The popularity of Florianópolis, an island off Brazil’s southern coast, increases year upon year. Every wealthy Brazilian has a holiday home there, regular flights from Buenos Aires and Montevideo bring plenty of tourists from the more Southern countries and for many travellers heading inland from Rio it’s their last chance of a nice beach. This has led to a tripling of its population in the last 40 years and huge amounts of development on the island. Something, its basic road infrastructure has struggled to deal with – traffic jams are incessant! This has led some to question its ‘beach paradise’ status, but there is hope. Much of that development has been occurring in the North, especially in Canasveiras (full of Brazilian holiday homes) and Barra da Lagoa (a village of gringos and hostels). The South remains largely untouched, and is definitely worth investigating.
Although getting a bus during rush hour could lead to you regretting ever stepping foot on the island, the bus system is actually very effective. Get on any bus and as long as you don’t leave a terminal you can go anywhere you want on the island without paying more than the very cheap initial fee. Taking a bus south will lead you to Armação, where there is accommodation, shops and a cashpoint (the last one for a while!) The Armação and Matadeiro beaches are full of Brazilian families playing frescoball, amateur fishermen with hopeful-looking sticks in their hands and the odd tourist catching some rays, but the real gem is Praia da Lagoinha da Leste, a 3 hour walk along the coast. The route is quite hilly but the view as you round the last bend of the cliff and see the beach open up in front of you is nothing short of breathtaking. It will take another half an hour to get to the beach from the top, by which time you will be ready to dive into the crystal clear water and revel in the fact that you’re most likely one of the few people to be enjoying it.
Taking a further bus south from Armação leads to Costa do Dentro, the last stop. There are a few guest houses here, a hostel and a couple of shops, but little else. Well, little else except for three very charming beaches and a beautiful landscape to explore. I spoke to Marcelo Piccolo, who owns Albergue do Pirata, the only hostel in Costa do Dentro. He says that “the south of the island represents what the island was like in earlier eras. It’s the area which has preserved the majority of its history and culture.” This is why the South is so alluring to me. The North may host the grander parties, with worldwide brands such as Pacha arranging club nights, but the South has the true beauty of the island at its heart. From Costa do Dentro it is possible to follow trails up into the mountains in the far Southern corner. One of these trails leads to a beach called Praia dos Naufragados, another remote stretch of sand that ticks all the boxes in the paradise stakes.
As the island’s population increases the danger is that more development will occur in the South and these claims of preservation will start to become more optimistic than realistic. Marcelo certainly accepts this likelihood but is prepared to fight against it: “There are many people interested in developing on the island, obviously with financial ends. It is up to us to make sure we stop that from happening.” Considering the amount of interest currently in Brazil and the forthcoming World Cup and Rio Olympics now may just be the right time to explore of one of Brazil’s many natural splendours before it disappears.