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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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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, Aqualung, Cressi and Omer fins, small volume masks, flexible snorkels and the revolutionary OB1 concept belts. The rental of the all equipment is 15€/day.
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.
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 1 hotel, a few apartments, and a friendly youth hostel that also offers single rooms. Count about 50 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. Make your reservations in advance because the island is small and the offer of accommodation is limited.
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. If you are staying outside of Vila do Porto, you will need a means of transportation. If you come mainly for free diving, renting a car or a scooter for the 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 small 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.
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 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. 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.
Located in one of our partner hotels, our center has a main room with tables and chairs, 2 men and women’s changing 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 and 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.
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 or to pick you up. We leave by boat to dive on a first site where we will stay 1h30. After that, we take a break for an 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 left for the 2nd site where we stayed again 1h30 before going back to the marina. The duration of the boat trips varies according to the sites, but we are 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 pm. Trips from the shore with only freedivers can also be scheduled.
The boat is a comfortable, fast and spacious RIB that can accommodate up to 12 people. We share it with the scuba 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.
On certain occasions and provided that the sea is good, I can privatize a small boat for us freedivers only.
Note that the ocean can be rough in the Azores and the fact of being on a boat sometimes 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.
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!
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 long and the trips can be rough, except for the trip from Faial to Pico. Note the absence of ferry between Sao Miguel and Santa Maria.
- 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, although 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, 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 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 3 to 5 full days on each island because they all have a lot to offer and the weather, not always mild, can give you some 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, open caves, tunnels, arches, many fish and the Mobulas rays at only 30 minutes by boat from the marina.
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 100m from them. The best islands to see cetaceans are Sao Miguel, Faial and Pico.
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!
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, I will be happy to take you there and be your interpreter for an evening full of surprises !