The nickname "Magic Island" is an appropriate moniker for Florianópolis (officially called Ilha de Santa Catarina, but known to most as Florianópolis, or simply "Floripa") with a breathtaking shoreline, easy-to-reach beaches, and seemingly endless vacation activities. The northern praias (beaches) are considered the best—because of their warm waters—and are therefore the busiest. Impressive seascapes dominate the Atlantic beaches, and southern beaches have fewer sun worshippers and a more laid-back atmosphere. Scuba diving, surfing, kitesurfing, sailing, and parasailing are among the many water sports. You can also go for nature walks along trails with the ocean as backdrop.
Settled by colonists from the Azore Islands, the city of Florianópolis was the southernmost post of the Portuguese Empire for some time, and it was the site of several skirmishes with the Spanish before the border disputes were settled. While most visitors are lured to the island by the beaches—which rank among the most beautiful in Brazil—downtown Florianópolis also has worthwhile attractions.