Planning a Trip
By Plane -- TAM (tel. 048/4002-5700), Varig (tel. 048/4003-7000), and Gol (tel. 0300/115-2121) all fly to Florianópolis. There are daily flights to/from all major cities in Brazil; it's about a 2-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro and a 1-hour flight from São Paulo. All flights arrive at Aeroporto Hercílio Luz (tel. 048/3331-4000). Taxis from the airport to the northern beaches (Praia dos Ingleses) cost R$60 to R$70 (US$30-US$35/£16-£19); to the southern part of the island (Campeche), R$30 (US$15/£8); and to downtown, R$25 (US$13/£7).
By Bus -- Long-distance buses arrive at the Rodoviaria Rita Maria, Av. Paulo Fontes s/n (tel. 048/3224-2777). Auto Viação 1001 (tel. 048/3223-7766) offers daily departures to São Paulo for R$90 to R$160 (US$45-US$80/£24-£43); the trip takes approximately 10 hours.
Florianópolis's airport has a tourist information center (tel. 048/3331-4101) in the arrivals hall, open daily 8am to 8pm. The main tourist information center is in downtown Florianópolis, Praça XV de Novembro s/n, Centro (tel. 048/3222-4906), open daily 8am to 6pm.
The city of Florianópolis straddles the narrow part of the straight about halfway down the island, and is connected to the mainland by two bridges. The oft-photographed, scenic Hercílio Luz suspension bridge is currently closed for renovations. The city itself serves mostly as a transfer point for those arriving or departing by bus. The historic downtown sits just a hop and a skip from the small but efficient Rita Maria bus station, the departure and arrival point for all long-distance buses. If you want to do a bit of shopping, just follow the elevated walkway across the main road for a short walk to the Praça XV, one of the city's main squares. The Rua Felipe Schmit and the Rua Cons. Mafra and its cross streets around the Praça XV are closed to traffic and packed with stores; specialty items include shoes and leather goods such as belts and wallets. Thanks to the cooler climate, the stores stock excellent boots and sweaters that will hold up to Northern Hemisphere falls and winters. A bustling indoor market is located at Av. Paulo Fontees s/n, almost on the corner of the Praça Fernando Machado.
The island itself is long and thin (approximately 70km/43 miles from north to south) and features a number of distinct regions. The most urbanized beaches are those near the northern tip of the island; Praia dos Ingleses, Canasvieiras, and Jurerê are popular destinations in the summer. Farther south, facing the open Atlantic on the east side of the island, are the much less developed beaches of Praia Mole and Joaquina. Both are popular with locals on the weekends. Close to the northern end of Praia Mole (toward the dunes where a trail connects to the nearby clothing-optional Galheta beach), you'll find a large concentration of gay visitors. However, the beach is family-friendly and also popular with surfers. The Lagoa da Conceição forms the center of the island. This large lagoon is the year-round nightlife and dining hub, attracting both locals and visitors. The southern part of the island is divided into two regions, the beaches (on the east side, facing the ocean) and Riberão da Ilha (on the west side, opposite the mainland). The ocean-facing beaches such as Campeche and Armação are mostly undeveloped, and even in the peak of the tourist season (Dec-Feb) it's easy to find a near-deserted stretch of sand. Farther south toward the tip of the island, the beaches of Lagoinha do Leste and Naufragados are only accessible by a short hike. Facing toward the mainland, Riberão da Ilha features Portuguese (actually Açorean [fishermen from the Azores]) settlements that have been beautifully preserved.
Access to the various parts is by well-paved state highways. From downtown Florianópolis there are three main roads: the SC-401 goes north to the beaches of Ingleses and Canasvieiras. The SC-404 cuts across the center of the island to the restaurant and nightlife area of Lagoa. The SC-405 dips south toward Ribeirão da Ilha. A fourth highway, the SC-406, runs along the eastern side of the island, connecting to the SC-405 in the south and the SC-401 near the northern beaches.
By Bus -- Local bus service on the island is slow and infrequent. In Florianópolis a vehicle is strongly recommended.
By Taxi -- Taxis are easily found in the city or at the airport, and hard to find elsewhere. To call a cab from anywhere on the island dial tel. 197 or call tel. 048/3240-6009. Taxi fares add up; a one-way ride from Campeche to the bus station costs R$30 (US$15/£8). After two or three rides it's better to rent a car.
By Car -- In Florianópolis, a car is almost a must. You will get a lot more out of your visit with your own transportation, allowing you to explore as you please. Traffic is relaxed; speed limits and regulations are strictly obeyed. Florianópolis is also extremely safe. You can safely park anywhere (though you should remove valuables from the car). At the airport there's a Localiza rental office (tel. 048/3236-1244) as well as a Hertz office (tel. 048/3236-9955). Lemans Rental Car (tel. 048/3222-9999 or 048/3348-0300) is known for reliable service. They deliver and pick up from anywhere, including the airport and bus station.
Getting Around in Florianópolis: Rent a Car -- To make the most of your visit to Floripa you really need a car. This will allow you to explore the more remote beaches and towns at your own pace. The good news is that the roads are in great shape, the island is easy to navigate and traffic is calm, and you can safely stop and park almost anywhere without any extra safety precautions. Of course, you want to remove all valuables from the vehicle when parking. See car-rental information in "Fast Facts."