Portugal Getaways: Your Passport to São Miguel Azores

Are you dreaming of adventurous Portugal getaways to escape the hustle and bustle of your everyday life? Well, leave it all behind and set your sights on The Azores Islands! A true hidden gem in the Atlantic Ocean, this nine-island Portuguese archipelago is a destination that almost feels untouched by man even to this day. It’s a magical place where pure bliss, delicious food, stunning sights, and rich culture collide. From personal experience, it’s truly nothing short of paradise on earth, and visiting the islands made for a true dream vacation. My quick travel guide below is based on a 4-day adventure on the island of Sao Miguel. It includes travel tips, a short list of must-see attractions, and must-try restaurants and cuisines. Keep reading to learn about the magic of Sao Miguel Island to plan the perfect vacation and stress-free Azores getaways of your own!

Portugal Getaways to Sao Miguel Island Azores

Located about 900 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal, nine major islands make up The Azores. These islands include São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores, and Corvo. Among these islands, São Miguel stands out as the largest with its amazing city, Ponta Delgada, as it’s capital. With its charming cobblestone streets, beautiful gardens and historical landmarks, Ponta Delgada is not just the island’s capital city; it’s a gateway to the Azorean experience. While São Miguel doesn’t currently contain a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous for many things. The island also offers the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. This makes it a unique destination for enthusiasts seeking an escape from the ordinary.

How to Get to Sao Miguel Island

There are plenty of direct flight routes from the United States and Canada! In fact, SATA Azores Airlines offers convenient weekly flights from NYC’s John F. Kennedy Airport, Boston’s Logan Airport, and Toronto’s Pearson Airport straight to Ponta Delgada’s Airport João Paulo II. The fastest and most easy way to get to Ponta Delgada is to take a nonstop flight from New York City’s JFK Airport. The total flight time is 5 hours. If you’re flying from Boston, SATA Azores Airlines offers three weekly flights, which take around 5 hours. For travelers from Toronto, you’ll find two weekly flights to Ponta Delgada with a flight time of approximately 5 hours and 45 minutes. 

To travel newbies, these flight times might appear a bit lengthy. However, it’s two hours faster flying to the Azores than it is flying to London, England. It’s also about 7 hours less flying time than a trip to the Hawaiian Islands from the same airports. Just imagine landing in the “Hawaii of Europe” in literally half the time! To get the best price for your flight to Sao Miguel, monitor flights on websites such as Expedia, Skyscanner, and WayAway. If you decide to become a Plus member of WayAway specifically, you can unlock some amazing deals!

Renting a Car on Sao Miguel Island

Prior to arriving in São Miguel, I highly recommend reserving a rental car a couple months in advance. AutAtlantis Car Rentals at Ponta Delgada Airport provide stress free transportation experiences and an impressive fleet of cars (both manual and automatic). Double check your reservation before you land to make sure you have the car you need. You don’t want to be stuck driving a stick shift if you’re unable to! Having a rental car will certainly help ensure you’ll have the perfect trip on São Miguel.

Where to Stay in Sao Miguel

Finding great lodging in Sao Miguel is easy. There are hundreds of beautiful properties ranging from budget apartments to luxury hotels and beach resorts. I personally prefer staying at luxury hotels when my budget allows it. Lucky for me (and you!) there’s no shortage of great hotel properties along the island’s stunning coastline. Many of these properties a provide exquisite amenities, panoramic ocean views, and unlimited opportunities to relax.

One of these properties is Pedras do Mar Resort & Spa.  The oceanside property offers privileged Atlantic Ocean views over towering coastal cliffs. It also has a world class spa that is ideal for romantic getaways or dream vacations with friends or family. Guests can unwind in the health club, enjoy the indoor or outdoor pool (when in season), or explore outdoor activities. Guests can also enjoy an upscale complimentary buffet style breakfast every morning. It includes fresh pastries, a variety of eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, juices, coffees, island fruit, yogurt, and assorted cheeses.

I stayed in a suite style room that included sea and mountain vistas, free WiFi, a jacuzzi style bathtub with shower, toiletries, and plush bedding. The resort is complemented by Meia Nau Restaurant’s local-inspired cuisine and wine. The restaurant also offers stunning views of the ocean and the coastline’s striking rock formations. It’s the perfect blend of luxury and convenience, and is just minutes from Ponta Delgada city center and Airport João Paulo II.

Explore Sao Miguel’s Culinary Culture

Now I’ll talk about (one of) the real reasons people visit São Miguel: the food! São Miguel’s culinary culture is as unique as it is delicious. The best way to sample some of the most popular cuisines on the island is to take a guided food and wine tour. Most of these tours begin in Ponta Delgada and end in Furnace, or only feature restaurants in Ponta Delgada. Either way, you’ll be in for a treat! 

One of the most traditional foods you should absolutely try is “Cozido das Furnas.” This hearty stew is cooked in the ground using volcanic heat. During my São Miguel trip, my favorite meal was from Terra Nostra Garden Hotel. Here, I had a three-course “Cozido” meal with fresh bread, passion fruit juice, and a watermelon feta salad. Another popular lunch dish is the Borda D’Agua. It includes camarao panado (shrimp), triple-fried crisps, and juicy meat dishes will definitely satisfy your taste buds. If you want to treat yourself to a more luxurious dining experience, make a reservation at the Santa Barbara Eco Resort. Order the breadboard and the roasted duck dish along with a glass or two of port wine with dessert. End the experience with some time by the ocean at sunset to take in the fresh air and recover from a hearty meal. 

Take a Historic City Tour of Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada is an amazing city full of centuries-old churches, charming cafes, pottery factories, and bustling town squares. It’s definitely worth it to make time for one or two guided historic walking tours. You can even do a self-guided walking tour! A few of the most popular places that tourists enjoy exploring in Ponta Delgada include São Sebastião church, the Plantacão de Ananas dos Azores pineapple farm, Campo de São Fransisco town square, and the Portas da Cidade (port). Some popular historic spots just outside of Ponta Delgada that are also worth a visit if you have time include the Palace of Sant’Ana and Nossa Senhora da Paz.

Kayak Across Sao Miguel’s Stunning Lakes

If you’re craving some action and adventure, head to Sete Cidades and be ready to get wet (at least a little). In fact, one of the best things you can do while visiting Sao Miguel is grab a kayak and explore the waters of the surrounding lakes. I used Futurismo Azores Adventures for my kayaking adventure, and they are the real deal. Futurismo Azores Adventures provided all of the equipment needed, and made sure I got safely in and out of the kayak. After kayaking, I hopped on a bike for an hour-long self-guided ride around Sete Cidades town – also courtesy of Futurismo Azores Adventures. Oh, and if you’re not into kayaking, don’t worry! You can also paddleboard or canoe on Sete Cidades or Furnas Lake. If the wind is heavy on the water, the canoe option might be best!

Hike Sao Miguel’s Majestic Trails

For the nature enthusiasts, São Miguel has endless hiking trails that are sure to get your heart racing. You can take a private guided hiking tour through Faial da Terra, walk Sete Cidades Crater, visit Pico da Vara, or master the Miradouro Da Grota Do Inferno Trail. My personal favorite was the Miradouro Da Grota Do Inferno Trail. It’s the perfect length with a slight elevation gain, making it doable for hikers of any level. The reward is the 180 degree view. If you’re not a hiker, no problem! São Miguel has no shortage of stunning look out points that can be accessed by vehicle. Taking scenic drives around the island is one of the best ways to explore it! Miradouro do Cerrado das Freiras and Miradouro da Lagoa do Santiago are your go-to lookout points for jaw-dropping views or to get a road trip around the island. Mother Nature really has something for everyone on São Miguel.

Sip Tea at the Historic Cha Gorreana Tea Plantation

Want to stroll through tea fields that rival Vietnam’s without actually traveling to Vietnam? Well, in São Miguel you absolutely can at the Cha Gorreana Tea Plantation. In 1883, Ermelinda Pacheco Gago da Câmara, the proprietor of the Gorreana estate, harvested her first initial kilogram of tea. This fact alone makes Cha Gorreana the oldest tea plantation in Europe still in operation! The estate’s rich clayey and acidic soil, ample precipitation, and humid climate provided optimal conditions for cultivating premium-quality tea. This historic destination is a slice of tranquility amidst rolling hills. You can take a guided tour with tea tasting, or freely walk through the plantation fields on your own time. Don’t forget to stop into the on-site cafe to order a cup of green or black tea and a homemade Portuguese pastry! The views from the cafe terrace are pretty gorgeous too. 

Portugal Getaways: Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some of traveler’s most frequently asked questions when planning their Portugal getaways to São Miguel Azores:

Is Sao Miguel Expensive?

Compared to other destinations in Europe, São Miguel Island is relatively affordable when considering its location and remoteness. Firstly. it’s a fraction of what it would cost to travel to Hawaii and is just as beautiful in its own way. However, compared to the other Azores Islands, São Miguel is slightly more expensive since it is one of the most popular destinations in the archipelago. However, during the fall and winter months, there are fewer crowds, and many hotels offer unbeatable rates!

Is Sao Miguel Touristy?

It’s not touristy in the sense that it is inauthentic. However, it does attract the most tourists out of all of the nine islands. It is the largest in size and the most developed. When people are planning their Portugal getaways, this matters since there are more lodging options, attractions, and things to do. During the spring and summer months, it might be more crowded due to cruise ships or high season, but it’s still very enjoyable.

What is Sao Miguel, Azores known for?

São Miguel is known for many things! However, among these, the island is most known for its many hot springs, nature parks and reserves, centuries-old churches, wineries and wine tastings, and hospitable locals. If you’re itching to pick a destinations for your upcoming Portugal getaways, this is definitely a top choice. The rich and hearty cuisines and native fresh fruits there are pretty great, too!

Conclusion: Making the Most of Your Portugal Getaways 

From stunning tea plantations to adrenaline-pumping hikes along volcanic craters, São Miguel is a testament to nature’s beauty and cultural richness. It’s not just a vacation, but a soul-stirring experience! To experience most of São Miguel’s main attractions and natural wonders, it’s best to spend at least 4-5 days there. If time and budget allow, staying longer is never a bad idea! There is no shortage of things to do and see.

Don’t forget to purchase international travel insurance in the unlikely event of trip cancellation or disruption. My favorite companies to use are World Nomads and Safety Wing, which offer a number of differently priced options so you can pick the right plan for you. It definitely provides extra peace of mind and trip assistance 24-7. So what are you waiting for? Book your flights, pack your bags, reserve your rental car, and be prepared to dive into one of the best and most memorable Portugal getaways of your life. Don’t wait another second: São Miguel is calling your name!

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