Europe, Family, The Very Latest, Toddler

The Azores with Children

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.


Getting around

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.

Top eateries

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)

Hotel: £585

Food/drink: £215

Trips/Activities: £150

Total: £1,640


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21 thoughts on “The Azores with Children”

  1. This is so useful -we are off to Sao Miguel in October with our 6 year old. How many miles did you cover for your £45 fuel budget and did you eat out one or two meals a day? Just working out our budget now 🙂 Thanks

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  2. Thanks so much for your message, so pleased you have found it useful! We covered 4,300 miles for the £45 which was quite reasonable! Although we had a little Nissan Micra that struggled to get up some of the hills so perhaps a bigger (more appropriate?!) car would be less fuel efficient!
    I would say we ate out about once a day, and self catered the rest of the time. A meal (e.g burger and chips or fish dish) is around EUR7 so very reasonable 🙂 There aren’t many restaurants out in the countryside so it’s a good idea to take good with you just in case! It’s such a great place to visit, I can imagine a six year old will love exploring the island!
    Have a fantastic time! Hope you post about it when you are back – we are missing those amazing views!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello! Love your post! I am in the U.S. and plan on traveling with my family ( to include our 9 year old) next summer. Your itinerary is most helpful. Thanks for the beautiful photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello,
    Thank you so much for your post. What month did you travel in? What car company did you use? My husband and I are thinking about Traveling here in April with our 23 month old. Did you stay in one place or did you stay in multiple places? I am assuming my son will still be sleeping in a crib at that point and not a bed. Does this mean I would need to bring my own sleeper or do you think most places would have a place for him to sleep?
    Was there anything you guys had hoped to do but were unable to due to having a toddler with you? Did you feel the island was very kid and family friendly / safe?
    Thanks again for all your help and suggestions. I really enjoyed reading your blog.

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    1. Hello, thanks so much for your comment! The Azores was one of the most amazing places we have been, I would really recommend it if you like being outdoors. It’s such a gorgeous wild place! Our little one loved it so much, there’s so much to explore.

      We visited mid-June which seemed to be the start of the season. I think April will have a bit more rain but the weather is so changeable you’ll no doubt get some sunshine too!

      We stayed in one place (Capelas) on the West of Sao Miguel island Which was great for exploring most of the island (driving up to 4 hours max to the other side). You could do a few days on each side of the island to cut out some of the driving though. We used driving time as an opportunity for our little ones naps!

      Driving can be tricky with winding single-track roads up the hills. There are some great roads along the coast though. We hired our car through Ilha Verde Rent a Car… we had read a few bad reviews but they were actually great and provided a good car seat.

      We stayed in an apartment so took a travel cot but hotels will have cot you can use. Might be worth emailing them ahead to reserve one though.

      We found it really super family friendly. You can get all supplies you need over there and everyone was very friendly and accommodating. Outside of Ponta Delgada there aren’t really any footpaths and the roads are narrow – I think we only used a stroller twice! Definitely take a carrier!

      There are some long hikes (4 hours) up to some amazing waterfalls which we would have liked to do if we didn’t have the toddler with us. You could probably do these but its difficult to get phone signal in some places so we were a bit paranoid in case we had any accidents! We visited other waterfalls and did some lovely short hikes instead though. There are also some small speedboats that take you whale watching which looked amazing but not for toddlers!

      There’s so much to do though – you won’t run out of things to explore. Our little boy loved it, especially swimming in the thermal pools (he still talks about it six months later!).

      Have an amazing trip! And let me know if you have any more questions we might be able to help with 🙂 x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this awesome post! Did you happen to come across any playgrounds while you were there? I’ll be traveling with my 2 and 3 year old and curious if there are any activities designed specifically for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Olivia! Thank you so much 🙂 There are a few playgrounds dotted around, there was one in Ponta Delgada and one outside a supermarket in Capelas but they aren’t very big or very common. Everything is very outdoorsy so things like visiting Jardim António Borges gardens, catching a boat tour or heading to the beach/pool are probably the best options for the little ones. There aren’t many child specific activities like soft play or farms etc like we go to at home. Some bigger hotels might have things for them to do – ours had mini golf which was hilarious with a 2 year old! It’s still quite underdeveloped and wild which is great but means there’s not much specifically designed for children just yet x

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  6. Hello Aimee

    I enjoy your blog so much and thank you for sharing! We are visiting there next month with my 2 year old; did you use a carrier to carry him on those hiking trails ? We live in a suburban at home, I don’t even remember the last time he was in a carrier. I am concerned that my son wouldn’t sit still .

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    1. Hi Karen,
      So glad you enjoyed the blog, hope it was useful for planning your trip 🙂 Most of the places we went to you could pretty much drive right up to if you wanted to, so you can avoid most of the hiking. Some required a short walk which Fin managed himself at 2 years old or was carried on daddy’s shoulders for a little bit! We took our Deuter Kid Comfort carrier and a stroller but didn’t end up using either really!
      Let us know how your trip goes!
      Aimee x

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      1. Hello Aimee

        We just came back from a week vacation. You were absolutely right, we could drive up to most locations and we didn’t need a carrier. My son had so much fun and my husband and I feel we could retire there 🙂

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      2. Hi Karen,
        Sounds like you had a fantastic time!! So pleased you enjoyed it – it’s such a gorgeous place. My husband’s favourite fact was that the Azores have more cows than people… not sure how true that is! Perfect for retirement though!
        Aimee x

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  7. Hi Aimee, thank you for your blog
    We got married in Sao miguel 3 years ago in September and we are now going back with our 16 months old in mid June. I have a few questions: for mid June weather were you able to swim in the ocean? If yes, what beach would you recommend for swimming?. Last time we went to Populo beach but waves were so high we could not swim and were not allowed either by lifeguards.
    Food – as a mother I am always afraid of food poisoning, did you feel overall safe when giving your child restaurant food?
    Did you end up hiking down to Lagoa de Fogo? That place was so breathtaking and I definitely want to go down and hike around the like but the actual hike might be challenging with a toddler. Thought? Thank you in advance for your response

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    1. Hi Lidia,

      So pleased you enjoyed the blog! You’ll have a fantastic time with your little one! 🙂

      In June the weather was foggy in the morning and then usually clearing to blue skies by mid-morning (and we needed sun cream!). There were a few days when it was cloudy for the whole day. It was very changeable so it could be raining one minute then hot sunshine the next! We wore summer clothes but had light raincoats just in case.

      I wouldn’t say any of the beaches we went to were good for swimming with a toddler… none had lifeguards or flags and waves were very big and very cold. The best was Ribeira dad Tainhas which was quite deserted with smaller waves but you’ll need to take a parasol as there’s no shade! Great for building sandcastles with the little one though!

      We totally cheated and drove to the top of Lagoa de Fogo and then drove down into the crater! The hike looked beautiful and would be manageable with a toddler in a backpack if you hike regularly but it is very steep and the paths down that we saw were very narrow.

      Food wise it was absolutely fine, the restaurants we went to cooked absolutely amazing food and we weren’t worried about Fin eating any of it, even the seafood. None of us got sick 🙂 We also picked him up snacks, yoghurts, fruit etc from the supermarket.

      Hope that helps and please let us know how your trip goes!!

      Aimee x

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  8. Hi,
    We are going to Sao Miguel in July with our 22 months old.
    Which boat company did you use for the whale whatching tour?

    Best regards

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    1. Hi there,

      That’s very exciting! There’s a company called Moby Dick which has a nice big boat with inside areas – a bit more comfortable when you have a toddler than some of the companies with smaller boats!

      Let us know how you get on!
      Aimee x

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  9. Hi Aimee,

    Thanks for the wonderful post. We are looking to go this upcoming April with my 7 and 6 yo boys. Question- Did you feel like 1 week on Sao Miguel was the right amount of time or should we try to see two islands?

    Thanks,

    Tami

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    1. Hi Tami,

      How exciting for you guys! You’re going to have the best time. In April the whale watching is supposed to be great but be sure to take some waterproofs! We spent a week on Sao Miguel and didn’t see everything so you could definitely fill a week with amazing activities. I think it’s quite tricky to get from Sao Miguel to the other islands too (you have to fly) so you would probably be best to stay in Sao Miguel – there’s so much to see and do it would be a shame to miss out on any of it 🙂

      Please do let us know how your trip goes or if you have any questions! It’s one place we would love to go back to!

      Aimee x

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