On Floripa’s north coast is the yacht-filled harbor of Jurere Internacional, popular with Brazilian jet-setters, many of whom own million-dollar homes and party nonstop during the December through March high-season. An hour’s boat ride away, meanwhile, is Ilha do Arvoredo, which boasts some of the best scuba diving in southern Brazil.
The west coast is home to the island’s oldest and most atmospheric villages, settled by the seamen and farmers from the Azores. The cobblestone streets of Santo Antonio de Lisboa and Sambaqui are fronted by typical white-washed houses trimmed in blue and little colonial churches such as Ingreja da Nossa Senhora da Necessidade, Floripa’s oldest (1750). Equal fame to these towns comes from the mussels and oysters farmed offshore, transported to the docks in colorfully painted boats.
On the east coast, the surfer set can be found riding the world-class waves off the beaches of Joaquina, Mole and Mocambique.
The island’s least-tamed beaches are on the south coast, whose status as an official parkland, as well as access only by boat or on foot, safeguards this area’s wild beauty. There is a handful of charming pousadas around the fishing village of Armacao, where trails fan out through native forest to what many consider the top beach on the island: Praia de Lagoinha do Leste.
Inland, the action is in Centro da Conceicao, located on a lovely lagoon, Lagoa da Conceicao. Visitors catch the boat from the dock, or take a 4.5-mile walk around the shore to boho-chic Canto da Lagoa, town of choice for Brazil’s artists and intellectuals.
And as we mentioned, built into every Florianopolis vacation should be whale watching, centered 60 miles south of Florianopolis offshore from Garopaba, an Azorean fishing village also sought after for its surfing superlatives and the awesome beauty of its surrounding green hills, rocky cliffs and sand dunes.
One of the best hotels in town is the 115-room Sofitel Florianopolis, located across from the lovely promenade that borders the bay-front. Travelers can pick up a bicycle here (and leave it farther down along the bay at another stand), try a workout with a view on the promenade’s free exercise bikes, or just take a seat and watch the locals enjoying their very modern city with a laid-back, small-town flavor. Room rates start at $175 per night.
Outside the capital is Costao do Santinho Resort. The ocean and Santinho beach views from the rooms facing north is one reason to be here, the surrounding 100-acre Atlantic forest is another; then you add in three restaurants, eight tennis courts, two indoor pools, a super spa, snorkeling, hiking, a children’s program and airport shuttle, and you’re talking a real vacation choice. Superior double room rates start at $675 per room/per night, including breakfast, lunch and dinner; minimum 3-night booking.
Considered the best hotel in the south—and some say in all of Brazil—the award-winning Relais & Chateaux property, Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort, located 25 miles from Florianopolis, occupies a privileged location on a privately owned peninsula jutting out from the “Emerald Coast” and framed by the lush Atlantic rainforest.
Beyond the hotel gate lie 20 acres of verdant hills sloping down to a white-sand beach. Luxury-loving clients enjoy informal elegance in 25 wood and stone bungalows, set far apart among pine trees and landscaped gardens. The bungalow design incorporates glass walls and spacious decks with stellar sea views. Accommodations are beautifully and simply appointed with comfy sofas, king beds, fireplaces, grand bathrooms with oversized shower and hammocks on the verandah. Among the seven different accommodation styles, the smallest Luxury Bungalows are enormous (860 sq. ft.) and come with split-level bedroom and living room. Near the very top of the luxury ladder, the four 2,460-sq.-ft. Emerald Village Bungalows treat guests to a plunge pool, dry sauna, and spa bathroom area accommodating in-room massages. The one 3,210-sq.-ft Special Esmeralda Villa Bungalow has its own lap pool, spa area and fitness center.
Wooded paths (or chauffeured golf carts) connect guests to the beach and the tented beachside cabanas of the Spa by Christian Dior, as well as several locations for dining (along with more than 200 different wine choices) including the main restaurant, the Cantinho da Veleza Bar, and the game room. There is no set time or place for any of the meals, whose menus change daily and celebrate the region’s famed seafood.
The resort rates include such activities as land-based fishing, tennis, hiking the nature trails, biking, use of fitness center, kayaking, snorkeling and sailing. Guests, who are pampered with a 3-to-1 staff to guest ratio, may also participate in excursions to the surrounding fishing villages, while horseback riding, golf and scuba diving with or without lessons are easily arranged. Not far from the resort, diving is at its best in Arvoredo Marine Reserve.
Of special note: In order to maintain an atmosphere of complete tranquility, the minimum age requirement is 18 years, except at Christmas when ages 12 and above are welcome. The resort can arrange transfers for the 50-minute drive from the local airport, although some guests taxi in by boat or land at the helicopter pad. Call for rates.
TAM, Gol and LAN airlines fly from Rio (90 minutes), Sao Paulo (55 minutes) and Buenos Aires (two hours) to Florianopolis-Hercilio Luz International Airport (FLN)
new hotel in campos do jordao
Located two hours north of Sao Paulo and overlooking one of the river valleys of the Campos do Jordao area, Botanique Hotel & Spa (botanique.com.br), set to open Nov. 1, is surrounded by
700 acres of lush mid-Atlantic forests and botanical gardens.
According to the brains behind the Botanique concept, it’s all about “post-luxury.” Here’s a run-down:
■ Genuine silence—cars are not permitted within a mile of the hotel; guests are transported in electric buggies
■ Small wine cellar, with 200 rare Brazilian wines
■ Natural mineral water from onsite wells
■ Individually selected books written by Brazilian authors
■ Private stables with Olympic-level horses
■ A 10,000-sq.-ft. spa cut into the hillside
■ A staff that includes tennis pros
■ Unpacking and pressing of clothing upon arrival/folding and packing prior to departure
Rates: $1,200 per night with meals, wine tastings, gratuities,
and laundry service; aside from the nightly rate and spa services, no extra charges apply
Borello Travel & Tours: (800) 405-3072; borellotravel.com
Brazil Ministry of Tourism: braziltour.com
Costao do Santinho Resort: costao.com.br
Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort: pontadosganchos.com.br
Sofitel Florianolopis: sofitel.com
ViaFloripa: (800) 957-8845; viafloripa.com