I loved exploring all the fun and unique things to do in Sao Miguel Island.
A region of Portugal, São Miguel is one of nine islands that make up the Azores. It’s the largest and most popular island of the nine and is beautiful beyond description.
In this guide, I cover the most popular São Miguel attractions and activities, plus unexpected gems shared by locals I met on my journey. If you need accommodation, be sure to also bookmark my guide to the best places to stay in São Miguel.
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25 Best Things to Do in São Miguel Island
Lagoa das Sete Cidades
Visit one of Portugal’s seven natural wonders—the blue and green lakes
Lagoa Sete Cidades are blue and green twin lakes located on the west side of São Miguel Island. These crater lakes are the most popular destination on the island. And from personal experience, I can honestly say they’re beyond stunning.
There are two lookout points to get the best views: Miradouro da Boco do Inferno and Miradouro da Vista do Rei. Both of these are located high up above the lakes so you can take in the bright waters and lush scenery.
While you’re in the area, take a little stroll around the lakeside town of Sete Cidades. And if you’re up by Miradouro da Vista do Rei, visit the Monte Palace Hotel Ruins.
Lagoa do Fogo
Admire this high-elevation lake in the middle of São Miguel Island
Although Sete Cidades gets the most attention, visiting Lagoa do Fogo was one of my favorite stops on my itinerary for São Miguel Island.
This crater lake is located in the very center of São Miguel, in the narrowest part of the island. It’s over 1800 feet above sea level and here, you’ll find yourself above tree line. From this vantage point, you get straddling views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Visiting Lagoa do Fogo truly took my breath away. The viewpoints of Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo and Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa are great overlooks to stop at. If you want to hike, the Praia de Lagoa do Fogo Trail will bring you to the southern shore.
Lagoa das Furnas
Take a hike around this peaceful lake that has one pretty unique attraction
Furnas Lake is a crater lake surrounded by lush greenery, tons of hiking trails, and even a volcanic hot spring. It’s located on the east side of the island and is a must-see since there are so many nearby attractions.
To see the lake from above, head to Miradouro do Pico do Ferro (pictured above). To see the lake up close, park at Jardim da Lagoa das Furnas and take the walkway to Jardim José do Canto.
Furnas is also home to geothermal hot springs. At Caldeiras das Furnas you can see Cozido stew being made. And for a relaxing dip, you can soak in the thermal pools at Terra Nostra or Poca da Dona Beija.
Relax and let the island’s natural volcanic hot springs wash away your aches and worries
One of the best things to do in São Miguel Island is visiting a few of the many natural thermal pools. All the thermal pools offer a little something different.
Terra Nostra is one of the most popular and is located within Parque Terra Nostra near Furnas. This one is known for the orange clay in the main swimming pool. Poca da Dona Beija is smaller and has pools of varying temperatures.
Caldeira Velha is in Ribeira Grande and has a more natural, jungle-like setting. The thermal pool Termas da Ferraria on the west side is also popular. Rather than only having a swimming pool, this thermal pool is part of volcanic rock. Atlantic ocean water filters in and it’s best to visit at low tide.
👉 Pro Tip: Take my advice on this one. Pack a dark-colored bathing suit or bathing suit you don’t mind getting dirty. Many of the thermal baths here have natural orange clay, which can be hard to get out of your suit.
Take one (or a few!) of many guided tours that showcase the very best of São Miguel Island
Taking guided island tours is simply one of the best ways to see and explore São Miguel Island. I’m quite picky about what tours I choose to take when traveling. But the tours I took while visiting São Miguel Island were beyond worth it.
Besides guided tours of the island, there are so many other adventure tours you can take part in. These include activities like hiking, canyoning, paragliding, kayaking, and more.
Get up close and personal with marine life at one of the best whale and dolphin-watching destinations on earth
Whale watching is hugely popular in all of the Azores Islands. Due to the climate and deep waters of this region, it’s actually one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins!
It is never guaranteed that you’ll see specific animals, but there are some special species in the Azores. Among them include Sperm Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Blue Whales, and more.
Whale-watching tours usually last about three hours. Depending on which boat tour you book, there are different departure points around São Miguel Island. And depending on your comfort level, there are two different boat types that offer whale-watching tours.
Lastly, if whale watching isn’t adventurous enough for you, there are dolphin swimming tours!
👉 Pro Tip: If you choose to take the Zodiac-style boat for whale watching, be aware that ocean water can spray into the boat. Also, if you get seasick, be sure to sit up front.
Viewpoints on São Miguel Island
Miradouro da Boca do Inferno
Walk above mountain ridges and Sete Cidades lakes to the most iconic lookout spot on São Miguel Island
If you’ve seen photos of the Azores Islands, there’s a high chance they’ve been taken at Miradouro da Boco do Inferno. This is the most iconic lookout point on the island of São Miguel.
It’s located over 3,000 feet above sea level and offers out-of-this-world views. From the walking path to the final lookout point, you can see Lagoa de Santiago, the Sete Cidades lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the picture-perfect Azores island view on the west side of São Miguel.
The walk to reach Miradouro da Boca do Inferno is about 15 minutes from the Miradouro da Lagoa do Canário parking area.
Miradouro da Vista do Rei
Visit this picture-perfect overlook of São Miguel’s most iconic twin lakes
If you want to minimize any hassle and just see views, head to Miradouro da Vista do Rei. This point overlooks Sete Cidades lakes and is more accessible than Miradouro da Boca do Inferno. Here, you can drive straight to the top of the mountain. You’ll be located steps away from the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel, too.
Miradouro da Vista do Rei is surrounded by endless lush greenery and is great for snapping photos. This lookout point also has a deck, as well as bathrooms if you need them.
Ponta do Sossego
Enjoy a stunning, dramatic viewpoint with open ocean views and places to relax
On the far east end of São Miguel Island is this breathtaking and dramatic spot. Truth be told, this was one of my favorite lookout points on the entire island.
There’s a small park to walk around and have a picnic, and it’s filled with unique flowers and plants. There are multiple spots that overlook the ocean and cliffs—each one beautiful and from differing heights. There’s also a short path to walk along. From what I could tell, this spot tends to be less crowded than others, making it especially peaceful.
Miradouro de Santa Iria
Be amazed by this perfect São Miguel lookout point with cliffs, greenery, and ocean views
Miradouro de Santa Iria is a classic roadside lookout point. It’s located on the northern edge of the island and has a wide parking area. As soon as you step out of the car, you can see ocean views all around. There are cliffs and greenery as far as the eye can see.
Since it’s on the north side of the island, it tends to be a little windier than other lookout points, so wear a jacket. Not far from Miradouro de Santa Iria is Salto do Cabrito waterfall.
Miradouro de Escalvado
See the town of Mosteiros and cool rock formations from this stunning viewpoint
As you round the western edge of the island by car, make a stop at Miradouro de Escalvado. This lookout point is a popular spot for many people finishing their loop of the island before heading back to the town of Ponta Delgada.
This spot is cool for a couple of reasons. In the distance on the right, you can see the small town of Mosteiros (pictured above). The cliffs surrounding this lookout are also full of unique rock formations that stick out of the water. This can make for interesting wave crashes if it’s windy.
Outdoor Activities on São Miguel Island
Swim, surf, and watch the waves come in on the island’s volcanic beaches
Being an island, it’s no surprise that São Miguel has some pretty beautiful beaches. But don’t come here expecting pristine, white sandy shores. São Miguel has multiple volcanic zones, meaning the sand here ranges from gray to black from the volcanic rock.
The north side of the island is windier than the south side and is a hotspot for surfers. Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara is a good surfing beach outside Ribeira Grande. For families wanting calmer waters with swimming beaches, head to Praia de Agua D’Alto or Praia do Fogo. For scenery and good sunsets, Praia dos Mosteiros is perfect.
Hike trails that will take you to mountain peaks, through lush forests, and along beautiful lakes and coastlines
São Miguel Island, and the Azores islands in general, are a hiker’s dream. With perched cliffs, mountain ranges, lakes, waterfalls, and dramatic coastlines, there’s so much to be explored. Know that generally, hikes in São Miguel tend to be longer and more suited for experienced hikers.
For lake views and hiking, the Sete Cidades Caldeiras Trail and Praia de Lagoa do Fogo Trail are incredibly scenic. At Lagoa das Furnas, there’s a trail to hike around the lake. For more greenery, the Salto do Prego Trail takes you through inner sections of the island. It passes through lush hills, farmlands, and nature. You can also hike the tea fields at Gorreana Tea Plantation.
👉 Pro Tip: Even if you don’t plan on doing any intense hiking, it’s a good idea to pack a quality pair of hiking shoes or shoes with good grip.
Visit hidden waterfalls and uncover gems of the island
In addition to having beautiful coastlines and a number of lakes, São Miguel Island also has waterfalls! Many of these waterfalls are like hidden gems, tucked away in nature reserves and inside parks and gardens. And to suit every kind of visitor, there are both hiking and roadside waterfalls.
One popular waterfall is Salto do Cabrito, which is inside a nature reserve and mostly accessible by car. However, many people choose to walk down the steep road or take a longer hike to reach it. Salto do Prego is another picturesque waterfall with a hike.
There are waterfalls that are just as scenic but more accessible, too. These are located at Parque Natural dos Caldeirões and Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões.
Food & Drink on São Miguel Island
Cozido das Furnas
Taste this hearty, national dish that’s cooked in an unexpected (yet totally Azorean) way
Cozido is a traditional meal that is one of the national dishes of Portugal. It typically consists of a variety of meats and veggies that are cooked together slowly over hours. The one I got to try (pictured above) had beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, blood sausage, kale, potato, taro root, carrot, and cabbage.
In São Miguel, Cozido is famous for a more unique reason, though!
Get this: it’s cooked through the volcanic activity! Right by Furnas Lake is Caldeiras das Furnas. Here, geothermal pools and geysers create a ton of steam and heat. Holes are dug into the volcanic dirt and pots of Cozido are placed in them. All of the local restaurants in Furnas cook their Cozido this way.
Gorreana Tea Plantation
Sip local black, green, and white teas when visiting this stunning hillside plantation
Outside the town of Ribeira Grande is Gorreana Tea Plantation. This family-run tea plantation has been operating since 1883. They produce black, green, and white teas—all delicious, flavorful, and delicate. Tea is grown onsite and you can actually walk the lush, green fields yourself. You can also take self-guided tours of the factory to see how the tea is processed.
If you want to taste the tea (as you should), stop in Gorreana’s cafe to sip a freshly-brewed cup. You can purchase tea from the factory before you go, or from some other locations around São Miguel Island.
Azorean Pineapple Plantation
Wander the greenhouses where the Azores’ famous and unique pineapples are grown
The Azores have long been known for its local pineapples and fruits. On São Miguel Island, pineapples are grown in greenhouses. This is actually the only place in the world where pineapples are grown in this manner.
There are a few different plantations on São Miguel Island. But at each one, you can tour the greenhouses to see the pineapples at different stages of growth. The three plantations are Ananas dos Azores, Ananases A Arruda, and Pineapples Santo Antonio.
São Miguel Island Attractions & Sites
Islet of Vila Franca do Campo
See this totally unique, natural formation up close, along with rich marine life
On the south side of the island, right off the coast of the town of Vila Franca do Campo, lies this iconic islet. A perfectly-shaped crater formation, this spot has super unique scenery, adventure activities, and diverse wildlife.
In the summer, you can take a short boat ride from Vila Franca do Campo and spend a day swimming and snorkeling. If you’re more adventurous, there are underwater caves and incredible spots for cliff jumping here. Red Bull has even hosted their cliff diving competitions from this place.
Inside and outside the islet is incredibly scenic and I recommend visiting if you have the chance. Although, many whale watching tours based in Vila Franca do Campo make stops here, too.
Nossa Senhora da Paz Chapel
Walk up the steps to a chapel overlooking the ocean and the south side of the island
On the south side of the island above Vila Franca do Campo is this beautiful hillside chapel. Accessible by car, Nossa Senhora da Paz Chapel is worth making a quick stop for.
The bright white steps inlaid with blue tile art make this chapel unique. It also sits high up on a lush green hill, surrounded by flowers and farmlands. Overlooking the town of Vila Franca do Campo and the Atlantic Ocean, the view from the top makes for one beautiful lookout point.
Explore the island’s largest town and enjoy local shopping, dining, and access to attractions
Ponta Delgada is the largest town on São Miguel Island, located on the south coast. Its central location makes it a great home base for many of the island’s tours and attractions. There are tons of local restaurants and shops, and exploring here is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
A number of in-town attractions can also be found in Ponta Delgada. Mercado da Graca is a popular farmers market that sells an abundance of fresh produce, meats, seafood, and more. Fuerte de San Blas is a coastal Renaissance fort that has now been converted into a military museum. Gruta do Carvão is another popular attraction, which is a volcanic cave that makes for a good rainy day activity.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Hotel do Colegio is centrally and conveniently located in downtown Ponta Delgada.
Visit the second-largest town on the island, with charming stops and tons of nearby attractions
On the north coast of São Miguel Island is Ribeira Grande. This town is smaller than Ponta Delgada but still larger than other villages on the island. It feels a little more local and less touristy than Ponta Delgada, and its nearby attractions are what make it a great place to visit.
If you’re a surfer, head to Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara, a famous surfing beach located here. Gorreana Tea Plantation is just outside of town, and Salto do Cabrito waterfall isn’t too far either. Ribeira Grande also has its fair share of tasty restaurants serving up local Portuguese cuisine.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Hotel Verde Mar & Spa is located just outside Ribeira Grande and not too far from the surfing beach, Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara.
Meander through beautifully landscaped gardens with plants and flowers from around the world
With São Miguel’s subtropical climate, it’s no surprise that the island is brimming with unique flora. There are amazing plants and flowers to be seen throughout the island. However, if you want to see that little something extra, I recommend visiting one of the island’s many botanical gardens.
In Ponta Delgada specifically, there are a few gardens worth visiting. And they are free of charge! There’s Jardim Botanico Jose do Canto, Antonio Borges, and the small Jardim Padre Sena Freitas.
Other popular gardens include Terra Nostra and Jardim José do Canto near Furnas. Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões is another one on the north coast that I really enjoyed.
Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias
Enter Jardim José do Campo and see a lakeside, gothic-style chapel
On one edge of Furnas lake within Jardim José do Canto rests Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias. This gothic-style chapel is one of only two buildings found here, so walking up to it makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon something special.
To visit the chapel, you need to purchase a ticket to enter the park (Jardim José do Canto). Inside the park, you can wander the botanical gardens and see a waterfall. However, if you just want to just admire the chapel from the lakeside trail, you can do this, too.
👉 Read Next: 19 Best Places to Go in Portugal
Farol do Arnel
Trek down a narrow twisting road to reach the oldest lighthouse in the Azores
📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 296 488 103 | Website | Hours: 2 pm – 5 pm Wednesday, Closed Thursday – Tuesday | Entrance: $5 | 👉 Nordeste Waterfall Tour (visit to Farol do Arnel included)
Farol do Arnel is a cliffside lighthouse that began operating back in 1876. It’s the oldest lighthouse in all of the Azores islands. Although it’s no longer in operation, it stands as a testimony to Azorean history.
Located on the east side of the island, Farol do Arnel can be seen from a couple of lookout points: Miradouro Vista dos Barcos and Miradouro da Ponta do Arnel.
If you are interested in visiting the lighthouse, it’s recommended to walk instead of driving down the extremely steep and winding road. I only recommend doing this walk if you’re active. On Wednesdays, guided lighthouse tours are available.
If you’re worried about the steep road, you can still enjoy views from one of the lookout points mentioned above.
Lagoa de Santiago
Make a stop near Sete Cidades to take a look at this lush, green lake
Adjacent to Sete Cidades lakes is the beautiful Lagoa de Santiago. This lake is often overshadowed by the twin lakes, but I found its scenery to be stunning on its own.
Lagoa de Santiago is strikingly green because of the lush forest that encloses the crater lake formation. You can see this lake from a few different places. Stop at Miradouro do Lagoa de Santiago, or the more famous Miradouro da Boco do Inferno lookout.
In my opinion, it’s definitely worth a stop for this truly natural, unspoiled view.
👉 Need a Place to Stay? Check out my guide to where to stay in Sao Miguel for some great options!
FAQs About What to Do in São Miguel Island
What is São Miguel Island known for?
How many days should I spend in São Miguel?
You should spend five days or longer in São Miguel, which is an ideal amount of time for exploring.
How long does it take to drive around the island of São Miguel?
It takes approximately 4 hours to drive around the entire island of São Miguel.
Do I need a car to get around São Miguel?
You need a car to get around São Miguel if you’re staying for more than 3-5 days, in my opinion. I would recommend renting a car to explore solo and at your own leisure. However, it is doable to get by without a car if you plan on booking guided tours.
When is the best time to visit São Miguel?
The best time to visit São Miguel is spring through fall. However, June and July tend to be the most popular times to visit. São Miguel Island is a subtropical climate, though, so keep that in mind.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the best things to do in Sao Miguel Island! If you have the opportunity to visit, I have no doubt that you’ll leave with a sense of awe and amazement. If you’re planning on backpacking Europe, read our guide on how to travel around cheaply!
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