark side of “futebol nation” here, including the poverty that has created a pool of hungry players and the violence that moves from the stands into the streets. If you’re interested in economic and sociopolitical injustices, this book is for you.
Brazil, by John Updike
Brazil tells the fictional story of two young people in love. Tristão Raposo is a black 19-year-old from a favela in Rio, but that doesn’t stop him from falling helplessly head over heels for Isabel Leme, an 18-year-old upper-class white girl. He meets her on Copacabana Beach, and it doesn’t take long for them to escape their families to get married in the farthest reaches of western Brazil. The book covers 22 years of their relationship, with a little magic realism thrown in.
Ancient Tillage, by Raduan Nassar
Ancient Tillage offers some insight into the rural parts of Brazil, and what life is like for those farmers whose lives consist of “the earth, the wheat, the bread, our table, and our family.” André is one such farmer who loves the land but is afraid of his father who preaches daily from the head of the table. In this story you’ll follow André’s coming of age story as he grapples with his shameful feelings for his sister, Ana.
Rio de Janeiro, by Luiz Eduardo Soares
This book is a fantastic collection of stories about Rio de Janeiro through the lives of “everyday” people, including policemen, activists, gangsters, and migrants workers. Luiz Eduardo Soares takes us through the fascinating world of Rio’s favelas, beaches, and street scenes to offer a fascinating insight into one of the world’s most incredible cities. You’ll learn about the more tedious parts of the city’s history of corruption and conflict in the process, but it’s an entirely gripping read.