The ocean water sprayed on our faces as the red wooden fishing boat rocked against the waves fighting the impending tropical storm. We watched the island of Campeche slowly shrink into the distance as our captain aggressively steered the boat back to Armação, where we would soon disembark, returning to our Amazon-esque home. The ride was only 45 minutes, yet the sunny day on the white sandy beaches of Ilha do Campeche felt ages away. This place earns the nickname “Island of Magic” for a reason.
Florianopolis, also called “Ilha da Magia”, is Brazil’s most alluring island that you’ve never heard of. It’s known as the magic island because it’s charm and beauty conquers whomever steps foot on its soil. Fables from years ago tell tales of witches and sorcerers casting spells and curses on locals. Legend says that the boulders off the beach of Praia de Itaguaçu were once witches before they were turned to stone. Folklore or fact, the beaches on this island certainly are enchanting.
From spellbinding sandy coasts to turbulent adventure filled seas, timeless fishing villages to isolated rainforest shores, diversity is what this island is all about. The Southern side of “Floripa” is practically untouched by tourism compared to the touristic Northern tip. Villages immersed in tradition and history, such as Santo Antonio de Lisboa and Ribeirão da Ilha resist the approaching modernity. The fishing boats, the lace makers, the folklore and the cuisine distinguish the colonial towns. The Azorean (Portuguese) spirit, inherited from immigrants who settled the region 250 years ago, marks the island’s personality.
In traditional Azorean inspired fashion, Floripa stands out for its seafood and celebrations. February is the month of Carnival. A momentous time of year in South America in which locals party for days on end wearing colorful, revealing outfits, buzzed on caipirinhas and Brahma beer; dancing to beats of drums until the wee hours of the night. When they get tired, they feast on the fresh seafood and oysters unlike any other, and drink energy drinks to keep the party going. It’s a messy, colorful disaster that entices even the most reluctant bystander to join in the fun.
And that’s how I found myself inside a Carnival parade; slightly afraid, considerably uncertain and eventually dignified that I had crossed an item off my bucket list. Floripa is about pushing your limits, experiencing untouched adventure, and encountering a bit of magic. It’s the eye of the storm in a country riddled with crime. Heck, CondeNast even rated it as the friendliest city in the world in 2013. Yet, Floripa surprises you at every corner. A sunny day at the beach can turn into a stormy sea, but that stormy sea will bring the best seafood feast you’ll ever have.
- Pastel – Similar to an empanada, generally filled with cheese or meat.
- Caldo de cana – Sugarcane juice.
- Caipirinhas – The national cocktail, made with cachaça, sugar and lime.
- Queijo coalho – Cheese grilled over hot coals and dipped in oregano. Often found at the beach.
- Pastel de Belem – Portuguese egg tart pastry.
- Bar do Arante – Beach side restaurant covered with notes from customers.
- Books & Beers – Unique themed bar with a diverse selection of craft beers.
- Ostradamus – Best oysters around paired with a scenic dining experience.
- Ribeirão da Ilha – Colorful fishing village, filled with personality and the best oysters on the island.
- Lagoa da Conceição – Centrally located, combines beaches, dunes, nightlife and the biggest lagoon. Stay in this area if you’re visiting.
- Ilha do Campeche – Island located 1250 m southeast of the coast.
- Jurerê – Upscale beachside neighborhood on the northern shore.
The best way to get around is by renting a car. The public buses are not reliable and seem to run on a relatively unpredictable schedule. Another option if you are going short distances is renting a bicycle. Motorcycles can be rented as well for those that have a license.
This article originally appeared in W42St Magazine. See original article here.