Nestled in the heart of the Atlantic, the Azores, an archipelago of Portugal, is an unspoilt gem boasting gorgeous landscapes, turquoise waters, and abundant marine life. Each spot presents a dramatic tableau with a coastline that whispers tales of nautical expeditions. If your heart beats for snorkelling, this guide reveals 10 magnificent sites, each brimming with distinct allure. So, don’t forget your mask and fins, and let’s head into this treasure trove of destinations, each promising a holiday of a lifetime.
1. Vila Franca Islet, São Miguel
Your Azorean vacation wouldn’t be finished without visiting the Vila Franca Islet. A stone’s throw from São Miguel Island, this nature reserve is a submerged volcanic crater encircled by a crystal-clear lagoon. Its translucent sea is packed with kaleidoscopic fish, and the variety is something to behold. Visually spectacular, the natural pool provides a safe environment for beginners and a mesmerising playground for seasoned snorkelers. While sunbathing on its fine sandy beaches, you can indulge in Azorian food delicacies from nearby food stalls, perfectly wrapping up your escapade.
2. Prainha de Angra, Terceira Island
The next stop is the Prainha de Angra, a secluded cove on Terceira Island, where serenity reigns. Its shallow, calm currents and soft floor make it a suitable place, particularly for novices or those with children. Despite its tranquillity, the waters of Prainha are brimming with creatures. Watch as colourful fish dart around your legs, and gaze in wonder at the sea stars adorning the bed. Its charm extends beyond the shoreline, with a backdrop of green pastures and basalt cliffs, painting a picturesque scene. Once out of the water, you can venture into the town of Angra. Look at its UNESCO World Heritage streets, sample the delicious pastries in the local cafes, and immerse yourself in Azorean culture. This spot perfectly blends underwater exploration and cultural discovery, making it an unmissable destination.
3. Ponta da Ferraria, São Miguel
Journey to the western coast of São Miguel to reach Ponta da Ferraria, where volcanic activity has sculpted an outdoor thermal pool. As you dip into it, you’ll notice a harmonious blend of fresh spring and salty tide, resulting in an intriguing environment. The rocky landscape is home to various species, so keep your eyes peeled. The curious fusion of temperatures makes this a delightful area year-round. Floating in the warm water will reward you with breathtaking views of towering cliffs and the expansive Atlantic. If you’re looking for something else to do in the area, why not drop by Termas da Ferraria, a spa built on a fissure, to complete your day with a thermal massage?
4. Santa Maria Island
Santa Maria Island beckons with enticing aqua contrasting strikingly against its golden sand beaches. The most southern island in the Azores, it promises a warm climate and fantastic visibility, with which you can watch an abundance of bright fish swirl around you as you glide as if on thin air. At Santa Maria, you can see the Azores’ stunning cascades, vineyards, and the traditional chimneys of Vila do Porto, the oldest settlement in the archipelago. A day on Santa Maria Island assures an amazing blend of adventure and relaxation.
5. Dom João de Castro Bank, Between Terceira and São Miguel
Go out into the open waters between Terceira and São Miguel to reach Dom João de Castro Bank, an underwater mountain peak. This subaqueous volcano, with its top just 14 m below the sea surface, creates an enthralling destination. Imagine swimming above a volcano while admiring the majestic beings that reside here. Dom João de Castro Bank is truly a holidaymaker’s dream. After your aquatic trip, relax on the boat ride back and watch the sunset cast an ethereal glow on the serene Atlantic. It’s a location that promises a dash of adrenaline coupled with peace, an intoxicating mix for snorkelers seeking a little bit of everything.
6. Formigas Islets, Northeast of Santa Maria
Why not head to the isolated beauty of the Formigas Islets, a series of tiny outcrops northeast of Santa Maria Island? This collection of eight islets and a multitude of rocks creates an exciting environment to discover. The coasts here attract an extraordinary collection of fish, ensuring every snorkel is a pleasant surprise. The remoteness of Formigas Islets means you’ll likely have this playground to yourself, making it perfect for those seeking solitude. Don’t forget to look up occasionally to admire the islets jutting dramatically from the sea. Once back in Santa Maria, you should visit the vineyards to sample the island’s exceptional wines.
7. Ilhéu das Cabras, Terceira Island
For an unusual snorkelling vacation that offers something different, set your compass for Ilhéu das Cabras. These twin islets off the coast of Terceira Island have a rocky seabed that attracts a variety of critters. You’ll marvel at the sight of fish darting between the rocks. Ilhéu das Cabras is also notable for its land-based highs. A sizeable population of seabirds has made this their home, providing birdwatchers with plenty to admire. Wrap up the day at a seafood restaurant on Terceira to indulge in fresh catch from the sea you’ve explored.
8. Pico Island
Your Azorean holiday won’t be complete without a day on Pico Island, dominated by Portugal’s highest peak, a dormant volcano that gives it its name. Pico’s coastline provides excellent visibility and an array of rock pools to investigate, each teeming with life. Above the water, Pico is equally enticing. The rich volcanic soil nurtures a vineyard that produces exceptional Verdelho wine. After a fun day out, take a leisurely tour to finish your Pico visit. Access to Pico Island is possible through the island’s airport, which has connections to other islands in the Azores and mainland Portugal. Ferries also operate between Pico and other nearby islands.
9. Faial Island
Look towards Faial Island, the blue island of the Azores, renowned for its hydrangeas. Faial is a joy both in and out of the water. Its sandy coastline gradually descends into the clear Atlantic, revealing an exciting world for snorkelers. Schools of fish swim lazily around rocks, creating a beautiful aquatic spectacle. On land, Faial doesn’t disappoint, either. The Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre offers a deep dive into its geological past. You could also enjoy a leisurely hike to Caldeira, an extinct volcano with a verdant crater. After a full day, unwind at the marina, known for its artistically painted wall, while enjoying a sumptuous Azorean meal.
10. Gruta do Carvão, São Miguel
For an unexpected location, visit Gruta do Carvão on São Miguel. This extensive lava tube system may not be your typical snorkelling spot, but parts of it fill up during the rainy season, transforming it into an unusual destination. The interplay of light and shadow as you navigate the currents, the basaltic rock formations beneath you, and the sense of peaceful seclusion make this an adventurous choice. Back on land, appreciate the lush flora and fauna that make São Miguel the ‘Green Island’ of the Azores.
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Embarking on a snorkelling expedition across the stunning Azorean archipelago is undoubtedly an experience filled with wonder, excitement, and serenity. Each locale we’ve traversed has a distinctive feel and offers an amazing voyage. You’ll marvel at the hypnotic dance of the sea beings in their natural habitat, with each option offering different marine life. In these moments, where the astonishing attraction of nature meets the thrill of discovery, that one understands the allure. So, whether you’re an enthusiastic snorkeller, a passionate adventurer, a dedicated nature lover, or a seeker of tranquillity and beauty, the Azores present an irresistible invitation.