Florianópolis's main attraction is the more than 100 beaches scattered across the island. Each has its own character. Starting clockwise from the northern part of the island, the most visited beaches are Daniela, Canasvieiras, Jurerê, and Praia dos Ingleses. Daniela, Canasvieiras, and Jurerê lie on the bay side of the island and have pleasant, calm waters with almost no waves. Praia dos Ingleses faces the open ocean and often has rougher surf. Daniela is the quietest of the four. The other three are very urbanized and packed in the summer months when tourists flock here from all over Brazil. Jurerê is popular with Brazilian celebrities, many of whom own houses or condos in the exclusive subdivisions.

The northern part of the island has some places to escape the crowds (relatively speaking). At the very northern tip of the peninsula in between Praia dos Ingleses and Canasvieiras sits Lagoinha, a lovely small beach backed by a small fishing village. This is one of the best sunset spots on the island. A short drive south of Ingleses one finds Praia do Santinho, a small and pretty beach with a large beach resort at one end.

Moving clockwise along the eastern coast of the island you come to Praia do Moçambique, a vast 19km-long (12-mile) stretch of strand, protected along its entire length by an ecological reserve that forms a construction-free buffer zone of thick vegetation between beach and road. Moçambique is one of the best beaches for those seeking solitude. As it faces the open ocean, the waves are often substantial. It's not a beach for weak swimmers.

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Heading south from Praia do Moçambique, you'll come to Praia Mole, the hotshot surf beach at the moment. Largely unspoiled, the beach is framed by green hills and rocky outcrops, and the sand is white and very soft. One of the island's prettiest beaches, Praia da Galheta is only accessible on foot from Praia Mole. Look for the trails through the dunes at the north end of Praia Mole. Note that Praia da Galheta is also the island's clothing-optional beach and a popular gay cruising area. However, the beach is family-friendly and also popular with surfers.

Just south of Praia Mole is Praia da Joaquina. To reach this beach you drive past the shifting sand dunes east of the Lagoa. It was once the island's most popular surf beach, but these days Praia Mole seems to get most of the action.

Campeche is far enough south that even in high season it's not hard to find a quiet spot here. The beach is very wide, but large waves can make it dangerous for swimming. Another favorite surf destination (and a spot where one can often see dolphins) is Praia da Armação, just south of Campeche.

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Following the SC-406 all the way to the end will lead you to Pântano do Sul, located on the eastern side of the skinny southern tip of the island. It's one of the main fishing communities on the island and has a busy, bustling atmosphere. However, the boat traffic (and dirty gray sand) make it less than ideal for swimming. However, it is the place to leave your car and set out on a hike.

One of the island's prettiest beaches, Lagoinha de Leste sits on the outer shore of an environmentally protected headland, accessible only via a 4km (2 1/2-mile) trail from Pântano do Sul. The trail takes about 90 minutes, one-way. The lovely wild beach sits nestled at the bottom of a large hill, with a small river at one that end that flows into the ocean.

The Lagoa da Conceição sits almost at the center of the island, to the east of the city of Florianópolis and west of Praia Mole. The lagoon is about 30% fresh water. The water temperature is balmy -- in the summer it can reach 26°C (80°F). Watersports are allowed on the lagoon, but jet skis have been banned.

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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.