The Azores is a group of wild and rugged volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. We stayed on the largest island of Sao Miguel and indulged in the natural beauty of the ‘green island’. If you enjoy being outdoors and exploring off the beaten track then the Azores are for you!
We found the absence of tourism infrastructure on Sao Miguel to be completely refreshing. The lakes and beaches are relatively untouched by hotels, restaurants or shops. This came with challenges too as some places were hard to find or were simply inaccessible with a toddler. This gave the island a wild and untouched charm – perfect for exploring!
Here we have put together our favourite family friendly activities, top tips for getting around and an idea of budget for Sao Miguel island in the Azores.
Thanks to bargain flights from Ryanair we hopped on our four-hour flight to Ponta Delgada for just £50 return per person. We arrived into an overcast and rainy island, picked up our car and headed off on the 15 minute journey to our hotel on the north coast. An hour later the clouds had lifted and we were rewarded with the most stunning views of this beautiful island. That was a sign of things to come – Sao Miguel is wild and the weather can change dramatically in just a few minutes.
We stayed at Apartments Acorsonho, an affordable (£75pn) four-star hotel-apartment in Capelas. The hotel had beautiful warm indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, gym and restaurant. Oh, and mini golf. It was perfectly located in a quiet part of the island but just a 15 minute drive from the main sights of Ponta Delgada and Sete Cidades. We would definitely recommend staying in Capelas or Lagoa.
Here are our six favourite family friendly things to do and see in Sao Miguel, Azores;
1. Sete Cidades
The most breath-taking views and scenic walks can be found at Sete Cidades. It is possible to drive very close to each viewpoint which was perfect for our toddler who refuses to go in a carrier! Older children can enjoy the many hikes in this area too. Top tip – take snacks as there aren’t many places to get food here.
Miradouro da Boco do Inferno
This was by far our favourite place on the whole island – we headed up to this amazing viewpoint three times in three days! It can be surprisingly tricky to find; head to Lagoa do Canario and take the dirt track to the right of the lake, opposite the carpark. Follow the road around to the left and after a few km there are some steps on the left. Follow the steps and trail for ten minutes to reach this beautiful spot. Alternatively, there are several beautiful signposted hikes around the area too.
Miradouro da Vista do Rei
This well-known viewpoint sits just off the main road (EN9-1A) and boasts absolutely epic views over two of the lakes at Sete Cidades (Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde). There is parking at the viewing platform, or several beautiful hikes to reach this spot. Here you will also find an abandoned luxury 5* hotel built in the 1980’s called Monte Palace. The derelict building has now become a tourist attraction of its own, although a bit dangerous for littlies.
Sete Cidades town
We also ventured down into the crater to Sete Cidades town and relaxed by the lakes. This gave a completely different perspective on the enormity of the craters. There were a handful of small restaurants here so we had a beer at Green Love Restaurant and wandered along the lakeside.
2. Caldeira Vehla and Lagoa do Fogo
Sao Miguel’s lush green countryside is dotted with beautiful waterfalls. Some of these require serious hiking… so instead we visited Caldeira Vehla. With easy parking, nicely paved paths, changing rooms and toilets, these hot spring pools and waterfall are ideal for families. Entrance for swimmers was €8 per person (children less/free).
Continue heading up EN5-2A from Caldeira Vehla and you will find a beautiful viewpoint over Lagoa do Fogo. It is possible to wander down into the crater and spend time on the lakeside beaches.
3. Rabeira das Tainhas
Sao Miguel is a rugged, rocky, volcanic island so we were surprised to find so many beautiful sandy beaches along the south coast. The beach at Rabeira das Tainhas was a particular favourite of ours with parking nearby, picnic areas and changing rooms. This secluded beach is found at the bottom of some steep steps and was completely deserted when we visited. There are no parasols or shade on any of the beaches we visited so it’s best to visit early or take shade.
4. Explore Ponta Delgada
The centre of the island’s capital is filled with beautiful old black and white buildings accented with bright red flowers. Some parts are pedestrianised and there are several nice restaurants off the main square. The sights of Ponta Delgada are easily walkable and include a botanical garden, a fort and a marina.
The edge of the Marina is surrounded by rocks with hundreds of huge crabs which are fun to spot. There is a handful of boat tour companies and a few dive centres too. A section of the Marina is sectioned off for swimming and there are several restaurants too.
5. Hit the Waves
Whale and dolphin watching: From huge toddler-friendly covered boats, to super fast rib boats, there are a lot of ways to see the whales and dolphins from Ponta Delgada. The boat trips (€60pp) take around four hours and go far out to sea. The changeable weather means seas can become very choppy very quickly.
Boat tours: We hopped on a shorter three hour boat tour of the island (€35pp) which included stopping on a private beach and kayaking in a bay.
Scuba Diving: Getting under the waves is also a popular activity in the Azores with several Scuba Diving companies to chose from. There’s a huge wreck to explore and underwater lava flows. Marine life ranges from trigger fish, moray eels and lobster close to shore, to manta rays further out. Water temp in June was around 20 degrees and 20m visibility. We went with Best Spot Diving (€90 for two tank dive) who were very accommodating when we wanted to take turns diving so we could also spend time with the little one.
6. Fiery Furnas
Furnas is a small town on the edge of a huge lake. At one side of the lake there are geothermal springs. For €2 entrance per car, we explored the bubbling, steaming pools. Several restaurants cook specialist dishes using pits in the ground here! There are some lakeside picnic areas and toilets too. Not far away from the lake are some waterfalls and great hiking.
There are some excellent quality main roads around the coast of Sao Miguel. In towns and villages the streets are very very narrow – lucky our hire car had its hubcaps removed already!
Hiring a car is a must on Sao Miguel, especially with young children. We hired a car and car seat for 7 days (£150) to explore the island at our own pace. There are tour companies and ‘yellow buses’ that go around the island too.
There are very few pavements on Sao Miguel so expect a lot of walking along main roads (in the road). We took our travel pushchair to use in Ponta Delgada, but if you are exploring the island or hiking, a carrier is a must!
Baby and Toddler Supplies
Everything you could need can be bought in Sao Miguel so, if like us you have very limited luggage allowance, you can get everything once you arrive.
Continente Modelo supermarkets are dotted around the island and have everything from baby food and nappies to buckets and spades. The store in Capelas also has a pharmacy and gorgeous children’s clothing.
There’s also a Decathalon in Ponta Delgada where you can get hold of children’s life jackets, snorkels and swimwear.
Restaurant Borda d’agua (Lagoa Town)
Fishing boats bring the daily catch in just meters from this small restaurant on the sea front in Lagoa. The menu is extensive and half portions are available on every dish. I cannot rate this place highly enough, the food and service was just superb!
We mostly self-catered in the Azores which was perfect for packing up picnics as it can be difficult to find cafés and restaurants in a lot of places. The cost of food is very reasonable. If you love steak and seafood then you will adore the Azores – with more cows than people, good quality beef is very reasonable! Hello Steak!
Seven days, two adults, one toddler
Flights & Baggage: £200
Car Hire: £150
Fuel: £45 (4,300 miles)