Go for a Hike! The island is filled with close to 100 marked trails throughout the island that give you the opportunity to choose a trail according to your strength and can vary from flat forest paths, to uphill coastal paths and everything in between. This is your time to explore these ancient islands that have only been populated for just over 500 years. Here you can explore the amazing flora and fauna while stopping off at many rest stops and picturesque points to relax or even grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants on your hike.
Explore the Museums! The Azores are filled with a rich history of culture and tradition and many of the local museums such as Carlos Machado museum in the capital of Ponta Delgada or the emigrant museum in Ribeira grande. Many of the museums are open daily and charge a nominal fee to enter. Here you can explore ancient treasures and artifacts from the first days of European discovery to gifts from World leaders and aristocrats given to the island or donated to the museum. Many ornate and beautiful painting and sculptures are also located here with some of Portugal’s most talented artists coming from the region. Domigues Rebelo known as the Picasso of Portugal was born here on the island of Sao Miguel and many of his early works from the past century can be seen here year round.
Jose do Canto Botanical Garden! The Jose do Canto botanical garden located on the islands capital of Ponta Delgada is one of the most unusual and beautiful gardens on the island. Founded a century in a half earlier by one of the Island’s wealthiest landowners and families the Do Canto’s. Son of a wealthy politician and aristocrat Jose do Canto was one of the pioneers of the Azores and introduced many plants, species and techniques to the island that has allowed the island to prosper for centuries. Here he built his botanical garden with flowers and trees shipped from all over the world. A bamboo forest 50 feet high, over 600 Camellia plants and hundreds of uniques trees and flowers are only one of the reasons this Manor Home/ Hotel and Botanical Garden have been a favorite for tourists and locals alike. Both FDR and Winston Churchill visited the palace and garden on their visit to the island.
The Cha Gorreana Tea Estate located on the north coast of the island, is one of the most popular tourist destinations not only in the Azores but also Portugal. This 18th century estate has a large tea plantation with 6 km’s of marked trails through the vast estate. Here you have some of the most outstanding views on the island with the picturesque rows of tea from mountain high to deep in the valley’s of the estate. A waterfall, 18th century church, factory, museum and gift shop are all located on the property and makes a beautiful place to stop and enjoy the fresh grown teas that have made the island famous since 1883.
Swim in the Hot Springs! The Island of Sao Miguel has some of the coolest hot springs that make you feel like you are in a Jurassic park film or something with all the lush greenery that surrounds these unique locations. A favorite is the Terra Nostra Garden and Hotel in Furnas. It is the most popular on the island and has a variety of hot springs from some that are nice and shallow where you can just deep your feet to various swimming size natural pools where you can swim in the hot volcanic water and use the mud for your face and skin due to its supposed natural exfoliation benefits. The 2nd area in Furnas next to Terra Nostra is Poca Dona Beja which has 3 different size man-made into the cliffs pools. The cost of entry is around 6 euros and you need to bring your own towel. There are changing stations there if you want and showers if you want to shower. Outside is where they have the famous Furnas sweet corn on the cob and if the vendors are there it is highly recommended.
Stroll the city promenade! The capital of Ponta Delgada is a vibrant and energetic city with just under 70,000 residents in the various regions of the city. There are several parish communities in the city of Ponta Delgada but it is hard to believe that this cities capital was once a small fishing village! In the 16th century after a great earthquake had devastated the region the island’s capital and main residential and commercial sectors were all based in Villa Franca on the other end of the island. It is in that city that the first discovers landed when they discovered and colonized the island. Then the islands nobles decided to relocate the cities capital in the small bay of Ponta Delgada and it has been a thriving destination point ever since. Everyone from FDR to Winston Churchill made a point of visiting the city and its unique buildings, marina and city gardens. Here you can stroll along a cobblestone promenade along the coastline while admiring the passing boats and sunshine in your midst. It is truly a special city with lots of culture in its unique architecture, historic churches and unique local restaurants. I love just grabbing one of the many local ice creams and portuguese pastry and going for a stroll along the promenade stopping off at the marina for a coffee or portuguese tea. It has the most restaurants per capita in the Azores, many being highly acclaimed and very affordable. Wether it is running, biking or just walking the promenade along the islands most vibrant promenade make it an enjoyable one and stop off in the local shops and gardens and truly embrace the Azorean city for all its fun!
Enjoy the local food! The Azores have great food and being an agriculture based society where the majority of the work is through fishing, dairy, fruit and vegetable farming etc. The island produces some very unique and delicious treats. The cheeses are outstanding! They all have a different taste and they produce everything fresh and local from goats and sheep’s cheese to a wide varieties of cows cheeses since as we all know there are more cows in the Azores in then people! The wines on the Azores are nice with the wine from Pico and the Vinho Verde known as Green wine are popular amongst locals and tourists and pair excellent with a nice seafood or beef dish. Always try to eat the local foods and produce while in the Azores, it is a great island experience and they really have nice ripe and healthy vegetables and fruits year round in the local supermarkets. The Lapas are a great appetizer to try as well! They are very popular on the island as a seafood dish and are grilled limpets like little grilled mussels on the shell. They are marinated in butter, garlic, lemon and sometimes white wine and are grilled and served on a hot pan! They are perfect to share and try amongst your friends and I am sure you will enjoy this unique Azorean dish.
Enjoy the many lakes on the island. Sao Miguel has many clear lakes, and picturesque lagoons for you to explore. If it is exploring the lakes on land or by sea there is something for everyone here. The local islanders have fallen in love with surfing and stand up paddle boarding and the lakes here on Sao Miguel are perfect for that. Wether you have your own board, which you can bring onboard your Azores Airlines flight or want to rent one the options are endless and make the perfect spot to take a selfie on the island. The lake in Furnas and in Sete Cidades are the most popular lakes for stand up paddling and you can take a lesson if you want or just rent the board and go out. The lakes are very calm and usually are found inside sunken craters and can be enjoyed by the majority of travellers.
Take a horse and carriage ride through the city of Ponta Delgada. This ancient fishing village turned capital of the island of Sao Miguel is the most densely populated region in the Azores with just over 60,000 residents in its majestic city borders. Here is where the hustle and bustle of the Azorean life exists, with many unique restaurants, museums and secret gardens to fill your day with a whirlwind of fun experiences. Located in the heart of the capital at the city gates you will find horses with carriages available to take you on a journey depending on your desired sightseeing requests. Here you can experience the true nature of the Azores with the clapping of the horseshoes against the cobblestone streets as you admire 18th century architecture and lively town squares. The drivers usually speak good english and or german if Portuguese is not your native language and the fare and time is agreed upon before entering. A small tip of 1 or 2 Euros is appreciated if the tour is above and beyond otherwise just pay the agreed fare as tipping is not custom in the Azores.