20 Unmissable Things To Do On São Miguel Island, Azores
We’ve recently travelled to the incredible Sao Miguel in the Azores.
This was actually a surprise trip for Sabina’s birthday, who long dreamed of exploring this unique part of the world. We both did!
Sao Miguel is the main and the biggest island of the Portuguese Azores.
Covered by vibrant green vegetation, turquoise lakes, and several unique volcanoes, the island has some of the best views one can imagine.
The second you get here, you feel like you are on an exotic island far away from major tourist destinations.
Only 2 hours away from Lisbon, an exotic paradise awaits you.
We managed to explore a lot on the Sao Miguel island and decided to share with you our top 20 unmissable places to visit.
So let’s begin!
1. See the Lagoa das Sete Cidades
Twin lakes – Sete Cidades in Sao Miguel are possibly one of the most photographed places in the Azores.
These two lakes separated by a bridge are of a distinctive blue and green colour.
Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde are absolutely stunning, and you can spend hours just looking at them.
Our tip: Some of the best viewpoints where you can get the full unobstructed view include the Miradouro da Cumeeira right by the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel.
2. Admire the views from Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
Another fantastic view of the most beautiful crater lakes on the island.
Overlooking Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake) and Lagoa Verde (Green Lake) the viewpoint quickly becomes one of the most popular tourist attractions on Sao Miguel Island.
Our tip: There’s a small carpark on the opposite to the entrance where you can park.
When the gates are open, however, you can drive almost all the way and hike up from there to the viewpoint.
The pathway is very well marked, and it takes about 10 minutes to get to the viewpoint.
If there’s a lot of clouds, wait a while as they will most likely clear and allow you to get a lovely picture.
3. Try some tea from Europe’s only tea plantation
The Gorreana tea factory is the oldest and currently the only tea plantation in Europe which makes this place even more worth a visit.
Opened since 1883, the factory is an entirely prosperous year round.
Here you can take a walk around the factory and learn about the tea cultivation and production on the island.
At the end of the tour, you get to taste their delicious green and black tea.
Our tip: Buy some tea :-) We ended up getting the black, green and mint green tea. And they all are delicious!
4. Have a picnic by a waterfall
After visiting the tea factory, you should check out the Riberia dos Caldeiroes park.
This protected area has a beautiful waterfall, easily accessible from a car park.
The park was designed specifically for tourists, with several picnic and BBQ spots.
We enjoyed this place, mainly because there was no one around!
Our tip: There are several hiking paths available worth checking out, so make sure to wear proper shoes. It can get very wet, slippery and muddy here.
5. Check out one of the best Sao Miguel beaches
Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara (or Santa Barbara beach) became our favourite beach spot on the island!
Even though we were exploring the area on a cloudy, cool day, the black sand was still warm, just perfect for a long walk on the beach.
The beach is also very popular for water sports, especially for surfing and bodyboarding.
So if you love watersport, make sure to add the Santa Barbara beach Azores surf to your list!
6. Explore Furnas
The town of Furnas on Sao Miguel island is well known for its hot springs.
For generations, the town attracted people looking to rejuvenate and heal in its volcanic waters.
Furnas has hundreds of small springs and streams, all with different properties!
The main Furnas Azores hot springs can be enjoyed at Terra Nostra Gardens and Poca da Dona Beija.
Apart from other places in the Azores, Furnas is one of the main tourist attractions on Sao Miguel.
With the steam coming out the ground day and night, the town feels very mystical yet extremely authentic.
Our tip: Furnas can be enjoyed on any day, even rainy!
We highly recommend to keep your sunny days for the lakes and explore the town on a cloudy, rainy day as you will enjoy it either way!
The best way to explore the town is by a guided tour.
We booked an incredible Airbnb experience with Eleutério to explore Furnas. The evening tour included sightseeing, fantastic meal and hot springs. A must!
7. Admire the island from Pico da Barossa
The Pico da Barossa mountain with the Miradouro da Barossa might be one of the best places to see both sides of the Sao Miguel island at the same time.
Before you arrive at the Barossa and Lagoa do Fogo ( Fire Lake) viewpoint, you get to stop at the highest point of the peak.
It takes less than 30 min by car to get to the viewpoints from Ponta del Gada.
Our tip: You may need to wait 20-30 min for the clouds to clear to see the incredible views from the peak.
Make sure to try and choose a clear day to explore this side of the island.
8. Hike to the Fire lake – Lagoa do Fogo
This volcanic crater lake looks like out of this world!
With turquoise waters and vivid greenery surrounding the lake, you feel like the place would be a perfect setting for a Jurassic World.
It is so hard to believe that the island’s wildlife consists of birds and other small creatures.
Sao Miguel simply didn’t have this much evolution time to become home to other species.
Our tip: The second you see no clouds of the Pico da Barossa, head over to the mountain!
The weather conditions change here quickly, and although we got here on a clear day, the clouds arrived, and we had to wait 30 min before taking a shot!
You might want to keep an eye on the island’s webcams to decide where is best to go weatherwise.
9. Spend an afternoon at the Caldeira Velha
Halfway between the Lagoa do Fogo and the city of Ribeira Grande, you will find an entry gate to a lush forest park with fantastic hot springs.
The waters here are hot and shallow, and you can easily spend here an hour or more.
Our tip: The busiest time and the best seems to be a late afternoon. A perfect way to finish your busy day.
10. Have a meal at Sao Miguel’s best seafood restaurant
You simply can’t leave the island without going to the best seafood restaurant on the island.
A local tour guide recommended us the place and it didn’t disappoint.
Bar Caloura, located right on the water, attracts locals and tourists alike year round. You just have to experience it for yourself!
Our tip: try the shrimps, stingray and swordfish!
11. Explore the Terra Nostra park
The Terra Nostra botanical garden and thermal baths are located in the heart of Furnas.
Here you can admire beautiful plants from all over the world.
The paths are very well marked here with different routes, and you get to see some of the most magnificent plants from around the world.
Our tip: Make sure to check the opening times before you get there to allow at least 1-2 hours before closing to enjoy the walk and the thermal pools.
12. See the abandoned hotel in the Azores
The Monte Palace Hotel, built in the ’80s by French and Belgian investors, was to be the most luxurious hotel in the Azores.
After opening its doors and earning ‘ best hotel of the year’ award, the hotel closed its doors for good.
Only 18 months after the opening!
You are officially not allowed to enter the property so be careful as you are entering at your own risk!
The good news is that the hotel is due to reopen in 2021.
We actually stumbled upon Stay Classy vloggers here! They do a fantastic job with their vlogs so make sure to check them out and subscribe (we follow them too). We appear after 2 min into the video:-)
Our tip: If you do decide to check out this place for yourself, the rooftop has incredible views.
But please make sure to be careful as this is an abandoned hotel and we highly recommend you reconsider and wait until they reopen in 2021.
13. Taste Azorean pineapple
Pineapples A Arruda plantation offers free tours of this historic Azorean plantation.
With over 100 years of history, you get to explore the place and learn about pineapple growth.
Our tip: This place is well worth a visit anytime, and there’s no admission fee. Make sure to grab some pineapple jam! It’s our favourite!
14. Take a ferry to a nearby island
Islet of Vila Franca do Campo is one of the many reasons why we are planning to return to Sao Miguel!
This stunning small island, being part of a nature reserve, allows you to swim in a perfectly circular natural lake with crystal clear waters.
The islet of Vila Franca do Campo quickly became the main tourist attraction of Sao Miguel after the Red Bull Cliff Diving world championship was held here.
The island is accessible via ferry between June and October so make sure to check it out on your summer vacation!
Our tip: Take a camera and snorkelling gear. We also were told that there’s a limited number of tickets available per day so you may want to grab them in advance.
15. Go whale and dolphin watching
The Azores are well known worldwide for whale watching.
The main whale watching season runs from April to October and during these months different species pass by the Azores waters on their migratory paths.
Sperm whales are the resident species here and most frequently sighted in the Azores.
Our tip: Choose a morning 3-hour tour as you will have the entire afternoon to explore the island attractions.
16. Swim in hot springs right in the ocean
Located on the west side of the island, you will find the Ponta de Ferraria, where you get to swim in hot springs right in the ocean cove.
There’s no entry fee for the natural cove, but you need to go there at low tide to be able to experience it.
Otherwise, the next door Spa de Ferraria offers the thermal baths experience at a fee, but you don’t need to worry about the tides here.
Our tip: Make sure to check the tides on a magicseaweed website or a similar one.
17. Try a food cooked by the volcano
Cozido das Furnas is a traditional Azores stew cooked underground with volcanic heat.
The dish consists of meat, vegetables, chorizo and blood sausage, covered and left in the ground to simmer for five to six hours.
Our tip: You will only find Cozido in Furnas, so make sure to try it out!
18. Explore the capital
Ponta Del Gada is the capital of the Sao Miguel island in the Azores.
Located right in the centre on the island, makes for the best area to stay in Sao Miguel Azores.
The town is home to 18th-century city gates, Gothic St. Sebastian church and 16th-century fort of São Brás which you can easily explore on foot.
Our tip: Ponta del Gada is a great location to base yourself in to explore the island.
Each major attraction is within 30min drive making it the best area to stay in Sao Miguel Azores.
We recommend going sightseeing during the day and exploring the city’s street in the evening.
19. Explore an ancient lava tube
Gruta do Carvão, located on the west part of the island, is the longest lava tunnel of São Miguel island.
The cave system here extends for 1912 metres and is dated to be between 5000 to 12000 years old.
The cave includes some pretty impressive formations.
Our tip: There are two different route types depending on your activity level so make sure to double check before booking your tour.
20. Travel north to Nordeste
Nordeste, as the name suggests, is located on the north-eastern tip of the Sao Miguel Island.
Here you should stop at the lighthouse Arnel, the oldest lighthouse in the Azores, where you can admire incredible ocean views.
The nearby Nordeste town is also worth a visit if you are exploring this side of the island.
Our tip: Try and schedule your visit for Wednesday, when the Arnel lighthouse opens its doors to visitors,
The’s no admission fee.
Conclusion on Sao Miguel island in the Azores
We hope that you enjoyed our tips and can’t wait to explore the island for yourself! We stayed at a beautiful Airbnb in Ponta Delgada, which is the perfect place to base yourself and explore the island.
If you have any tips or suggestions, please feel free to comment and share our post.
Make sure to find all the main points you want to visit and mark them on Sao Miguel Azores map for future reference!
Airbnb – We love Airbnb and use it everywhere you travel! If you are new to Airbnb, follow the link for $55+ discount of your first stay.
Booking.com – Perfect alternative to Airbnb when you need a short place to stay.
Hostelworld – If you need a cheap place to stay where you can meet other travellers, Hostelworld is the best.
Skyscanner – Our go-to tool for finding cheap flights.
Thanks for stopping by!
Steve and Sabina