Located 1,500km west of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean you’ll find the Azores, a stunning archipelago known for its natural beauty and volcanic landscape.
Sao Miguel is the largest of the nine islands that make up the Azores. If you enjoy hiking around volcanoes, relaxing in geothermal hot springs, spending time in the great outdoors, and exploring local cuisine, Sao Miguel, Azores is the perfect place to visit.
In this Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal travel guide, we’ll explore the best things to see and do to help you have an amazing trip!
About the Azores
The Azores islands are part of Portugal and are known for having breathtaking scenery, diverse plant life, and striking black sand beaches. Travelers come here for whale watching, surfing, hiking, and simply to get away from it all while surrounded by nature.
Because the Azores are located along tectonic plate boundaries, the archipelago is a hotbed of geothermal activity. The result is a dramatic, mountainous landscape where rich soil allows lush vegetation to flourish.
The Azores were first settled in the 1400s. Around the island, you can see historical buildings and monuments built out of dark volcanic rock.
The capital city of Sao Miguel is called Ponta Delgada. Here, you’ll find the main airport, a cruise terminal, a large harbor, and several shops and restaurants.
Sao Miguel is relatively small in size and you can drive pretty much anywhere on the island in about an hour.
Sao Miguel Azores Travel Guide FAQ
How do I get to Sao Miguel in the Azores?
The best way to get to Sao Miguel island in the Azores is to fly in to Ponta Delgada airport. There are regular flights from Lisbon, Porto, Funchal, and other large airports around Europe.
What are the best things to do in Sao Miguel Azores?
The best thing to do in Sao Miguel, Azores is to visit Sete Cidades, Furnas, Terra Nostra Park, Lagoa do Fogo, Azorean pineapple plantations, tea plantations, and Ilheu de Vila Franca do Campo.
Do I need a rental car when visiting Sao Miguel, Azores?
Yes, I highly recommend renting a car for your Sao Miguel Azores trip. Having a car makes it easier to travel to all the amazing sites and regions around the island.
When to visit Sao Miguel Azores
The peak travel season for Sao Miguel Azores is during the summer months of June, July, and August. The weather is warm and there’s less rain than in the winter months, but keep in mind that the unique location and climate of the island means the weather can be unpredictable.
We were there in July and some days it went from sunny to rainy and back to sunny in just a few minutes. Overall, the weather was very good, but it’s a smart idea to pack a rain jacket, especially on days when you visit volcanoes since there can be more precipitation at the higher elevations.
Summer is also when the hydrangeas bloom around the island. During the bloom season, which is usually late July into early August, the island is covered in plumes of blue flowers.
Before our trip, we didn’t realize that we’d be in Sao Miguel during peak bloom time and it was a wonderful surprise. If you can arrange your visit during this time, it’s definitely a sight to see.
The shoulder season happens during the fall and spring. The weather will be cooler and you might get a bit more rain, but there are fewer crowds and prices are lower usually lower.
During the winter, expect the weather to be chilly and rainy, but overall still mild. You won’t get a full-blown winter in the Azores, but you’ll definitely want to bring layers and rain gear.
If you’re a surfer, Azores can be an awesome place to catch waves during the winter months. It’s possible to do some surfing during the summer, but many days were pancake flat, which can be disappointing if you’re hoping for a surf holiday.
How to get to Sao Miguel Island, Azores
To get to Sao Miguel, Azores, you’ll likely fly into Ponta Delgada. You can fly to the Azores directly from several larger airports around Europe as well as from Lisbon, Porto, and Funchal (Madeira) in Portugal.
If you’re coming from the United States, there are direct flights to the Azores from Boston or you can fly to mainland Portugal first, then catch a connection from there.
We flew from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada on Ryanair and the flight was just over two hours.
Traveling Around Sao Miguel Portugal
The best way to travel around Sao Miguel is by renting a car. I strongly recommend booking a car for your visit in advance. We made the mistake of waiting until we arrived to arrange a car, and all the cars on the island were already reserved or extremely expensive (one quote was over $1000 per day!)
Luckily we were traveling with some wonderful friends who had a rental car already so we were able to join them for sightseeing and adventures.
The big takeaway? A car is a must in Sao Miguel, and if you can, book it in advance.
If you aren’t able to rent a car, one alternative is to book organized tour experiences with a driver so that you get to see all the Sao Miguel highlights. If you go this route, make sure to stay near Ponta Delgada as most tours depart from the city.
For traveling shorter distances, taxis are widely available near the cities. We used TaxiLink and they have an app you can download if you plan to use taxis often during your trip. There’s also a number on their website to arrange a pickup.
Things To Do In Sao Miguel, Azores Portugal
In this section, we’ll look at some Sao Miguel highlights and fun things to do on the island. For us, it worked best to plan our activities based on location. For example, we dedicated one day to exploring Furnas, then another day we went to Sete Cidates, then we spent the following day in Ribeira Grande, and so on.
Things To Do In Sete Cidades, Azores
Sete Cidades is a volcano on the western side of Sao Miguel and it’s home to a small village, colorful lakes, world-class hikes, and stunning viewpoints.
Sete Cidades offers a dreamy combination of scenic driving and outdoor adventure. As you drive around Sete Cidades, you’ll pass overlooks, visitor areas, and trailheads that all offer an impressive view of the crater lakes below. Miradouro da Vista do Rei was one of our favorite spots to stop and take pictures.
If you drive down toward the village, there are parking areas next to the lakes where you can rent kayaks if you’d like to experience the area from a different perspective.
In this area, the weather can change quickly. We went to Sete Cidades twice on our trip and the first time it was so foggy we couldn’t see anything. With the scenery shrouded in a thick fog, we definitely didn’t get to see any of the viewpoints the area is known for.
My advice? Plan to go to Sete Cidades early in your trip, that way you have the opportunity to go again later if you catch it on a foggy day. I’m so thankful we were able to go a second time and see the lakes under a blue sky.
Travel Tip: You can use the website Spot Azores to check the real-time weather at Sete Cidades before you head over. Click on “Webcams” in the sidebar and then select “Sao Miguel.” Click on Sete Cidades to check the live weather and visibility.
Adventurous Experience: Sete Cidades Half-Day ATV Quad Tour
Things To Do In Furnas, Azores
Furnas is one of my favorite places to visit on Sao Miguel Island, Azores and there’s a ton to see in a small area. The Furnas Valley is a volcanic area where the heat of the earth creates hot springs and volcanic calderas.
Start by visiting Lagoa das Furnas, the large lake just outside the city. Here, you can see the Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas, take a hike around the lake, or take a walk through Grena Nature Park.
Head into town to see the multi-level Calderias as Furnas and try Cozido, a traditional stew cooked inside pots buried in the hot mud. You can also explore Terra Nostra Park, which has hot springs for bathing and endless trails of botanical gardens.
In the evening, take some time to relax in the Poça da Dona Beija hot springs. Here you can take a dip in five pools heated by geothermal energy.
Make sure to check out my full Furnas Azores travel guide in this post!
Relaxing Experience: Night Thermal Pools and Local Food Experience
Things To Do In Ponta Delgada, Azores
The town of Ponta Delgada is a charming historic city that’s fun to stroll through for an afternoon. We enjoyed walking down by the harbor where you can see artwork painted on the concrete pathways by different people who have sailed into the Ponta Delgada Marina.
Just a few minutes outside of town, you can tour the Sao Miguel Pineapple Plantation that grows special Azorean Pineapple. Don’t forget to stop by the cafe to sample pineapple-themed snacks and drinks.
A Tasca doesn’t take reservations and the line can be long, but we were able to get a table by going earlier in the evening (around 7:30 pm) on a weeknight.
Related Post: 19 Things To Do In Ponta Delgada
Things To Do In Lagoa do Fogo, Azores
Lagoa do Fogo, or the lagoon of fire, is a natural wonder on the island of Sao Miguel Azores. Located in the center of the island, this spot is a nature reserve surrounding a lake in the crater of a volcano.
Lagoa do Fogo is ideal for hiking enthusiasts and this post has a great breakdown of what to expect on one of the longer trails which takes you all the way down to the lake.
Things To Do In Ribeira Grande, Azores
The Ribeira Grande region is located on the northern side of the island. Here, you can go for a surf or a swim at Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara, a black-sand beach with beautiful cliff views.
In the town of Ribeira Grande, you can go for a swim at the Piscinas Municipais de Ribeira Grande or walk a bit further down the coast to different lookout points like the Miradouro do Palheiro and Miradouro do Castelo.
In town, the City Garden of Ribeira Grande is a great place to walk, read a book, or play with little ones.
Another fun thing to do in Ribeira Grande is hiking to Salto do Cabrito, a waterfall and swimming hole surrounded by greenery. Nearby, you can visit the Gorreana Tea Plantation to see one of the oldest tea farms in Europe.
Things To Do In Nordeste, Azores
Nordeste, as the name suggests, is located in the northeastern corner of the island. Here, you can take a hike along the cliffs through Parque Endemico do Pelado or enjoy the view at the lookout point called Miradouro da Boca da Ribeira.
If you’re traveling with children, the Reserve Florestal de Recreio do Viveiro has playgrounds, farm animals, and picnic spots.
Ilheu de Vila Franca do Campo
Ilheu de Vila Franca do Campo is a c-shaped island just off the south coast of Sao Miguel and you can visit by boat. The island is known for swimming, snorkeling, and hiking.
Boat tickets cost 6 Euros and you can either book tickets online or in-person at the marina in Vila Franco do Campo.
Where to stay in Sao Miguel Azores
There are so many beautiful areas to stay in Sao Miguel, Azores.
We stayed in centrally located Ponta Delgada. From here, you can quickly access attractions on the east and west side of the island. It’s also an easy jumping-off point for any organized tours and activities you might want to do.
If you have more time, you may want to stay in a few different areas to get to know other parts of the island.
Let’s take a look at some popular places to stay in Sao Miguel.
Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel
Ponta Delgada is the small capital city of Sao Miguel and it’s close to bars, restaurants, and swimming beaches.
We stayed just outside Ponta Delgada in two different accommodations and really enjoyed the location.
There are many relaxing beach houses and apartments a few kilometers outside the city center toward Praia do Pópulo. This area is quieter than downtown and you’ll have a natural beach view.
Beach House Recommendation: If you’re traveling as a family or group of friends, this beach house is a great option with plenty of space in an incredible location. Just steps from Praia do Pópulo, the home has a huge yard and three bedrooms. Check Prices and Availability
Apartment Recommendation: Lila Ocean View Apartment overlooks the beach and has an awesome view. If you’re a surfer, you can check the waves without even getting out of bed! The unit is on the 11th floor and has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a parking space, and a washing machine. Check Prices and Availability
Furnas, Sao Miguel
Furnas is a charming town located in a volcanic crater with hiking, hot springs, and botanical gardens nearby. The town has beautiful scenery and plenty of restaurants to choose from, making this a great home base for a few days during your trip.
Furnas offers a healthy balance of activity and relaxation – you can spend the day hiking around active volcanoes and then unwind at a spa fueled by geothermal hot springs!
Hotel Recommendation: Furnas Boutique Hotel has excellent reviews across the web and is located just a short walk from some of the best things to do in Furnas. They even have a private pool and spa that are fueled by the volcanic energy of the area. Check Prices and Availability
Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel
Located on the north of the island, the Ribeira Grande is great for surfers, families, and anyone who wants to relax on the beach. Ribeira Grande has a small downtown area, shady parks and playgrounds, and public swimming pools right on the water.
It’s close to Praia do Areal de Santa Barbara which has a nice little boardwalk, restaurants, surf schools, and convenient beach facilities like restrooms and showers.
Hotel Recommendation: The Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort offers modern, ecologically friendly villas and studios overlooking Praia do Areal de Santa Barbara. Guests have access to wellness and spa services, as well as a spacious swimming pool with a view. Check Prices and Availability
Sete Cidades, Sao Miguel
If you’ve seen a postcard from the Azores, you’ve probably seen Sete Cidades. This area is one of the most iconic spots on the island and it’s known for its blue and green volcanic crater lakes surrounded by lush greenery.
There’s a small town down in the crater which could be a cool place to stay for a day or two, especially if you want to do lots of hikes in this area.
Hotel Recommendation: Sete Cidades Quinta Da Queiró offers guest house accommodations in the rural Sete Cidades village. It’s located right at the intersection of the blue lake and the green lake, and guests love the gardens and mountain views. Check Prices and Availability
Best Restaurants in Sao Miguel Portugal
No travel guide to the Azores would be complete without restaurant recommendations, and Sao Miguel Portugal is a foodie paradise! If you’re a fan of cheese, beef, wine, or seafood, you’re in for a world-class experience. Whenever you can, order a cheese and meat board to sample an assortment of these delicacies.
A Tasca was one of our favorite meals in Sao Miguel and it came highly recommended by friends, so I know we’re not alone!
With classic dishes and a mouthwatering selection of cheeses, meats, and mains, you definitely want to come hungry. Remember to try the pineapple cake for dessert!
Bar Caloura is a fresh seafood restaurant located right on the water in Caloura on the south coast. It’s a got a divine view of the water and the cliffs, and the food was some of the best we had on the island.
Alex and I usually aren’t huge seafood people, but we both loved the tuna and the mountain of grilled vegetables that came with it.
This spacious outdoor restaurant is located in Furnas and it’s a great place to try a local specialty called Cozido, an Azorean stew cooked inside a volcano. A Quinta was a lovely space to relax after exploring the gardens in Furnas and there was plenty of shade.
It’s a good lunch spot if you’re traveling with a family since there’s space for kids to run around in the grass.
Restaurante da Associação Agricola de Sao Miguel
We heard from several people that Restaurante da Associação Agricola de Sao Miguel is one of the best places to eat on the island and it’s definitely on the list for next time.
If you can, make a reservation in advance because this restaurant is very popular! They’re best known for their meat options.
Sunset Beach Bar and Restaurant
Whether you’re looking for beachfront brunch or a memorable dinner with friends, Sunset Beach Bar will take good care of you. This restaurant was very close to the beach house where we stayed at the beginning of our trip and they serve hardy dishes all day.
Organized Tours and Experiences
If you’re short on time, doing an organized tour can be a great way to see as much of the island as possible. These tours and experiences have high reviews and cover some of the best things to do Sao Miguel Azores!
- Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo Full-Day Tour with Lunch
- Furnas and Nordeste Full Day Tour from Ponta Delgada
Final Thoughts: Sao Miguel Azores
Even though this island is small in size, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal has plenty to do for all types of travelers.
It’s a place I see myself visiting many times in the future, and it’s a must-visit destination for anyone who loves reconnecting with nature.
More Azores, Portugal Posts
- Sao Miguel Food Guide: Best Restaurants in Sao Miguel Azores
- What To Do In Furnas Azores
- Best Ponta Delgada Attractions and Activities
- 17 Best Hotels in Sao Miguel, Portugal
Portugal Travel Itineraries