Located in the Atlantic ocean and a short flight away from mainland Portugal, these nine islands create a world of their own. Each island is known for a colour, with the biggest one being Sao Miguel. Our love affair with the island began the moment that we stepped off the plane. The lush greenery is a stark white that most of North America gets in the winter. It’s no wonder Sao Miguel is called the green island.
How to Get There
There are two ways to get the islands- air, or sea.
Air- SATA flies to Sao Miguel and has flights from most major hubs in North America. You can also find options on TAP. Ryanair has the European market covered starting this spring.
Sea- there are ferries that you can take from the mainland to the island, although it will take a lot longer.
What you Need:
The Azores, like any other island is an island- but one with varying temperatures. Be sure to dress appropriately since it can get quite cold if you’re planning on visiting in the winter.
Where to Stay
Sao Miguel is well served with hotels. There is a hotel at almost every turn in Ponte Delgada. We, however, suggest getting away from the capital city, and venturing to a resort that we fell in love with:
Caloura Resort Hotel– Located in a place, (Caloura is a not big enough to be called a town or a village) near Aqua de Pau (translated to water from the stick), it is the definition of a hidden gem. Set against the stunning backdrop of coastal bluffs, the resort offers amenities such as a pool, and fitness centre, much needed privacy, and easy access to the rest of the island.
All year round, you can find families having picnics at the local parks, but in the summer, Caloura is a vibrant place, with travellers and locals drawn to the beautiful beaches and parks.
For looking to stay in Ponte Delgada- we would suggest Hotel Marina Atlantico facing the marina. It has easy walking access to pretty much everything in the city centre.
What to Do
It’s hard to narrow down everything you can do on the island. There is something to do for almost everyone, and it all depends on how much time you have to stay.
Here are some suggestions if you have at least a few days on the island:
A walking tour of Ponte Delgada, the capital city of San Miguel and a maze of narrow streets comprised of yellow stately facades, and white houses with black asphalt masonry known as pedra de lavoura.
The city welcomes all newcomers through the Portas de Cidade. You’ll also find Senhor Sento Cristo Church which welcomes thousands of pilgrims coming to worship God’s image in the streets.
Hiking: Nature lovers will most certainly enjoy the abundant amount of trails and lakes to discover, scattered along the volcanic island.
Can’t miss sights include the Lagoa de Fogo crater- a huge mass of water shelteredby forest and sand. Lagoa de Fogo is translated in English to Lake of Fire because of it’s volcanic roots, and it’s picturesque, blue/green waters will provide a beautiful backdrop for photos.
Surfing: With its strong winds, you’d be hard pressed to find better surfing conditions than at Costa Norte, and Areais de Santa Barbara, on the North side of the island.
No matter where you are on the island, you’ll see people belly boarding on the coast.
Pineapple plantation: One of the leading exports of the island, pineapples are a staple at almost every meal, but what makes it better is knowing that it takes nearly 2 years to grow each fruit.
Be sure to visit a planation to get first hand knowledge of the entire process- a must do for all pineapple lovers!
Tea Museum: One of the two active tea factories in all of Europe, it’s amazing to see the process of making tea from start to finish.The tea plantation and museum is located on the hillside with a stunning view of the tea fields. The entire tour takes less than 30 minutes, and leaves your with a better understanding where the stuff that you drink comes from.
Whale and Dolphin watching: Due to the physical location of the island in the Altantic ocean, marine life can be seen close to shore so get your bingo and see how many species you can spot. There are dozens of species of whales, dolphins and fish, and you might even be able to spot a sea turtle. We suggest being the company of a marine biologist such as those working at Picos de Aventurato guide you on your quest.
Hot springs: Head to Furnas to find Terra Nostra- a private, natural swimming pool which is perfect for those visiting in spring, winter and fall.
There are many natural hot springs throughout the island, so head out and soak up the minerals and get some R&R.
Where to Eat
There is no shortage of great restaurants on the island. Some of our favorites include:
Cais 20 (Ponte Delgada)- A favorite among the locals, be sure to make a reservation as it fills up really quickly. We suggest trying the fried octopus, but the steamed vegetables and garlic bread make a great vegetarian alternative.
Anfiteatro Restaurant (Ponte Delgada) – This restaurant is where students of the local culinary program come to gain practical experience. Near the harbor, it’s hard to imagine a better backdrop for a restaurant, and the food is delicious.
Terra Nostra Garden Hotel (Terra Nostra) Be sure to try the house specialty- cozidos de la portuegese.
How to Get Around
The public transit is amazing for an island this size – you can get pretty much anywhere on the island easily. Although if you’re not into having public transit dictate your schedule, you can easily rent a car at the airport.