If you’re planning to travel to the Azores in times of COVID-19 please refer to these official sources when planning: COVID-19 Information from the U. S. Embassy in Portugal (in English) and Official Azores Government’s Information for Passengers Traveling to the Azores (in English, Portuguese, German, French, and Spanish).
There isn’t a method to find the best hotels in the Azores
However, the Azores case is particular, mostly because the reality in one island is hardly the same in the next, no matter how close they are. Think of Flores and Corvo for example, less than one hour apart from each other by boat. While Flores has a decent selection of different kinds of accommodation for all types of travelers, finding a place to stay in Corvo means you have to be more flexible about your choices and your dates.
In this guide, I’ll be walking you through what kind of hotels in the Azores you should look for and the differences between them, explain what’s a Miosótis certified hotel (a local certification issued by the regional government), and answer the dreaded question if choosing an AirBnB is a sustainable travel decision in the Azorean context.
I’ll also include the top 5 suggestions of accommodation on each island with a 9 point-rate or higher on my preferred hotel search engine and booking website, Booking.com*. In smaller islands with fewer accommodation options or fewer hotels, I might have to include links to high-rated short-term rentals.
If you wish to skip to a particular section on this blog post, click a link on the following table of contents:
- What Kind of Hotels Should You Look For?
- What’s a Miosótis Certified Hotel?
- Should You Choose AirBnB in the Azores?
- Where to Stay in the Azores
What Kind of Hotels Should You Look For?
Before we dig into what I believe is the kind of hotel that provides the full-on islander experience in the Azores, let’s take a quick look at how Portugal classifies tourism accommodation, according to the official requirements of Turismo de Portugal (Portugal’s tourism board):
- Hotel establishments – includes hotels (1 to 5 stars), apart-hotels (1 to 5 stars), and government-run inns or pousadas in Portuguese (they don’t follow a star rating but are comparable to 3 or 4-star hotels).
- Aldeamentos turísticos are, in a nutshell, tourist villages (3 to 5 stars).
- Apartamentos turísticos translates into tourist apartments in English but are not the same as short-term rentals (3 to 5 stars).
- Conjuntos turísticos or tourist resorts (no star rating).
- Turismo de habitação or housing tourism has no star rating and is also not to be confused with short-term rentals.
- Turismo rural is the umbrella classification for country houses or
casasde campo(no star rating), agrotourism (no star rating), and rural hotels (3 to 5 stars).
- Camping and caravan parks (no star rating).
- Alojamento local (abbreviated as AL) is the umbrella classification for short-term rentals (independent apartments or houses, and private rooms) and hostels.
That’s a long list to choose from, isn’t it? And some of the classifications are more straightforward than others but I don’t want to dwell on that.
To fully experience the Azores, you should choose an accommodation that:
- Gives you plenty of room and time to explore your surroundings
- Is comfortable and private enough to curl up with a book or a Netflix show when it’s pouring outside
- Allows you to connect with the locals, their culture, and their way of life
What types of hotels in the Azores should you look for that, in my opinion, give you the full-on, intimate islander experience?
- Tourist villages (or aldeamentos turísticos)
- Turismo rural (country houses, agrotourism units or farm stays, and rural hotels)
- Turismo de habitação (housing tourism)
- Short-term rentals.
Yes, I did include short-term rentals but opting for an AirBnB in the Azores instead of a professional accommodation also comes with a particular set of factors to consider, that I’ll address in a bit.
Please note that I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for a hotel or an inn if that’s your preference. But the ideal Azores experience requires a close connection to nature, people, and what life on an island is all about.
What’s a Miosótis Certified Hotel?
Not only are the Azores all about nature as a tourism destination, but the archipelago also has four areas (three islands and part of one) listed as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: the islands of Graciosa, Corvo, and Flores, and the fajãs in São Jorge Island.
As much as I’m proud of my islands for all the “best of” awards they’ve collected over the years as a sustainable and eco-friendly tourism destination, I’m also aware of how quickly those who are less scrupulous can ride the wave of a travel trend.
With that in mind, to readers who ask me what they need to know before they travel to the Azores, and who want to make sure they’re making the right decisions when it comes to sustainable accommodation, I always advise them to look at the Miosótis list of certified accommodation first (the list is updated every year, and the certification is valid for two years).
Miosótis is the Portuguese word for the forget-me-not flower, one of the 59 species of endemic plants in the Azores. The forget-me-nots are, in reality, a lot more Azorean than the hydrangeas and, yet, the latter ones are widely seen as the symbols of the islands.
The blue flower was chosen as the symbol for the environmental award and certification the local Azorean government issues to tourism establishments on all nine islands. According to their official website, this certification has three goals:
- To be a thorough and strict environmental distinction.
- To acknowledge the tourism establishments that follow best practices.
- To make tourism professionals aware of environmental best practices and help them implement those best practices.
Just as a star rating system, all accommodation (except those classified as alojamento local) is given one to five miosótis. Establishments send in their applications and local government representatives evaluate and rate them based on five core areas (keeping in mind the specific features of each type of
- Waste management
- Water consumption
- Energy consumption
- Biodiversity and local business empowerment (for example, use locally sourced products or recommend local companies)
- Environmental management and information
Please note this doesn’t mean that the establishments without a Miosótis certification aren’t environmentally conscious. It could very well mean they didn’t apply to get the certification or merely have their internal methods to monitor sustainability best practices.
Should You Choose AirBnB in the Azores?
Ask me if you should stay at an Airbnb in Lisbon, and I’ll bluntly tell you no. Ask me the same thing in the Azores, and my answer will be more complex.
For what is worth, I believe short-term rental applications and websites were revolutionary at one point. They became a problem when they became too disruptive. But I’ll address this in another blog post. Let’s focus on the Azores for now.
In smaller islands where hotels are rarer (and where, consequently, finding vacancies is harder during the high season), short-term rental platforms like Airbnb might be the only choice you have.
They also provide a decent side income for the locals who have a vacant house and no one to rent it to. Generally, the islands’ people own their houses (sometimes they’ve even built them themselves), especially in smaller islands or in the rural parts of the bigger ones. Usually, long-term tenants are there only temporarily (for example, a displaced teacher or a doctor).
If it doesn’t grow out of control, short-term rentals in the Azores don’t have a negative impact on real estate and quality of life. However, you should always take this with a grain of salt.
As much as I would recommend Airbnb on one of the smaller or more remote islands for both the convenience and the once in a lifetime experience of living like a true islander, be diligent in your research and find out what the locals feel about it.
Public forums like Quora or open Facebook groups are always a good place to start.
Where to Stay in the Azores
To be consistent, I’m picking the top five accommodations with the highest guest scores, that fit the four types of ideal accommodation in the Azores that I’ve mentioned before. Although each subsection is titled as “hotels in…”, it’s merely to make up for an easier read.
If I have stayed in that particular
My primary goal, as always, is not to promote local businesses at random but to highlight those that excel, according to the hotel search engine I use for my travels and trust. Although I do my best to update all relevant information, please note that the Azores hotels listed below could have a different classification by the time you book it, due to factors that are out of my control.
At the end of each subsection, and to make sure you have all the information regarding all hotels in one place, I’ve added a Booking.com map with all the listed accommodation and price points.
Hotels in Santa Maria, Azores
- Villa Natura* – vacation home in Vila do Porto – 9.9 score
- Vigia da Areia* – vacation home in São Lourenço – 9.8 score
- Casa dos Tomarinhos* – farm stay in Santo Espírito – 9.8 score
- Casa da Avó* – Vila do Porto – rural tourism in Vila do Porto – 9.8 score
- Casa Marquesa* – vacation home in Nossa Senhora de Lourdes – 9.6 score
Hotels in São Miguel, Azores
- Quinta da Tilia Boutique Retreat* – country house in Capelas – 9.8 score
- Mosteiros Place* – apart-hotel in Mosteiros – 9.8 score
- Lake View House* – country house in Sete Cidades – 9.8 score
- Azores Villas – Beach Villa* – villa in São Roque – 9.7 score
- Quinta da Queiró* – country house in Sete Cidades – 9.7 score
Hotels in Terceira, Azores
- Quinta de São Brás* – farm stay in Praia da Vitória – 9.8 score
- Casa da Vinha Grande* – country house in Biscoitos – 9.4 score
- Vivenda Fernandes* – farm stay in Angra do Heroísmo – 9.3 score
- Casa do Tio Jose* – farm stay in Doze Ribeiras – 9.1 score
- Casa Doce Mar* – country house in Feteira – 9.1 score
Hotels in Graciosa, Azores
- Quinta do Fragoso* – country house in Alto do Sul – 9.9 score
- Quinta do Bairro – Casa da Vinha* – vacation home in Santa Cruz da Graciosa – 9.8 score
- Quinta do Bairro – Casa do Pomar* – vacation home in Santa Cruz da Graciosa – 9.8 score
- Fontes Viewpoint* – vacation home in Santa Cruz da Graciosa – 9.6 score
- Casa da Madrinha Graciosa* – farm stay in São Mateus – 9.5 score
Hotels in São Jorge, Azores
- Villas Casteletes* – farm stay in Urzelina – 9.9 score
- Make it Happen Farm* – farm stay in Urzelina – 9.9 score
- Recanto das Vigias “Vigia do Ilheu”* – vacation home in Topo – 9.9 score
- Casas dos Vimes* – farm stay in Fajã dos Vimes – 9.7 score
- Quinta da Magnólia* – country house in Urzelina – 9.6 score
Hotels in Pico, Azores
- Adega Ninho da Cagarra* – farm stay in Calheta de Nesquim – 9.9 score
- Quinta do Basalto* – farm stay in Piedade – 9.9 score
- Atlantic Heritage Luxury Villa* – villa in Madalena – 9.9 score
- Casas Alto da Bonança* – country house in São Roque do Pico – 9.8 score
- Casa de Lá* – country house in Prainha de Cima – 9.8 score
I stayed at Casas Alto da Bonança on my first weekend trip to Pico Island and I had a wonderful experience. My hosts not only treated me like their guest but like I was part of their family. I had the pleasure to join them for breakfast every morning and the property has a close-up view to the mountain (which, by the way, is Portugal’s highest peak).
Hotels in Faial, Azores
- Azoresmoonlight* – farm stay in Capelo – 9.8 score
- Casas da Fajã* – vacation homes in Praia do Norte – 9.7 score
- Quinta da Meia Eira* – farm stay in Castelo Branco – 9.7 score
- Casa das Areias* – farm stay in Ribeira Funda – 9.6 score
- Casa do André (Casas do Capelo)* – vacation home in Fajã – 9.5 score
Hotels in Flores, Azores
- Casa dos Salgueiros* – vacation home in Fajã Grande – 9.7 score
- Palheiro da Assomada* – vacation home in Fajã Grande – 9.6 score
- Fajazinha Cottage* – vacation home in Fajãzinha – 9.6 score
- Quinta da Ana* – vacation home in Fajã Grande – 9.5 score
- Casa do Sol Posto* – vacation home in Fajã Grande – 9.5 score
Despite the score of 8.9 at the
Hotels in Corvo, Azores
- Joe & Vera’s Vintage Place* – guesthouse in Vila do Corvo – 9.7 score
- The Pirates Nest* – guesthouse in Vila do Corvo – 9.3 score
- GuestHouse Comodoro – not available to book via Booking.com but has a score of 4.5 on TripAdvisor
Corvo is the smallest island in the Azores and the one with fewer accommodation options. Although GuestHouse Comodoro isn’t listed on the booking platform I use, I’ve mentioned it above because it was the first official accommodation in Corvo and it stands up to its reputation. It’s also a certified Miosótis accommodation (with a score of 4).