Beaches#6 in Best Things To Do in The Azores
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You can't visit this island paradise without getting an eyeful of its incredible shorelines. The beaches here are unique in that, like many other natural attractions in the Azores, they feature characteristics that are a result of the islands' volcanic history. You won't find many long, wide expansive beaches here, but rather smaller spots that are flanked by towering cliffs and filled with rocky dark or black sands.
São Miguel boasts a hearty number of beautiful beaches. Praia dos Mosteiros provides a great introduction to the beaches typical of this island chain. The beach is small, but features black sands and is flanked by lush cliffs that stretch for as far as the eye can see. Plus, you'll see some striking volcanic rock formations jutting out from the sea as you gaze at the blue waters of the Atlantic. Praia de Santa Bárbara boasts similar geographic features, but provides beachgoers more room in the sand. The conditions here are known to be rough, making it a popular place for surfers. Like Santa Bárbara , Praia do Fogo is one of the island's bigger shorelines and is particularly breathtaking thanks to the towering, forested cliffs that border the beach. The most unique beach of all on São Miguel is the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo. Located off the central southern coast of São Miguel, the islet is a partially submerged volcanic crater that has turned into one large swimming hole in the middle of the Atlantic. You can reach it via ferry or kayak. Reviewers applaud the islet's beauty, but complain of crowds and a disorganized ferry operation.
On Faial, you'll find the popular Praia Porto Pim, which is flanked by evergreen bluffs and boasts calm waters thanks to its location in a bay. There's also Praia do Almoxarife, which features a long, black sand shoreline and incredible views of Pico Mountain on the nearby Pico island. Both of these beaches offer amenities ranging from lifeguards to restaurants. Santa Maria is famous for sheltering Praia Formosa, which is one of the few beaches in the archipelago that doesn't feature dark, volcanic sands. Here, you'll find cream colored sands and clear blue waters bounded by stately green cliffs.
There are so many beaches in the Azores that it would take days just to visit all that's available on just one island. If beaching is your main priority, be sure to pick out your favorites and plan your itinerary around that. Keep in mind that some beaches here are pretty remote and may be devoid of facilities. Also be sure to check ocean conditions if you decide to take a swim and bring water shoes as terrain under the water could be rocky. All beaches in the Azores are free and don't have set hours, though you should not venture into the water ever at night. For more information, visit Portugal's tourism board's website.
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#1 Whale Watching
The Azores is probably one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. That's because it is one of the world's largest whale sanctuaries, with more than 20 different species of cetaceans that either call the archipelago home or pass through during their yearly migrations. At any given time, you'll be able to spot common and bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales on your tour. Different seasons also bring different species through the islands. Summer is a good time to see spotted dolphins, pilot whales, striped dolphins and bearded whales while the beginning of spring is great for blue whales, sei whales and fin whales. Because so many cetaceans live and pass through these waters, the probability of venturing out on a boat and seeing nothing is extremely unlikely.
Whale and dolphin watching tours in the Azores tend to last for a few hours and can be arranged on multiple islands. Highly rated tour operators include Futurisimo, which departs from the Pico and São Miguel islands, Terra Azul, based in São Miguel and OceanEmotion, located on Terceira. Recent tourgoers agree that this is undoubtedly a can't-miss experience while in the Azores. Visitors across a number of tours were complimentary of their knowledgeable guides, some of whom are marine biologists, as well as the crew. Additionally, many were happy to report that they saw a number of dolphins and whales during their trip.
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