“Faial Azores: tips on planning your trip” is the seventh installment of a series of nine blog posts about the Azores islands. The posts are meant to give you a detailed overview of each one of them to help you plan your trip, whether you decide to visit one, two, or all nine. If you have any questions or specific request, feel free to drop me an email and I’ll do my best to answer it or to put you in touch with the right contact.
Table of Contents (Click to skip to a section)
- About Faial
- Top things to do in Faial Island
- Top cultural events in Faial Island
- Azores food: what to eat in Faial Island
- Local souvenirs
- Where to stay in Faial Island
- Know before you go
Perfect island destination for sailing, visiting a famous sailor’s cafe and exploring an extinct volcano.
Faial is known as the “blue island” for the abundance of hydrangeas of a very particular hue. These flowers are fairly common in all the archipelago, and they change color based on the pH level of the soil. This “hydrangea blue” is hard to get, but here, as you will notice, it happens quite naturally and effortlessly.
The scenery changes dramatically at the Capelinhos volcano, where the world seems to stand still. The volcano was active for 13 months between 1957 and 1958 and, after its eruption, the lava that slid towards the Atlantic Ocean added new land to the island’s landscape. Following this trail of destruction, people left their ruins behind, most of them migrating to nearby islands or to North America. These days, despite some plants that started to grow in the area, it’s still deserted enough to make you think about the force of Nature.
Horta, the only city in Faial, is worldwide famous amongst sailors for the almost 100-year-old cafe Peter’s (if those walls could talk… Well, they have enough embellishments pinned all over to tell part of the story, but I’m sure some secrets are very well kept) and for its Marina (decorated all over by the hands of the visitors who sailed to the island).
Top things to do in Faial island
Like the neighboring island of Pico, Faial has a very strong connection to the Ocean and to sea activities. In fact, a stroll along the Horta’s marina will show you all those who have sailed by (or stayed for a while) and left their mark on pieces of, I guess you can call it, unique street art. Lying on a black sand beach can also be called a sea activity; well, even if it can’t, we’ll say it is from now on. And, speaking of black sand, a trip to the extinct Capelinhos volcano has to be on the top things to do on your list.
Recommended Local Companies
Please note that I’m not listing ALL the local companies. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list I used the following criteria:
- Local companies listed on visitazores.com. We use the term “local companies” for companies that are owned by locals and/or operate locally only.
- A website in English where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (with a working email)
Peter Cafe Sport is the cafe of sailors in the city of Horta. On their page, you can read “if you sail to Horta and you don’t visit Peter’s, you have not actually been to Horta”. Visit the cafe and you’ll know it’s true. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
Rua José Azevedo “Peter”, 9
Activities: Whale and dolphin watching (prices start from €40/US $44, for groups of 4 to 9 people), swimming with dolphins (prices start from €50/US $55, for groups of 4 to 8 people), diving with mantas (€200/US $220, per person), diving with sharks (€120/US $132), bike tours (€20/US $22, per person), walking tours (€15/US $16, per person)
Created in September 2010 pursuing a family dream to show the Azores to the world through its most privileged vehicle: a sailboat.
Zona Industrial Santa Bárbara, Lote 1
Activities: several sailboats for rent, from half a day up to a week (Prices vary).
The company was founded in 1996 by Norberto, a local, experienced diver, proud of his heritage who values local habits and culture. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor.
Rua do Paiol, 12
Activities: Whale and dolphin watching (prices start from €55/US $60, for groups of more than 10 people), scuba diving (prices start from €42/US $46, for groups of 5 or more divers), swimming with dolphins (prices start from €60/US $66, for groups of 4 to 6 people). Visit the website for special tours and packages.
The company specializes in canyoning with carefully selected local tour guides. Rated as excellent on TripAdvisor.
Rua das Canadinhas, 53
Activities: jeep tours (prices start from €20/US $22, per person, for a 2 to 3 hours activity, for groups of 5 or more), trekking (prices start from €30/US $33, per person, for a 3 to 5 hours activity, for groups of 5 or more), canyoning (prices start from €55/US $60, per person).
Top cultural events in Faial island
As is common in all the archipelago, religious events take center stage on the island throughout the year: the Holy Ghost festivities in the Summer and the celebrations of “Nossa Senhora das Angústias” after Easter (a festivity that is as old as the Flemish settlement in the late 1400’s) are probably the best known.
But what this island does best is celebrating the Ocean around it, with a full week of events dedicated to the sea. “Semana do Mar” (“week of the sea”, roughly translated) takes place every year in August mixing music, folklore, and, of course, sea activities.
Azores food: what to eat in Faial
Like the rest of the islands, Faial’s traditional cuisine is rich in recipes for fish, beef, and pork (especially, sausages), usually flavored with pepper, cumin, and even cinnamon. So, how exactly does this island stands out from the rest in the food department? Through the local pastry called “Fofas do Faial” — small cakes with a distinct flavor of fennel seeds, stuffed with a rich egg-based cream.
Oh, and if you’re a gin and tonic enthusiast (I’m sorry I can’t vouch for this myself since I don’t enjoy the drink at all), then the folks at Peter’s make a really good one. Maybe it’s a secret recipe, maybe it’s the view that gives it the taste; I guess you have to try it and let me know later.
(Once you read all the posts about the Azores, you’ll see that we’re not really concerned with counting calories when it comes to the local cuisine. We need the energy for all the hiking we can do.)
We could all learn a lesson in reducing waste just by observing the Azores’ handicraft traditions — making works of art from what is around you is not just a talent, it’s a mastered skill (and genius, I might add). Local handicraft in Faial include works made from fig tree pith and flowers made from fish scales.
Creating art from fig tree pith is so unique, that the city’s Museum has a whole room dedicated to the local artist Euclides Rosa and his work.
Any memorabilia from Peter’s Cafe Sport is also a great souvenir to add to your “I was here” collection.
Where to stay in Faial Island
Please note that I’m not listing ALL accommodation possibilities. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list of places to stay on the island, I used the following criteria:
- Properties listed on visitazores.com as local accommodation and/or rural tourism (AL, CC, TH, TR). I excluded chain hotels.
- A website in English and/or a listing on Booking.com* where you can easily browse through photos and gather all needed data for an informed decision (such as prices and previous customers’ ratings).
- Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (via a working email)
Renovated in 2013 and 2014, it’s a former farm house with 8 rooms and 60,000m2 of gardens and pastures. Nearby facilities: natural swimming pools (1.5Km/0.94 miles away), the Ecological reserve of Morro de Castelo Branco (3km/1.8 miles away), Restaurant and grocery store (less than 1Km/0.6 miles away). Rating of 9.3 on Booking.com
Rua dos Inocentes, 1
Low season (October to April) – prices start from €60/US $66, for a single room
Shoulder season (May to June, September) – prices start from €75/US $82, for a single room
High season (July and August) – prices start from €85/US $93, for a single room
4 houses, 2 of them are old typical houses refurbished. All houses are fully equipped and have an ocean view. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor.
Estrada Regional Km.18
Low season (October to May) – prices start from €50/US $55, a night, for 2 people
Shoulder season (June and September) – prices start from €70/US $77, a night, for 2 people
High season (July and August) – prices start from €80/US $88, a night, for 2 people
House in the city center of Horta, with a “neighbor next door” approach to accommodation. 12 standard rooms and 2 superior rooms. Rating of 8.1 on Booking.com
Rua D. Pedro IV, 23
Low season (November to April) – prices start from €25/US $27, standard room, 1 person (breakfast not included)
Shoulder season (1st of May to 14th June, 15th September to 31st October) – prices start from €40/US $44, standard room, 1 person (breakfast included)
High season (15th June to 14th September) – prices start from €50/US $55, standard room, 1 person (breakfast included)
Fully refurbished old farm, with 2 main houses. 10 minutes away from the city center and the airport. Rating of 8.7 on Booking.com
R. da Lomba da Cruz do Bravo
Low season (October to May) – prices start from €50/US $55, standard room, 1 person
High season (June to September) – prices start from €60/US $66, standard room, 1 person
6 rural houses fully refurbished, with ocean view, and surrounded by the nearby Caldeira and the Capelinhos volcano. Rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor
9900 – 347 Cedros, Horta
January to March – prices start from €75/US $82, house accommodating 2 people
April and May – prices start from €85/US $93, house accommodating 2 people
June – prices start from €95/US $104, house accommodating 2 people
July and August – prices start from €105/US $115, house accommodating 2 people
September – prices start from €95/US $104, house accommodating 2 people
October to December – prices start from €75/US $82, house accommodating 2 people
Fully equipped holiday homes with panoramic views of the sea and the mountains. The houses accommodate 2 to 4 persons. Rating of 9.4 on Booking.com
Rua das Adegas, 3
Fajã da Praia do Norte
Low season (September to June) – prices start from €69/US $75, per night
High season (July and August) – prices start from €89/US $98, per night
Fully refurbished typical house from the late 19th Century on the North side of the island. Breakfast included. The house is closed during the months of October and November. Rating of 9.1 on Booking.com
Rua do Capitão, 5
Single room – €85/US $93
Double room – €95/US $104
Know before you go
These are the most frequently asked questions about the Azores islands in general (and the island of Faial in particular). If you have a question that’s not on this list, feel free to email me.
Where is Faial island?
Faial is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
What’s the official language in the Azores?
Portuguese. The Azoreans are also fluent in some foreign languages (mostly English), especially those who work in the tourism industry.
What’s the time zone in the Azores?
GMT -1 hour
What’s the currency in the Azores?
Are there banks and ATM machines in Faial island?
Is there a post office in Faial island?
What Visa do I need to visit Faial island?
You need a visa to enter all Schengen area territories, including the Azores islands. Click here for detailed information.
* Please note that this information may change over time. Refer to the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in the country of your departure for updated information.
Do I need any special vaccination?
Special vaccination is not mandatory to enter the Azores region. If you have special health conditions, please seek medical advice.
How do I get medical care in Faial island if I need it?
There are pharmacies, a hospital, and public health clinics (known as centros de saúde with emergency services on the island.
What is the voltage?
220 volts (round two-pin plugs).
Is there public transportation in Faial island?
Yes, there are buses and taxis. You can also rent a car (check the local car rental companies for information).
How big is Faial island?
The area of Faial island is 172.43 square kilometers (approximately 66.57 square miles).
How far is Faial island from Lisbon?
1,690 km (approximately 1,050 miles)
How many people live in Faial island?
14,994 people, according to the last census of 2011.
How many main towns does Faial Island have?
Faial has one main town (concelhos in Portuguese) called Horta (where the airport and the ferry boat station are).
How do I travel to Faial island?
By boat – between islands (regular trips from Pico and Sao Jorge, Green Line): Atlanticoline SA.
How is the weather on Faial island?
The climate is mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19.9°C/67.8°F. Average low 14.9°C/58.8°F.
When is the best time to visit Faial island?
August for the “Semana do Mar” events (“week of the sea”).
Are there earthquakes in Faial island?*
There is medium-level activity mostly West off the island. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
Is there WiFi and cell phone coverage on Faial island?
Yes, 3G and 4G.
When will you start planning your trip to the Azores?