#01 – Beginning on the island of Flores, in the small west coast village of Faja Grande – at first sight, the Maresia Restaurante isn’t much to write home about. It’s not an impressive building; maybe even a little scruffy, with it’s ramshackle outdoor furniture and rusty lean-to. Look again and you’ll begin to understand why Maresia is one of our favourite restaurants in the whole of the Azores.
First, you have an incomparable location – with the pounding Atlantic on one side and the cascading waterfalls of the Rocha da Faja escarpment on the other.
Second (and most importantly), owner and chef Jorge serves by far-and-away the best food on Flores. If you’re offered a menu, throw it away and allow Jorge to bring you dish after dish of his wonderful seasonal creations.
#02 – If the tumbledown feel of Maresia isn’t your cup of tea, you might prefer the Papdiamandis Restaurante (just next door). Papdiamandis is more spacious – both indoors and outdoors – and with an outstanding view of Faja Grande’s famous waterfalls. The menu is all-round Azorean, with some good veggie choices and a few Med/Italian choices thrown in.
#03 – Head along the Lajedo trail which traverses Flores’ dramatic west coast, you’ll come to the village of Fajazinha. The Restaurante Por do Sol is perfectly placed for lunch – the trail passes right by the front door and they’re open from 12:00 until 14:00. The menu is straight, traditional Azores – really nice dishes made with fresh ingredients, and the big portions will provide all the energy you need to complete the walk.
#04 – Tucked away in the north-eastern corner of the island, is the Restaurante o Pescador in the village of Ponta Delgada. Although ‘Pescador’ translates as fisherman, I’d heard they serve an excellent slow-cooked lamb stew (rare to see on an Azores menu) – I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint.
#05 – Flores’ capital Santa Cruz has a nice selction of restaurants with traditional Azorean menus – Restaurante Sereia, Rainha do Bife and the Restaurante Macau are all good options. Jake from our Archipelago team is a big fan of Azorean fish dishes and one of his favourite places is the restaurant at the Hotel Ocidental. Known locally as the Hotel Cafe, it’s open to non-residents – Jake’s dish of the day would be the grilled octopus.
#06 – Crossing the channel to Flores’ smaller neighbour – the island of Corvo. It’s the smallest of all the islands in the Azores, with just one town (Vila do Corvo) and a population of around 450. The southern end of the island around Vila is fairly flat, whereas the west is dominated by the Monte Gordo caldera.
Vila’s a tiny place with just three restaurants. The Caldeirao Restaurante & Pastelaria down on the southern-most tip of the island is Paul’s recommendation – for it’s fabulous view of Flores, it’s fofas (eclairs), pastel de macas (apple pasteries) and bolo marmore (marble cake).
#07 – Heading to the east of Azores, the island of Santa Maria is a favourite destination amongst Azoreans themselves – for it’s sandy beaches, it’s striking coastal scenery and it’s relaxing rural atmosphere.
Arguably the best restaurant in Santa Maria’s capital Vila da Porto is Mesa d’Oito on Rua Teofilo de Braga. It’s within the Hotel Charming Blue but is open to non-residents – they have a modern Azorean menu with some nice veggie options (the mushroom risotto using Sao Jorge cheese was excellent) and great desserts.
#08 – If you’d prefer a more laid-back and informal evening, the best place for pestiscos, pizzas, cocktails and cold beer is the romantically named Organizações Central Pub E Ginásio – known locally as the Central Pub.
#09 – Santa Maria’s Grande Trilha is one of the best-loved walks in the Azores – if you’re planning to walk the trail, there are restaurants conveniently placed across each stage of this classic hike. Day One takes you by O Paquete – overlooking the beach at Praia Formosa. It’s a lovely spot on a sunny summer’s day and the obvious choice for lunch if you’re spending the day at the beach.
#10 – Beginning Day Two, the Restaurant Prazeres in the village of Maia is perhaps a little early in the walk for food but it’s a nice coffee stop. You’re more likely to be peckish as you arrive in the village of Santo Espirito – I’d recommend a stop at the Handicraft Co-op. At the front is the bakery selling fresh bread and orelha biscuits, and at the rear are the hand-driven looms which are used to create the traditional blankets and tablecloths you’ll also see for sale.
#11 – Towards the end of Day Two, you’ll pass through the east coast village of São Lourenço – home to one of our favourite restaurants on the island: the Restaurante Ponta Negra. The terrace has one of the best seaviews in the Azores, and the menu is pretty good too.
Across the steep hillside which forms the backdrop to the village, you’ll see family-owned vineyards extending as far as the steep gradient will allow. The grapes are used to produce sweet liqueurs and each family has its own closely-guarded recipe. The Ponta Negra usually has a few varieties available: Aguardente, Licor de Amor, Vinho Abafado and Vinho Abafadinho.
#12 – Day Three of the Grand Trail takes you across Santa Maria’s north coast, meandering inland to take in Pico Alto, the highest point on the island at 587m. Senhora Alice Bapista’s café is your last coffee stop/food opportunity before you head into the forests on Pico Alto, and via the red desert at Barreiro da Faneca to the north coast town of Anjos. Bar dos Anjos is the place to refuel after a hard day’s hiking – followed by a swim in the nearby Zona Balnear seapools.
#13 – Completing your circuit of the island on Day Four, you’ll be walking along the remote western coast trail which brings you back into Vila via the main harbour. Lookout for the (blue and white) Clube Naval – good for lunch or dinner, and they serve excellent shellfish.
#14 – In Graciosa’s main town Santa Cruz, life is centred around the Praca Fontes Pereira de Melo, with it’s man-made ponds and impressive Araucarua trees. For a light lunch or a sociable glass of Azorean wine in the evenings, there are a number small cafebars dotted around the square: the Grafil Coffee Bar, the Cafe da Praca and the Restaurante Apolo 80.
#15 – For something more susbstantial in the evenings, a short stroll down the Rua 25 de Abril will bring you to the Restaurante Costa do Sol. The menu is traditional Azorean and as you’d expect from this close-knit farming community, their steaks are excellent. They also have a choice selection of mainland wines.
#16 – If fish is your dish, head down to the Restaurante Estrela do Mar on the quiet west coast, overlooking the Baia da Folga.
#17 – If you’re heading to the Termas do Carapacho for a swim in the geothermal pool, the nearby Dolphin O Roque Restaurante is a good choice for lunch. They’ll often have a buffet special which is usually really good value and based around the catch of the day.
#18 – Queijadas are an Azorean speciality – small, deliciously-morish cakes which are the perfect accompaniment to an espresso or cup of Azorean tea. Recipes vary from island to island – ‘Queijadas da Graciosa’ have a distinctive star-shape and you can buy then directly form the oven in the east coast town of Praia. The bakery is just north of the harbour – look for the ‘Queijadas da Graciosa’ sign.
Our Where to eat guides are based on our first-hand experience and our love of great Portuguese cuisine:
We specialise in tailor-made holidays to the nine islands of the Azores. Call Paul on 017687 721020 to begin planning your personalised trip.
Our island hopping holiday to the Azores was absolutely amazing,
Dear Jake. This is a long email, so you might want to go grab yourself a cuppa before you start reading. We just wanted to send you an email to say thank you so much for everything. Our island hopping holiday to the Azores was absolutely amazing, it was far beyond our dreams and expectations,...
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