You may not have heard much about it yet, but the city of Florianopolis is slowly but surely building a reputation as the next jet-set hot spot; something like a combination of St. Tropez, Punta del Este, and the Hamptons—but with lower prices. It’s also increasingly on the radar for gay and lesbian travelers looking for sun, sand, and sophistication without the big-city hassles of places like Rio de Janeiro.
The city of Florianopolis, called Floripa by most Brazilians, is the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, set on a 202-square-mile island just off the coast of southern Brazil. Floripa, however, feels more like a collection of towns, thanks to its 42 beaches, natural beauty, and outdoor activities.
For all the glitzy development I’ve heard about, I begin my visit (accompanied by an array of International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association members who are equally curious about the destination) in the quiet southern part of the island, where nearly half of the terrain is covered with Atlantic rainforest. We hike a secluded path to reach Naufragados Beach, an uncrowded sunny spot where we enjoy the sand and the view of a far-off lighthouse before boarding a small boat to a nearby oyster farm. Oyster farming and fishing continue to be an important source of revenue for locals. This homegrown industry dates back to 1673, when the first Azorean and Portuguese settlers dropped anchor here. Early settlers also left their mark in the charming architecture, which is especially visible in small Azorean settlements like Ribeirão. These small communities are great places to try the local seafood, as I find out during a tasty lunch at Porto de Contrato, a waterfront restaurant with a beautiful view.