After months of COVID-19 quarantining, we know that you’re beyond excited to finally travel again, but you’re in search of a socially distanced vacation locale. The Azores should be your top travel choice. Here are 15 reasons why the Azores are best vacation spot to be socially distanced during COVID.

First a note on the Azores Islands for those less familiar with the islands. The Azores are a Portuguese archipelago. The nine islands are a lush paradise of volcanic crater lakes, glorious beaches and natural hot springs. We’ve focused on Sao Miguel, which is the biggest Azores island, because it has the most direct flights, so you don’t have to take multiple flights or ferries to get to another island. It also has the most beaches and hiking trails, so you won’t be too crowded. But if you want to venture out, check out which is the Best Azores island to visit.

Ilheu da Vila Franca

1.  The Azores are currently COVID-19 free.

There were only 146 confirmed COVID-19 cases on all the islands combined, and as of the publication date of this post, the Azores are COVID-19 free. Check the up to date Azores COVID-19 numbers.

2. It’s easy to be socially distanced on vacation in the Azores during COVID, because the must-see attractions are all outdoors.

The must sees on Sao Miguel island are its spectacular volcanic crater lakes, including Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo; its lovely hot springs, especially in Furnas; and its beautiful black sand beaches. Each of these attractions are outside where it’s possible to be sufficiently social distanced. Don’t miss out on all the other must sees and hidden gems.

3.  Sao Miguel island has 20+ beaches, so you have plenty of sand to spread out and socially distance.

Sao Miguel is the best Azores island for beaches and boasts more than 20 beaches of varying sizes and colors.  Many beaches have bathroom and shower facilities or you can get off the beaten path to more secluded sandy spots.  Read our The Most Beautiful Sao Miguel Beaches to learn our three favorite beaches, the best off the beaten path beaches, the best beaches for families, the best beaches near Ponta Delgada, the best beaches to grab a bite to eat, and the best beach to watch the sunset.

Social distancing on Santa Barbara Beach

4. The Azores have amazing outdoor activities to make your socially distanced vacation a blast.

Sao Miguel offers a wide array of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, kayaking, canyoning, horseback riding, climbing, paragliding, whale watching and golfing. There are nearly 30 hiking trails on Sao Miguel alone that have been developed, marked and cared for by the Regional Government of the Azores.

5.  There are 8 different hot springs on Sao Miguel island, so you can always avoid a crowd during COVID.

All the major hot springs in the Azores are on Sao Miguel island. You won’t get overcrowded in the eight different thermal spring locations. The hot springs range from rustic and wild to developed and manicured with full amenities, like facials and massages. Which hot spring will you choose?

6.  The weather is temperate, so you can enjoy a socially distanced vacation in the Azores all year round.

The Azores benefit from a Gulf Stream climate where daily highs range between the 50-80°F all year round. There is never a wrong time to go; it just depends on your temperature preferences.  If you want to sun bathe on the beach, July and August are your best bet but June and September are a close second. You can also get beach days in April/May/October. Because of the humidity, when it’s sunny, the real feel is higher than the listed temps.  You can hike all year round, and the cooler months are great time to enjoy hot springs.

But whenever you go, be prepared for the weather to vary across the many micro-climates on the island and for the weather to change quickly wherever you are!  Our Regional Guide includes links to the best weather websites for the islands and a webcam app, so that you will know where the weather is best on the island.

Canyoning on Sao Miguel

7.  It’s a short flight to the Azores from the US and Europe!

If you’re visiting the Azores from the U.S., it’s about a 4.5 hour flight from Boston, and if you’re coming from Portugal, it’s a little under 2.5 hours. If you’re still confused, find out exactly where the Azores are.

On June 15, Azores Airlines began flying from Lisbon to the Azores, and International flights to Boston, Toronto, Praia (Cape Verde), and Frankfurt begin on July 1. Currently for the summer, Azores airlines has daily direct flights from Boston to Sao Miguel island every day except Tuesday and Saturday. On Tuesday and Saturday, there are direct flights to Terceira and an inter-island flight can be taken to Sao Miguel.

TAP Portugal has already started flights from Newark to the Azores, but they begin direct flights from Boston three days a week on July 1. You can also fly from Boston via Lisbon on other days.

The Azores Airlines offers a free stopover to Europe. Azores Airlines is currently not affiliated with another airline or alliance, but it has a business class and has recently leased 6 new planes.

8. Flights to the Azores During COVID are cheap!

Flights during the summer typically peak at $1000 each way in July and August, but upon publication, flights from Boston to the Azores are around $300 each way on both TAP Air Portugal and Azores Airlines.

9.  The Azores islands are still a hidden gem

Even before travel declined due to COVID-19, tourism in the Azores had not yet exploded like other places in Europe. So you can feel comfortable moving about the island without fear of crowds.

Sao Miguel Viewpoint

10.  There are more cows than residents in the Azores.

The population in the Azores is only 250,000 people on all nine islands, but it produces more than a third of all milk consumed in Portugal and half of all the cheese consumed. And because cows don’t transmit the flu, that means more tasty cheese and less chances to get COVID-19 in the Azores!

11.  You don’t need to rely on public transportation on your Azores vacation.

Even before Azores COVID-19, we recommended renting a car when visiting the Azores. There are public buses, but their schedules are limited, erratic and often not on time. Taxis are expensive, and there are no Ubers.  Rental cars are relatively inexpensive. You’ll pay between 20-40 euros a day for a small manual, depending on the season.  You’ll tend to get better service and more flexible policies (like no charge for an extra driver) from the smaller rental companies. The roads are clearly marked, and Google Map is largely accurate.

12.  The Azores have a huge selection of vacation rentals, and small boutique hotels so it’s easier to maintain social distancing.

The Azores offer a larger selection of vacation rental rooms than hotel rooms, so if you want to reduce your close contact with humans as much as possible, then the Azores have a lot of options.  Check out the 22 best villas in the Azores and our guide to choosing the best Sao Miguel accommodations. Or if luxury is your goal, then head to the best luxury accommodation options.

Cow crossing on Sao Miguel island

13.  There is lots of outdoor seating at restaurants.

The restaurants are now open on Sao Miguel, and because the weather is temperate, there are many options for outdoor seating. If you prefer to eat inside, you’ll just be required to wear a mask. The tables for both indoor and out are required to be socially distanced.

14.  If you want to cook on your socially distanced Azores vacation, there’s a great outdoor market.

Although restaurants on Sao Miguel have re-opened, you may want to be extra-safe and cook your meals. Then head to Mercado da Graca, where there is a huge array of fruits and vegetables along with a fish and meat market and an adjacent cheese shop aptly named O Rei Dos Queijos (King of Cheeses!).

15.  The Azores are on almost every list of COVID-19-safe vacation destinations.

You don’t have to take our word for it, the Azores are on almost every list of COVID-19 safe destinations, including Forbes, the Insider and European Best Vacations.

Now that we’ve convinced you to make the Azores your next socially distanced vacation, what are the Azore’s COVID-19 requirements?

As of June 13, all new arrivals to the Azores must either provide proof of a negative COVID-19-19 test taken 72 hours prior to arrival or take a test upon arrival and await the results in isolation. Arriving passengers may await the test results in a private residence or contracted lodging of their choice. The results are expected to take no more than 12 hours. Travelers who wish to remain in the Azores for more than 7 or 14 days, will be required to test again on day 6 and 13 of their stay. Check the US Embassy in Portugal and Azores Airlines websites for up-to-date requirements.