The main square in Florianópolis's city center, Praça XV, is a verdant, green space with intriguing mythological figures set into the cobblestones beneath the trees. Look especially for the Bernúncia, a unique bull-alligator hybrid endemic to Santa Catarina mythology. The centerpiece of Praça XV is an enormous fig tree, said to have magical powers. Circling it thrice clockwise is said to bring on matrimony, seven times counterclockwise divorce, while hanging upside down from its branches is said to be a shortcut to widowhood. Try it and see. Close by, the Rua Felipe Schmit and the Rua Cons. Mafra and its cross streets are closed to traffic and packed with stores; specialty items include shoes and leather goods such as belts and wallets. Thanks to the cooler climate, the stores stock excellent boots and sweaters that will hold up to Northern Hemisphere falls and winters. Also nearby, the Public Market, Av. Paulo Fontes s/n (Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat 7am-1pm), is packed with small stalls offering local arts and crafts and a vast variety of fresh seafood. For a good quick snack, stop by Box32 (tel. 048/3224-5588;

On the northwest coast of the island, the small settlement of Santo Antônio de Lisboa is a lovely collection of traditional Azores-style homes, plus some of the best and cheapest oysters on the island. Stop by the Cantinho das Ostras (tel. 048/3235-2296; Mon-Fri 8am-6pm) at the south end of the beach to watch as oysters are brought in, cleaned, and shucked. Sample a few fresh and raw (R$5 per dozen) or for just a bit more have them steamed and served with lemon (R$12 per dozen). Delicious.

In the southern part of the island, the western shore facing the mainland lacks beaches entirely, but in compensation offers some fabulous driving and sightseeing. South of the airport, heading down the SC-405 toward Riberão da Ilha leads to a small, winding road that hugs the coastline virtually all the way to the southern tip of the island. Don't miss a visit to this part of the island! It's a region of small villages with colorful Portuguese-style houses, settled by fishermen from the Azores. Their descendants still live in this region and make a living fishing or raising oysters. Note that although Riberão da Ilha looks like it's just a short drive away, the road is winding and there are viewpoints and picturesque villages to distract you along the way. Plan to spend at least half a day, with lunch or dinner at a seafood restaurant in Riberão da Ilha.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.