Ilha de Santa Catarina has a vibrant and varied coastline, from the calm, crowded bays of the north, to the wild, cliff-hugging beaches south. But it’s not just the beaches that make this island so enchanting. A forest of protected pines shelters the east coast, while the dunes near Praia da Joaquina create a lunar landscape. The spine of mountains, luxuriant with the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic rainforest), drops precipitously down to the lovely Lagoa da Conceição.
Though technically speaking, the whole island is Florianópolis, it's downtown Floripa, known as Centro, that is both the political capital of Santa Catarina, the cultural capital of southern Brazil and the gateway to the rest of the island. The island's bairros (districts) can feel like completely different towns, with their own distinct personalities and infrastructure.