It could take a person a month to uncover all the hidden gems of beautiful Sao Miguel. But with some good travel planning and some strong coffee, you can have a thoroughly satisfying week-long trip. Below is an itinerary that provides a sampling of what makes Sao Miguel special; waterfalls, hikes, vistas, lakes, marine life, local cuisine, hot springs, beaches and more…
Day 1: Settling In
Leave the airport and head to Pedras do Mar near Fenias da Luz. I’m not normally a huge fan of large hotels, but this one was a great starting point for our trip. It’s really easy to find, a huge perk after getting off a plane, and is a nice way to ease into your vacation.
- From the hotel you can walk along the bluff top trail to Fenias da Luz. If the tide and conditions are right there are some ocean pools that you can take a dip in along the way. Wander around the town or simply grab a bottle of wine to enjoy later on your balcony back at the hotel. (It’s worth it to book the ocean view room!)
- Lounge at the pool. On a sunny day the infinity pool and ocean views are the epitome of vacation decadence.
Day 2: Beach Day
There’s nothing like a beach day to cure jet lag.
- Check out of Pedras do Mar and drive 10-15 minutes to Santa Barbara beach. FYI: there is the town of Santa Barbara which is in a completely different direction from the beach Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara beach is near Ribeira Grande.
- Take a walk on the beach or if the conditions are right rent a surfboard or take a surf lesson from Azores Surf Center.
- Eat lunch at Tukatula Restaurant. The “fish plate for two” is good for sharing and pairs perfectly with the gorgeous ocean views.
- Once you’re sun-kissed and refueled continue onwards to Furnas.
- Check into the Furnas Lake Villas. From the hotel you can stroll along the lake or it’s a five-minute drive into town if you want to take a soak in any of the legendary hot springs. Terra Nostra Garden is a nice option if you want to explore the gardens and take a swim or Poca da Dona Beija is my favorite and it’s on the agenda for “Day 3” but there’s no reason you can’t go twice!
Day 3: Hike and Hot Springs
- Wake up and eat a quick breakfast, you’ll want to get an early start if you want to beat the crowds on the Salto do Prego trail. This is an extremely popular trail and in addition to being easy on the body, the trailhead is easy to find. A wonderful hiking rarity on Sao Miguel!
- To get to the trailhead for Salto do Prego drive towards the village of Faial da Terra. It should take about thirty minutes or so. As you’re driving into town you will see a sign for Salto do Prego near the river that meanders through the town. Take a left and park somewhere next to the river. The trail starts at the top of the hill where the road ends.
- Hike, take a refreshing swim at the falls and head back to your car if you want a mellow 4km hike. Or if you want a little bit more of a workout there is the option of adding an additional 4km to your hike and seeing another waterfall. If you chose to extend your hike you can do so on your way back from Salto do Prego. As you hike back towards your car you will see a sign for Salto do Cagarrao. Follow the sign to Salto do Cagarrao, it’s a fairly easy and scenic 2km walk to the falls. This trail is definitely less traveled than the main Salto do Prego thoroughfare and a good option for those looking for a longer hike.
- When you get back to Furnas make your way to Pona da Beija. The 6 euro entry fee is the best money you’ve ever spent on a vacation. Soak in the five different pools, four of them are 39 degrees celsius and one is a cooler pool of 28 degree celsius. You’ll get a basket to carry your belongings in and there is also the option of lockers if you’re worried about theft. People watch, soak, relax, and give yourself a mini mud facial (in the pool closest to the entrance you can scrape mud off the walls and smear it on your face. Believe it or not my skin felt great afterwards!
- Finish the day with a meal at O Miroma. It’s an affordable restaurant that serves up large portions of local cuisine for modest prices. We shared the Cazidos stew, a concoction of meats and vegetables that are cooked in the ground in a nearby thermal area. As long as you’re not a vegetarian, I would recommend at least trying this unique dish while you’re in Furnas. (Perhaps just split one with your dining buddies)
Day 4: Hike to Logoa do Fogo
- Check out of Furnas Lake Villas and drive about 30 minutes to the Logoa do Fogo trailhead. You’ll want to be on the trail by 9am or 10am to avoid hiking uphill in the midday heat. Read my Logoa do Fogo article for detailed directions/ hike planning info.
- After feasting on the spectacular lake and ocean views fill your belly at Bar Caloura.
- Spend the remainder of the day splashing in the sea at the protected swimming spot in Caloura or any of the nearby beaches.
- Drive to Capelas and check into David’s Airbnb. David is welcoming and knowledgable, and his place is an easy drive to many of the attractions that you will be exploring on the final days of your trip.
Day 5: Sete Cidades, thermal ocean pools, a legendary dinner
It’s likely that the cover of your guide-book has a picture of Sete Cidades on it. This area has a plethora of hiking and on a clear day the views are spectacular. Even on a cloudy, windy, rainy day it’s still fun to wander the green hills. If you’re planning on also swimming in the ocean pools at Ferraria plan ahead so that you’re in Ferraria at low tide.
- Hike the Serra Devassa trail. It’s a 5km loop with some options to make it a little longer. Given that you hiked the past two days your legs might appreciate this shorter hike with lots of views..
- Drive through the town of Sete Cidades.
- After hiking go to Ferraria at low tide and take a swim in the geo-thermally heated ocean pools. For the warmest water it’s best to go at low tide. There aren’t many food options in Ferraria so it’s best to bring a picnic or grab something to eat in Sete Cidades.
- Finish the day with a meal at Quinta dos Sabores. This dreamy farm to table style restaurant offers a six course dinner in a quaint, intimate setting. Make a reservation ahead of time because there aren’t many spaces available and its reputation as a primer dining experience on Sao Miguel is rapidly growing. FYI: when you arrive the door may be locked. Don’t be discouraged, knock and someone will let you in! Quinta dos Sabores +351 917 003 020
Day 6: Whale Watching and perhaps a swim with dolphins?
There are numerous options for whale watching/swimming with dolphin tours in the Ponta Delgada area. Many of the larger operators will practically guarantee the opportunity to swim with dolphins, but are considered to be more impersonal and less eco-friendly. We booked with Sea Colors, which is a run by a couple of marine biologists and uses its revenues to fund its ocean research. Make sure you book ahead of time because their small boat has only 12 seats and tours fill up quick.
- Check in with Sea Colors around 8am for your whale watching tour. First you will get a debriefing on the different whale species and what you might see out in the ocean during the 3-4 hour tour. It’s important to note that they will only permit you to get in the water with the dolphins if the dolphins seem receptive to the idea of human interaction. (They will elaborate on this but basically it has to do with whether the dolphins are swimming with your boat and circling around in the water or if they’re moving too fast to be conducive to interaction)
- After your morning at sea wander around Ponta Delgada. Take in the bustle, explore the fort or pick up some souvenirs.
- Having spent the morning communing with the ocean you might be less inclined to have fish for dinner. If that is the case, go to the Agricultural Association Restaurant for a beefy dinner. This is the place to go if you want an affordable steak dinner. They offer different cuts of meat with a multitude of sauces, such as passion fruit, or the more traditional garlic butter combo. It’s a good idea to make a reservation but it’s also possible walk in and get a table if you don’t mind a bit of a wait.
Day 7: Farewell!
- Say your goodbyes, take your final pictures and head to the airport. The small airport is easy to navigate and a quick 15 minute drive from David’s Airbnb.
- While you’re waiting in the airport start dreaming about your next vacation to help alleviate the sadness of leaving Sao Miguel.
- Bring along a lightweight rain jacket when you’re hiking since the weather is unpredictable and always changing in the Azores
- If at any point you are lost or looking for someplace, hotels usually have english speaking staff that can point you in the right direction
- Make reservations at the beginning of your trip because popular experiences like Quintas dos Sabores and the Sea Colors tour book up quickly.
- It’s helpful to spend part of your trip on each end of the island, for example stay in Furnas or Caloura for a few days and spend a few days on the side closer to Sete Cidades. You’ll end up doing less driving because even though the distances between places on the island aren’t far, it can take a while to get around.