The Most Beautiful Sao Miguel Beaches in the Azores
December 23, 2019
The best of the Azores islands for beaches, Sao Miguel boasts more than 20 volcanic, black sand beaches of varying sizes. In this extensive guide, we’ll give you our top choices for São Miguel Beaches, including 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.
Miguel is the largest and most populated island of the Azores. Most beaches are
located on the north and south coasts. The north experiences powerful swell – ideal if
you like surfing and bodyboarding. The south coast has gentler seas, making the
beaches on this coast best for families with young children.
The most popular São Miguel beaches have changing facilities, toilets and showers, along with car parks or parking spaces nearby. You can expect to find lifeguards patrolling the busiest beaches in high season. The more remote beaches often don’t have any facilities – and are a little more challenging to get to.
In the Azores, sunshine can turn to rain in a matter of hours. To make sure your trip to the beach isn’t wasted, check out a webcam feed for the beach you’re planning to visit. The Spot Azores website has several webcams you can use. These not only show images of the beach but also give information about the temperature, cloud cover, wind speed, and even tide times. In this article, we’ve included a link to the relevant beach webcam where we can.
São Miguel is blessed with an array of beautiful beaches so picking favorites is difficult! Nevertheless, here are our top three. On the north coast, Santa Bárbara Beach (Praia de Santa Bárbara) (Spot Azores) is a spectacular beach with mighty surf, making it a great spot for bodyboarding and surf lessons (there’s a surf school nearby where you can hire equipment or book a lesson). On the south coast, Pópulo Beach (Praia do Pópulo) is a darker sand beach with a popular beachfront restaurant called Sunset Beach serving seafood, salads and burgers. Over on the east coast, Lombo Gordo Beach (Praia do Lombo Gordo) is a little off the beaten track but the location is stunning – the beach is almost completely hidden by high cliffs covered in lush vegetation. If you like the sound of any of these beaches, our Regional Guide comes with an interactive map where you can find more information and the precise location of each beach.
If you prefer a deserted stretch of sand, never fear – Sao Miguel has plenty of wild, unspoiled beaches too. They can be difficult to get to, so be prepared to walk or even hike to reach them. On the north coast, Santa Iria Beach (Praia de Santa Iria) is a good surfing beach that can only be reached on foot. Also on the north coast, Viola Beach (Praia da Viola) is a very secluded beach in a rocky bay, that is accessed via a hiking trail. On the south coast, Praia da Amora is a romantic spot backed by dramatic cliffs – but is challenging to get to and barely visible at high tide. On the east coast, Praia do Lombo Gordo is another São Miguel beach that is off-the beaten-path. This one can be reached by car, but only via a steep single-track road.
The Azores is a perfect destination for a family holiday, and one of the reasons for this is the islands’ many accessible, lifeguard-patrolled beaches. On São Miguel, the south coast has the best options. East of Ponta Delgada, Praia do Pópulo slopes gently to the sea and at low tide, has tidal pools for kids to explore. Further east, Água d’Alto Beach (Praia de Água d’Alto) (Spot Azores) is spacious, with a restaurant and convenient facilities that include a car park, showers and toilets. Close to Ribeira Quente, Praia de Fogo (Spot Azores) is the perfect spot for kids to play in the sea, with calm, shallow water that is warmed by underground hot springs.
If you’re staying in Ponta Delgada, you’ll find several beaches which are a short drive from the town. São Roque Beach (Praia de São Roque) (Spot Azores) is a small sheltered beach popular with sunbathers and swimmers, which can be reached on foot in around 45 minutes, or by car in around ten. The next beach as you drive east is Milicias Beach, (Praia das Milicias) (Spot Azores) a popular surf spot which has facilities including lifeguards and a playground. Praia do Pópulo is also relatively close – around a ten-minute drive from Ponta Delgada.
beaches for grabbing a bite to eat
Many São Miguel beaches have places to eat nearby, and some boast inexpensive beachfront restaurants. Praia de Santa Bárbara has a casual café called Tuká Tulá serving seafood and burgers, a beach bar for beers and cocktails, and an Asian restaurant. Praia dos Moinhos (Praia dos Moinhos) (Spot Azores) has a cafe with tables outside overlooking the beach. Água d’Alto Beach (Praia de Agua Alto) (Spot Azores) has a popular beach cafe serving traditional seafood like fried fish and prawns. And as we note above, the Sunset Beach Bar, at Praia do Pópulo, is a popular café.
You can watch the sunset from any beach on São Miguel island, but for the best unobstructed views, head to the east coast. Mosteiros Beach (Praia dos Mosteiros) (Spot Azores), the beach of the pretty town of Mosteiros, is one of the best places to watch the sun go down. About 45 minutes’ drive up the east coast from Ponta Delgada, it has dramatic rock formations in the sea which make for a spectacular sunset view.
to visit São Miguel beaches
isn’t really a bad time to visit the Azores; because of the Gulf Stream, the
weather can be mild all year round. But when should you go if you’re after
quality beach time? Well, July and August are the months when you can expect
the best beach weather. However, these are also the busiest two months of the
year, and you might find many of the beaches crowded. If you can, aim for June
or September instead. If you plan on hiking along the coast, then April, May
and October are also pleasant, slightly cooler months.
Staying Safe at São Miguel Beaches
Beaches in the Azores differ greatly from those in the Caribbean or the Maldives. The formidable Atlantic swell produces crashing waves, strong currents and tides, so to remain safe, you should get familiar with the Portuguese beach safety flags. These include a red flag, which means to stay out of the water; and a green flag, which means it’s okay to swim. Flags also warn of hazards such as jellyfish. You can find a guide to all the beach safety flags here.