The Best Beaches on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores
The largest island in the Azores archipelago, Sao Miguel is home to 140,000 residents and is approximately 1500 km from mainland Europe. Here on this nature lovers paradise, you have the option of exploring a wide variety of picturesque landscapes and unique lava stone beaches that grace this islands rugged Atlantic coastline. Although very beautiful, the Azores are not known for their pristine white sand beaches, but that’s okay; here on the island of Sao Miguel, we are proud of the volcanic rich lava stone beaches the region has to offer. Millions of years ago, powerful seismic forces lifted these nine islands from the ocean floor in the mid-Atlantic ocean. Over time, they developed into islands of wonder filled with unique flora and fauna. The beaches on Sao Miguel all offer their unique beauty and terrain, some being long and narrow while others are big and wide and perfect for volleyball or a soccer game on the beach for the kids.
Praia dos Moinhos: Located on the northern part of the island in Porto Formoso, next to the famous Cha Gorreana tea plantation. Here there is a small beach with outstanding views of the emerald-green hilltops with cows grazing over the rugged coastline. The beach was recently awarded as a blue flag beach, meaning its waters and surrounding ecosystem are considered one of the best on the island. The water and waves can be rough, so it is recommended to stay close to the shore if you’re not an experienced ocean swimmer when the ocean’s current is rough. They have a flag system on the beach with green being safe, yellow meaning caution, and red meaning danger and not recommended. There are two restaurants next to the beach, one at the beach entrance and one on the beach. Here you can relax while enjoying a delicious local lunch or ice cream. There are a couple of marked hiking trails that go through or have a view of the beach that is outstanding! The views and the paths are incredible, with waterfalls and beautiful flora surrounding you. A great place to relax or go for a hike and enjoy an after workout snack on the beach. Parking is available with a small parking lot where the waterfall is located, and the campgrounds are. It gets hectic in the summer months, so prepare to park a little way away and walk to the beach. The outdoor coal bbq’s located here at the camping grounds area where you can bring your coals and wood and cook your meal next to the enchanting waterfall and steps from this picturesque beach. Praia do Maia- Located in Maia’s parish community, a city of 5 thousand residents, here there is a small stone beach with a great snack bar and restaurant on site. The beach is small and is a favorite amongst locals due to its calm waters and picturesque views. Maia is an ancient and proud city with many unique cultural landmarks to visit. There is a natural ocean water pool in Maia, just down the street from the beach, which offers swimming in a protected natural made lava rock pool. Perfect for families and small children to enjoy the ocean while feeling like you are in a private pool. Praia do Pescadores- Located in Porto Formoso, a small fishing village on the north coast of the island next to the Cha Gorreana tea plantation. Here at the fishing port, a human-made bay where the small local fishing boats embark and disembark on their daily fishing ventures. This is a small fishing port with a small beach. This is a place to relax and get some sun while admiring the old world charm of this quaint fishing village. There are numerous small shops and ice cream parlors, cafes, and bars within walking distance and is a unique spot to spend the day away from large crowds on the beach. There is parking on the street since it is steep to drive down to the beach, so it is best to park on the main street in front of the local garden and walk the minute or two down to the beach. Aqua do Alto Beach is located in the historic old town of Villa Franca do Campo. This is one of the larger beaches on the southern part of the island of Sao Miguel and offers outstanding views of the small islet bearing the same name 1 km away.Água de Alto is situated on the southern coast of the island of São Miguel and has recently become a popular beach to visits with western tourists. It is located along the regional roadway E.R.1-1ª, which encircles the island, connecting the municipality of Vila Franca do Campo with Ponta Delgada and all other major cities and villages on the island. Villa Franca was the old capital of the island of São Miguel and had a lot of neat architecture and buildings, as well as some great local restaurants. This is a great place to spend the day and enjoy a calm beach with the water being calmer than most parts of the island. Here there are lifeguards on duty in the summertime and a wide variety of local snack and coffee shops to stock up on all your beach day requirements. Praia do Fogo is located in the famous fishing city of Ribeira Quente and is one of the most unusual, if not the most different, beaches in all of the regions. Here the existence of underwater thermal vents makes the water bubble occasionally with a burst of warm water deep from the volcanic thermal vents below. This is a relatively undiscovered beach on the island for many tourists and is popular with locals because of the amazing flora the beach has to offer. There is not a lot of commercial activity on the beach, making it nice and relaxing and, of course, not overcrowded. It is here that you can get some of the best fish on the island, fresh off the boat, cleaned and served at many of the local restaurants. The coastline is filled with small fishing boats in the distance, and it is here if you want to go and a deep-sea fishing excursion, you should do so. Praia do Caloura is a beautiful but tiny beach on the southern part of the island between Ponta Delgada and Furnas. Here on the narrow and winding roads that seem to go on for hours take you to a beautiful town with both a beach and fresh ocean water pool as well. This is a great spot on the island if you want to avoid the crowds at other beaches and spend the day with the locals. This is a popular beach with local children and families, and you often will see diving and water activities being enjoyed here. There is a restaurant overlooking the beach and pool that offers some local cuisine; however, my experience was not the best in terms of the quality of the food, the views were nice, and I will give it another try since many people do enjoy it I just never have thought it was great food, good pricing or even good customer service to be honest, but the view is what gets people. Praia do Populo- The Populo beach, as locals know it, is by far the most popular beach on the island of Sao Miguel, and that’s for a good reason. Here in the town of Sao Roque, a parish district of Ponta Delgada, the region’s capital is home to this dark sand beach that offers ample amounts of space to relax and enjoy the Atlantic sunshine. The waves are known for their strong current, and it is a popular spot to see surfers and wave enthusiasts due to its unique ocean break. There are many cafes and snack bars located around the beach, and this is a good spot to enjoy a light lunch with some fresh squeezed Pineapple or Orange juice from the islands abundant bounty of delicious fruits. The best solution is to take a taxi or Uber to the beach from your hotel if you stay in the city, which costs a few euros and is far last chaotic than trying to find parking, which is always limited on the island. Praia Santa Barbara is located in Ribeira Grande, on the North Coast of the island. This is the beach where all the magic occurs every October with Billabong and Azores Airlines hosting their week-long annual surf competition here. This is a popular beach for surfing, stand-up paddling, and of course, beachgoers who want to enjoy the North islands coast. The beach has changed a lot over the last decade. Many surf experts argue that the development and expansion of new hotels on the beaches coast have created a once peaceful spot to become overcrowded and overpriced. Suppose you are interested in taking in some surf classes or experience a stand-up paddleboard session. In that case, you will never forget, then this is one of the top spots to experience the Azores waters with a safe surf school instructor that has gained the reputation as the Robert McNamara of the Azores. Here, David Costa, Azores Surf School owner, offers everything you need to get a truly authentic Azorean experience.