São Miguel is a really nice place to go on a vacation, even if you don’t surf. And if you surf, it’s even better.
If the surf is down or a passing storm spoils your session with 60km/h winds, you don’t have to sit it out and sleep all da. Here’s 10 things to do on São Miguel
1. Visit Sete Cidades and the abandoned Hotel.
Most tourists visit Sete Cidades (which translates to “seven cities” although there is only one, depending on your definition of city) for the lakes and the cute lakeside town. It is really beautiful, but the real sight you should go seeing is the abandoned hotel “Monte Palace”. Built in the 80ties it opened 1998 for about one year before closing forever. In fact it’s so cool and has such a weird story that we wrote a special post for it.
2. Take a trip to Furnas and go swimming in natural hot pools.
Living in Furnas literally is living in the caldera of a vulcano. You will find smoking fumaroles and the smell of sulfur almost everywhere you go. The volcano is dormant and there has been no eruptions witnessed by humans (which means since the early 15th century) . The heat is still there wich is why locals cook the famous “Cozido das Furnas”. It’s a big stew to cook at the boiling bottom of a hole in the earth.
When you can cook with volcanic heat, the next hot spring to take a bath must be close: out of all the places where you can enjoy natural hot springs, the Parque Terra Nostra is the most beautiful. Not only because of it’s hot springs (one huge basin and two smaller pools hidden in the forest), the park itself is well worth to visit. It’s like a paradise within paradise.
Poça da Dona Beija is another beautiful place to enjoy the hot springs, and a good reason to visit Furnas more than once.
3. Swim in the natural pools of Ferraria
Talking “natural” hot springs, the pools of Ferraria are the most natural ones. As the eruption wasn’t too long ago, the heat is close to the surface and actually heats up ocean water. Go there at low tide and you will have an experience that is hard to get anywhere else in Europe.
4. Go to the fishmarket in Rabo de Peixe, buy some and make a BBQ at the miradouro
5. Eat local Ananas
6. See Lagoa do Congro
7. Visit the Ilheu de Villafranco do Campo
8. See the sunset in Mosteiros
9. Have a beer at a (really) local bar
A vacation (and especially a surf trip) is not complete, if you don’t dive into the culture. One good way to do it is to visit a bar or cafe where the locals hang out. You should at least be able to order a beer or coffee in Portuguese. Most times, that’s the only language you will hear. We do it every once in a while and it’s always fun because you will find yourself in a tourist-free environment, using your hands and everything else that helps to chat with the locals. Check out the “Cervejaria Leão” in Ribeirinha to start.
10. Visit the Farol Ponta do Arnel and the beautiful fishing village below.
You may have seen it in some of our videos, we just got hooked by this part of the island. If you consider yourself a good driver, drive down to the farol if you want to put your rental car and your driving abilities to a test. Otherwise walking is the wiser choice as the road is really narrow and steep. You will get rewarded by a spectacular view on the ocean and a small but very nice fishing village tucked into the lava stone formations.
If you’re all the way through our suggestions, there’s off course more things to do on São Miguel. You can visit volcanic caves, hike around in beautiful landscapes, watch whales, fish for tuna… We just don’t suggest these things because we haven’t done it yet.
11. Read the Stormrider Guide.
A flat day is a good opportunity to read The Stormrider Surf Guide – Azores and Madeira (The Stormrider Surf Guides) and prepare for the next swell to arrive on the island. Be sure it won’t take long.