This detailed guide will help you decide which of the 9 islands is the best Azores island for you. We compare lodgings, activities, food and nightlife on each island. Because, every island is different, and you should find the best Azores island that matches your unique travel goals!

So before deciding on the best Azores island, you should know what Azores have to offer – a lot! Visit the islands for spectacular views. Wildflowers grow everywhere. There are scenic, well-marked hiking trails and amazing hot springs for soaking. Also, the food and wine are incredible (and affordable!). Enjoy the Gulf Stream climate where daily highs range between the 50s°F and 70s°F all year round. And did we mention the islands are within easy reach? Only a 4.5 hour flight from Boston once flights start back up after COVID travel bans!


Azores Islands Overview

Before jumping into the pros and cons of each island, and our “best of” lists, we wanted to give an overview of each island. 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). Each island is distinct and has it’s own flavor. And spoiler alert, there is no “best” Azores island, they are all awesome.  The Azores are also a great socially distanced vacation option.  We’ve described them briefly below, and then go into more detailed below. So you can find the best Azores island for you!

Maps of the Azores Islands

The Eastern Islands: Sao Miguel and Santa Maria Island

Sao Miguel is one of the most eastern Azorean islands. It’s also the biggest (40 miles x 9 miles) and most populated (140,000) Azores island. Sao Miguel is known for its spectacular crater lakes, many hot springs and beaches. You’ll also find Ponta Delgada, the biggest city in the Azores (60,000) with many tasty restaurants, some nightlife, museums, and winding streets.

Santa Maria is an eastern Azores island nearest Sao Miguel (about 55 miles). It is the third smallest with a surface area of 38 sq miles (97 km2) and a population of 5,500. Santa Maria is the most southern Azores island, so it’s the warmest and sunniest, and one of the few islands with white sandy beaches.

South Central Islands: Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge Islands

Faial, Sao Jorge and Pico make up a central grouping of Azores islands. You can easily get between these islands with a less than an hour ferry ride. Pico and Sao Jorge are about 11 miles apart, Pico and Faial are about 4.5 miles apart and Sao Jorge and Pico are about 16 miles apart.

Pico is the second largest island with a surface area of 167 square miles (433 km2). Pico is home to 15,000 inhabitants. It’s known for the 7,713 ft volcano that dominates its skyline and a crazy landscape of crisscrossing stone wall vineyards

Faial is the fourth largest island (surface area of 67 sq. miles or 173 km2 )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.

Sao Jorge is a long, narrow, cliff-lined island that has a surface area of 95 sq. miles (246 km2) and known for its cheese. It’s the least populated of the three islands (6,000) and has the fewest ferries/flights/lodging options, so it’s most off the beaten path.

North Central Islands: Terceira and Graciosa Island

Terceira is the third largest island (148 sq. miles/382 km2) and the second most populated (60,000). Terceira is also known for its lava caves and has a few direct flights from the U.S., which makes it an easy stopover.

Graciosa is a Central Azores island that’s about 31 miles from Terceira island and has a surface area of about 24 square miles (61 km2). Graciosa is more flat than the other islands and is agriculturally focused.

Western Azores islands: Corvo and Flores

Flores and Corvo are the western most Azores islands and are about 15 miles apart. Corvo is the smallest island (surface area of 7 sq. miles/17.5 Km2) with the fewest inhabitants (only 400!).  It’s known for its bird watching and because it’s so remote, much of the island’s traditions have been preserved.

Flores is the most tropical of the Azores island with even greener and lush fauna and more frequent waterfalls than its neighbors. Flores has a surface area of 55 square miles/143 Km and about 4000 inhabitants.

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

The “Best of” List for the Azores Islands

If you’re looking for something in particular, these lists will help you decide on the best Azores island for you.

Best Azores Island for Beaches

If you’re looking purely for numbers, then Sao Miguel is the best Azores island for beaches, because  it has 20 plus beaches. But if you’re looking for white sand beaches, then Santa Maria Island should be your top choice. Finally, if you won’t have a car, then Faial and Terceira are great options. On Faial,Praia do Porto Pim is an easy walk from Horta center. On Terceira, the town of Praia da Vitória has a beach close to the marina, so you can have access to beach and restaurants! For the full breakdown of Azores beaches, head here.

Best Azores Island for Hot Springs

There’s a clear winner here. Sao Miguel, hands down has the overwhelming majority of Azores hot springs. So, if you’re heading to Sao Miguel, know which of the eight hot springs to visit!

Best Azores Island for Your First Visit to the Azores

Our advice is typically to visit Sao Miguel if you’re a first time visitor to the Azores. In part, because most international flights fly into Sao Miguel, so you’re missing out on an easy opportunity if you don’t stop off for a visit. Or if you only have a long weekend, it’s usually the most safe option. That’s because inter-island flights are notorious for being delayed or canceled. Sao Miguel also has the most sights and activities, so you can easily spend a week there and not get to everything.

Best Azores Island for Hiking

Again, if you’re purely going to for quantity, Sao Miguel has the most hikes than any other Azores island. Sao Miguel is also the best Azores island for hiking crater lakes, because you have 3 amazing options. But if you want to get off the beaten path and find more difficult hikes, Sao George should be at the top of your list for hiking. Get the full breakdown of Azores hiking here.

Fenais da Ajuda- Lomba de Sao Pedro-Hike-Sao-Miguel-Azores
Secret waterfall on a Sao Miguel hike

Best Azores Islands if you Want to Visit More Than One Island

The best group of Azores islands to visit together are Pico, Faial and Sao George. You can travel between any two of these three islands by ferry in under an hour. So, you could decide to stay on one island and do day trips to the other islands, or spend a few nights on each island. The three islands also have very different feels. Head to Pico for the food and wine. Faial should be your top choice if you’re into boats. And Sao George is a favorite if you want to get more off the beaten path and/or your a cheese lover.

Best Azores Island for Restaurants and Night Life

Sao Miguel undoubtedly has the most restaurants and night life of any Azores island. Although every island has amazing traditional Portuguese food, Sao Miguel has really stepped up its game in terms of inventive cuisine. Pico island is your next best bet if you’re a foodie and want more creative cuisine.  If you want nightlife, Faial is the Best Azores island after Sao Miguel. Unlike other islands where lodging and restaurants are more spread out, everything is largely centered in Horta, Faial’s biggest city. Don’t miss the famous nautical themed Peter’s Cafe.

Best Azores Island for Outdoor Activities

All the Azores Islands have amazing outdoor activities, which makes them a great socially distanced destination.  But Sao Miguel has the most variety. In addition to amazing hikes, on Sao Miguel island, try kayaking, biking, climbing, canyoning, horseback riding, paragliding, whale watching and golfing.

Best Azores Island for Wine Enthusiasts

All of the Azores islands are great for delicious low cost Portuguese wines. But if you want to actually visit a vineyard, then Pico and Sao Miguel island are your only choices. Pico is best known for wines. Wine production began in the 1500s and peaked in the 1800s. Most of the grapes died . But wine production is making a comeback and the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture were named a UNESCO World Heritage site.Sao Miguel also has vineyards, and you can actually tour the Quinta da Jardinete vineyard.

Is Sao Miguel the Best Azores Island for You?

Sao Miguel is the best Azores island if you’re visiting the Azores for the first time. If you don’t have time to fly to other islands, Sao Miguel is also a good choice.  Finally, Sao Miguel should be your choice if you want to eat at the best and most varied restaurants or you’re interested in some form of nightlife. Sao Miguel also has the best selection of luxury villas in the Azores. See our guide, The 22 Best Villas in the Azores to learn more.


Things to do on Sao Miguel if it’s the Best Azores Island for You

Because it’s the largest island, Sao Miguel has the most sights, hiking trails, vendors and activities. Our  three best days are as follows. First Day: Sete Cidades and Ponta da Ferraria if you time it right. Second Day: Lagoa do Fogo (plus Caldeira Velha if it’s cool or Santa Barbara Beach if it’s hot). Third Day: Furnas and the tea plantations if it’s cool or the southeast coast if it’s warm.

Where to Stay on Sao Miguel?

Ponta Delgada is the vibrant center of Sao Miguel.  Stay at least a couple nights in Ponta Delgada if you want to be near restaurants and nightlife.  If you’re going for more than a long weekend in the winter, stay 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.  Or stay near a beach in the summer.

Just note that it’s significantly busier, so expect higher rates and book a few months in advance for the best selection. Check out our more detailed guide on where to stay on Sao Miguel or our guide to luxury accommodations

*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 room at this large design hotel with a responsive 24 hour front desk.

Grand Hotel ($$$) Having recently undergone a full refurbishment, the Grand Hotel is cozy, filled with historical maritime pieces, and colored in hues of gold and olive green.  The indoor pool is tranquil and a great spot to relax. The indoor pool space is quiet and the walls are lined with wood (almost like a sauna).

Terra Nostra Garden Hotel ($$$) An elegant hotel in Furnas with an art deco 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 the pool, take a yoga class and eat a delicious locally sourced meal.

Azores Luxury Rentals Newly renovated luxury apartments steps from the city center and amazing restaurants. Enjoy high ceilings, local handmade tiles and furniture, volcanic arches and an an amazing garden filled with avocado, fig, and guava trees. Full disclosure: these apartments are owned by Travel Honey co-founder.

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

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

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 you’ll find tasty food throughout the island.  At most places, you’ll need reservations for dinner during the summer or if it’s the weekend.  Check out the Travel Honey map included with the Sao Miguel Itinerary to see where the restaurants are located and additional suggestions. 

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

Ponta Delgada

Otaka Asian inspired restaurant with emphasis on seafood (solid selection of sashimi) in city center, Ponta Delgada. Order the tasting menu, dessert is divine.

Tasquinha Vieira Modern dishes in minimalistic interior in Ponta Delgada. Order the cheese plate while you enjoy the view into the kitchen. Legendary risottos and steaks.

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

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

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

Around Sao Miguel Island

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

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

Quinta dos Sabores Restaurant  Artisanal culinary experience on a farm north of Ponta Delgada. Sit down for the prix fixe menu focused on local, seasonal ingredients.

Bar Caloura One of the best places to get seafood on the island and oh the ocean views! Rich cakes and fish that is still flapping. Located on Sao Miguel’s south coast.

Where to go at Night in Sao Miguel

If you want to go out, make sure you’re in Ponta Delgada on a weekend or before a holiday.  Things don’t get started 12am.   

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

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

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

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

Are Pico, Faial and Sao George the Best Azores island for you? 

The central islands of Pico, Faial, and Sao George are the Best Azores islands to visit if you want to visit more than one island but you don’t have a lot of time.  You can travel between islands on a ferry that lasts less than an hour.


Is Faial the best Azores island for You?

Since Faial is a common pit stop for those crossing the Atlantic, it’s the best Azores island if you love boats. The harbor In Horta is the hub of the island and the restaurants and hotels are more concentrated in one area than on Pico or Sao Jorge. So it’s one of the better islands if you want to be able to walk to a variety of restaurants.

Faial island also boasts awesome hikes and has a breathtaking caldera. Finally, there are two great beaches options. One of which, Praia Porto Mim, is walking distance from town.

View of Horta and Capelinhos Volcano, Faial Island

Where to Stay on Faial Island? 

The hotel options in Faial are not super spectacular but we’ve listed some decent options. They are all near the harbor so walkable to all restaurants and nightlife.

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

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

Where to Eat and Go Out on Faial Island if it’s the best Azores island for you? 

The food in Faial is mostly traditional Portuguese with an emphasis on fresh seafood. There’s often music on the weekends, 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.  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 everything.

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

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

Is Pico the best Azores Island for you?

Pico is the best Azores island if you’re interested in climbing Mt. Pico, you’re more of a foodie or you prefer standalone more resort-like accommodations. But don’t go to Pico Island if you’re looking for a beach. There is one tiny beach, but you can enjoy some awesome salt water swimming pools built into the ocean. Accommodations are more spread out and there are a number of charming resorts with restaurants onsite. Check out the Travel Honey Pico Itinerary for more details.

Vineyards and palm trees on Pico Island in the Azores

Where to Stay on Pico Island

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. There is 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 on Pico Island?

 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 fresh dishes.

Ancoradouro ($$) The best prawns on the island. Water-views 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.

Is Sao Jorge the best Azores Island for You?

Sao Jorge is the Best Azores island for you if you want to get off the beaten path, but still have some decent decent accommodation options. You’ll find more traditional restaurants and no beaches, but plenty of hiking, often up or down the Sao Jorge’s steep cliffs. So it’s also one of the best Azores islands for more advanced hikers.

Sao Jorge’s biggest town is Velas. In Velas, you’ll find the biggest selection of accommodations and restaurants. But unlike in Faial, the majority of Sao Jorge’s hotels and accommodations are distributed throughout the island.

Where to Stay on Sao Jorge Island

Sao Jorge is not the best Azores island for luxury accommodations.There is only one traditional hotel on Sao Jorge island. It’s simple and clean, but not much to write home about. So we suggest you try these other options, which offer more thoughtful touches and higher quality lodging.

Quinta da Magnolia ($$) The closest to luxury resort you’ll find on Sao Jorge. This old Quinta has a lovely stone facade. Enjoy amazing views from the pool and a tasty breakfast.

Terr’Alta Vista ($$)A one bedroom house on the northeast coast of Sao Jorge. You’ll find a simple but stylish interior and a spectacular view.

Hotel os Moinhos ($$) A charming resort in an old stone facade Quinta. There are great views of the pool and it’s one of the few accommodation options with a restaurant on site (see Fornos de Lava below)

Intact Farm Resort ($) A small resort with cozy wooden bungalows with amazing views. A little east of Velas. The furnishings are basic, but large windows and lovely decks facing the ocean make up for it

Where to Eat on Sao Jorge Island

Restaurants on Sao Jorge island largely serve traditional Portuguese food.  And like most Azores Islands, Sao Jorge offers amazing beef and sea food. But Sao Jorge is the Azores island best known for its cheeses and clams. We’ve listed our favorite restaurants here.

Fornos de Lava ($$) A little pricier than most restaurants on Sao Jorge. But the amazing view, lovely ambiance and more creative food options make it worth the added expense. Diners can choose from a selection of sea food, meat and vegetarian options. But if you want something unique for the Azores, try their homemade sausage.

O Almicar ($-$$) Come for the amazing view and tasty clams. Service can be so so.

Cafe Nunes ($) Drink coffee from coffee beans grown on site. Claiming to be the only coffee plantation in Europe, this unique and friendly cafe is a fun experience. The coffee is tasty and they also offer light snacks.

Sao-jorge-Azores-Cliffs - 1
The steep cliffs of Sao Jorge island

Is Terceira the best Azores Island for You?

Terceira is known as the Best Azores Island for culture, and boasts many festivals over the summer. Check out our month-to-month comparison, which includes a summary of festivals and holidays each month in the Azores.

Terceira is also known for its lava caves and has a few direct flights from the U.S., which makes it an easy stopover.  Terceira has two beaches, including one in Angra do Heroísmo, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Is Graciosa, Corvo, Flores or Santa Maria the Best Azores Islands for You?

Graciosa, Corvo, Flores and Santa Maria are smaller, less populated, harder to reach, and less visited islands.  So all four of these islands are the best islands in the Azores if you want to go off the beaten path.

Is Graciosa the Best Azores Island for You?

Graciosa is the flattest of the Azores islands, so it’s the best island if you want to hike without hills! It also has a coastline that is conducive to diving. Including, interesting under water terrain and an abundance of marine life. You can also enjoy two small beaches.

Is Santa Maria the Best Azores Island for You?

Santa Maria is the third smallest and most southern island, so it’s the warmest and sunniest, and one of the few islands with white sandy beaches.  Santa Maria also has a famous blues festival in the summer.

Is Corvo the best Azores island for You?

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 island’s traditions have been preserved.

Is Flores the Best Azores Island for You?

Flores looks the most like a tropical island with even greener and lush fauna and more frequent waterfalls than its neighbors.

Best Instagram Accounts for the Best Azores Island?

Gorgeous shots of the islands @discover_azores

Sky high views of the islands @iloveazores

How to Arrive to Your Best Azores Island?

Now that you’ve decided the best Azores Island for you, how do you get there?! International flights 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.  Be prepared.  UPDATE: Direct TAP flights start summer 2020 from Boston!

Before Covid, direct flights flew from Sao Miguel to Boston every day in the summer and less frequently in the winter. It was 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).  UPDATE: Azores Airlines has begun offering a free layover in the Azores on flights from the U.S. to Europe for up to 7 Days. Read more here.

The most frequent inter-island flights are from Sao Miguel to Faial, Pico and Terceira.  There are fewer flights to Sao Jorge and even fewer to the remaining islands. You can also get between islands by ferry.  The ferries from Sao Miguel to the other islands are long (4-14 hours) and typically run 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 Your Best Azores Island? 

Regardless of the Azores Island that you choose, we recommend renting a car in the Azores.  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.  We’ve had great experiences with Azores Easy Rent, which has a very customer centric approach.

There are public buses, but their schedules are limited, erratic and often not on time.  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.

Need to Work While in the Azores?

Hopefully you’re able to get off the clock on your visit to the Azores, but if you can’t, check out unOffice. A cool co-working space in Ponta Delgada on São Miguel island.