Florianopolis - The Magic Island
Fishermen, backpackers and holidaying Brazilians mix and mingle while waiting on fresh, crispy shrimp empanadas from the burger shack on the lagoon. I take a long swig of cold Brahma beer and watch a middle-aged woman with bleached blonde hair rocking white spandex shorts pull another fish off her line. It’s the simple way of life, so apparent here, that attracts travellers from all over the world to 'Floripa', an island just off the southern coast of Brazil. I’ve been here almost a week and I already feel a strong connection brewing inside me. The kind of feeling where you know you will be back again.
Relax or ramp it up
You can do pretty much nothing at all for a week here and feel content, but when that gets boring, maybe hire a board and share a few waves with playful dolphins in the turquoise blue waters. After that gets old, hire a jeep and explore the rest of Floripa yourself. Adrenalin junkies won’t want to miss sand boarding down the massive dunes of Joaquina Beach, but if you prefer relaxing with a drink to sports, then join in on a leisurely cruise around the serene lagoon, breaking for swimming, or a stroll via jungle paths ending at hidden waterfalls that don’t appear on maps.
A quiet night on The Magic Island usually involves a beach bonfire under the stars, trading tales with other wanderlusters over a few beers. The hostel scene is incredibly social. There isn’t the standard cliquey-ness that you see in other travel hubs, it’s incredibly mixed here. Rather than organise separate events with only a handful of people turning up, beach bonfires are usually shared affairs so you meet more people and the parties are better. We gathered for a bonfire with roughly 100 people from other hostels, plus locals too.
Pump it up in Floripa
Floripa is also known for having some of the best nightlife in the world. Look, it’s not hard to figure out why. Take a bunch of young, good-looking surfers, add backpackers, alcohol, sun and world-class DJs and presto - party time. During the summer season (December to January), you will find international acts rivalling lineups in Ibiza at Floripa's biggest venue, P12. Expect the clubs to start around 1am and finish between 6 to 7am. Don’t forget your credit card though; expect to drop a couple of hundred bucks for a night you won’t forget.
Nice to meat you
Backpackers Sharehouse sits perched perfectly above Barra de Lagoa beach. Its location is what keeps the beds full and the parties banging. Not to say the venue relies solely on this alone. Resident Aussie chef, Tim, prepares twice-weekly traditional Brazilian barbecues that send noodle-eating backpackers salivating in a frenzy of carnivorous hysteria. Fresh cuts of marinated steak, chicken and pork are slow-roasted for at least three hours over hot coals, then served alongside a selection of freshly prepared salads.Vegans should make restaurant reservations elsewhere on these nights, as the amount of skewered animals will send them running for a carrot.
Sharing is caring
If the meatfest isn’t enough to make you stay here, then the daily and nightly activities will. You don’t have to think for yourself at Sharehouse where the slogan is “Sharing is more fun”. Just wake up, brush your teeth, dig into some free (actually decent) breakfast, and go with the flow. The atmosphere is hard to beat, and it’s the free caiprihinas at 8pm every night that bring people together for introductions and chats before the crowd eventually moves together to a bar or club (the Sharehouse team organises a party bus nightly). Make sure to chat with the hostel owner, Tish, as she is the queen of local knowledge.
Could it be magic?
I must admit, I was wary of the nickname, 'Magic Island', when I heard it. However, the island has proven it’s worthy of its moniker. A visit to Brazil would not be complete without spending at least a week here. Don’t hesitate though. I sense the tingle of change and it may (hopefully not) end up among the likes of Phuket, Bali and Hawaii on a list of overcrowded former tropical glories. Go now!