The Ilha de Santa Catarina, aka Florianópolis, is known throughout Brazil for its miles and miles of gorgeous beaches, excellent seafood, and traditional Azorean fishing villages. Figuring out the names may be the only complicated part of a visit to this most laid-back of Brazilian beach destinations. Florianópolis, the city, is the capital of the state of Santa Catarina. Florianópolis is also located on the island of Santa Catarina. Island and city together are usually just referred to as Florianópolis, which people often then shorten to Floripa. Confused? Don't worry, it's the beaches that matter.
The city of Florianópolis is small and pleasant but of no real interest except as a jumping-off point to the island's countless beaches. Brazilians are infatuated with Floripa and flock here en masse in summer. Perhaps Brazilians see in Floripa a model of what their country could be, or perhaps in a land with so much tropical exuberance, the opposite becomes exotic. In any case, when Brazilians rave about Florianópolis, they mention the fair-skinned, green-eyed residents, the affluent communities, the quaint Portuguese fishing villages, the pristine and unpolluted beaches, and the calm traffic.
That said, there is more than enough variety on the island to customize a visit according to your interests. The northeastern part of the island of Florianópolis (which is, officially, the Ilha de Santa Catarina, except nobody calls it that) is an urbanized, heavily visited beach scene, particularly in the high summer months of December, January, and February. Farther south in the center of the island there's the Lagoa da Conceição, a large lagoon partially surrounded by tall sand dunes. Nearby, the small quiet community of Lagoa da Conceição boasts some of the best restaurants in the region. Just to the east are the beaches of Galheta, Mole, and Joaquina -- beautiful, wide, sandy beaches surrounded by lush green hills and blessed with large, surfable waves. Farther south toward Campeche, the beaches become more rugged and almost deserted. Even in the summer you won't find large crowds here. Finally, over to the west side of the island facing the mainland, you will find the quaint Azorean fishing village of Riberão da Ilha, accessible only via a gorgeous, narrow, winding, seaside road offering views of the Baia Sul and the lush hills of the mainland across the bay.