Encompassing the entirety of Santa Catarina Island, several nearby islands, and part of the mainland in southern Brazil is the city of Florianópolis. Affectionately known as “Ilha da Magia” because of its unmatched tropical splendor, Florianópolis is among the top Brazilian resort cities you’ve probably never heard of. From its gorgeous beaches to its unique recreational activities to its succulent seafood, the top things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil are both varied and exciting.
Located on the country’s southeastern coast, Florianópolis lies roughly 704 miles southwest of its world-famous cousin, Rio de Janeiro. Though Florianópolis has never enjoyed the same level of fame and notoriety as Rio, it is every bit as beautiful and interesting.
History of Florianópolis
For at least 4,000 years before the Portuguese landed in the area in 1514, Santa Catarina Island was home to an indigenous Brazilian people known as the Carijós. The Portuguese, who officially settled the island in 1673, used the area to build vessels they then sent to the Rio de la Plata Basin.
As the village of Nossa Senhora do Desterro was established and grew, it became a strategically important port located between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires further south. Later, in 1893, the city’s name changed again to Florianópolis.
Today, Florianópolis is a historically rich fishermen’s haven and a thriving beach resort city. The city is home to over 60 beaches, which are popular for hang gliding, diving, mountain biking, surfing, and paragliding. It’s also one of the biggest seafood hotspots in the country and is well-regarded for its oysters, shrimp, mussels, and crab.
The New York Times named Florianópolis the Party Destination of the Year in 2009, while Newsweek named it one of the 10 most dynamic cities in the world in 2006. It was not hard to understand why as my friends Guilherme and Rafa from Rio4Fun and Rio4Food and I pulled into the city after a long drive from Curitiba.
After the steel-and-concrete jungles of Sao Paulo, Curitiba, and Blumenau, the tropical feel and sun-soaked beaches of Florianópolis were a breath of fresh air. Within hours of arriving, I’d gotten my first taste of the city’s incomparable seafood, and over the next two days, I dove into more briny treats and unique adventures that made Florianópolis a highlight of my Brazil trip. These are the top 15 things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil.
Enjoy the Sun and Water at Praia Mole
With over five dozen beaches across its islands and mainland, Florianópolis is a swimmer and sunbather’s dream. One of its most well-known beaches, Praia Mole, is especially popular among surfers. This 3,149-foot-long beach is also a haven for young locals, tourists, models, and LGBT visitors, so expect it to be busy, especially during the summer.
The beach is known for its intense wave action, which makes it perfect for surfers and paragliders, but not so conducive for swimming. The rough waters can be dangerous for children and weaker swimmers, so caution is advised, even though there are a number of lifeguard stands.
If you want to do something other than typical beach activities, you’re in luck. The beach is lined with a number of restaurants and bars where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat. There are also some shops. Elsewhere on the beach, you’ll find ancient rock art!
Enjoy Brazilian Oysters at Ostradamus Restaurante
If you’re a foodie looking for the top things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil, I suggest starting with La Ruta Gastronomica. Located on the south side of Santa Catarina Island, this route of never-ending seafood restaurants is a food lover’s dream.
This part of the island is reminiscent of a typical seaside town in Portugal. The homes and businesses and brightly colored, and the route snakes its way along the shoreline. Along the route, you can dive deep into the city’s oyster culture at one of my favorite spots in town, Ostradamus Restaurante.
Ostradamus’ reputation precedes itself, as I had heard about this place long before I visited it. Since 1998, it has served some of the best seafood in town, out of a restaurant that looks like a fisherman-style Greek taverna.
Inside the restaurant, you’ll see lots of oyster tanks, and even a tank full of swimming turtles! There is indoor seating, but like many seafood restaurants in Florianópolis, the best dining experiences are had on their covered outdoor pier, which extends across the beach and shoreline.
Oysters are the main specialty here. They’re all the same species and come in different sizes, and are prepared in a variety of ways. I suggest visiting with a couple of friends and ordering at least seven or eight varieties so you can sample as many as possible!
The Never-Ending Oysters of Ostradamus
Of course, no oyster feast is complete without the classic raw oyster. I ordered a half dozen of them, which only set me back about $7 USD. Eating them with a squeeze of lime is the way to go!
Now, it’s time to get into Ostradamus’ more unique offerings, starting with their massive flambeed oysters with honey, ginger, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. The combination of sweet, spicy, and tangy with the salty oyster is one I’ll never forget!
If you love more decadent oysters, go for the baked parmesan oysters, which are loaded with creamy, velvety cheese. The toasted crust on top gives them some added texture. I also highly recommend the oysters that come with a dozen different peppers in it!
Another savory and sweet variety, with pineapples, figs, and brie cheese, blew my mind. I can’t stress enough how well the creamy brie, sugary fig, and acidic pineapple worked together! You also must try their oysters topped with mozzarella and parmesan, and the ones with just balsamic vinegar.
With so many types of oysters, it would be easy to fill up on them, but I was also told that the octopus at Ostradamus was pretty special. I’m a big octopus lover, so trying their succulent version with caramelized onions, herbs, bread, and sesame seeds had my mouth watering from the jump!
The octopus meat was creamy and tender and reminded me of a similar dish I’d had years ago in Italy. The caramelized onions added a sweetness and some acidity, and the creamy glaze throughout, mixed with the fresh herbs, was as close to perfection as you can get!
There are countless seafood places in Florianópolis, but it would be a crime to miss Ostradamus Restaurante on La Ruta Gastronomica. Eating there is among the best things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil and is a dining experience you’ll never forget!
Rodovia Baldicero Filomeno 7640 z
Ribeirão da Ilha, Florianópolis – SC, 88064-002
+55 48 3337-5711
Visit the Central Market
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the daily life of a Brazilian city is to visit its central market. Florianópolis is no different. Its central market, built between 1850 and 1851, is a massive, orderly building containing hundreds of vendors selling everything from fresh meat and produce to seafood to nuts and spices.
Each stall, or Box as they’re referred to, is assigned a number. With all of the fresh seafood vendors selling shrimp, salmon, octopus, and oysters, the market reminded me a lot of ones I’d visited in Spain. You can watch the vendors filet, shuck, and de-vein the seafood in real time. It’s quite a spectacle!
Elsewhere in the market, you’ll find vendors selling caldo de cana, or sugarcane juice, with lime. A cup costs only R$3, or about $o.80 USD.
There are also vendors selling handicrafts and household items like shoes, bags, baskets, and clothing. It’s a great place to people watch and among the top things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil.
If you get hungry during your visit, I recommend stopping at the most popular spot in the market, Box 32. This taverna-style restaurant sells a nice mix of Brazilian beers, seafood, pastries, and cachaça. I recommend their sweet and smoky house honey cachaça and Belgian Saint Bier, which was like a cross between a Belgian ale and a Weiss.
Food-wise, I suggest their berbigão pastelito. Pastelitos are deep-fried pastries that can be filled with everything from meat to seafood to fruit, along with herbs and spices. The berbigão inside is a type of shellfish similar to a mussel.
It’s tasty on its own, but I recommend adding some Carolina Reaper or Trinidad Scorpion sauce if you’re a spice head like me! Just be careful; using too much will torch your throat and tongue!
Check out my VIDEO: Brazilian Central Market Food Tour!! Seafood, Sugarcane Juice & Beer | Florianopolis, Brazil
Eat Brazilian Seafood at Restaurante Pitangueiras
On the northern end of Santa Catarina Island, in the Sambaqui area, is one of Florianópolis’ top seafood spots, Restaurante Pitangueiras. It’s roughly a 40-minute drive from the city center (and more with traffic), so I suggest giving yourself a generous window of time to get there.
Restaurante Pitangueiras has an authentic fishing village feel, as it sits atop a cliff overlooking a virgin fishermen’s beach. From the restaurant’s outdoor terrace, you can view the oyster farm floating out in the water and the distant skyscrapers of Florianópolis.
Inside, the restaurant offers a wide variety of cachaças, including some strong and sweet ones. If cachaça isn’t your thing, they also sell beer from a local craft brewery in Sambaqui called Cerveza Sambaqui. I recommend their IPA, which is fruity and slightly bitter but not very hoppy.
On the restaurant’s walls, you can also see a large map of Florianópolis, which can help you get your bearings in the large, sprawling city. I’m a big fan of studying maps, so I liked seeing the layout of the island and where we were in relation to the city center.
The Seafood Feast
Restaurante Pitangueiras takes full advantage of its beautiful coastal location and nearby oyster farm. Their mussels, raw oysters, and fried shrimp are all exceptional and come served with a creamy, decadent aioli.
The shrimp are crisp but still meaty, and pair best with the aioli. But as good as they are, their mussels are even better. They’re downright massive and come with bits of seaweed, which I strongly advise against eating. The mussels have enough of a fresh, seaweed-like flavor that you don’t need to overdo it!
Of course, their oysters are equally outstanding. I’m a big fan of eating raw oysters either plain or with just a squeeze of lime and a dash of Tabasco sauce. They’re smooth and succulent, and the citrusy tang and burst of heat are just incredible.
Rod. Rafael da Rocha Pires, 2861
Sambaqui, Florianópolis – SC, 88051-001
+55 48 3335-0398
Buy a Unique Souvenir at Cantinho da Arte
Not far from Ostradamus Restaurante along La Ruta Gastronomica on Santa Catarina Island is one of my favorite local establishments in the city, Cantinho da Arte. I’m all about supporting locals and buying unique, one-of-a-kind souvenirs instead of mass-produced knickknacks when I travel. This place delivers on that in spades.
Cantinho da Arte specializes in handmade wood carvings. They make real works of art, including tables, wall carvings, doors, and more, from the pile of tree trunks outside their shop.
There’s a lot of impressive craftsmanship to admire inside their shop. It’s obvious that a lot of hard work and love goes into what they do. I recommend buying something from them when you stop by!
The main things that caught my eye were their family coat-of-arm carvings. They’re bright and colorful, and they’ll carve your surname and family seal into one if you have one. You can also choose an existing design and just have them add your surname.
I’m big on the importance of family, so having one that honors that was important to me. I chose an existing carving featuring a lion and a suit of armor and asked them to carve “Hoffmann” into it. It only cost me R$80, or about $16 USD. Their turnaround is fast, too—only 24 hours!
Cantinho da Arte
Rod. Açoriana, 370
Tapera, Florianópolis – SC, 88049-101
+55 48 99826-8881
Dine at Restaurante Paraíso Da Néia
If you find yourself getting hungry while exploring the Praia Mole area, I suggest taking a trip to Restaurante Paraíso Da Néia. One of the fun things about the restaurant is the way you get there! First, you must catch a ferry at Terminal Lacustre, which will transport you across Lagoa da Conceição.
The ferry, which is essentially a large, covered, and motorized canoe, runs every ten minutes. Along the way, be sure to take in the lush scenery, which reminded me of places I’d visited in Croatia. After a quick but scenic ride, you’ll arrive on the shores of the Costa da Lagoa area on the other side.
Restaurante Paraíso Da Néia
This simple, rustic lakeside restaurant has been in business for over forty years. They have outdoor seating under a covered terrace if you prefer to dine in the shade, and seating on an outdoor pier.
The restaurant is famous for their unique stuffed oyster recipe, so they’re a must when you visit. They’re hot and creamy, and are filled to the brim with a generous amount of oyster meat and a mountain of shredded crab.
Mixed in with the oyster and crab is a creamy, velvety sauce that binds everything together. Finally, the entire mixture is topped with a layer of gooey, melted cheese. The stuffed oysters also come with blue sea salt for decoration. Heavenly doesn’t even begin to describe the complexity of the flavors and textures!
I also highly recommend their impeccable crab croquetas, which are crispy and golden brown on the outside and bursting with fresh crab on the inside. The pink gulf sauce served alongside them adds a smooth and decadent component!
As you’ve likely realized by now, shrimp are a big part of the diet in Florianópolis. Eating them is among the top things to see and do in Florianópolis, Brazil, and you’ll get another chance to do so here.
Their fried shrimp are meaty and crispy and have a double layer of batter on the outside that isn’t too thick. I also recommend having them with some sole fish, rice, French fries, grilled banana, and a briny fish stock gravy that contains manioc flour.
The sole fish, while slightly dry on its own, comes to life when you eat it with a bit of rice, banana, and gravy. The combination of salty fish and sweet banana is one I never knew I needed in my life. Best of all, if you’re wary of bones like I am, this fish comes perfectly filleted with no bones whatsoever.
While I enjoyed everything, the stuffed oysters and the grilled banana with fish were major standouts for me. If you like unique takes on seafood favorites, I urge you to head over to Restaurante Paraíso Da Néia the next time you find yourself in Florianópolis. You won’t. regret it.
Restaurante Paraíso Da Néia
Servidão Caminho Costa da Lagoa
Costa da Lagoa, Florianópolis – SC, 88062-370
+55 48 3335-3001
Check out my VIDEO: Brazilian Street Food in Florianopolis!! Shrimp, Oysters & Hot Dog | Florianopolis, Brazil
Catch a Wave at Praia Joaquina
Just a ten-minute drive from Praia Mole is another of Santa Catarina Island’s hotspots, Praia Joaquina. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the top things to do in Florianópolis, as it’s very wide in some places, and its waters are quite shallow.
The beach’s large size and family-friendly atmosphere means it’s teeming with activity throughout the year. As a favorite of volleyball and soccer players, there’s always a game you can jump into! The beach is also famous for hosting the world surfing championships.
If you’re traveling to Florianópolis strictly for a beach vacation, Praia Joaquina’s infrastructure is top notch. Not only are there bars and restaurants along it, but you’ll also find hotels, shops, public restrooms and showers, and even a police station!
Go Sandboarding at Dunas da Joaquina
If surfing at one of Florianópolis’ beaches isn’t necessarily your thing, the city offers a fun, land-based alternative. At Dunas da Joaquina, located between Praia Joaquina and Lagoa da Conceição, you can climb to the top of the massive sand dunes and go sandboarding!
For 30 Brazilian Real, or roughly $5.72 USD, you can rent a sandboard for an hour. The sandboards come in two sizes. One is built like a snowboard and attaches to your feet, while the other is more of a sled.
I highly recommend taking at least an hour to truly enjoy this incredible experience. For beginners, I suggest using the sled, which you sit on, as opposed to the narrower board, which requires you to stand. The sled is a much safer way to rocket down the dune! It’s a thrill ride and easily one of my top things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil!
I also recommend bringing goggles with you, as sand will get kicked up into your face as you fly down the dune. Just wear them and try to keep your shouting to a minimum—the last thing you want is a mouthful of sand!
Dunas da Joaquina
Lagoa da Conceição, Florianópolis – SC
Eat Brazilian Seafood at Cantina Zabot Restaurante
With so much to do in the city center and on Santa Catarina Island, it’s easy to forget other parts of the Florianópolis area. After arriving late in the evening, our first official adventure took us across the bridge to the neighboring city of São José, 40 minutes outside the city center. There, at Cantina Zabot Restaurante, I got my very first taste of Florianópolis’ famous seafood!
My trip to Brazil took place in December of 2020, so the restaurant was adhering to strict COVID protocols, including Plexiglas dividers between each table. Many other restaurants I visited during my time in the city had similar safety measures in place.
Our dinner consisted of fried shrimp, garlic shrimp, deep-fried fish, and French fries. They also came with a creamy mayo, fresh lime, chili sauce, and habañero sauce. The fried shrimp were nice and crunchy, and I loved the strong, pungent flavor of the garlic shrimp.
The fish went very well with the mayo, almost like a relish-less tartar sauce. But, as a spice lover, it was hard to beat the chili and habanero sauces. Having some heat with your seafood is one of my favorite things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil, so I highly recommend it! Best of all, we enjoyed a mountain of stellar seafood for just R$106, or just under $20 USD. It was practically a steal!
Cantina Zabot Restaurante
Av. Leoberto Leal, 157
Barreiros, São José – SC, 88117-001
+55 48 3240-0436
Have an Oyster Feast at Rancho Açoriano Restaurant
If you’re attempting a seafood tour of Florianópolis like I did, please keep in mind that the island is quite large and spread-out. It takes well over 40 minutes to drive from the southernmost reaches of Santa Catarina Island back to the city. There, we’ll find our next restaurant, Rancho Açoriano, on the shores of Baía de São José in the Coqueiros area.
Rancho Açoriano is located in a pretty Portuguese-style building with a bright yellow, blue, and red exterior. The restaurant makes its own cachaça and offers indoor dining, but why eat indoors when you can dine al fresco on their covered pier?
Oysters are king here, in more ways than one. Not only are they the house specialty, but they’re also massive! They’re some of the largest oysters I ate in Brazil. I suggest ordering some raw oysters if you’re a fan, as well as an order of their amazing charbroiled oysters.
The charbroiled oysters are so large and full of gruyere cheese that they’re almost like small lasagnas! They’re so heavy, you have to eat them with a fork or spoon! That said, the raw oysters will forever be my favorites. There’s something about the texture and the briny flavor by itself that just can’t be beat. They’re perfect with just a squeeze of lime and a dash of Tabasco!
R. Des. Pedro Silva, 3240
Coqueiros, Florianópolis – SC, 88080-701
+55 48 3249-1414
Check out my VIDEO: Brazilian Farm to Table Seafood!! Sand Dune Surfing & Beaches | Florianopolis, Brazil
Try Sugarcane Juice on Lagoa da Conceição
In the city center, not far from Praia da Joaquina and Dunas da Joaquina, is another of Florianópolis’ top attractions, Lagoa da Conceição. This large, freshwater lagoon is known for its combination of beaches, hills, and dunes, which make for some of the most breathtaking views in the area.
Around the lagoon is its namesake town, which is home to specialty shops, spas, restaurants, markets, and food vendors. Exploring the area is easily another of the top things to do in Florianópolis.
In the Barra da Lagoa area, you’ll find a small shop run by a friendly man who sells fresh coconut water and sugarcane juice on the lagoon’s shores.
His refreshing sugarcane juice is a must on a hot day in Florianópolis. He folds a bit of lime in-between the sugarcane stalks as he juices them, which adds a citrusy tang. A delicious cup of sugarcane juice will only set you back R$5, or about $0.95 USD!
Eat on the Beach at Restaurante Mandala
In order to fully appreciate Florianópolis, you really have to explore the whole of Santa Catarina Island and the mainland. The small villages in the Pântano do Sul area on the southernmost part of the island are a far cry from the city on the mainland. Instead, this area is a delightful mix of beaches, mountains, and swamps!
In the area, you’ll find Restaurante Mandala, another of the city’s top seafood spots. Like nearly every restaurant in southern Brazil, a shot of cachaça is a must. I recommend their honey cachaça, which is sweet and floral but also deceptively strong!
Here, the shrimp are served whole, with the shell and head still on. That’s the way they’re meant to be eaten as well! I’ve never really eaten shrimp shells and heads before, but it was quite good! It’s another of the top things you must do in Florianópolis, Brazil!
They add a crunchy texture and a slightly different flavor. The only thing is, you really have to break them down in your mouth before you swallow so you don’t get a piece of shell stuck in your throat. For even more flavor, squeeze some lime over them or add a dollop of spicy sauce.
Other highlights at Restaurante Mandala are their codfish croquetas and fried stuffed crabs. A squeeze of lime and a drizzle of olive oil makes the salty, potato-filled croquetas pop. Meanwhile, the golden, battered stuffed crab shells are unbelievable. They’re dense and meaty with a nice mix of shredded crab, cilantro, onions, and tomatoes inside!
If you’re a raw oyster fiend like me, you must try the oysters at Mondala Restaurant. They come with a tangy vinegar sauce and are saltier and brinier than the others I’d had in the city. Their texture was also more reminiscent of mussels, which made eating them a unique experience!
Seafood and grains always make a great combination, and our main course at the restaurant is a perfect example of why it works. The fish Milanese is a delicious, lightly-fried fish fillet topped with an oily shrimp sauce, with a grits-like cassava flour dish and rice on the side.
The gorgeous fish is flaky and tender, while the breading added the slightest bit of crunch. The tiny shrimp in the sauce are succulent, while the spice-filled sauce just makes your taste buds leap with joy.
The cassava flour grits work really well with the rice, but trying a bit of the fish, shrimp sauce, rice, and grits together is a whole other ballgame. Having it is one of my favorite things you must do in Florianópolis, Brazil! But overall, you can’t beat the shrimp. They’re out of this world!
R. Abelardo Otacílio Gomes, 150
Pântano do Sul, Florianópolis – SC, 88067-100
+55 48 3237-7281
Leave a Note at Arante
Just a few feet away from Restaurante Mandala is another of the best things to see and do in Florianópolis, Brazil, Arante. This rustic bar and restaurant has a very beachy, cozy feel and offers perfect views of the beach. But the thing that makes Arante Bar such a popular tourist destination is the way visitors show their appreciation for it!
The first thing you’ll notice when you step inside Arante is that there are hundreds, and possibly thousands, of small paper notes hanging from the ceiling and clinging to the walls. These are all notes from customers, praising the establishment’s food and service!
As I had just eaten at Restaurante Mandala, I only ordered a Cartan blonde ale there for R$29/$5.52 USD. It’s their only artisanal craft beer and reminded me of a tasty wheat ale. I enjoyed it very much, and as is customary, I left a note on their ceiling. I’m all about leaving your mark on the world, and what better way to do it at one of Florianópolis’ top eateries!
R. Abelardo Otacílio Gomes, 254
Pântano do Sul, Florianópolis – SC, 88067-100
+55 48 3237-7022
Check out my VIDEO: Brazilian Seafood Paradise in the Oyster Capital of Brazil!! Oysters in Florianopolis, Brazil
Stay at the Hotel Intercity Florianópolis
As the city of Florianópolis requires at least two to three full days to explore properly, you’ll need a comfortable place to sleep. I suggest the Hotel Intercity Florianópolis in the heart of the city.
Like the rest of Intercity’s hotel throughout Brazil, the Hotel Intercity Florianópolis is chic and sophisticated, with a beautiful, sleek design. Each room is spacious and features a king-sized bed, a work station, flat-screen TVs, air conditioning, mini refrigerators, free WiFi, and modern bathrooms.
If you wish, you can upgrade to a room with an ocean view. Their suites come with a number of additional amenities, including dining tables, hot tubs, a safety deposit box, and a private elevator. All guests can take advantage of their gym, free breakfasts, solarium, business center, room service, and outdoor pool. It’s on of the top things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil because it’s the best place to stay in town!
Hotel Intercity Florianópolis
Av. Paulo Fontes, 1210
Centro, Florianópolis – SC, 88010-230
+55 48 3027-2200
BONUS: Eat at Hot Dog Du Piru
Something a lot of people don’t know about Brazil is that hot dogs are a very popular food there. Initially brought across the Atlantic by German immigrants, they’re now a major part of Brazilian culture. They’re not just snacks; they’re entire meals dressed with tons of toppings! The best place in town to try one is Hot Dog Du Piru, a chain that has been in business since 1993.
With eight locations in the Florianópolis area, you have your pick of where to go. My friends Guilherme and Rafa took me to a location back on the mainland after a long day of exploring Santa Catarina Island.
Like the hot dogs I’d had earlier in my trip, the one I had at Hot Dog Du Piru was overflowing with toppings. It came loaded with cabbage, corn, mayo, white cheese, special sauce, fritas (small fries), green peas, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and much more. It was so big, I could barely get my mouth around it!
Of course, a hot dog this large gets messy fast, but that’s part of the fun of eating it. And as someone who does not usually love hot dogs, the fact that I enjoyed this one says a lot! If you like a good hot dog, having one at Hot Dog Du Piru is one of the best things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil!
The city of Florianópolis is a gem on the southeastern coast of Brazil. It may not be as well-known as other Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, but it deserves to be. Between its magnificent tropical landscapes, diverse activities, and top-notch seafood, it’s one of southern Brazil’s standout cities. I had the time of my life eating my way across the mainland and island, and I think you will, too. Book a trip to south of the equator to experience the top things to do in Florianópolis, Brazil for yourself!
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