For the roughly 80,000 Brazilians living in Massachusetts—not to mention business travelers—it was good news when LATAM Airlines announced its new nonstop service between Boston and Sao Paulo. For the rest of us, the 10-and-a-half-hour flight, which began in July and operates four times a week, means easy access to southern Brazil to explore some of the country’s least developed and most spectacular beaches and breathtaking stretches of coastline.
Florianopolis, or “Floripa” to Brazilians, is the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, an easy one-hour flight from Sao Paulo. Driving north for an hour along the Emerald Coast, you’ll eventually reach Governador Celso Ramos, a town that resembles Positano and the Amalfi Coast. Tucked away on a peninsula is Ponta dos Ganchos, a resort so private and pampering, luxurious yet laid-back, that rock stars and royalty like Sir Paul McCartney are frequent guests. Built into the side of a steep hill topped by a helipad, the property has a crescent of beach with a walkway leading to the aptly named private island “Yes!” By day an extension of the beach, the idyllic island can be reserved for romantic dinners and has served as the spot for numerous high-end engagements and honeymoons. The resort’s 25 bungalows are mostly surrounded by lush tropical landscaping, feature private plunge pools and face west for spectacular sunsets. Inside, a lush living area gives way to a cavernous bedroom and bathroom, some complete with a glass-enclosed jacuzzi.
Adding to the romance quotient is that the resort is strictly adults-only, for aesthetic as well as practical purposes; to make the place child-friendly would require ruining the rustic elegance of its pared-down design. Nevertheless, the kid-at-heart can delight in amenities like hiking trails, a tennis court and a full range of watersports. Additionally, the resort is happy to arrange off-site activities such as white-water rafting, helicopter tours and boat excursions to sights like the centuries-old Fort Santa-Cruz or the marine reserve on Ilha do Arvoredo.
One way in which the property truly excels is the food. Breakfast is served in the Bateiras, or common area, from 7:30 am until whenever the last guest has been served, so sleeping as late as you want is always an option, and it’s far from a simple meal. There’s a degustation menu, and as precious as that may sound, everything is superb, with courses such as fresh fruit “tartar,” a croque monsieur and soft-boiled eggs topped with caviar. For lunch and dinner, the restaurant, helmed by chef José Nero, is based on local seafood and Brazilian specialties. The region is known for its oysters, and the oysters Rockefeller are flawless, as is the crab brandade that makes for a leisurely lunch on the beach.
Another way in which Ponta dos Ganchos outdoes itself is its spa. Three little treatment rooms are tucked into the jungle, with jaw-dropping views of the islands in the bay. A trio of capybaras often form a welcoming committee, and the spa is manned by some truly talented massage therapists. Upon returning to the bungalow, guests will find a bubble bath to luxuriate in at just the right temperature. The resort even boasts bedding from the upscale brand Cia do Sono; the mattresses emit infrared rays to ease muscle pain, eliminate toxins and stimulate cell renewal—just in case laying on the beach and sipping a passion fruit caipirinha isn’t relaxing enough.
BRAZILIAN MAX: Ponta dos Ganchos offers beachside treats and sun-splashed views.
Tempting as it would be to stay at Ponta dos Ganchos for eternity, Floripa itself is a place well worth exploring. The city is home to nearly a half-million people, and a ridge of green mountains separates the trendy neighborhood of Lagoa de Conceição, which is home to the charming and ultra-chic boutique hotel Quinta das Videiras. A re-creation of a 19th-century mansion, its 11 rooms are named for wine varietals and feature amenities such as Trussardi linens, while the garden has a small pool and spa pavilion. However, the reception area, where breakfast is served, is the design standout: A blue, green and yellow stained-glass solarium imported from Vietnam could easily be a film set created by Cecil Beaton.
Its central location makes it an ideal place to explore the island, whether you want to spend a day hunting the stalls of the Mercado Municipal, dune-boarding on the Dunas da Lagoa or exploring one of the island’s 60-or-so beaches. A short distance away is the charming little fishing village of Barra da Lagoa, home to a vast stretch of beach, as well as rock formations that become natural pools worth the 20-minute hike to reach them. Magellanic penguins (at the northern end of their range) prowl for fish, and the cafe on the beach serves enormous portions of perfectly prepared local catch.
Of course, the appeal of anywhere lies in its people, and in that respect, Floripa hits the mark. From fishermen to weekending Paulistas, everyone is unfailingly friendly to tourists, and any language barrier is easily overcome with a smile. Even better: U.S. citizens have yet to discover the charms of Santa Catarina in large numbers. In fact, chances are, you’ll be one of the only Americans around. And that alone is worth the trip. ◆
— Praia da Galheta is one of Brazil’s most secluded beaches, popular with surfers and nature lovers. It’s accessible via a 20-minute walk from the more populated Praia Mole.
Ponta dos Ganchos pontadosganchos.com.br; Quinta das Videiras quintadasvideiras.com.br