3 weeks in the Azores with kids: itinerary and tips

2 Feb 2022

In this article, you will find our full itinerary with places to see, where to eat, where to stay, fun things to do with children and more tips to plan your family holiday in the Azores.

The whole family agrees that these 3 weeks in the Azores were our favourite family holiday to date. From whale watching to pineapple tasting, from snorkelling to 4x4 on a dirt road, we all loved it. It was relaxing, simple, fun, delicious, not crowded and unforgettable. What more would you want?

Azores with the family: 3 week itinerary

Not wanting to contribute to over-tourism and, frankly, not really interested in laying on a beach with a million other people, we headed to the Azores a few summers back. I was initially unsure as it seemed marketed as an outdoor sports destination and this is not us. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The whole family agreed that this was our favourite and best family holiday in a really long time (if not ever). Below I share our itinerary as well as some tips you may find useful in planning your own trip there.

3 weeks in the Azores: itinerary and tips

Days 1-5: Van life on São Miguel

We had a wonderful time camping and some of our most unforgettable memories where made with the van. But renting a camper van on the Azores is for those who like driving and are not easily scared. You can read more about our experience with renting a camper van over here.
I just need to add that that week was really cheap as we slept everywhere for free, distances are short so we didn't spend a lot of fuel and we mostly picnicked.

A Piscina natural da Boca de Ribeira - van life on Sao Miguel, Azores
Van life at Piscina natural da Boca de Ribeira

Days 5-10: Relaxation in São Miguel

Where to stay

During those 5 days, we stayed at the Eco-resort in Santa Barbara, on the north coast of the island. That place is absolutely stunning, extremely peaceful, yet caters perfectly to families with small studios that sleep 4 or 6 and a small kitchen. It is also 100m from the beach and 500m from our favourite restaurant (though I wouldn't recommend walking there as the road has no sidewalks). 

Eco resort Santa Barbara, Azores

What to see/do

- Furnas: this small town in the center of the island is great fun to visit with kids. We headed straight for the calderas. These are steaming hot holes in the ground. Locals cook food on them. They were really impressive. But be warned, the very strong smell of sulfur made us all feel very sick after a while. Also, corn cooked in a plastic bag in those holes were not really our idea of a snack.
So, we headed out of the city center for lunch early.

Poca Dona da Beija: thermal pools in Azores
Thermal pools in Furnas

- Poça Dona da Beija in Furnas: these hot springs have been set up into 5 different thermal pools. The site is busy with tourists but it is still really relaxing and enjoyable. Our children found some of the pools too hot, so be careful when bringing them there. There are changing rooms and showers on site. A must-do.

Lago Sete Cidades: perfect for kayaking
Sete Cidades on a sunny and cloudy day

- Kayak on Sete Cidades' lake: several little shacks have appeared on the shore of the lake in the village of Sete Cidades. Most of these are only opened at the weekend unless you pre-book a guided tour or activity. We went kayaking with Futurismo, it was a cheap activity for all of us (we rented two double kayaks) and they were very helpful. The stunning lake is in the center of a massive crater. Go on a sunny day and it is heaven.

- Caldeira Velha: another hot springs site in the middle of a lush tropical garden with showers and toilets. The water is very warm and the waterfall a lovely refreshing shower after a small hike around the gardens. Parking to enter the site is very very limited (and dangerous), so again go early or late.

Caldeira Velha: hot springs in the Azores
Caldeira Velha

- Ilheu de Vila Franca de Campo: this is a small islet off the coast (boats depart from Vila Franca do Campo). The number of visitors on the islet is limited as it is a nature reserve. There are no real beaches, it is just a funny shaped rock with a lagoon inside it. Yet, it is worth the 10-minute boat ride. It is stunning and allowed our children to snorkel in just a few feet-deep of water. Watch for currents and tidal waves. But there are lifeguards on site too. Low tide times are always better for little children. We managed to pre-book the trip but many tourists just queue for a chance to get on the boat. Unless you have a Portuguese bank account, you must line up early in the morning on the day of your trip. Daily visitor numbers are limited, if you come late, you stand no chance of getting on. Oh and don't bring a pram or pushchair! The small path is just rocks and you will struggle. Take towels, picnic and swimming gear just like you would at the beach.

Ilheu de Vila Franca de Campo

- Gorreana tea plantation: Azores is the only place in Europe that produces tea. Aided by some Chinese people back in teh day, the plantation still produces green and black tea to this day. You can visit the fields and the factory for free. When we were there we were surprised to see anyone could walk in and tour the old buildings without any kind of ticket or entry fee. We even go to taste the different teas for free. I am assuming this is not going to last long!

Please also see my other post about Sao Miguel for other things we did while we had our camper van.

Where to eat

- A Tasca, Ponta Delgada: delicious fresh fish and pineapple cake (made with local pineapple). Come early or book as it gets very busy with locals.

- Restaurante da Associação Agricola de São Miguel: this was the highlight of our culinary trip. It is a large restaurant serving meat (steak) from the island as well as other local products. If you like a good steak, this is a must. The blood sausage with pineapple was my husband's favourite. The little local cheesecakes are also delicious. They are very family-friendly, like most Portuguese restaurants. Service is good and prices are reasonable. We went back many times. Book as it is huge but gets full quickly. Highly recommended.

You can find more info and stories on my Sao Miguel Instagram highlight.

Days 10-13: Back in time in São Jorge

São Jorge is the least developed islands of those we visited. Tourism is still in its infancy there (few road signs indicating places, few shops and restaurants, etc). There are few accommodation options but the landscape is gorgeous and with direct connections to São Miguel by plane, it was an easy pick for us. I highly recommend getting out of São Miguel and visiting the lesser known islands. São Jorge is a good option.

Where to stay

While in São Jorge, we stayed at Intact Farm Resort. The name is a little misleading. It is not a resort. They are mostly little wooden huts, very simple, overlooking the ocean. The host is wonderful and very helpful. We had breakfast brought to us daily. He even took us on his boat around the caves of the island (for free). Inside the huts, there is everything you need for a few days. However, the self-catering proved a little tricky as we struggled with food shopping. The only supermarket on the island looks like a 1950s throwback with bare shelves and very bad neon lighting, selling 50 kinds of shampoo but no eggs. But you can also find food in smaller places if you are willing to spend time searching for it. This was in the summer of 2019. As the Azores, develop tourism, I am sure it will change rapidly.

Sao Jorge seen from the sea

Baby hammer shark
Baby hammer shark a fisherman was throwing away

What to see/do

There are no great monuments to visit, just amazingly beautiful nature to get lost in and observe.

- Snorkeling and swimming: this is what we spent most of our time doing on São Jorge. Portinho has a lovely spot for swimming with good access and a shower (like in most places around the islands). The kids saw octopus and sea urchins there.

Snorkeling on Sao Jorge

- Topo: we drove all the way to the tip of the island. The road is stunning with huge hedges of hydrangeas everywhere. At the end of there is a little natural pool and a tiny bar.

- Velas: the main town is worth a stroll. It is tiny but quite pretty. 


- Ponta dos Rosais: we also wanted to drive to the other tip of the island. This turned out to be quite an adventure. The road ends quite abruptly, leaving you with several dirt tracks to choose from and no road signs. We tried our luck and were so happy we did. We had a beautiful afternoon amongst the trees and the totally unspoilt landscape. At the end of the island, there is a lighthouse but you can't go near as the cliffs are apparently falling into the sea. There is also an old whale watching spot and the view from up there is stunning. We really felt like we were the only ones on the whole island then.

Sao Jorge dirt roads

Ponta Rosais - Sao Jorge - Azores

Where to eat

A Quinta: the only good meal worth mentioning we had on the island. We had fresh fish and octopus and it was delicious despite the modest appearances.

We also had a meal at Restaurante Amilcar but were very disappointed. Some of the food was terribly overcooked, we waited for ages and overall it was mediocre.

Overall, bring sandwiches as restaurants are rare outside of the main town of Velas.

3 weeks in the Azores with kids: itinerary and tips
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Days 13-19: The slow life in Faial

Where to stay

We stayed for the entire week in a lovely self-catering bungalow/house in the north of the island. Casas d'Arramada are a small group of houses with a central swimming pool, an amazing breakfast service and the kindest hosts. The houses were rebuilt in traditional style after the most recent volcanic eruption to bring people (and tourists) back to empty villages. Highly recommended. The only drawback is the secluded location. But with good planning, it is feasible. Top tip: there is a lovely pizzeria on the road heading south (near Cedros). It looks like nothing out of this world but the pizzas are delicious. 

What to see/do

- Capelinhos volcano: a crazy dry and lunar area of the island where the eruptions are creating new spaces and the land is gaining on the sea. The last eruption, in 1958, was pretty significant. Many people lost their livelihoods, though nobody died. As a consequence, many families emigrated to Canada and the USA. To this day, many Portuguese people in the USA come from there. Summers in Faial are full of retuning Portuguese/Americans. You can visit the lighthouse near the volcano and, of course walk around the amazing landscape. The little museum is very interesting too, recapping the history of the eruption and the emigration that followed. 

Capelinhos volcano on Faial, Azores

Snorkelling: We snorkelled near the volcano, which in itself is a crazy idea the kids absolutely loved. The hardened lava made for fun jumping platforms and holes. There are so many gorgeous swimming spots in Faial with few people around (even in August). 

Jumping off rocks near the volcano, Faial

- Caldeira Grande: We hiked around the caldeira grande (the volcano's crater). It is a very deceiving location. It looks so green, so peaceful and quiet. There is a just a volcano lurking underneath. Of course, it is not recommended to go down the crater alone (even though it looks like a meadow). We only stayed around the top.

Faial, Azores

- Whale watching: The Azores are a great whale watching destination in Europe. We had been avoiding the large boats going out to whale watch on São Miguel. We much preferred to see whales in a more sustainable way. And we found just the people. Azores Experiences offered small group trips in a very respectful manner. The skipper was very careful not approaching too closely the 4 sperm whales and their babies we saw. We also saw lots of dolphins. The guide was a trained marine biologist and there were only a dozen people on board. They were also great with children. Highly recommended for a more respectful option. 

Whale watching on Faial, Azores

Where to eat

We really struggled with restaurants on Faial island. While the main city of Horta has some very lovely places, the rest of the island has few restaurants and they get busy very very quickly in high season. We just ended up having picnics very often.

- St Peter's: the iconic bar where all sailors crossing the Atlantic stop. It is nothing special. Service was a little slow but food was decent enough. The gin and tonic there is very special though. We went to see all the fun travel memorabilia inside. 

Days 19-20: Back to São Miguel

As many islands are not connected directly to the rest of Europe (or even to mainland Portugal), we had to have a 24-hour stopover in Ponta Delgada before flying out to Lisbon.

We visited a pineapple plantation. Yes, pineapples in Europe! Dating from the 19th century, this unique plantation grows pineapples in greenhouses. The site is only a few minutes from the city centre of Ponta Delgada. The visit is free and there is a little store attached to it where you can sample all things pineapple. I highly recommend the fresh juice. Amazing!

Pineapple plantation in AzoresPineapple growing in Azores plantation

We went back to our favourite lunch spot on the whole island (Restaurante da Associação Agrícola de São Miguel) for one last steak.

Lagoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel, Azores
Lagoa do Fogo and my very tanned island babies

And, as we had a couple more hours before our flight, we took a quick detour by the Lagoa do Fogo (as we had not seen it yet). The weather was a little bit cloudy but the view spectacular.

You can find many addresses and links on the map below I had created as my own travel guide. I have addresses for Pico island too even though we ended up not going there. But it is easy to get to for a day trip from Faial (or vice-versa).


1. Plan ahead: as the islands are small and tourism is still developing, accommodation gets booked up really quickly. We booked our accommodation in April for a trip in August. While looking, many places we liked were already fully booked.

2. Do not just stick to São Miguel: It is the main island and it is really lovely. But people who refer to the Azores and have only been to São Miguel are not telling the full story. Each and every island is different and São Miguel is much more developed and very different from the other islands.

3. Rent a car: public transport is sorely lacking. If you want to see the sights and head out, you will need a car. Distances are small so you won't be driving a lot. But keep in mind that the roads can also be narrow. There is only one stretch of dual carriageway on São Miguel.

4. Expect a slow/simple life: supermarkets are few and far between outside of São Miguel. Tourism is still under-developed. On São Jorge, struggled to buy simple cooking ingredients like eggs. Cashpoints are few and far between, tiny villages with hardly any cafes or restaurants, livestock on the roads, etc... It is like being back in time, in a good way (mostly).

5. Go before it is too late: cheap flights have arrived to São Miguel. So, many people are discovering the island(s). Go before they change drastically due to tourism. Life will never be the same again there.

More tips and ideas on my Instagram account.

3 weeks island hopping in the Azores with the family: what to see, do, where to stay and eat
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