The Ultimate Guide To São Miguel Island In The Azores
With stunning volcanic hikes, geothermal hot springs, wine regions, beaches, and more, a trip to the Portuguese islands the Azores is high up on manys bucket list. Planning a trip to the Azores can be intimidating. With so many amazing islands to choose from, each offering their own unique sites and many impressive activities to enjoy, narrowing down what to see and do can be a challenge. If you’re planning a trip to the famous Azorean island of São Miguel, Jessi’s Journey has you covered!
Let’s take a closer look at what to see and do while on São Miguel Island in the Azores.
Do You Need To Rent A Car In São Miguel, Azores?
There are many spots around São Miguel that can be accessed via public transport or private tour. However, we found renting a car in São Miguel was the best option to give us the flexibility we desired. We were able to stop at as many miradouros along the way, hike for as long as we wanted, and relax in the thermal baths to our hearts content. We rented our São Miguel car rental from MicAuto Rent-a-Car and were very impressed with their service. Keep in mind, if you are traveling in peak tourist season, cars book up quickly. Reserve your car rental in the Azores as far in advance as possible.
✈️ Pro Tip: After visiting the Azores, head to the Portuguese island of Madeira and use the Jessi’s Journey guide on What To See And Do In Madeira, Portugal.
What To See And Do In São Miguel
After traveling to São Miguel, picking up your rental car, and settling into your hotel, get ready to hit the highway to the following tops spots.
Hike To Lagoa das Sete Cidades (Via Miradouro da Boca do Inferno)
At Jessi’s Journey we never save the best for last, and Loagoa das Sete Cidades is no exception! Without a doubt, the hike up to and the view from Lagoa das Sete Cidades was the top site on our trip to São Miguel, Azores. Due to volcanic activity multiple craters formed making Sete Cidades, which then filled with water forming stunning lakes.
For avid hikers, a 12.6 mile loop around the entire area exists that can be quite challenging, yet thrilling. However, if your aim is to visit the most famous viewpoint, head to Miradouro da Boca do Inferno. There is a short trail that is easy to hike and leads to the best views of the area.
Explore The Abandoned Hotel Monte Palace
Hotel Monte Palace is an abandoned hotel just a short drive from Lagoa das Sete Cidades. What once was supposed to be a magnificent hotel with the best view on the island quickly became an unfinished project.
Make sure to dress appropriately for your visit. It is an abandoned building so there is a lot of water-soaked carpets to squish through. While it is a bit spooky to explore, the contrast of the decrepit building in the scenic setting makes it quite a unique site. In the hotel parking lot you will find a food truck with amazing burger options (including vegetarian and vegan choices) you must grab a bite from before carrying on your adventure.
Enjoy Some R&R Time At Parque Terra Nostra
Parque Terra Nostra is a stunning park with a thermal hot spring you can bath in. Don’t let the orange waters full you, the thermal springs in Parque Terra Nostra are the ultimate relaxing spot. Still, the rich iron and mineral waters will leave you skin and swimsuit with an orange hue, so make sure to not wear any swimsuit you wouldn’t mind leaving behind. The park is open from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm so plan accordingly to have enough time to rest and relax before it closes.
Soak Your Limbs At Poça da Dona Beija
After a long hike, relaxing your muscles in Poça da Dona Beija is the ultimate vacation treat. These thermal hot springs have multiple pools of different temperatures and depths to relax in. The cost to enter is €8.00 for adults and gives you an hour and a half to enjoy the hot springs.
While Parque Terra Nostra closes early, Poça da Dona Beija stays open until 11 p.m. so you can relax even after the sun goes down. However, because it is so close to Parque Terra Nostra which closes early, many visitors of that hot spring will hop over here after, so there may be lines if you arrive after dark.
Climb Up To Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz
This famous church is a stunning climb with the ultimate payoff. Soak up the views of São Miguel from the top of the steeple. While the climb up involves many stairs, it is worth it in the end. And hey who can complain about a free booty workout?!
Grab A Cuppa At Gorreana Tea Factory
Even coffee drinkers will love exploring the Gorreana Tea Factory. Book a guided tour or walk through the facilities by yourself and then spend some time wandering through the expansive tea fields. After, enjoy a free tasting of a green and black tea that the factory produces. I left with a few bags of Azorean pineapple and cinnamon green tea as souvenirs which my friends and family loved.
Go For A Swim At Piscinas Naturais Caneiros
Walk along the coast to soak up the view from the Piscinas Naturais Caneiros. These natural pools are made from volcanic rocks, so consider bringing water shoes if you plan on climbing in and soaking in the naturally hot water. Along the coast you will find plenty of seaside restaurants to get a bite to eat after your swim.
Tour The Azorean Pineapple Plantation
If you ask someone from the Azores where the best pineapple in the world comes from, the answer will always be from São Miguel! Pineapple is one of the most important products grown in the Azores and is grown today from the knowledge of many years of history.
Learn more about the history of pineapple farming at the Azorean Pineapple Plantation through a self-led tour that takes you through pineapple greenhouses. After, enjoy a complimentary tasting of pineapple liquor and pineapple jam. We also tried a pineapple beer and cocktail, and sliced pineapple wedges which were absolutely delicious!
Enjoy The Natural Beauty Of Lagos do Fogo
The natural beauty of São Miguel will continuously take your breath away and Lagos do Fogo is no exception. If you’re traveling with a car, you can easily drive around the perimeter of the lake while stopping at various viewpoints along the way. However, there are plenty of trails where you can park your car and enjoy some hiking with scenic views.
✈️ Pro Tip: While traveling through Portugal, make sure to grab a pint at one of These Best Craft Breweries in Porto, Portugal.
Catch A Sunset At Ponta da Ferraria
If you’re looking to do more swimming in natural pools, Ponta da Ferraria is a must-see. Even if you aren’t up for swimming, Ponta da Ferraria is the perfect spot for a sunset picnic. Seeing the sky light up over the rocky coast will leave you speechless.
Stroll Through Terra Nostra Botanical Park
Located in Furnas Valley, Terra Nostra Botanical Park is the perfect green space to explore in the fresh air. Along the way you will see clouds of smoke billowing up from the volcanic activity below ground. While here, stop into the hotel restaurant for some Cozida Stew, which is cooked underground using the natural volcanic heat.
Visit The Farol do Arnel
This lighthouse sits boldly looking out over the waters that surround São Miguel. After visiting the lighthouse, continue down the hill to the bottom of the fishermen's port to see a stunning waterfall and rest your feet. While there is a road that drives down to the lighthouse if you aren’t a confident driver, park at the parking lot at the top of the hill. The road is extremely steep and windy and absolutely terrifying to drive down. Remember though, what goes down, must come back up. It is a steep return climb.
There are so many amazing islands that make up the Azores, but São Miguel is something special. With stunning views, relaxing thermal baths, and delicious food, there is something for everyone. Bon voyage!
Is a trip to the Azores on your bucket list? Tell us in the comments!