The county of Ribeira Grande is located on the North part of the island and is known as the “Nature’s county.” Not to be mistaken with just the name of the city Ribeira Grande, it also represents the entire county and all the parish communities that encompass it. During the colonization of the Azores, one of the first settlements, Ribeira Grande, has been the center of experimental gardens and tea plantations for centuries. The towns, villages, and cities that encompass the county are as followed. Sao Brás, Porto Formoso, Maia, Lomba da Maia, Calhetas, Matriz, Lomba de Sao Pedro, Conceição, Ribeira Seca. Each one of these towns/cities has a unique charm to it, and all involve the premise of Nature first. The county is said to have more cows than people. However, the agricultural-based region has many interesting sites and landmarks to explore that don’t involve the region’s natural beauty. Some say Ribeira Grande sets its own time, with farmers and locals alike all seem to go with the flow and rushing is not part of the culture. A region filled with cow farmers, fishermen, gardeners, and botanists, it is no wonder why the pace of the county rings to its own bell. This is the place to be when you want to experience authentic Azorean culture during the months of festivities. Each town celebrates its patron saint in an elaborate sequence of events, all of which lead to the holy mass on Sunday at the local church. Many offerings are given to the saint, and thanks for the blessing received during the year. This is a truly remarkable experience with many local vendors selling treats, and of course, the famous Azores raffles where you buy a bag of rolled of papers and inside is a winning ticket. One found you can go to the local booth where you purchased your bag and exchange your winning voucher for a prize, all of which is donated by the local business and residents for the benefit of the festival. All the money remains in the local community offering programs to residents and, of course, the local church’s funding and repairs. During the night, local dancers will perform their folklore dancing with Azorean music serenading you as you walk up the cobblestones and enjoy all the local culture and dancers. The county of Ribeira Grande is also known for its many beaches. It is a hot spot in the spring and summer months with many locals from various parts of the island and, most recently, an influx of tourists due to the deregulation of Azorean airspace, which has allowed many routes throughout Europe on a direct flight path with the island of Sao Miguel. The “Praia de Santa Bárbara,” also known as Santa Barbara beach, is a popular destination with surfers and bodyboarders alike. The natural bay of the region creates ample waves for the seasoned surfer to enjoy the entire city’s outstanding coastal views. It is no wonder why the Annual Azores Surf Competition is hosted every year by Azores Airlines and is on Santa Barbara beach. There you can enjoy the dark sandy/stone beaches with ample space to relax and, of course, a restaurant and snack bar, Tuka Tula, right on site. This is a hot spot during the day and at night since the restaurant overlooks the coast and has excellent food at fair prices. Try the local seafood since it is a jewel here, and caught fresh daily by local farmers. The number of trials has increased substantially in the last years in the area. It is an ideal place for the globetrotting tourist to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Ribeira Grande, all while enjoying a safely marked trail. The popularity amongst tourists and locals has given rise to the many hiking, walking trails in the area, and the unique flora and fauna you experience while admiring the beauty of this unique paradise is an experience of a lifetime. One minute you could be hiking on the edge of the world, with the ocean at your side and flowers to your north to going deep in the valley’s of the Gorreana tea plantation, the only one of its kind in Europe, while you explore waterfalls and unseen wonders. There are many great restaurants in the area and often visited for their unique menu and creative cuisine. The food is all produced locally with great importance placed on the benefits of eating and having locally sustainable food products. The beef, pork, and poultry all come from the region and is known to be of the highest quality since the cattle are fed a grass diet and not forced grains like in many areas of the world. Milk from “Happy Cows” where they can graze on grass 24 hours a day 365 days a year, is only one of the many healthy and sustainable benefits of eating the local foods. The seafood which is caught fresh daily is an essential part of the economic sector for the islands as many local fishermen make their livings by the same way their ancestors have by fishing in small boats with 6-8 men on board within 200 km of the Azorean coastline, making the seafood from the North Atlantic a prized and savory delicacy.