The island of Santa Maria was the first island in the Azores to be discovered and colonized and is located in the southernmost region of the archipelago. Santa Maria has a lot of history that dates back to the initial Age of Discovery in Europe, is an important strategic island in the North Atlantic and the last land many discovers saw before embarking for the new world. A population of just over 5,500, divided into 5 parish communities, this is a very small and quaint island where the natural beauty is the main source of revenue for this white sand paradise. The beaches are not the typical small stone beaches you would generally find on the other 8 islands in the Azores, the beaches of Santa Maria are white sand beaches. Due to its low profile, the island is unique in the archipelago, being less influenced by humidity and having more of a Mediterranean climate. In the summer it is generally dry and warm and in the winter it is milder with less precipitation than the other islands with median temperatures averaging between 14 °C and 22 °C in the winter months. The diverse flora and fauna of the region have created 13 Nature protected areas on the island with the government creating the “Parque Natural da Ilha de Santa Maria” in 2008 which now encompass 13 protected areas into 1 park, which is open for the public to enjoy. Host to the Azores’ largest “World Music Festival” every August at Praia Formosa, this is a happening place and only gets better every year with tourism and in music. The recent deregulation of the airspace in the Azores has allowed various other competitors to join the market and offer discount fares while opening new routes to the island. The event draws thousands of people from all over the globe and has a wide variety of not only national talent but artists from all over including France, Morocco, the United States, etc. The island is also home to one of the most complex regional car rally races in the Azores; with many drivers coming here to get a better understanding of the roads prior to the larger events held primarily on Sao Miguel with the Sata Rally Azores. The island of Santa Maria is just a short 25-minute flight from the island of Sao Miguel and can be enjoyed for as little as 40 euros round trip per person with Sata Air Acores the regional division of Sata International. There are some very nice small hotels and bed and breakfasts in beautiful homes that are sure to bring you comfort and relaxation on your holiday. Unlike the islands of Sao Miguel and Terceira that are known for their nightlife, festivals, and large celebrations the island of Santa Maria is more of the peaceful sister of the islands being the place to go and relax, enjoy the climate and explore some of the historical landmarks that exist here. Most people are unaware that Christopher Columbus after discovering the new world arrived here first before making his way back to Spain to announce his discovery. It was here, the first European soil he and his crewmates touched after their long journey where they held a mass in honor of their discovery and proceeded on his 3 ship voyage (one of the ships being the Santa Maria) back to Spain where he has lived in history ever since. Many landmarks such as the church where he held mass still stand to this day and are just one of the many places to come and explore in this small island oasis. Getting there: There are no direct flights to the island of Santa Maria from USA, Canada, or Mainland Europe except for from Ponta Delgada in Sao Miguel, Azores. So if you are visiting from abroad you will most likely fly into Ponta Delgada or Terceira and fly direct via Sata Air Acores to Santa Maria. Although direct flights exist between the Azores islands the main take-off location for Santa Maria is from Sao Miguel island. The Azores ferry service also offers travel by car and by foot between the islands in the summer months.