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 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
What temperatures can I 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 and wind. 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, September and beginning of October. The water is "warm" and the Mobulas rays are close to the surface. Blue sharks are also visible in Faial.

Though 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 headband to cover your ears during the trips and 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. Aquashoes can also be useful for your walks in the rocks by the sea, on the boat, or when we make a beach departure. We have few mosquitoes in Santa Maria but you can still bring a little repellent.

Which freediving wetsuit should I bring?

In Santa Maria, the water is 19-20°C (=66-68°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 22-23°C (=72-73°F) in October. There is barely 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, Aqualung, Cressi and Omer fins, small volume masks, flexible snorkels and the revolutionary OB1 concept belts. The rental of the whole equipment is 15€/day.

If you prefer to bring your own equipment, we recommend a 2-piece 5mm wetsuit for June, July and October and a 2-piece 3mm wetsuit for August and September. Neoprene gloves and socks are highly recommended for thermal support and protection from marine life.

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 little town offers 2 hotels, a few apartments, and a friendly youth hostel that also offers single rooms. Count about 60 to 70€ 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.

You can also stay in other popular places on the island such as the Praia Formosa beach campsite or near the bay of Sao Lourenço. Note that you will need a means of transportation for this. Anticipate your reservations because the island is small and the offer of accommodation is limited.

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 staying at the hotel where our center is located, we provide shuttles to and from the marina. Otherwise, you will need a means of transportation or to call a cab (5€ a way if you are in Vila). If you come mainly for free diving, renting a car or a scooter for one day will be an excellent option to explore the island.

Think about anticipating! 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 city car, 30 to 40€/day for the rental of a scooter. For an occasional trip, the cab, rather cheap, will be the best option.

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

Vila do Porto has several small supermarkets, a large, slightly off-center supermarket, and a fresh market dedicated to local meat and fish. In the morning, if you are staying at the hotel or youth hostel, you will be served breakfast. We are often back around 2 - 3 pm so it is common to have dinner early in the evening.

Note : It is possible to order for lunch a sandwich at the restaurant based on the marina. Provided you have anticipated and prepared the change, you can eat just where we are back from the dives.

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. Count on average 10 to 15€ for a dish, 2€ for a beer and 1€ for a coffee. Here we know the good places and it will be a pleasure to share them with you.

What amenities does the freediving & diving center offer?

Located in one of our partner hotels, our center has a main room with tables and chairs, 2 men and women's dressing rooms, 2 bathrooms and 2 hot showers. In general, we equip ourselves at the center before leaving but we can also equip ourselves later, at the marina or on site when we do a beach departure. When we come back, everyone cleans, rinses their equipment and hangs it in the designated area.

For the freediving and monofin courses, we use the hotel's pool area and train with a nice view over the ocean.

How does a typical day look like with you?

We meet at the center located in our partner hotel usually around 8 or 9 am. Under conditions, it is also possible to meet us directly at the marina. We leave by boat to dive on a first site where we will stay 1h30. After that, we have a break of one hour, the opportunity to hydrate, to share a small snack and to tell each other about the beautiful things we have seen underwater. Then, we leave for the 2nd site where we stay again 1h30 before going back to the marina. The duration of the boat trips varies according to the sites but we are usually back between 1 and 3 pm. Please note that, depending on the weather and the schedule, the free diving day can be shifted to the afternoon with an appointment around 2-3 pm. Trips from the shore and boat trips with only freedivers can also be scheduled provided a minimum of participants.

What type of boat bring us to the dive sites ?

The boats are comfortable, fast and spacious RIB that can accommodate up to 12 people. We share it with the scuba divers. The sites are generally booked by one boat max 2 boats at a time, so we enjoy our time underwater as happy few ! 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.

Note that the ocean can be rough in the Azores and the fact of being on a boat, remaining still, accentuates the phenomenon. Consider taking anti-seasickness medication if you think you might be prone to it. Peppermint and ginger essential oils can also be effective. Avoid coffee in the morning and alcohol in the evening.

Note : Seasickness can also happen in the water, when you wait for your turn at the freediving buoy. Take medication if you think you may be affected.

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

The island is home to many hiking (see Ilha a pé website, 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 (see Monk Surf website), 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 Azores Airlines which provides frequent and comfortable air links between the 9 islands. You can also take the ferry but the distances are long and the trips can be rough, except for the trip from Faial to Pico.

Note : There is no ferry between Sao Miguel and Santa Maria island, you have to take a flight.

  • For a 10 days stay, we recommend 3 days of road trip in Sao Miguel, 4 days of free diving in Santa Maria and 1 day in scooter to discover the island. Sao Miguel, though very touristic, is a condensed version of what the Azores archipelago can offer. Also, it is the only island where you will be able to bask in geothermally heated thermal pools at 34°C (=93°F) and more. 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 dive that you can book directly with us.
  • Beyond 10 days, you can start to imagine a circuit on 3 islands. In any case, plan at least 4 to 5 full days on each island because they all have a lot to offer and the weather, not always mild, can lead to unpleasant surprises. For free diving, Santa Maria remains the best island because it is the one with the most relief between 0 and 15 meters deep, with a great visibility, warmer waters, open caves, arches, many fish and the Mobulas rays at only 30 minutes 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 (except in Santa Maria), 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 100m from them. The best islands to see cetaceans are Sao Miguel, Faial, Pico and Florès.

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.