A Must Do Family Trip to Sao Miguel Island in the Azores
The island of Sao Miguel also known as the “green island” is a nature lover paradise. The countless outdoor activities offered on land, air, and sea are perfect for you and your family to experience. The nine Azores islands are not just for the seasoned traveler anymore but are becoming increasingly popular for the adventurous family. The island of Sao Miguel is the largest of the nine islands, with a population of 140,000 residents. It is here where the old world meets the new world, where a delicate balance between historical preservation and modernization exists. In fact, it is one of the reasons why American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the second world war initially suggested the Azores as the headquarters of the UN instead of Geneva. However, Geneva was chosen as it was more of a central location in Europe. As a young man, President Roosevelt had visited the island of Sao Miguel and is said he kept a postcard from the island on his desk as a reminder of its beauty. This is a place where you can feel safe to travel with your family and young children and do not have to worry about the crime that sometimes plagues some other larger, European cities. Serious crime is almost non-existant in the Azores and you should feel safe day or night no matter where you are. That does not mean not to be vigilant as petty crimes do exist. The island is a colorful, unique, agricultural beacon in the Atlantic with the beaches on the island all very safe and with lifeguards on duty during the summer months. It is advised to use a water flotation device for young children especially if they have not swum in the Atlantic ocean before. A great alternative to swimming in the ocean is taking advantage of the many natural lava stone pools and man-made ocean pools that dot the rugged island coastlines which are open year-round and are free of charge in most cases like in Caloura or Maia. In Ribeira Grande county at Santa Barbara beach, there is a dedicated small oceanfront public facility where there are water slides, diving boards, and lots of children both local and tourists who come here to enjoy the ocean pools. The price is only a couple of euros for admittance and it is recommended that you bring your own towel and sunscreen. There are some delicious restaurants here that offer snack food and also fresh-caught seafood. If going on a hiking or walking tour through the island is something that interests you then here on the island of Sao Miguel you are in luck. The island offers some of the most beautiful and unique trails through every type of terrain possible making it an ideal place to wander through and explore the flora and fauna of this isolated region. The government of the Azores has invested plenty of resources into providing access to some of the most isolated and underappreciated sections on the islands through hiking trails. There are over 50 trails that lead through forests, valleys, pastures, beaches, and of course through the peeks of the Azorean hillsides that feel sometimes like mountains. A popular hiking trail exists at the famous Portuguese tea plantation Cha Gorreana; located in Maia in the county of Ribeira Grande. Here you can start your trail at the famous 19th-century plantation while admiring the miles of manicured tea fields that adorn the mountainous hillsides here at the Cha Gorreana tea estate. Of course, no trip to Cha Gorreana would be complete without making your way into the historical factory and gift shop which was built in the 1800’s opening into a full tea plantation in 1883. This continues to be the only place in Europe that grows green tea. The factory still operates with a majority of the same machinery that carries with it a very interesting narrative of how the tea plantation is powered hydroelectrically. This is done with the assistance of the waterfall and stream that runs through the estate. The Parque Atlantico mall is a western alternative and has a movie theatre with movies playing in English with Portuguese subtitles. If a matinée to see a new release is what you desire the option is there. The mall has all the luxuries of any western mall with a food court and many North American and European shops. However, the island of Sao Miguel has many other unique family-owned shops and restaurants scattered throughout the island. If there is anything you need or want you are sure to find it in a local shop. This helps keep the small family business going in an otherwise changing big box store world.