Santa Maria is the most southerly of the nine islands of the Azores.
It’s also the sunniest, with some of the best beaches in the archipelago making it a favourite holiday destination for many Azoreans. Between the beaches, there are some spectacular coves and cliffs – geologically, it’s the oldest island with quite a different landscape to the younger, more obviously volcanic islands like Pico or Faial. Inland, the volcanoes that first formed Santa Maria have had time to erode down into pleasent rolling hills.
The island was also the first to be inhabited, with the first Portuguese settlers arriving in 1439 on the site of the current village of Anjos. Christopher Columbus famously came ashore at Anjos in 1493 on his return voyage from the Americas; attending mass at the chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Anjos. The island’s also famous for its handicrafts with most Azorean families owning a blanket, patchwork quilt or linen tablecloth which was woven by hand on a traditional loom at the co-operative in Santo Espirito. Wines and sweet liqueurs are also produced on the island, including Aguardente, Licor de Amor, Vinho Abafado and Vinho Abafadinho.
Santa Maria’s just a short fifteen-minute flight over from the main island of Sao Miguel, making it the natural choice if you’re thinking of splitting your stay between two islands.