Azores beaches aren’t just about sun, sand and sunbathing. There’s plenty of that on offer, but when you read about what these islands have in store? Your FOMO will keep you flitting from one coastline to the next, in search of the treasures hidden in the Azores. To save you stopping off at every strip of sand, we’ve rummaged through the rock pools to find the best Azores beaches for you to enjoy.
For gorgeous golden sands
Finding anything other than black, volcanic sands on Azores beaches is a rare treat. No wonder then that locals and visitors come to Praia Formosa on Santa Maria for their coastal fun. A golden stretch of coastline that ticks the holiday boxes, it also happens to be on the south of the southern most island. Which means toasty temperatures a degree or two above other Azores beaches. Facilities and snacks are close by, there’s a campsite to stay in if you can’t tear yourself away. And, if a glorious beach on one of the most picturesque Azores islands isn’t enough, the annual festival and nearby ruins of a 16th century fort might just get you to Praia Formosa.
The wild one
From all the convenience of a holiday beach, to the wild and deserted sands of Praia da Amora on São Miguel. This is a stretch of coast for adventurers. The kind of shoreline where hiking boots are the shoe du jour – rather than a flip flop. Bare toes rarely mix well with steep and narrow gravel paths, but that’s the price of access for the chance to explore this remote spot. You’ll likely be joined by few others. Perhaps a naturist to two? So it’s just you, the dramatic cliff face and the little nooks and crannies carved by hand where fishermen once stored their boats and belongings. Adventure-filled bliss.
To surf the Azores waves
Before we roll out the technical deets for Praia da Vitória, it’s worth knowing that this charming beach on Terceira hosts more than its fair share of windsurfing championships. Which instantly clues you in to the fact that this is a watersports hotspot for all. Surfers will, of course, love riding long left waves the beach is known for. But when the N-NE winds roll in, it’s all about the kitesurfing too. Sailing fans keep an eye out for the strong north winds – which, for them, are perfect conditions. But the reality is, just about whichever way the wind is blowing, Praia da Vitória has consistent, high quality waves for all.
Orbzii tip: Looking to take your first wobbly stance on a board? Hone your skills? Vila Nova Surfcenter are the local surf school to get you on the water on a surfboard, SUP or Windsurf board.
The beach inside a volcano crater
Of all the things to do in the Azores, this has to be THE one to put straight to the top of the list. Just off the island of São Miguel lies the islet of Vila Franca do Campo. Straight away you’re in uncharted territory as you access the submerged volcano crater that has collapsed just enough to let some balmy sea water in. Take a look around and you’ll spot a sandy beach. Granted, this isn’t a space to lug a windbreak, picnic and some whimsical beach games to, but it does, bizarrely have a usable bathroom facility. Pop in on a boat trip. Snorkel a little and soak up the views. Unmissable.
Where the water’s always warm
Popping into the ocean for a bracing dip is refreshing – but for the days when you’d rather something a little less goosebump-inducing, swing by Praia do Fogo on São Miguel. This Blue Flag beach is a cracker without the little secret it’s harbouring under the sea bed. And that secret happens to be hydrothermal vents. Releasing just enough hot water to keep temperatures swimmable – without being too warming, it makes a stellar beach feel pretty 5 star. The eye-melting mountains don’t hurt either.
Orbzii tip: If Praia do Fogo’s geothermal shenanigans has got your attention, take the 25 minute drive north to Lake Furnas. Here, the earth bubbles, water boils and the local chefs cook up a storm in the toasty soil.
The one with a coastal thermal spa
Sticking with the volcanic theme, but this time we’re headed west on São Miguel to Ponta da Ferraria. Pleasingly, mother nature has popped a lovely little natural spa on the coast for us all to wallow in. Fair warning, this spot is a smidge light on sand. Instead, you’re looking for a space on the wave-splashed rocks if you want to take a pew. No matter, you’re really here for the (allegedly) therapeutic waters and a balmy soak in the sheltered pool. Though, as this place has been talked about since the 15th century for its restorative powers, it’s not exactly a hidden gem. One to tick off if you happen to be headed west.
Orbzii tip: One very, very good reason to find yourself on the west of São Miguel? Sete Cidades. You’ll need some time to soak in the natural spa to let your eyes cope with the immense beauty you’ve just witnessed. It’s THAT spectacular.
For the best snorkelling
The Azores diving scene is awash with dive sights to scuba through, but the Atlantic waves don’t always allow snorkelers to share the same joy. That said, there are sheltered spots that will knock your flippers off. In THE best way. We’ve already mentioned a couple. Snorkelling in the waveless waters of the islet of Vila Franca do Campo takes the title for best place in the Azores to snorkel – just for the experience alone. And, while a thriving eco-system has formed in the crater, it can’t quite match Praia Formosa on Santa Maria. This is the spot to snorkel over the local wreck – and potentially swim with sea turtles. Fancy something a little further out to sea? The crew at CW Azores will take you out over the Princess Alice seamount. The underwater mountain creates currents that mobular rays love to ride. A chance to see more of the Azores topography – and some larger sea life you’d otherwise miss closer to shore.
Orbzii tip: It pays to know the beach flag system in the Azores. Spot a red flag? That means no swimming. Yellow flags with a jellyfish signal there are jellies in the water. Red flags with jellyfish mean there are a LOT. See a green flag and you’re good to get in the water.
We’ve covered some pretty niche numbers in our look at Azores beaches, which may leave you craving something with a little of everything. If that’s the case, put a pin in your explorers map at Praia dos Mosteiros on São Miguel. It’s on the main island you’ll likely fly in to – so no need to island hop, at least not straight away. There’s usually a decent swell that’s more than adequate for surfing. But, the nearby rocks form enough of a sheltered spot – perfect for swimming. The nearby village of Mosteiros has handily popped a couple of shoreside restaurants in, ideal if you’ve left your picnic behind. The views are – as they are across the Azores – stunning. There’s not just endless sea to peer into, the famous ‘Gates of Atlantis’ make a rather nice focal point for your insta stories. And, to seal the deal, this beach serves up a cracking sunset.