Sun, sea, sand … and history. Florianopolis is sure to blow your mind.

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In 1997, the world met - and fell in love with – the Brazilian tennis player Gustavo Kuerten. While his potent playing style was a factor, fans were more in awe of his laid-back, friendly demeanor. Always with a smile on his face, Guga (as the Brazilians call him) is the prototypical guy from the island of Florianopolis, the capital city of the southern state of Santa Catarina.

Floripa, as locals call it, is one of the Brazilian state capitals with the best quality of life. Locals are known for their friendliness and their connection with the ocean - an integral part of the city's lifestyle. There are 42 beaches around the island. With activities such as paragliding, scuba diving and surfing, you’re sure to have an exciting time.

The city is also all about environmental preservation, with some noteworthy initiatives in place, such as the Tamar Project, which aims at protecting sea turtles along the Brazilian coast. Since January, the Tamar center has offered "smart tours," which offer tourists several interactive features via bluetooth.

Nature-based tourism

If you've always wanted to see whales, you're in for a treat. Every year, from July to November, southern right whales seek the warmer waters next to Florianopolis, creating a moving spectacle near the shores. In the Right Whale Environmental Reserve, you can watch humpback whales up close. Some of these animals like to swim right next to the boats.

An area of 130 kilometers along the coast of Santa Catarina is considered a protected habitat for whales. The humpback species was once endangered, but thanks to preservation efforts, its population has grown 12 percent yearly. Back on land, you will find hiking trails that cross large portions of the Atlantic Forest that surrounds the city. While offering good tourist infrastructure (cleanliness and good signage), the nature around these trails remains well preserved. Some will take you to charming local restaurants, where shrimp and other seafood are the specialty.

Blend of architectural styles

The city remains true to its rich history, conserving many colonial buildings - such as the city's charming central square. Don't forget to taste all the flavors you can find in the Florianopolis Municipal Market - a perfect happy hour spot.

These ancient constructions blend very well with modern buildings. You won’t miss the Hercilio Luz Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Brazil. While it is currently under renovation, it is truly a marvelous piece of architecture and gives a sense of how old the island is.