Best things to do in Sao Miguel in the Azores

16 Amazing Things to Do in São Miguel, The Azores (+Map)

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Tucked in the gorgeous Azores archipelago of Portugal is its biggest island – São Miguel. This stunning island is known for its pristine nature, volcanic scenery, beaches, rich marine life, waterfalls, and beautiful flowers…

São Miguel’s natural beauty is a major attraction that draws tourists from across the world. The verdant terrain earns the island the nickname of Ilha Verde or Green Island. The pictorial scenery here also boasts dramatic Atlantic coastline and quaint towns. Ponta Delgada, the capital of the island, oozes urban European charm from its balconied mansions and city squares. Apart from its stunning landscape, the island is also famous for its eclectic gastronomy and adrenaline-pumping activities.

If you are wondering what there is to see and do in Sao Miguel, this article will give you a good overview of the very best activities and places to see on the island. From the most spectacular scenery, jaw-dropping viewpoints, to charming little towns, best hikes, hot springs, and more – Sao Miguel has something to offer for every type of traveler.

To put it simply, there are lots of really nice things to do in São Miguel. So whether you are hoping to enjoy a relaxing seaside vacation, go on an adventurous expedition, or both, you’ll find plenty of options. Read on!

 
Sao Miguel Island, the Azores
Sao Miguel Island, the Azores
 

TIP: While still relatively small, Sao Miguel is the only Azores Island where it might make sense to stay at two different locations for sightseeing – east and west. But you can also choose one central location and explore the island from there. Unless you stay in Ponta Delgada and take organized tours everywhere, you’ll also need to rent a car. Here you can find the best deals for car rental. You can find more practical tips at the bottom of this article.

To help you plan your trip and get a better idea of where everything is, we also included a map of the best things to do in Sao Miguel. Find out!

Good to know: Because our own trip to the Azores dates from quite a few years ago, this post was written with the help of my friends Sylvia and Kris from WapitiTravel who recently visited the Azores Islands and agreed to share their best tips with our readers.

How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse to zoom in or out. Click on the icons on the map to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.

 

These are the best things to Do in São Miguel:

1. Sete Cidades Lakes

Lagoa das Sete Cidades in the Western part of the island is one of the must-see places in São Miguel. It is known for the legendary Blue and Green lakes (Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde), two of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal.

There are several breathtaking viewpoints on Sete Cidades to enjoy the unforgettable views of the twin lakes. We recommend you check out at least two of them, Miradouro da Boca do Inferno and Miradouro da Vista Do Rei. More information below.

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno at Sete Cidades - one of the best things to do in Sao Miguel
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno at Sete Cidades
 

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno

Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth) is one of the best viewpoints at Sete Cidades. Perched 1000m above the sea level, it offers a breathtaking view of the two lakes. This is also the only viewpoint that’s not located directly along the road, so you’ll need to make a (small) effort to get there.

The hike to Miradouro Boca do Inferno starts at the small parking area at Miradouro da Lagoa do Canário, about 5-minute drive east from the junction on Route EN9-1A (see map).

There are signposts for Lagoa do Canario and an iron gate to walk through. Reaching the scenic viewpoint takes only 15 minutes from here. Absolutely worth the short hike.

Sete Cidades - must see in Sao Miguel in the Azores
Sete Cidades – Miradouro da Boca do Inferno – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

Miradouro da Vista Do Rei

Another popular viewpoint that tourists root for is Vista Do Rei (see the featured image on top of this article). It is conveniently located just a few steps from Monte Palace Hotel. Vista Do Rei is also the easiest São Miguel attraction to reach. You can drive all the way to the top.

Note that on busy days, parking can be hard to find here. In high season, the best way to avoid parking problems is to arrive before 9 AM.

 

Lagoa de Santiago & more

In addition, Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras offers great views of the two lakes. The nearby Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago is also not to be missed. And even though the scenery of the green Santiago Lake is not comparable to the view over the twin lakes, it’s well worth a quick stop.

Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago in Sao Miguel, the Azores
Miradouro da Lagoa de Santiago
 

2. Whale Watching

The Azores is a great place to see whales! Whale watching is, therefore, a very popular activity in São Miguel. Several tour companies arrange boat tours to the Atlantic Ocean to help you get closer to the wild, marine life.

When you are surrounded by whales, dolphins, and/or turtles all around you, it is easy to understand why whale watching excursions are among the most popular things to do in São Miguel. On some tours, you can even swim with the dolphins! Whether you are a nature lover or an intrepid adventurer, this Azores attraction will never disappoint.

Good to know: Whale watching tours leave from various locations on the island and typically last about 3 hours. It’s worth remembering that there is no guarantee that you will spot a whale. But don’t let that stop you from hopping on the boat. Often, you’ll see dolphins and other marine animals as well.

 
Whale watching is one of the best things to do in Sao Miguel in the Azores
Dolphin in Sao Miguel – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

3. Farol do Arnel

The oldest lighthouse in São Miguel, Farol Ponta do Arnel, is also the oldest lighthouse in the Azores. Arnel Lighthouse started operating in 1876. Today, it stands erect as a symbol of modernization in the county.

Pegged on the Nordeste coastline on the East coast of Sao Miguel, this cliff-hugging landmark is reachable via a steep road known for its beautiful views. This strategic location makes it a brilliant vantage point to enjoy far-reaching views of the ocean, the sunrise, and the sunset.

TIP: Just below the lighthouse is a small port with a small creek behind it. Follow the stream of the waterfall to reach the shore. Lined with small fish boats, it is a serene place to watch the rough surf crash against the rocky cliff. On the way back to the lighthouse, you will get a glimpse of the east coast and yet another brook that runs directly into the ocean.

Farol do Arnel lighthouse - one of the best places to see in Sao Miguel, the Azores
Farol do Arnel lighthouse
 

4. Furnas

Furnas is one of the main towns of Sao Miguel and one of the most popular areas to visit with an organized day tour from Ponta Delgada. It’s just about 45 km/ 40 minutes drive east from the capital city.

This 200-year old tourist destination is home to some of the best places to visit in São Miguel. Below, you can find an overview of the best things to do in Furnas:

Terra Nostra Garden

Located in Furnas Valley, Parque Terra Nostra is a Romantic-style historic garden dating from 1775. Today, the site is home to the historic Terra Nostra Garden Hotel (built in 1935 and recently renovated), botanical gardens, and an inviting thermal spa. Further below, you can find more information about the Terra Nostra Hot Springs. But first, more information about the park.

The park is set in an incredible location, a dormant volcanic crater. The park also boasts its very own microclimate. The temperature here remains mild the whole year round – 10-16°C in winter and 20-25°C in summer.

There are two zones to saunter across: the upper zone with footpaths through dense woods, and the lower zone wedged between the Amarela stream and the Serpentina Lake. The highlights of this historic European garden are the avenues of palm trees and the many thematic gardens.

For several centuries, exploring the Terra Nostra Gardens and swimming in its hot pools has been considered one of the very best things to do in São Miguel. This place is not to be missed when visiting the Azores!

Parque Terra Nostra in Sao Miguel, the Azores
Parque Terra Nostra
 

Lagoa das Furnas

Lagoa das Furnas is one of the three main lakes of São Miguel. It is famous for its hot sand found near the lakeside hot springs and for the Cozido stew. This local dish is slow-cooked in pots in underground ovens.

Lake Furnas may lack the dramatic views of the lakes of Sete Cidades, but it oozes tranquility. There are walking paths and you can also hike all around the lake (an easy flat hike of about 2 hours). You may get lucky and see locals cooking Cozido in the geysers next to the lake.

Caldeiras das Furnas & Fumaroles

Caldeiras das Furnas, aka Caldeiras Vulcânicas are hot springs and mud springs in the same volcanic complex as Furnas lake. They are located closer to the town center.

The Fumaroles are the volcanic holes that were created underground to make the traditional Portuguese stew. You can taste it in the restaurants dotting the village.

Caldeiras Lagoa Das Furnas in Sao Miguel
Caldeiras Lagoa Das Furnas – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

Cozido das Furnas

The Cozido das Furnas is a unique local dish in the Furnas area. It’s cooked for about 5 hours on the hot springs or steaming Fumaroles of Furnas village. You really have to try it when visiting Sao Miguel!

Cozido stew is already quite unique because it’s prepared underground, but it also has a very distinctive taste due to the liquid used to cook it (juices from a mix of ingredients like meat, carrots, kale, Chouriço, and pork).

The best restaurant to try Cozido in Furnas is Restaurante Tonys. Be sure to make advance reservations and mention that you will be having the Cozido.

 

Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias

Situated on Furnas Lake’s south shore, Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias is the 19th-century church. It’s is a beautiful example of neo-Gothic architecture.

Inside the fairytale facade, it boasts wooden décor and Fauve stained-glass windows. Built by José do Canto, botany and literary enthusiast, this little church is all about storybook charm and pictorial setting. There is a small garden and a nice waterfall here as well.

Good to know: You can see the church from the road. It doesn’t require much time to visit it, so make sure to stop when passing by. If you want to take a closer look, there is an entrance fee of 3 EUR. It includes the gardens.

Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitorias, Furnas, Sao Miguel
Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitorias
 

5. Hot Springs of São Miguel

In addition to being a paradise of grass-covered cliffs, floral meadows, and coves, São Miguel is also home to many thermal swimming pools. No trip to Sao Miguel would be complete without going for a swim or a relaxing dip in its hot springs!

Below, you can find more information about the 4 most popular hot springs in Sao Miguel. They are located in three different locations around the island, so you can easily visit a couple of them on different days, in combination with sightseeing in the area. Not to be missed!

TIP: Make sure to pack your swimwear and a quick-drying travel towel when driving around Sao Miguel. That way, you can easily visit a few of the hot pools during your trip without having to plan much in advance.

Terra Nostra Hot Springs

Terra Nostra Hot Springs is located in Furnas (see above). This place is a dream of every bon vivant – relaxing thermal waters surrounded by an exotic garden.

As already mentioned above, the site comprises the historic Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, botanical gardens, and several hot pools. You can soak in the main thermal pool or two smaller secondary pools.

The main pool was built in the 1700s and expanded in 1935. It is filled with unclean-looking brownish water. However, this color has nothing to do with its cleanliness; it is just because of large iron and mineral deposits.

Both pools offer tepid water straggling between 35-40°C (95-105°F). Soaking in the warm water in a tropical setting will soothe your muscles and re-energize your body. The pool is so big that it’s easy to swim around and relax without worrying about the crowds.

Good to know: The garden is open from 10 AM to 6 PM. The entry fee is 8 EUR; half the price for kids under 10. Facilities like towels and lockers are available for rent at an extra cost.

Terra Nostra Hot Springs is one of the best things to do in Sao Miguel
Terra Nostra Hot Springs – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

Poca da Dona Beija

Located a little outside the center of the charming town of Furnas, Poca da Dona Beija is a set of five thermal pools. They all have different water temperatures ranging between 25-39°C (77-102 °F). So no matter your preference, you’ll always find a nice pool perfect for a relaxing soak.

Furthermore, these pools sit in a jungle-like setting. You will completely forget that you’re still within the outskirts of Furnas, making the whole experience even more refreshing.

However, due to its beautiful and quiet location, the pool remains crowded almost all year round. Of all the hot springs of São Miguel, this is among the most popular choices for tourists and locals alike. It’s especially busy during the summer season.

Good to know: Poca da Dona Beija is open daily from 7 AM to 11 PM. The entry for adults is 6 EUR and for children is 4 EUR. Towels and lockers are available at extra cost.

 

Caldeira Velha

Located in the Fogo Volcanic Complex in the center of the island, Caldeira Velha hot springs boast a picturesque setting with a waterfall in the backdrop.

Entering the Caldeira Velha Park is like entering a wild, Jurassic jungle. Its untamed natural beauty elevates the experience of bathing in a natural hot spring. Both thermal pools in the park are stone-walled with dense foliage.

The highlight of the area remains the waterfall pool at the end of the park. This big hot spring stays at a much cooler, but still comfortable temperature of 20-23°C (68-73°F). It is also deeper but less crowded than the hotter and shallower pools.

Good to know: Caldeira Velha is open from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM during winter and from 9 AM to 9 PM during summer (May to September). The entry costs 8 EUR. Parking here is often congested, so you may want to visit early in the morning.

Caldeira Velha hot springs in Sao Miguel, the Azores
Caldeira Velha hot springs
 

Ponta da Ferraria

Ponta Da Ferraria natural swimming pool is a small cove tucked on the western tip of the island. Located right at the beach, this is the most natural hot pool experience in Sao Miguel. This is also the only hot spring in the Sete Cidades volcanic complex.

The water in this thermal pool is heated by the surrounding lava rock cliffs and geothermal natural spring beneath. It is important to be cautious at low tide since certain spots can get super-hot when not mixed with cold water from the sea. The water temperature here typically ranges between a chilly 18°C (64°F) and a more enjoyable 30°C (86°F).

Entry to the ocean is free, making it an excellent option for nature lovers and shoestring travelers.

Good to know: Ponta da Ferraria also has a swimming pool with a spa and a restaurant – Termas da Ferraria. While you can swim for free anytime in the ocean, the spa is open from 11 AM to 7 PM from Tuesday to Sunday and there’s a charge for it.

Ponta da Ferraria, Sao Miguel, the Azores
Ponta da Ferraria
 

6. Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada is the capital city of the Azores and is not to be missed when visiting São Miguel Island. You don’t need much time for the city and can easily stroll through the center and have dinner in town in the evening after visiting the natural attractions of Sao Miguel during the day.

Former fishing village, Ponta Delgada grew in the 17-18th centuries. That’s also when most of its convents and churches were built. It is now quite a bustling city with a nice atmosphere.

Don’t miss Portas da Cidade (the City Gates) and some of its churches (Igreja de São Sebastião, the Igreja de São Pedro, Igreja São José, and the Convent and Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Esperança). Jose do Canto Garden is also nice. Just as Mercado da Graça market. Also Gruta do Carvão is well worth a visit (more info about this lava cave further below).

Best things to do in Sao Miguel - Ponta Delgada
Portas da Cidade in Ponta Delgada
 

7. Ponta do Sossego Viewpoint and Gardens

Spanned across 13,000m2 in a quiet valley of Nordeste, Ponta Do Sossego is a stunning lookout point along the Eastern coast of Sao Miguel. This is a great place to enjoy unhindered views of the ocean. You can admire the scenery from three different views. But there is more to Ponta do Sossego than just the views; there is also a beautiful garden here.

The expansive green terrain of this cliff-top garden is distributed in terraces perched at different heights. Carefully manicured gardens, well-trimmed shrubs, and mossy grounds look even more beautiful in combination with unfettered panoramas of the Atlantic.

This paradisiac site includes a variety of beautiful flowers like hydrangeas, adorable cats, pleasant picnic spots, and laybys with views. Come early in the morning to hear the chirping of the birds.

Ponta Do Sossego is a locals’ favorite and a popular bbq spot. So it can get busy during weekends. However, the parking area is quite large, so there should be no problem securing a place for your car.

Ponta do Sossego Viewpoint - one of the best things to do in Sao Miguel in Azores, Portugal
Ponta do Sossego
 

8. Ponta da Madrugada Viewpoint

Located just 5-minute-drive from Ponta Do Sossego, on the eastern tip of the island, Ponta da Madrugada is yet another jaw-dropping viewpoint.

While most tourists and locals go to the above-mentioned Ponta do Sossego for better views and more beautiful gardens, the Viewpoint of Ponta da Madrugada offers similar views and fewer crowds. Furthermore, there are bathroom facilities here and also picnic tables made of volcanic rock.

Compared to the well-trimmed grasslands of the Sossego, Madrugada has more forest feeling with wild trees, untrimmed shrubs, and rugged landscape. Both places are home to many laid-back feral cats who may want to share your picnic…

Also known as the Day-Break Side of the island, this is also a great lookout to watch the sunrise in Sao Miguel. Keen photographers would want to come back during dusk to shoot sunset as well.

Ponta da Madrugada in Sao Miguel
Ponta da Madrugada
 

9. Lagoa do Fogo

Located in the heart of the island, Lagoa do Fogo is among the most picturesque lakes in São Miguel. Set within the Água de Pau Massif stratovolcano, it’s a jaw-dropping natural wonder.

This lake is a vivid mixture of bright-green pasture-ringed mountains and sapphire waters set against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. This nature reserve is also a hub for various endemic plants and a variety of birds. The cliffs are ringed with hiking trails, allowing wayfarers to wander through the area’s dense foliage.

You can enjoy the Atlantic-reaching views from the 700 meters-high viewpoint, Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo. From here you can also descend to the lake; it takes about 30 minutes. Hikers can also venture down via the Praia – Lagoa do Fogo trail to the shore of this crater lake.

Lagoa do Fogo - one of the most beautiful lakes on Sao Miguel island in the Azores
Lagoa do Fogo – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

10. Nossa Senhora da Paz Chapel

Nossa Senhora da Paz (Our Lady of Peace Chapel) is a mix of impressive, glorious architecture and a strategic location offering a great vantage point over Vila Franca do Campo town and the Atlantic Ocean. This legendary landmark of São Miguel is pegged on a steep slope of the southern coast of the island.

According to folklore, the church was built in 1764 when a group of shepherds saw an image of the Virgin Mary in the cave where the edifice is now located.

The unique whitewashed facade sets it apart from all historic European churches on the island. Colorful hydrangeas line this pristine architecture to create an even lovelier picture.

However, there’s more to the church than what’s inside of it. Nestled on a ridge that lords the town and set in a verdant scenery of rolling hills, this São Miguel point of interest also offers dumbfounding views of the countryside.

Nossa Senhora da Paz - Our Lady of Peace Chapel in Sao Miguel
Nossa Senhora da Paz
 

11. Gorreana Tea Plantation

There is no shortage of natural attractions in São Miguel. One such green retreat on the island is the family-run, 19th-century Plantacoes de Cha Gorreana. It’s located about 25 km from Lagoa do Fogo, in the Ribeira Grande municipality. Gorreana Tea Plantation is the oldest and currently one of only a handful of tea plantations remaining in Europe.

Sauntering in the estate is a serene experience and a great thing to do along the north coast of São Miguel. Teetotalers and greenery-lovers will love to ramble around in the green tea fields. Self-guided factory tours help visitors learn about the routine of processing the tea. The workers are very friendly and even try to make time to answer questions of curious travelers.

Good to know: There’s a café on-site where you can enjoy freshly-brewed tea. There is also a gift shop where you can buy tea and souvenirs. The factory is open daily, from 9 AM to 6 PM. More information on their website.

Gorreana Tea Plantation - one of the best places to visit in Sao Miguel
Gorreana Tea Plantation
Cha Gorreana tea plantation in Sao Miguel, the Azores
Cha Gorreana – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

12. Gruta do Carvão

Gruta do Carvão or Grotto of Coal is a lava cave complex. This is one of the most unusual sights and a very popular place to visit in Ponta Delgado. Since it’s indoors, it’s also a good choice when looking for things to do in Sao Miguel when it rains.

The Gruta is located on the outskirts of Ponta Delgada. It is the largest lava tube on the lush island that extends for 1,650 meters. Older documents and fieldwork suggest that the tunnel could originally have been as long as 5 km. According to the studies, streams and rivers of lava once flowed through this underground grotto.

This great geographical aspect of São Miguel also boasts unique structures such as the gas bubbles and dramatic stalactites, some with solidified lava drops.

Practical information: Gruta do Carvão lava caves can only be visited with a guide. They run several short tours a day, but it’s best to book in advance. If you have more time and want to explore deeper, there are longer tours available as well (these must be booked upfront). More information on their website.

Gruta do Carvao - one of the best things to do in Ponta Delgada
Gruta do Carvão – Photo by Antonio Fiol/Flickr
 

13. Best Beaches in São Miguel

No list of the best things to do in Sao Miguel would be complete without mentioning its beaches. They typically span along the north and south coasts.

The north coast experiences a powerful swell and is ideal for surfing and bodyboarding. Being milder, the south coast is perfect for gentle swims and is more loved by families.

São Miguel is a cluster of more than 20 volcanic, black sand beaches of different sizes. Of those 20, we selected 4 best beaches in São Miguel that are worth visiting the most. Take a look!

Praia dos Mosteiros

Perhaps, there is no better sunset beach on the island than Mosteiros Beach, located in the small Mosteiros town, about 45-minute-drive northwest from Ponta Delgada.

Praia dos Mosteiros is very picturesque, with dramatic rock formations that emerge from the ocean. Apart from its unhindered views of the sunset and the ocean, the beach is also famous for its super-dark black volcanic sand. The stunning landscape here is a great backdrop for photographs!

Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara

The beaches of Azores differ greatly from being very mild to mighty. Praia de Santa Barbara falls in the latter category. With its enormous surfs, this is a great Sao Miguel beach for surfers and bodyboarders. At the beach, there is a surf school where you can rent equipment or get surfing lessons.

Praia de Santa Barbara is also among the best beaches of São Miguel where you can go for a long walk, enjoy the scenery, or simply grab a bite at its Tuká Tulá café. There’s also a beach bar and an Asian restaurant.

Praia De Santa Barbara in Sao Miguel
Praia De Santa Barbara – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

Praia de Água D’Alto

Água D’Alto Beach is also brimming with gastronomical options, including a popular beach café with a surf-n-turf menu. It is also among the best family-friendly beaches in the Azores with facilities like showers, toilets, and a big car parking.

Being a spacious stretch of sand, Praia de Agua D’alto is a great beach for families with young children. Plenty of space to run around and build sandcastles.

Enclosed by high rocky cliffs, the water here stays calm and perfect for swimming. However, note that the beach tends to get busy during the summer, resulting in limited vacant places in the parking lot.

Praia do Fogo

Fogo Beach is located 7 km south of Furnas village. Wrapped in tree-cloaked mountains, this beautiful beach boasts a serene setting perfect for picnicking or spending a leisurely day. If you are hoping to go on long swims, deep diving, or tanning, then look no further than Praia do Fogo.

Travelers with kids will love this beach too. With calm and shallow waters, this is among the most kid-safe beaches in the Azores. Plus, the water here is lukewarm because of the underground hot springs.

Praia do Fogo in Ribeira Quente in Sao Miguel, the Azores
Praia do Fogo in Ribeira Quente – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

14. Islet of Vila Franca do Campo

If you are looking for a more unique beach experience and want to see some jaw-dropping scenery, you may want to visit the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo. Located just off the south shore of Sao Miguel, it is like no other beach in the Azores! That’s also why we listed it separately – because it’s well worth a visit even if you’re not a beach lover.

Created by a volcanic eruption of an old underwater volcano, Islet of Vila Franca do Campo is a very unique place, one-of-a-kind landscape. The islet is set in a perfectly-circular crater, surrounded by dramatic cliffs and sapphire water of the ocean.

In addition to its unique landscape, Vila Franca Islet is also known for its variety of bird species, rich marine life, and towering cliffs with thick endemic vegetation. Amid these cliffs is calm water perfect for leisurely swimming, cliff diving, and recreational snorkeling.

The islet was made popular when the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Championship was held here. Today, it is a bustling bolthole that is busy all year round.

TIP: You can visit this beautiful beach in combination with this whale watching tour from Ponta Delgada.

Islet Vila Franca do Campo in Sao Miguel Azores
Islet Vila Franca do Campo – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

15. Hiking in São Miguel

Sao Miguel is called the ‘Green Island’ because of its lush mountainous landscape. Hiking is, therefore, one of the best outdoor activities in São Miguel.

Every trail flaunts patches of trees, patchwork fields, valleys of streams, and/or occasional waterfalls. Make your hiking adventure unforgettable by taking at least one of the following trails:

Praia – Lagoa do Fogo Hike

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Distance: 11 km

The Lagoa do Fogo, or Lake of Fire, trail (PRC2SMI) is an 11km linear roundtrip trail that takes you to the shore of the eponymous crater lake.

Good to know: Lagoa do Fogo is located in the center of the island, but the trailhead of this hike can be found along the south coast. We indicated it on our map at the top of the article.

The trail begins on a dirt road. It then winds through farming lands, pastures, ruins of an ancient fiber-producing factory, and traverses a dam to enter the valley of Ribeira da Praia.

Faial da Terra – Salto do Prego

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Distance: 4.5 km

The Salto do Prego (PRC9SMI) is a 4.5km circular hiking trail that starts near the bus stop of Faial da Terra, located on the southeastern side of the island.

Along the trail, you will come across beautiful orchards, thick vegetation, hamlets, small family farms, and a bridge over a stream that takes you to the base of the Salto do Prego waterfall (more info below).

Faial da Terra Salto do Prego hiking trail
Faial da Terra – Salto do Prego hiking trail – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

16. Waterfalls

If you are love waterfalls, São Miguel will not disappoint. Here are some of the most beautiful waterfalls to check out on the island:

Salto do Cabrito Waterfall

Streaming in Ribeira Grande, 20km northwest from Ponta Delgada, Salto do Cabrito embellishes the hiking trail PRC29SMI. The road to Salto do Cabrito is a bit bumpy but well worth it.

Next to the waterfall, there are stairs leading to a metal path on a water pipe. This bridge can feel scary for those with a fear of heights but too tempting for thrill-seekers.

Salto do Cabrito waterfall in Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal
Salto do Cabrito waterfall – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

Salto do Prego Waterfall

Salto do Prego is found on the Faial da Terra – Salto do Prego hiking trail (mentioned higher above). The trail to the waterfall is steep but relatively easy. It’s a pleasant hike of 45-60 min one way and full of stunning views.

The waterfall itself is the most beautiful on the island. It boasts eye-popping hues of turquoise, green, and blue. You can plunge in its cold water or follow the stream to reach the river.

Waterfalls in Parque Natural dos Caldeirões

Located on the north coast, Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões is a small beautifully maintained park that is home to an old water mill and two magnificent waterfalls. The falls are just 600 m apart and easy to reach via well-kept walking paths.

The first waterfall is the main attraction that gushes its way down from a tree-clung cliff. The second one is housed in a meadow-like setting, that is different but equally picturesque.

The park is free to visit. There are a little gift shop and a small café here as well.

Cascata Ribeira dos Caldeiroes waterfall in the Azores
Waterfall at Ribeira dos Caldeirões – Photo by WapitiTravel
 

Practical Tips for Visiting São Miguel

How much time do you need?

São Miguel is the biggest island in the Azores with a long list of really nice places to visit. With so many extraordinary things to do in São Miguel, it is best to plan enough time on the island. As a minimum, you need 3-4 days in Sao Miguel. That will give you just enough time to see all the ‘musts’.

However, we suggest staying for at least a week in Sao Miguel to explore both, Eastern as well as Western sides of the island. That way, you will have 3 days to spread equally about both sides of the island and still be left with one day to ensure laid-back arrival and relaxed departure.

Guide to Sao Miguel island in the Azores
Sao Miguel coastline
 

Where to stay

Where to stay in São Miguel depends on how much time you have, whether you are planning to rent a car, and if you prefer to stay in one place or choose two different bases for exploring the island.

With great bus facilities, taxis, and rental cars on the island, you might stay in one place and make day trips from there. It will result in some extra travel time (getting across the island takes approximately one hour), but it will save you from having to pack and relocate. If you have a car, you can choose any centrally located accommodation (e.g. in Lagoa, or Água de Pau/Caloura in the south). If you are not renting a car or want to take many tours, then Ponta Delgada is the best place to be.

If you have about a week and prefer to stay in two different locations, we suggest spending 3-4 days in the east, and 3-4 days in the west. For the eastern side, we recommend Furnas (Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is a great choice there). Whereas Ponta Delgada town is a good base for the western part.

Our personal experience: When we first visited the Azores, we spent 5 nights on Sao Miguel island and stayed at Caloura Hotel Resort. It’s located right in the middle of the island, along the south coast. It was a great base for exploring the island and the sea views from the hotel are amazing, especially at sunset.

View at Caloura Hotel Resort - a great place to stay in Sao Miguel
Sunset view at Caloura Hotel Resort
 

Is São Miguel worth it?

São Miguel is one of the most beautiful islands to visit in the Azores and yes, it’s absolutely worth a trip! It has a great mix of adventurous activities like hiking and whale watching, relaxing beaches, thermal pools, and stunning pristine nature. Dotted with specialty local eateries, one-of-a-kind European charm, and centuries-old landmarks, this stunning island offers a lot to see and do.

Besides the natural essence, São Miguel also boasts modern facilities like treatment-laden spas, picnic facilities and public bathrooms at viewpoints, housed baths on beaches, and beautiful resorts in romantic-style gardens.

In a nutshell, this Atlantic-locked paradise is a lovely vacation spot for all kinds of travelers. Its unique ability to turn from romantic to adventurous and vice versa makes Sao Miguel a perfect vacation spot for honeymooners, thrill-chasers, backpackers, and holidaymakers alike. You’ll find plenty of great things to do in São Miguel and only wish you had stayed longer…

Hydrangeas on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores
Hydrangeas on Sao Miguel Island
 

So, this is our guide to the very best things to do in Sao Miguel. Just compiling this article and going through the pictures of our trip, I feel very tempted to go back and explore deeper. So I hope that you feel the same way and that our tips will help you to have a truly memorable trip to Sao Miguel in the Azores.

If you are also planning to visit other places in Portugal during this trip, check out our Portugal travel guide. Alternatively, take a look at the small selection of articles highlighted below.

More tips for your trip to Portugal:

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Best things to do in Sao Miguel, the Azores, Portugal
What to see and do in Sao Miguel, Azores
 

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