By Patrícia Cavalcante | Translation: Andrea Alves

An explosion of colors, smells and sounds on an island where the ‘Mata Atlântica’ still reigns. The beauty of the island still enchants its visitor just like it did with its first Spanish navigator’s visitors who arrived in 1504.

Brazil is full of natural beauties from North to South. It’s almost impossible to name all of them, but Santa Catarina island is, without a doubt, one of Brazil’s most beautiful spots. The place is well known as the ‘The Island of the Magic’ for its romantic and exotic vibe and offers a variety of choices for adventurers and sports lovers. The city of Florianopolis (affectionately called ‘Floripa’ by its citizens and tourists) is part of the island and has one of the lowest levels of pollution and violence in the country.

This high-quality of life city with its asphalt roads mixes rivers, dunes, reefs and lagoons making you believe you are in a ‘movie.’ The island also holds a big lagoon called ‘Lagoa da Conceição’ (Conceição’s Lagoon) mentioned in songs and by poets many times. In the avenue that surrounds the lagoon (‘Avenida das Rendeiras’) you can find the ‘rendas de bilro’ (bilro’s laces), one of the oldest traditions of the area. There are fourteen little houses in this avenue where the ‘rendeiras’ (lace woman makers) have been keeping this handwork alive from mother to daughter for centuries.

You can also find many constructions dating from the Colonial time around the same lagoon. This historic area is the hot night-spot where you can find a great number of local intellectuals, artists and writers. The ‘cultura açoriana’ (culture from the Açores Islands) with its traditions was kept alive even with the development of this modern city. There you can still find the folkloric traditions of ‘Boi-de-mamão’ e ‘Pau-de-fita’ still alive. The art of willow and straw weaving is still strong as are ceramics.

The Beaches

The forty-two beaches of the “ilha de Santa Catarina” are, without doubt, the highlight of the island. The young crowd and surfers prefer the East Coast beaches. The northern area offers better infrastructures for tourists and is usually visited by Argentineans and/or rich seasonal tourists. The Southern beaches offer hard to reach natural beauty. There you find white sand and the clearest and calmest waters of the island. You can even forget the world exists.The residencies of the traditional families of the island are located on the West Coast facing the continent. The most famous surfing beaches are those of the Santinho, Ingleses, Brava, Ponta das Canas, Canavieiras, Juréia, Juréia Internacional, Barra da Lagoa, Mole and Joaquina.

The Santa Catarina Island/Florianopolis (with its 451square meters) challenges its tourists with its unusual urban shape between island and continent. This fascinating place has been attracting people for a long time. The natural beauty of the island has been inspiring passionate descriptions by navigators since the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1809, the English traveler John Maw described the pleasant and healthy climate, the richness of the ground and the diversity of the Flora and Fauna. The shape of the island with its mountains (between 400m and 650m) is another aspect that has been calling visitor’s attention.

Ecotourism Trails

Solidão Beach. Photo: Makito

Santa Catarina Island: natural preserved areas and trails for the backpackers. The South Coast beaches like Naufragados, Saquinho and Lagoinha do Leste are almost untouched spots. The East Coast, facing the Atlantic has been the more populated area of the city, but the beauty of the beaches Mocanbique, Campeche and Joaquina are hard to resist. Trails that surround the ‘Lagoa do Peri’ and ‘Lagoa da Coceição’, the surf at the ‘Praia da Armaçao’ and ‘Joaquina’ and/or diving at ‘Ilha do Campeche’ are great options for the adventurers.

“Trilhar” has a lot of meanings. It means to walk, to mark with footsteps, to open a road, to look for, to get distracted, to have fun. Each one of us have our own definition of it, but the main goal when doing a ‘trilha’ is to find a inner peace. Here are two good options for the backpacker lovers:

Lagoinha do Leste

It is the wildest, most beautiful and mysterious beach of Santa Catarina. It still has the same characteristics from the time of its discovery. To get there you have to leave from the right coast of Praia do Matadeiro (Pântano do Sul), where ends the sand and the trail starts. The ‘trilha’ is long and you have to be physically prepared to face steep spots and to find the ‘trilha’ in the middle of the vegetation. But the effort is worthwhile when you reach the end with its beauty and when you feel the inner tranquility. The ‘trilha’ is more than two hours long and passes through the Ponta o Quebra-Remo (Break-paddle Point), Ponta do Falcão (Falcon Point) e Ponta da Lagoinha (Little Lagoon Point).

A Trilha da Restinga (The Trail of the Reef)

The ‘Lagoa do Peri’, (preserved by a municipal decree) is fed by rivers and its Southern mountains spring. Its is less explored and visited than the ‘Lagoa da Conceicão’. There you can still find the ‘Mata Atlântica’ (the primary vegetation of the Brazilian coast and almost non-existent today). The trail starts in the Lagoa do Peri’s Reef (SC 406 road) where a little road ends in an irregular pathway. You have to follow the lagoon until you find the jungle. At the ‘Cachoeira Grande’ (Big Waterfall) you will find many little waterfalls where you can dive and bathe. The trail restarts at the other side of the river. It goes through the middle of the jungle to a sugar cane field from where you can see the ‘Lagoa do Peri ‘and the ‘Ilha do Campeche’ (Campeche’s Island). After the sugarcane field comes ‘Sertão do Ribeirão’. You have to cross the rural community to get to ‘Ribeirão da Ilha.’

Pontos de mergulho e pesca

Visitar o mundo debaixo d’água é literalmente mergulhar na natureza. São peixes e formas de vida exóticas, misturadas com recifes de corais, produzindo efeitos de luzes e cores surpreendentes. A natureza do litoral da Ilha de Santa Catarina oferece aos adeptos do mergulho uma vida marinha variada e fácil acesso aos locais mais indicados para a prática do esporte. A Reserva Biológica Marinha do Arvoredo, formada por ilhotas como do Arvoredo, Deserta, e Galé, destaca-se como um dos melhores pontos de mergulho do Sul do Brasil.

Ilha do Campeche

This 591square-meter inlet is located right in front of the Campeche beach (1.5km from the continent). The local fishermen charge R$10 (around $3) to bring you there through the ‘Praia da Armação’. ‘Ilha do Campeche’ has coarse sand and great diving spots (varying between 2 meters and 12 meters deep) on the northern side, and a 20 meter spot on the southern side. The east-side of the inlet has some diving restrictions depending on the weather conditions.