How do I come to the Azores?

The easiest and fastest way to come to the Azores is by plane. A short stopover in Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel island, allows you to reach the island of Santa Maria with SATA Azores Airlines for a flight of about 30 minutes.

It is also possible to arrive directly to Santa Maria with a stopover in Porto or Lisbon. Below is a summary of airlines serving the Azores (update 2021).

Liste Compagnies aériennes pour les Açores
Do I need to be vaccinated against Covid-19?

Currently, there are no restrictions to undertake a trip to the Azores.

For up-to-date information about Covid-19 in the Azores, please check the website Destino Seguro Azores. Translation is available in your language by clicking the “Translate” button at the bottom of the page.

What temperatures can we expect? What is the weather like between June and October?

Temperatures in the Azores while our center is open are mild with always some humidity in the air. During the day, we can have up to 28°C (= 82°F) and the temperature rarely goes below 20°C (=68°F) at night. This makes nice evenings or nights under the stars!

The weather is variable and can change completely from one part of the island to another. At sea, we often have good weather with always some clouds accompanying us. Rain is possible but not frequent when we are at sea in Santa Maria. The other islands are more uncertain in terms of climate.

If there is one, when is the best time to come?

It is best to come in July, August or September. The water is “warm” and the Mobulas rays are close to the surface. Blue sharks are also visible on Faial.

Although July, August and September are usually months of high tourist activity, this is not the case in Santa Maria which remains an unspoiled island. You can therefore come and get a change of scenery and recharge your batteries in complete tranquillity.

What clothes should I put in my suitcase?

You will walk around in flip-flops or sneakers, shorts and T-shirt. As rain is never far away, you will have taken care to slip a light windproof and waterproof jacket into your bag. For your snorkeling trips and the boat trip, you will need a hat or cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, a water bottle, your light jacket and a (or even 2) bathing suit. We also advise you to take a buff to cover your ears during the trips and possibly some medicine against sea sickness. For the evening, long pants or jeans and a sweater will do the trick. For walks in the forest and on steep terrain, it is safer to have waterproof hiking boots. We have very few mosquitoes on Santa Maria but you can still bring a little repellent.

Which freediving wetsuit should I bring?

In Santa Maria, the water is 20°C (=68°F) in June, 21-23°C (=70-73°F) in July, 24-25°C (=75-77°F) in August, 23-24°C (=73-75°F) in September and 22°C (=72°F) in October. There is no thermocline which adds an undeniable comfort to each immersion.

We offer 5mm thick 1 piece Cressi Comfort wetsuits, 5mm thick 2 pieces Omer Up Explorer wetsuis for rent, as well as hoods, neoprene socks, Cressi Gara Modular fins, small volume masks, flexible snorkels and the revolutionary OB1 concept belts.

If you prefer to bring your own equipment, we recommend a 2-piece 5mm wetsuit for June and October and a 2-piece 3mm wetsuit for July and August.

What are the accommodation possibilities on the island? What is the budget ?

We have partnerships with several hotels on Santa Maria, one of which hosts our freediving & diving center. For maximum comfort and minimum effort, this hotel is the ideal place to stay on the island. However, it is a bit out of the way and you may prefer to stay directly in Vila do Porto. The town (we might as well say the village) offers 1 hotel, a few apartments, and a friendly youth hostel that also offers single rooms. Count about 50 to 60€ per night per person, 30 to 40€ for the youth hostel. The nights are quiet and restful but if you are a light sleeper, make sure that your room does not face the cobblestones if you are staying in Vila do Porto.

Can I do everything on foot or is it better to rent a car or a scooter? How much does it cost?

Everything will depend on where you live. Even when staying in Vila do Porto, it can take half an hour to get down to the marina and on the way back, it climbs! If you are mainly planning to dive, renting a car or a scooter may not be necessary. If you are on our route or staying at our hotel, we will provide shuttles to and from the marina. If you are very far away, you will need your own means of transportation.

Please note that the island of Santa Maria is small and the rental offer is limited. The prices are consequently quite high, count 60 to 70€/day for the rental of a small city car. You should therefore think about anticipating if you want to rent.

Is it easy to go shopping? What is the restaurant offer?

Vila do Porto has several small supermarkets including a fresh market dedicated to local meat and fish. In the morning, if you are staying at a hotel or youth hostel, you will be served breakfast. We are often back around 2 – 3 pm so it is common to have a snack in the afternoon and to eat better in the evening.

In the evening, there are several restaurants in Vila do Porto where you can enjoy wonderful fish of the day, fabulous tuna steaks or a melting local beef grill. There are still few vegetarian or vegan offers on Santa Maria but we will be able to advise you if necessary. The city of Horta on Faial is full of restaurants and bars in the city center. Count on average 10 to 15€ for a dish, 1€ for a beer and 0.9€ for a coffee. Here we know the good places and it will be a pleasure to share them with you.

How does a typical day look like with you?

We meet at the center situated in our partner hotel around in general 9am. We leave by boat around 9:30 am to free dive on a first site where we will stay 1h30. We then have a break for about one hour, the opportunity to hydrate, to share a small snack and to tell each other about the beautiful things we saw under water. Then, we leave for the 2nd site where we will stay again 1h30 before returning to the marina. The duration of the boat trip varies according to the sites we go to. We are often back around 2 or 3pm.

What type of boat bring us to the dive sites ?

The boat is a RIB of 13 seats + 3 seats for the staff, very comfortable, fast, and spacious, that we share with our friends divers. The sites are booked for one boat at a time, so we have the site all to ourselves for 1h30! In the water, I always manage to move away from the divers so that there is only us, the fish, and the silence of our bubble-free world.

bateau haliotis santa maria
What other activities are possible in Santa Maria?

The island is home to many hiking, VTT and quad trails and offers sumptuous panoramas. Walking in Barreira da Faneca, also known as the “Red Desert”, around Pico Alto, the highest peak of the island, contemplating the breathtaking bay of Sao Lourenço or soaking up the energy at the foot of the Maia waterfall are just a few examples of the beautiful walks you can do in Santa Maria. You may end up with a magnificent sunset over Anjos while sipping a glass of white wine in front of your still simmering lapas.

Santa Maria is also the island of surfing, body boarding, kayak and stand up paddle! Ask us and enjoy a relaxing end of the day, on your board, in front of a beautiful bay with preserved nature. A real resourcefulness!

I plan to stay on several islands, what would you recommend ?

The Azores are a relatively remote destination and devoting more than a week to this off-the-beaten-track trip is well worth it. You can easily hop from one island to another with SATA Airlines which provides frequent and comfortable air links between the 9 islands. You can also take the ferry but the distances are big and the trips can be rough.

If you have 10 days, we recommend 3 days of hiking in Sao Miguel and 5 days of freediving in Santa Maria, the other 2 days being dedicated to the trip. Sao Miguel, though very touristic, offers landscapes that you will not see anywhere else in the Azores. Also, it is the only island of the archipelago where you can bask in hot springs at 34°C (=93°F). To do on a summer evening, under the stars. Another possibility over 10 days is to do the islands of Faial and Santa Maria including on Faial, the visit of Horta, a walk in Capelinhos and a blue shark trip. For this one, ask us and we will take care of organizing an outing for you.

Beyond 10 days, you can start to imagine a 3 islands tour. In any case, plan at least 3 to 5 full days on each island because they all have a lot to offer. For freediving and snorkeling, Santa Maria remains the best island because it is the one with the most relief between 0 and 15m depth, open caves, tunnels, arches, many fishes and mobulas rays at only 30min by boat from the marina.

Can I swim with the whales in the Azores?

Even if photos and videos show freedivers swimming with sperm whales, it is forbidden to go in the water in the presence of these cetaceans in the Azores. The people who can do this have received a prior authorization because they are participating in the making of a documentary or working for a scientific mission.

In the Azores, you can use the services of a whale watching company to hope to see some whale backs and tails. You will generally leave for 3 hours at sea and with the help of the “vigies” on land, formerly used for hunting cetaceans, the boat will head towards the mammals, respecting however a distance of 300m from them. Some companies also offer to go in the water but only in the presence of dolphins.

In Santa Maria, without doing Whale Watching, we sometimes have beautiful encounters during the navigation, especially when we go to the Formigas and Dollabarat islets. This South-North crossing of 1h30 is often the occasion to meet whales and dolphins on our way. Maybe you will bring us luck!

Eventually, what language do we speak in the Azores?

Falamos Português, we speak portuguese ! Indeed, the Azores are an autonomous area of Portugal located at the same latitude as Lisbon, at 1450km from it. The archipelago is part of the European Union and the Euro zone. On the boat we usually speak English because of the international clientele.

In the supermarkets and restaurants, everyone can speak English. The menus are translated in almost all the restaurants except for some very typical places with a very local atmosphere. If you are interested, we will be happy to take you there and be your interpreter for an evening full of surprises !