Have you been to the Azores? Do you know where they are located?
To be honest, I had no clue about the Azores prior to us moving to Portugal. Boy did that change quickly! I was enamored with how our Portuguese friends were going on about the Azores islands as if it were the 9th wonder of the world. “Endless Nature,” “Incredible Waterfalls,” "The most beautiful beaches you’ll see!” “It’s like being in Ireland but on a beautiful swimmable beach!” “It’s like the European Hawaii” - these were just some of the phrases we heard from our friends when asking them: “What is so special about Azores?” Needless to say, we wanted to discover the Azores Islands ASAP!
So, then, what is so special about the Azores? And, what exactly are the Azores?
The Azores are made up of of nine islands. There is rich history in the Azores dating back to the first settlement in 1444. The first one to be discovered was Santa Maria in 1432. Next was Sao Miguel - the largest of the nine, then Terceira (meaning third), then the central group of islands were found; Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, and Faial. And finally the western two islands of Corvo and Flores were sighted in 1452. Many of the people who live there have been there for generations, some have never left the island, while some have chosen to settle there for a simpler life.
The island we chose to visit is Sao Miguel. To say it has endless nature is extremely correct! It’s known for its volcanic scenery, flora and rich marine life, including whales. It also has twin crater lakes of Sete Cidades, one green and one blue,which lie to the northwest. To the east, Furnas has fumaroles and hot springs. For the hiking enthusiasts, this picturesque island can help you with that too! Lookout points, lake hikes, and abandoned hotel, and volcanic black sand beaches make up the topography of the Sao Miguel hikes. Sao Miguel truly is a special island. Sao Miguel’s landscape most definitely has the 'stunning tropical' meets 'volcanic feels' of Hawaii; but it also has the history of old Portugal and the ocean-side cliffs that make you feel as if you were in Ireland.
Sao Miguel features everything you could wish for in an island holiday! Soft black sand beaches, waterfalls, hikes, surfing, and delicious food!
What we found particularly interesting was the warm ocean water. Being in the middle of the Atlantic, we assumed the water would be quite cold and perhaps not swimmable; however this was definitely not the case! Although the water was not Caribbean warm, it was also not as cold as many other parts of Portugal. You can comfortably swim, surf, and body-board, without a wetsuit!
What were some of our other highlights of this awesome adventure?
Come explore with us below!
Santa Barbara Eco Beach Resort
We cannot praise our beautiful accommodation enough!
Situated beachside in Ribeira Grande, Santa Barbara Eco Beach Resort is an incredible destination for both a short and long term stay.
From check in to check out, the staff, management, accommodation, and restaurant, had the professionalism of a 5 star hotel, while having the causal and laid back comfort of an island family. They swiftly made us feel right at home, and were there to assist us in whatever we possibly needed.
We particularly loved the use of raw materials and the eco conscious design of the resort.
The hotel graciously invited us to stay in two different types of accommodation. The first of which was an open concept modern studio with an floor plan that leads you into a shared pool.
This is an open concept studio room. It has a big comfy bed, a stocked mini kitchen, walk in shower, built in living room seating area, and perhaps my most favorite - direct access to a private shared pool.
2 BEDROOM VILLA
This suite took our breath away! It was massive and perfect for sharing with family or friends. The 2 Bedroom suite features a large fully stocked kitchen, open seating area, a deep soaking tub, two bathrooms, and a view that is unforgettable! Perhaps my favorite part - the hammock swing on the the patio which is oh-so-comfy for enjoying a glass of wine and a sunset.
Come book your stay here!
Santa Barbara Eco Resort - Breakfast Buffet.
Yes, I said it, breakfast buffet!
The hotel lays out a drool-worthy spread each morning featuring locally made jam, muesli, and quiches. They also put out an assortment of pastries, juices, vegetables, fruit bowls, fresh made scrambled eggs, and fresh pan flipped pancakes!
Are you hungry yet?
The seafood in Azores is absolutely delicious! Whether you're the more adventurous type that likes various forms of shellfish, or just likes a good buttery Sea-bass, Sao Miguel island is your go to for all things seafood. We really couldn’t pick just one restaurant. Our suggestion is to go on google maps and look at the restaurant locations around you. The reviews are always honest and the restaurants take pride in their freshly caught fish. We have found that the more traditional “local” looking places are much better than the seaside tourist restaurants. My personal favorite dish to order is grilled squid or octopus!
Again, Santa Barbara Eco Resort takes the cake.
Whether you are staying at the resort, or want to pop in for a romantic dinner - watching the sunset over the beach, this resort has you covered. They have an incredible selection of high quality sushi, innovative concept on traditional Portuguese food, and to finish off - homemade desserts of course!
We would eat here again and again if we could.
Now, after all those eats, how does one work it off?
We loved taking surfing lessons at Santa Barbara Surf School. The instructor was so patient, kind, and informative. I think my stomach may have hurt more from laughing than from falling.
He takes you through warm-ups, proper techniques, practice, then out in the water. It is a wonderful way to laugh, learn, and workout!
Viewpoint of Ponta do Sossego -
The views from here will no doubt leave you feeling in awe of the beauty that surrounds Sao Miguel.
It is an easy lookout to access by car and the winding hill roads there are half the fun!
When you get to this lookout, you will find picnic tables, traditional bbqs, well maintained gardens, resident cats, resident cows, and yes - cliff side views.
We really enjoyed just sipping a beer - taking in all the sights and sounds that surround this beautiful eco-tourism destination.
There is so much more we could have done in Sao Miguel but we simply didn’t have time! So my suggestion would be to plan 7 days on the island. It will give you enough down time as well as enough sightseeing time.
We truly cannot wait until our next visit!
Thank you so much for visiting our Sao Miguel adventure.
We would love to hear from you :)
Have you been to the Azores? Do you want to go? Need more information?