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. The food and wine are incredible (and affordable!). Enjoy the Gulf Stream climate where daily highs range between the 50sF and 80sF all year round. And did we mention the islands are within easy reach? Only a 4.5 hour flight from Boston.

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Which is the Best Azores Island for You?

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.  But we’ve described them all below, so you can find the best Azores island for you!

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Maps of the Azores Islands

Sao Miguel

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 heart’s content. You’ll also find Ponta Delgada, the biggest city in the Azores (60,000) with many tasty restaurants, some nightlife, museums, and winding streets. Sao Miguel is also the Azores Island with the most beaches.  If you have less than a week, São Miguel is the best Azores island for you.  It has the most direct flights, there’s plenty to do, and you won’t waste time traveling between islands (or risk an inter-island cancelled flight, which happens often!). 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, the best islands in the Azores for you might be a combination of Faial, Sao Jorge and Pico, because they are all close together. But these are not the best Azores islands for beaches (only Faial has 2 or hot springs).

Pico

Pico is the second largest island and 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. So it’s the best island in the Azores if you want more foodie options and for wine tasting, its lava shores, and to hike Mt. Pico if the weather cooperates. But don’t go 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.

Faial

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 but there’s not a lot (or none, depending on your definition) of luxury options. There’s more traditional food options compared to Pico and a little more nightlife (although still not a ton).  The island boasts awesome hikes and has a breathtaking caldera. There are two beaches, one which is walking distance from town.

Sao Jorge

Sao Jorge is a long, narrow, cliff-lined island that is best known for its cheese.  It’s also the least populated of the three islands (6,000), has the fewest ferries/flights/lodging options, and is most off the beaten path.  You’ll find more traditional restaurants and no beaches, but plenty of hiking, often up or down the Sao Jorge’s steep cliffs.

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

Terceira

Terceira is the third largest island but second most populated (60,000).  Terceira is also the Best Azores Island for culture, and boasts many festivals over the summer.  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.

Graciosa, Corvo, Flores and Santa Maria

Graciosa, Corvo, Flores and Santa Maria are smaller, less populated, harder to reach, and less visited islands.  So they are best island in the Azores if you want to go off the beaten path, head to one of them. Graciosa is more flat than the other islands 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.  Santa Maria also has a famous blues festival in the summer.

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 neighbors.

Is Sao Miguel the Best Azores Island for You?

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Sao Miguel is the best Azores island for you if you’re visiting the Azores for the first time, if you don’t have time to fly to other islands, 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, but see our guide, The 22 Best Villas in the Azores to learn more.

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.

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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 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 Faial and Pico the Best Azores islands for you? 

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Faial is the best Azores island if you love boats, want a little more off the beaten path, and you prefer that hotels and restaurants to be concentrated together.

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 at Night on Faial Island? 

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.

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View of Horta and Capelinhos Volcano, Faial Island

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.

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 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.

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Vineyards and palm trees on Pico Island in the Azores

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 in the Azores?

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!

There are direct flights from Sao Miguel to Boston every day in the summer and less frequently in the winter (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.

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? 

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.