While the stellar beaches south of Florianópolis might hog the most pristine sands and charming beach towns, there's no monopoly. The northern Santa Catarina coast has its own charms as well. Here are a few additional spots worth checking out.

Ilha do São Francisco

The lovely city of São Francisco do Sul, 45km east of Joinville, is Brazil’s third oldest, founded in 1504 by the French (only Bahia and São Vicente are older). The historical center is on the Patrimônio Histórico (National Heritage list), for its decadent, colonial feel. The city acts as a gateway to the rest of the Ilha de São Francisco, a popular destination for sun-worshipers and surfers. Viacão Verdes Mares (www.vmares.com.br) runs regular buses to Ilha de São Francisco from Joinville (R$14.10 to R$16.60).

Penha & Armação

These two villages are side by side along the north shore of a peninsula that juts out into the ocean, 110km north of Florianópolis. The crescent-shaped beach wraps around a bay dotted with colorful fishing boats. The idyllic village atmosphere changes slightly on summer weekends, however, when the main beachfront turns into one big festa (party). Regardless, these twin towns feel more like fishing villages than holiday resorts. Catarinense (www.catarinense.net) runs a few buses a day to Penha from Blumenau (R$29, two hours) and a few from Joinville (R$23, 1½ hours), calling at Piçarras (6km north).

Porto Belo, Bombas & Bombinhas

A small peninsula fans out from Porto Belo about 60km north of Florianópolis. Here, clear emerald-green waters offer some of the best diving in southern Brazil.

The town of Porto Belo is a developed fishing village, so its beach is dominated by a big dock and boats moored in the bay. The principal swimming beaches are Praia Bombinhas (9km from Porto Belo) and the adjacent Praia Bombas (3km). These sandy stretches are also lined with small-scale hotels and seafood restaurants.

From Balneário Camboriú, Praiana buses between Itajaí and Porto Belo pass the intermunicipal bus stop on Rua Santa Catarina next to the bus station between 14 and 25 times per day, around 30 to 40 minutes after departing Itajaí (R$5.85, one hour). Once in Porto Belo, you must switch to a Bombinhas-bound bus (R$4, 20 minutes). Viação Navegantes (www.viacaonavegantes.net) also runs six buses per weekday from Florianopolis, and less on weekends. http://www.viacaonavegantes.net/