Unique Travel Guide for the Azores, Portugal
There are few places in the world where you can get Ireland's rolling green hills, Hawaii's waterfalls & volcanos, and Europe's mix of cultures all at the same time... but the Azores provide these things, plus so much more. It is a trip that will leave you reminiscing for years to come, and one where you will be transported to a place that has all of the wonders of Europe without any of the tourists.
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Where to stay
Sensi Nature & Spa
An escape for the senses on a historic oceanfront farm — don't miss the sunset cocktails.
Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort
On São Miguel's north coast, a stay here is all about the modernist villas and exceptional seafood restaurant.
Just 10 rooms enjoy the expansive Atlantic Ocean views at this modern, minimalist escape.
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Things to do
Exploring Ponta Delgada
Spend some time in the heart of Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel's capital city. The majority of the island's shops, restaurants and cafes are in Ponta Delgada. It is worth spending a day wandering the cobblestone streets and hunting for unique local favorites. The city sits along the coast, so taking a stroll down Rua dos Mercadores gives you ocean views on one side and countless places to eat and shop on the other.
Volcano sightings in Sete Cidades
Don't even think about skipping Sete Cidades! If you Google "The Azores", Sete Cidades is usually the image that comes up first. Sete Cidades sits down in a volcanic crater and provides some of the most breathtaking views in all of the Azores islands.
Drive up to Miradouro da Vista do Rei for the picture-perfect place to overlook Sete Cidades, and then head down into the city for a day of exploration. If you're really feeling adventurous, rent motorized scooters back in Ponta Delgada to drive around Sete Cidades. It's the best way to see the area!
Take a dip in the natural hot springs of Furnas
Furnas is one of the three volcanoes on Sao Miguel, and the ground at the base of the volcano is filled with fresh hot water. Because of this, there are dozens of hot pools that you can visit. This experience is unique and relaxing and one you don't want to miss.
DO go chasing waterfalls
There are a bunch of hidden waterfalls all over the island. My favorite is in Ribeira dos Caldeirões. Not only do you get to see a beautiful waterfall, but you get to watch people go canyoning down the river! You can try it yourself if you're brave enough. The waterfalls are usually tucked away inside the forest, so it takes a little trekking to get there. But the journey is just as good as the destination, and you get to see a side of Sao Miguel you wouldn't get to see if you stayed on the main roads.
Snorkeling in the Azores
The Azores is not typically where you think of when you think of snorkeling, but that doesn't mean snorkeling in the Azores doesn't exist! There is an islet off the coast called Vila Franca do Campo. You have to take a ferry boat out there, but once you get there, you get to swim and snorkel in what looks like a crater in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. If you're lucky, you may get to see a stingray.
See what the locals consider "warm water"
All along the coast, rock formations have created natural swimming pools that fill up with ocean water during high tide. The locals love to go to these swimming pools for a dip or even an afternoon of sunbathing, and it's a fun experience for visitors to the island as well. But be warned – there's warm and then there's Azores warm, which isn't actually warm at all – it is actually numbingly cold. The moral of the story is don't ask a local if the water is warm, it's a waste of time.
Go on a dolphin watching excursion
This is one of the few touristy things I did while in Sao Miguel, and I'm so glad I did it. I booked my tour on a dinghy rather than one of the big boats, and it was a smart decision. While I got slightly motion sick and sleepy at times, I also got within an arm's length of hundreds of dolphins over the course of the tour. It was truly spectacular and some of my favorite photos of the trip came from that tour. Ask me who I booked with!
Places to eat & drink
There are dozens of local cafes and bakeries where you can stop for a quick coffee and pastry, but to truly enjoy the breakfast experience, Intz48 is the place to go. It's modern and hip and has the best lattes on the island. Did I mention the croissants are to die for?
I had at least 5 burgers during my stay in Sao Miguel, and every single one of them was incredible. All of the cows on the island are free-range, so the burgers just taste different there. Supléxio was my favorite, but 3/4 Cafe was a close second.
You can't go to the Azores without eating the locally caught seafood. It's hard to find bad seafood, but some of the best I had were cavaco, which is local lobster, grouper and tuna.
The Azores is famous for its ability to grow pineapple. In fact, you can visit pineapple farms while staying in Sao Miguel. The ground in the Azores is surprisingly fertile and perfect for growing pineapple, which makes this tropical fruit a must-have while visiting the island.
Cozido das Furnas
This dish is a must both because it is delicious and because it is so much more than a dish – it's an experience. Beneath the surface of the ground at the base of each volcano, the temperature gets extremely hot. For this reason, locals cook their stew in pots buried beneath the dirt. You can book a dinner tour that allows you to participate in the preparation of the stew, which is a fun and unique experience to have.
Need to Know
Neither ride-sharing services nor public transportation are as widely used in The Azores as they are on mainland Europe. For this reason, you'll most likely want to rent a car, but make note that almost all, if not all, of the rental cars have manual transmissions.
Get in touch with McKensie
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