Facing the open Atlantic, Floripa ’s east coast beaches are Ilha de Santa Catarina ’s longest and most dramatic. A combination of cold water, rough waves, and undercurrents keeps families (and package tours) at bay but attracts a crowd of surfers and young, tanned singles (both gay and straight) intent on strutting their stuff as well as their ultra-fashionable sungas and bikinis.
The northernmost beach of Praia do Moçambique is the longest and most primitive of the island’s beaches. Due to its inclusion in the Reserva Floresta do Rio Vermelha, its 8 kilometers (5 miles) of gorgeous unspoiled dunes framed by pine forests are complete unmarred by human construction, making it ideal for long walks.
The continuation of Moçambique is Praia Barra da Lagoa, which is anchored by Barra da Lagoa, a small fishing colony with some simple pousadas and restaurants located at the entrance to Lagoa da Conceição . From the edge of the village, a rickety wooden bridge crosses a river, and if you follow the path on the other side, you’ll arrive at the secluded beach of Prainha.
From Barra da Lagoa, another hilly trail leads to the beautifully unspoiled beach of Praia da Galheta, whose waters are warmer and more placid than elsewhere along the coast and where nude sunbathing is permitted.
From Galheta, another trail leads south to hip and happening Praia Mole, whose name (mole means soft) derives from the large grains that make this sand so invitingly fluffy. Many of the bronzed young things who frequent this beach are surfers or wish they were. Most are also single, giving Mole a well-deserved reputation for being the flirtiest beach on the island. The stretch of sand nearest to Galheta is a gay and lesbian hot spot. In summer, all roads lead to Mole (creating hour-long traffic jams) and the beach’s many bars pulsate day and night.
Also extremely popular—although somewhat overblown—is neighboring Praia da Joaquina, which is famed for having the best waves on the island. Major surfing competitions are held here and surfers rule the waters. Although the beach is quite wide, in summer it is invaded by so many beach bars, fresco-ball games, and sunbathers in various states of preening that you’ll be challenged to actually glimpse a patch of sand.
The continuation of Joaquina is the more deserted but equally stunning Praia do Campeche, which gazes out towards the Ilha do Campeche. From the nearby village of Armação, it’s only a 30-minute boat ride (fishing boats will take you for around R$25 pp) to the tiny island, where, when you’re not busy snorkeling in emerald waters, you can kick back at one of two beach barracas that serve grilled fish and icy beer. Ilha do Campeche’s is also famed for its glyphs—mysterious symbols and inscriptions carved into over 160 stones—which date back over 5,000 years.
On the island, monitors are available to guide you along four different trails (R$5–10). Between April and November, you’ll need to reserve your visit with IPHAN (tel. 48/8417-7102), the federal organization that protects the island’s archaeological heritage.