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Brazilian town offers lively nightlife, sandy beaches and a well-developed gay scene

There are 40-plus beaches around Florianopolis, including Joaquina Beach. Credit: Herbert Vieira

Roughly halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, Floripa, as Florianopolis is nicknamed, has lively nightlife, sandy beaches, sunny skies and a well-developed gay scene.

Brazilians from the two big cities have for some time been coming to this tiny island to get away from it all, especially in summertime. North Americans and Europeans have recently begun to arrive in greater numbers as well.

The area was heavily colonized by Portuguese from the Azores islands and from Madeira Island in the mid-18th century, along with Germans and Italians — lending exotic textures to accents, food and lifestyles that contrast with elsewhere in the country.

During Carnaval, the gay celebrations include the Pop Gay competition for the best local drag performers, now one of the largest events of all. Several large gay megaclubs vie with those of Rio and São Paulo, and in September the Pride celebrations of Semana da Diversidade include big parties. A 2009 local law made the practice of homophobia a crime. The nearby towns of Camboiú and Curitiba also boast gay nightlife.

Given the area's subtropical climate, the 40-plus beaches within easy reach of downtown are a major attraction. Two of the most popular are Praia de Jurerê Internacional, an area filled with hotels, beach clubs, restaurants and nightclubs; and Praia Galheta, the gay-friendly public nude beach.

The beautiful Praia Mole, a short walk from the Lagoa da Conceição district, is popular with young, alternative and gay people. It's the home of Bar do Deca and The Week at Carnaval, with all-night dancing in the open air. 

Praia Joaquina is noted for board surfing, wind and kite surfing — even sand surfing — and on tours of the Imbituba coast to the south of Floripa whales can be seen, coming from Arctic waters to give birth to their young.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Florianopolis, see our City Guide, Listings Guide, Events Guide and Activities Guide.