Azores Islands

Azores Header

WHY GO TO THE AZORES?  

Each of the nine Azores Islands have spectacular view points. Wildflowers grow on anything and everything. There are scenic, well-marked hiking trails and the islands offer plenty of hot springs for soaking. The food and wine scene is incredible and the islands are within easy reach, only a 4.5 hour flight from Boston. You can also look forward to the Gulf Stream climate where daily highs typically range between 60F and 80F degrees year round.

Check out the Travel Honey AZORES: SAO MIGUEL PHOTO GALLERY and AZORES: PICO PHOTO GALLERY.

View the PORTUGAL COUNTRY OVERVIEW for everything else.

 

WHICH ISLAND SHOULD I VISIT?

The Azores are an archipelago of nine islands, which are a mix of the English countryside (the green hills dotted with cows), Iceland (all but one of the islands have active volcanoes), Costa Rica (palm trees and other tropical plants) and the Greek Islands (the black jagged coasts).  But each island is distinct and has it’s own flavor.

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Maps of the Azores Islands

Sao Miguel is the biggest (40 miles x 9 miles) and most populated (140,000) island.  Visit one of three gorgeous crater lakes, relax in one of many hot springs and hike to your hearts content. You’ll also find Ponta Delgada, the biggest city by far (60,000), with many yummy restaurant options, nightlife on the weekends, museums and winding streets. If you have less than a week, stick to Sao Miguel, there is enough to do, and you waste time traveling between islands. Check out the Travel Honey Sao Miguel Itinerary and get the inside scoop or scroll down for a few other lodging, eating and drinking ideas below.

Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge.  If you’ve already done Sao Miguel, or you have more time, another good option is some combination of Faial, Sao Jorge and Pico, because they are all close together.

Pico is the second largest island and home to 15,000 inhabitants. It’s know for the 7,713 ft volcano that dominates its skyline and a crazy landscape of crisscrossing stone wall protected vineyards. Go if you want more foodie options and for wine tasting, its lava shores and to hike Pico if the weather cooperates. Accommodations are more spread out and there are a number of charming resorts with restaurants onsite. Check out the Travel Honey Pico Itinerary and get the inside scoop or for a few other lodging, eating and drinking ideas below.

Faial is the fourth largest island and has about the same population as Pico.  It’s a popular pitstop for sailors crossing the Atlantic, so the harbor is its center and the restaurants and hotels are more concentrated in one area than on Pico or Sao Jorge and there’s more nightlife (although still not a ton).  It also boasts awesome hikes and a breathtaking caldeira.

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Viewpoint on Sao Miguel Island; Pico Wine Museum; Horta Harbor on Faial Island

Sao Jorge is a long, narrow, cliff-lined island that is best known for its cheese.  It’s also the least populated (6,000), has the fewest ferries/flights/lodging, and most off the beaten path of the three.  Like the other islands, you’ll find plenty of hiking, often up or down its steep cliffs.

Terceira is the third largest island but second most populated (60,000).  It’s known as the cultural center of the Azores and festivals dominate its summers.  Terceira is also known for its lava caves and has limited direct flights from the U.S., which makes it an easy stopover.

Graciosa, Corvo, Flores and Santa Maria. These are smaller, less populated, harder to reach, and less visited islands.  So if you want to go off the beaten path, head to one of them. Graciosa is more flat than the other island and is agriculturally focused. Santa Maria is the third smallest and most southern island, so it’s the warmest and sunniest, and one of the few islands with sandy beaches.

Flores and Corvo are a bit farther west.  Corvo is the smallest island with the fewest inhabitants (only 400!).  It’s known for its bird watching and because it’s so remote, much of the the island’s traditions have been preserved.  Flores looks the most like a tropical island with even greener and lush fauna and more frequent waterfalls than its green neighbors.

 

SAO MIGUEL

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WHERE TO STAY IN SAO MIGUEL?

Ponta Delgada is the vibrant center of Sao Miguel, and you should stay there at least a couple nights if you like being near restaurants and nightlife.  We also recommend staying a night or two in Furnas, a smaller, quieter, and quainter version of Ponta Delgada, which is the mecca for hot springs and has 2 great hotels.  If you value serenity and being off the beaten path a little, try staying outside Ponta Delgada in Sao Roque or north of the city near Ribeira Grande. The summer is significantly busier, so expect higher rates and book a few months in advance for the best selection.

*Get the key to $, $$, $$$ and $$$$ in the Travel Honey Pricing Guide.

Azor Hotel ($$$) Enjoy amazing Ponta Delgada harbor views from the pool and your smartly decorated rooms at this large design hotel with a responsive 24 hour front desk.

Terra Nostra Garden Hotel ($$$) An elegant hotel in Furnas with a art deco 30s feel set in beautiful gardens and a natural hot spring.  There’s a very good restaurant onsite.   

Furnas Boutique Hotel  ($$) A hip Design Hotel in Furnas with small but stylishly decorated rooms and a super helpful staff.  There are thermal pools and a trendy bar and restaurant on-site.

Minuvida Orchard Lodge ($$) Stay in charming rooms on a traditional Azorean orchard just 10 minutes north of Ponta Delgada. Relax by their pool, take a yoga class and eat a delicious locally sourced meal.

Casa das Palmeiras  ($$) This charming B&B in the heart of Ponta Delgada is in an old mansion with small but bright airy rooms, a wonderful breakfast and helpful staff.

Out of the Blue ($) This chic hostel in Ponta Delgada center feel more like a boutique hotel. Enjoy the awesome backyard with the mostly younger crowd and super friendly staff.  

Milicias Beach Apartment ($) If you want to be a little outside Ponta Delgada and need a little more room, try this two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen. Its beautifully decorated, has a super responsive owner and is still walking distance to restaurants in Roque.    

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Sete Cidades and Lagoa das Furnas in Sao Miguel Island, Azores

WHERE TO EAT IN SAO MIGUEL?

Many of the best restaurants are in Ponta Delgada, but we’ve listed others throughout the island.  Also check out the Travel Honey Map included with the Sao Miguel itinerary for more ideas. Make reservations for dinner during the summer and if it’s the weekend.

*Get the key to $, $$, $$$ and $$$$ in the Travel Honey Pricing Guide.

Ponta Delgada

Rotas da Ilha Verde ($$) A small, funky, super delicious vegetarian restaurant. Reservations needed.

A Tasca ($$) A very happening tapas restaurant that’s popular with  locals and tourists alike. Reservations needed.

Casa da Rosa ($$) An eclectically decorated restaurant with a fun vibe and a limited but tasty menu that included non-traditional dishes.

Restaurante Alcides ($$) A cozy steak restaurant with a more polished feel that is popular with the locals.  Reservations needed.

Mane Cigano ($) A casual, local lunch favorite with communal seating.

Around the Island

Cais 20 ($$$) The view and tasty seafood is worth the slightly higher than normal price tag but consider sharing the enormous dishes.

Restaurante da Associacao Agricola de Sao Miguel ($$) An upscale stylish steak restaurant that is popular with both the locals and tourists.  Reservations needed.

4 Platanos  ($$) A modern restaurant with a great view on the north west coast and serving decent traditional Portuguese food.

O Americo ($$) A simple café on the west coast with friendly service and affordable and delicious Classic Portuguese dishes.

WHERE TO GO AT NIGHT IN SAO MIGUEL?

If you want to go out, make sure you’re in Ponta Delgada on a weekend after 12am.  Otherwise, Sao Miguel is more of a sleepy island.  

Raiz Bar ($) Great for live music, it doesn’t open until 10pm and goes late.

Arco 8  ($) A cool space in an old warehouse with an art gallery and sometimes live music.

Tasca Do Mário  ($) Live Fado music on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Restaurante Bar Colégio 27  ($) Live music on Tuesday and Fridays, mostly jazz and Fado. 

*Get the key to $, $$, $$$ and $$$$ in the Travel Honey Pricing Guide.

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FAIAL AND PICO

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WHERE TO STAY IN FAIAL?

The hotel options in Faial are not super spectacular and they are mostly centered around the harbor in Horta, but there are some decent options. These options are all right around town so walkable to everything.

*Get the key to $, $$, $$$ and $$$$ in the Travel Honey Pricing Guide.

Pousada Forte da Horta ($$) One of the few hotels, these rooms are small, but look better in person than on the website. The lobby is a little old school, but the view is spectacular and the staff is helpful. Ask for a harbor view.

Marina Apartments ($$) These apartments have separate bedrooms and a kitchen, so they are a good option if you want a little more room.  

Casa da Baia  ($) A great new very affordable option with small, clean, minimalist rooms.

WHERE TO EAT AND GO AT NIGHT IN FAIAL?

The food in Faial is mostly traditional Portuguese with an emphasis on fresh seafood. There’s often music on the weekend, but it’s hard to find during the week, especially if it’s not the summer.  At various establishments, look for a monthly pamphlet that lists local events, including live music.  The places to go out are also where you eat, so you’ll find them both below.  If you stay in town, you can walk to all of these listed below.

Casa Teahouse & Bar ($) Great sandwiches, soup, fresh juices, baked treats and a huge selection of tea. Can sit outside in wonderful garden.  There’s also live music, usually on the weekend.

Taberna de Pim ($) A simple, affordable menu and great outdoor seatings.  Service isn’t super fast, so expect a leisurely meal. One of the best scenic views in Horta.

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View of Horta and Capelinhos Volcano, Faial Island

WHERE TO STAY IN PICO?

Accommodation options are more spread out in Pico, and a number of small resorts have their own restaurants.  If you plan to stay for 4+ days, consider staying on different sides of the island.

Pocinho Bay ($$$) Amazing resort with free standing stylishly decorated bungalows made of volcanic rock, a pool overlooking the ocean and a delicious restaurant.

Alma do Pico ($$) A charming affordable resort with free standing bungalow rooms, a pool, wonderful views of Pico and the ocean, helpful owners and a tasty restaurant.

O Zimbreiro ($$) A small, serene guesthouse with a few different rooms, a pool with an awesome view and phenomenal food.  

WHERE TO EAT IN PICO?

 Sao Jorge Cella Bar ($$) An architecturally beautiful restaurant and rooftop bar right on the ocean.

Atmosfera ($$) Awesome homemade pastas and great salads.

Casa Âncora ($$) A stylish restaurant designed by a famous Portuguese architect with inventive and fresh dishes.

Ancoradouro ($$) The best prawns on the the island. Waterviews galore.

Taberna do Canal ($$) A small cozy restaurant in Madalena with authentic Portuguese dishes.

Caffe 5 ($$) Small casual spot with a mix of traditional and non-traditional fare like gyros, falafel and smoothies.

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Vineyards and Palm Trees on Pico Island

BEST INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS FOR THE AZORES?

Gorgeous shots of the islands @discover_azores

Sky high views of the islands @iloveazores

HOW TO GET TO THE AZORES?

All international from the U.S. to the Azores are on Azores Airlines (also called by it’s former name, SATA).  The flights are cheap, but you get what you pay for in that the flights are often delayed and sometimes cancelled.  Just be prepared.  They also have flight patterns that reflect where Azoreans live in the U.S.  

There are direct flights from Sao Miguel to Boston every day (a 4.5 overnight flight there and a late afternoon flight back to Boston). In the summer, there are also direct flights from Providence (Sao Miguel) and Oakland (Terceira).  

There are fairly frequent flights from Sao Miguel to Faial, Pico and Terceira.  There are fewer flights to Sao Jorge and even fewer to the remaining islands. There are also longer (3-4 hours) ferries from Sao Miguel to the other islands from mid-May to mid-September.

Faial, Sao Jorge and Pico are connected by short ferry rides as are Flores and Corvo.

HOW TO GET AROUND THE AZORES?

Rent a car, they are relatively inexpensive (between 30-40 euros a day for a small manual).  Taxis are expensive and there are no Ubers.  If you really don’t want to rent a car, the airports are generally close to the main towns (Ponta Delgada is about a 10 euro taxi ride) and you could rely on taxis and tours the remainder of the time.

BEST ITINERARIES FOR THE AZORES?

Check out these awesome itineraries from one of Travel Honey’s awesome savvy traveler contributors. Don’t see an itinerary that matches your travel needs?  Let us know you’re looking for by emailing support@travelhoney.com.