Whether you visit the beach to relax when you’re on holiday, and which beaches you choose obviously depends on your personal preferences. You could simply relax on the beach, or go snorkeling and discover a wide variety of fish. Beaches with or near rock and stone formations are especially well-suited if you want to observe the underwater world directly at the beach.
On São Miguel, the beaches best suited to just relaxing are probably the beaches in Ribeira Quente towards the south of the island, as well as Praia da Viola in the north. Both beaches have their own particular features that makes them worth a visit.
Praia da Viola
At Praia da Viola, you can spend your time without being disturbed all year round. You should be careful with swimming if wind from the north creates bigger waves, because the beach is unsupervised and the water hides big rocks in certain places.
Usually there are only a few people around, although there are also two small waterfalls and a small stream that make the beach special. You don’t believe it? Here’s proof:
You can get here via two separate paths. Either coming from a small carpark next to the ruin of a mill to the east, or from Maia to the west. The path from Maia originates immediately above the harbour and is slightly longer, but maybe also more interesting. The view and some images concerning the history of the area which you can find on the path are reason enough to choose this slightly longer path. You will also find a great Restaurantin Maia upon your return.
Ribeira Quente is one of the largest and quietest beaches in terms of waves. It offers ample space for kids to play without getting in the way of other visitors trying to relax. Towards the front, which is supervised, there are some hot water springs directly within the sea water. Further back, you can observe how active the Azores still are while swimming. Most of the time, you will see some small gas bubbles arising from the ground.
In the front part, which is also guarded, there are hot springs directly in the water in front of the beach.
In the back part you can watch how active the Azores are while swimming. Most of the time you can see small gas bubbles rising from the bottom while they swim.
The amount of warm water is very different. Sometimes it is enough if you go 2m into the water in the front part of the beach and you can immediately feel the hot water. Sometimes you have to search a little to find a spot.
You might also run (swim) into one of these at Ribeira Quente:
This weakened turtle – usually, turtles don’t come all the way to the beach – received first aid from the lifeguards on site and was then picked up and cared for by the biologists from Ponta Delgada.
It is also very beautiful here in the evening, even if the direct sunset is on the back of the mountains. Both the view towards Povoação
as well as the empty beach then radiate a lot of calm.
When you come to Ribeira Quente don’t forget to take a look at the Waterfall in the tunnel and sometimes one a little further in the direction of Furnas.
Áqua de Pau / Caloura
A beach we would recommend especially during the off-season is in Áqua de Pau / Caloura. Here, two beaches are separated by a rock, which results in the perfect combination of a beach for relaxing and great conditions for snorkeling. We were once lucky enough to observe a ray here. There is a small carpark directly by the beach which can be reached via a narrow street but is usually quite busy during the summer months. If you don’t mind walking a bit, you can just park in the village itself. During the off-season, this is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches. There is also a place to buy some snacks and food.
PORTO FORMOSO & PRAIA DOS MOINHOS
By the Porto Formoso, you can find two small beaches. Directly by the Porto Formoso, there is a small beach by the fishing harbour.
A visit to the small village and the harbour is well worth your time, even if you don’t really want to visit the beach. The church “Nossa Senhora da Graça” sits above the harbour on a green hillside, and the colourful huts and fishing boats that can be seen ashore make for a lovely view.
You are also able to watch the fishermen at work. Beyond the walls of the harbour, you can find the ruins of some buildings that used to be part of the port.
PRAIA DOS MOINHOS
Just over a kilometre from the Porto Formoso, the Praia dos Moinhos can be found. This is a calmer beach with a small café. Directly next to the entrance, there are some old watermills, which give the beach its name.
The beach offers enough room for children to play and swim and is usually pretty empty, which is partly due to the fact that there is not much room for parking. The road on both sides of the beach’s entrance is small, narrow and very steep.
If you, like me when I took these pictures, visit São Miguel furing the off-season (I was there in late May), you probably won’t struggle to find a parking space.
If you like the Azores, and would like to spend some time on São Miguel yourself, then we would be more than happy to receive you in our holiday home. Find out more here. If you have any questions, suggestions or specific requests for posts you can reach us via the contact details provided here.