Santa Maria - The Sunshine Island



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Santa Maria is the oldest of the Azores islands, it was the first to be formed and the first to be discovered. It is also the most southerly and easterly, making it the warmest and driest island. Due to the heat and yellowish vegetation, it has been nicknamed the Sunshine Island. The island is characterised by the chimneys of the whitewashed houses, the dark ochre of the earth, its golden beaches and turquoise waters. There is so much to do here, from relaxing on the beach, to watersports, to discovering the geological wonders of the island. Take a look at our collection of wonderful accommodations or contact us to find out about even more secretplaces. 

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Santa Maria - What to See & Do

The formation of this volcanic island has left it with many natural wonders for you to explore. Start at the Pico Alto mountain, the highest point on the island (590 metres above sea level), where you can enjoy panoramic views of the whole island. At Ribeira de Maloás, you will find a stunning waterfall of 20m in the river valley, formed when lava flowed into the sea. Bright coloured landscapes can be found at the ‘red desert’, at Barreiro da Faneca, terrains of red and orange hues, with a clayey nature. Proof that the island was submerged until only a few thousand years ago can be found at Pedreira do Campo, where the basalt flow is home to numerous fossils of marine organisms. You can also admire these at Dalberto Pombo Environmental Interpretation Centre, in Vila do Porto, the largest town on the island. 

The expansive coasts of the island, also provide a variety of fun activities. Visit the white sandy beaches and rock pools, the most famous being Praia Formosa, known for its fine sand, clear water, and waves ideal for surfing. From the bays you can fish, scuba dive, and paraglide. There are also many natural caves, where you can discover grottos with stalactites and stalagmites, for example the Islet of Romeiro cave, with its natural inner pier, or Furna de Santana and the Gruta do Figueiral. If you’d like to see some living wildlife, and not just fossils, then the Formigas islets are a great place for bird watching and snorkelling. 

Santa Maria - Gastronomy

One of the most symbolic dishes from this island comes from its fertile volcanic soil. The Caldo de Nabos is a broth made from a local species of small and dark turnip, boiled with pork, bacon, chorizo, and sweet potato. The broth is then poured over bread and served. Other soups and specialties include Sopa do Império, lobster, limpets, and barnacles. 

On the move, take a packet of Biscoitos de Orelha with you, cinnamon biscuits in the shape of ears. Also try the white biscuits, brandy biscuits, and cavacas (light crisp cakes). If you’re craving something a little healthier then the famous rockmelons are a must. 

To drink, try the wine produced on the slopes of São Lourenço, vinho abafado, blackberry and milk liqueurs, and brandy. 

Travel inspirations, itineraries and best places to stay

Close your eyes and imagine: just you, the mountains, valleys or the sea. Escape daily routine and enjoy the magic of nature in one of our secluded getaways set in amazing surroundings.