Each island of the Azores has something unique, but only Sao Miguel has it all – volcanoes and crater lakes, rugged Atlantic coastlines, volcanic hot springs and a wealth of marine wildlife.
Sao Miguel’s great if you like being active, if you love to explore new places and enjoy doing new stuff. (If you’d rather just chill-out with a book on the beach, you should take a look at our Graciosa Family Holiday or our Beach Holiday to Madeira and Porto Santo). It’s a bit practical but it’s also imporant to add): the Azores are a really safe family destination – there’s little-to-no-crime and Azoreans are some of the most welcoming, family-friendly people you’ll ever meet. Being the largest island, Sao Miguel has a huge range of activities and excursions for you to choose from. You can pick & mix the four activities that most appeal from the list below – and if there’s an activity we’ve not included, please feel free to ask: we can often swap activities like-for-like or we can let you know if there’ll be an additional cost:
Whale and dolphin watching
The Azores are one of the best whale watching destinations in the world, and we work with the best crews on Sao Miguel.
Swimming with dolphins
The cherry on the cake of any visit to the Azores has to be a swimming with dolphins trip.
If you prefer dry land, you might like to include a day with our resident guide exploring the hot springs at Furnas or the Gruta do Carvão lava tunnels under Ponta Delgada.
Christina and her team at the Quinta da Terca stables are great at accommodating all abilities and riding experience. A typical ride will follow the Santa Mata trail; a peaceful forest ride through often overwhelming aromas of eucalyptus, acacias and bay trees.
Abseiling down the waterfalls of the Ribeira dos Caldeiroes – again, you don’t need any experience as our guide Paulo will provide all the gear and guidance you’ll need.
Kayaking & biking
We all have our favourite days out here in the office – for me, exploring the great crater at Sete Cidades by kayak and by bike is the biggest highlight of a visit to Sao Miguel.
Your home for the week is a modern two-bedroom apartment at Quinta de Santana, in the quiet north coast village of Rabo de Peixe. It’s a lovely, sociable place to stay – there are twenty-five apartments in and around a large walled garden; with a lovely outdoor pool and loads of space for the kids to run around. We’ll also include a hire car during your stay so you can explore the island under your own steam – we like to strike a nice balance between active days and time doing your own thing: giving you plenty of time to enjoy the relaxing pace of Azorean life.
In the afternoon, you could drive into nearby Ribeira Grande – the largest town on the north coast, it takes its name from the river that flows down from the Agua de Pau mountains and through the centre of town – spanned by the pretty eight arched Ponte de Oito Arcos bridge. In the town’s main square, you’ll see the art-deco Ribeiragrandense Theatre. They don’t tend to run matinees, but it’s worth asking nicely at the box office if you can have a quick tour of the building. It hasn’t really changed much since it’s construction in 1933 – the art-deco auditorium is stunning.
Morning trips begin at 8:30 with a short briefing before heading out to sea. We normally recommend heading out to sea on a small Rigid Inflatable Boat – we find it’s a better experience as you’re close to the water (and the wildlife). However, if you have a history of back pain or are recovering from a recent injury, (or you might simply prefer a bigger boat of course), you might be more comfortable on a larger catamaran.
In the afternoon, you could drive over the high Pico da Barrosa mountain pass (947m) - weather permitting, there’s a wonderful panoramic view of the north and south coasts. Heading down towards the north coast, you might like to stop for a dip in the geothermal pools at Caldera Velha. Like it's sister pools in Furnas, Caldera Velha’s waters are coloured deep orange, from the high iron-oxide content drawn into the waters as they rise from a deep thermal aquifer. What’s unique about Caldera Velha is the hot waterfall, where the 30˚C waters fall out of the forest in the bathing pools below.
Our guided canyoning trip takes you down through the Riberia dos Caldeiroes valley, negotiating your way along the river, abseiling down waterfalls and plunging into deep pools. Safety is paramount of course; you’ll be thoroughly briefed in advance of your first descent, and our guide will be with you every step of the way.
It’s very difficult to get lost as you stroll around the town – the streets always seem to lead you to either the main marina and the main Avenida Infante Dom Henrique (and both are nice spots for afternoon (Azorean) tea).
When I'm self-catering, one of my favourite places to visit is the Mercado da Graca - main farmers’ market which sells fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Lookout for a small stand-alone shop on the north-east corner of the market – called O Rei dos Queijos. It’s a wonderful shop which sells Azorean cheeses, local charcuterie (Portuguese Chorizo is particularly good), fresh bread, biscuits, and wines and sweet liquors from around the islands.
In the afternoon, you might like to include a swimming with dolphins trip from the local marina. The waters around Sao Miguel are home to the North Atlantic's largest populations of common, bottlenose and spotted dolphins.
There are over thirty springs and geysers dotted around the village - the largest and most famous pool is at Terra Nostra Botanical Gardens. Slightly less well-known is the outdoor spa at Poca Dona Beija, where the natural-hot waters of the Ribeira dos Lameiros) have been channelled into a series of five pools, of varying depths and temperatures.
Sete Cidades (or Seven Cities) is the largest caldera on the island - arriving at Sete Cidades by car, your first stop is normally Vista do Rei: the ‘King’s Viewpoint’ with its birds eye view the twin lakes: Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. This famous 'miradouro' was named in honour of King Don Carlos and his Queen Dona Amelia following their visit in 1901. The road descends down from the crater rim, through the Japanese Cedar forest to the base of the crater and the village of Sete Cidades itself.
After spending the morning exploring the shores of the twin lakes by bike, you could spend the afternoon kayaking on Lagoa Azul (or on stand-up paddleboards if you’d prefer).
From £1294 per person
We can create a tailor-made holiday to suit your budget.
What's included ? Self-catering accommodation for four (two adults and two children under 18) in a two-bedroom cottage at Quinta de Santana, and arrival airport transfers, seven days hire car (with two child seats if you need them), and four activities from the list above. With regards to the flight price, there are a few different ways of travelling to the islands - we try to include a realistic guide price and once we've had a chat regarding your holiday, we'll send you a detailed itinerary which includes an exact price based on your preferred flight option. What's not included ? Other than lunch during an island tour, we don't include any other meals. There are some excellent restaurants with easy walking distance of your hotels, and we'll let you know which are our favourites.
You’ll be staying in the small north coast village of Rabo de Peixe. The village’s residents are particularly keen on their folklore and festivals – the best-known and most popular is the ‘Festa da Bandeiras’, the Festival of Flags whose processions and feasts normally bring the whole village to a standstill. If you’re lucky enough to stay during a celebration, look out for the traditional dances that the men of the village are famous for: the Balho dos Homens da Terra (the Men of the Earth dance) and the Balho dos Homens do Mar (the Men of the Sea). In the evenings, there's an excellent restaurant nearby called Restaurante da Associação Agrícola (www.restauranteaasm.com). It's a short walk from Quinta de Santana and serves some of the best steaks on the island - it's also very popular so you'll need to make a reservation. There's also the small, family run Restaurante O Pescador which serves great fresh fish - and if you don't mind the short drive, there are more restaurants and pizzerias dotted around Ribeira Grande.
There's a great mix of things to see and do on Sao Miguel. If you're not sure which excursions and activities to choose, don’t worry: we can talk you through how each one works, and we'll go away to confirm your accommodation and flights. Once you've had a chat with your family, we can add in your preferred activities later.
You'll spend your week on Sao Miguel, the largest and best-connected island in the Azores. There are direct weekly flights from Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester, and you can fly most days via Lisbon from Heathrow. Edinburgh and Birmingham via Lisbon could also be options - we can talk you through all the possible routes to see which fits best.