Cover photo by Nuno Castro as found on Flickr.
“Tips on What to do in the Azores, Faial” 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.
Perfect island destination for sailing, visiting a renown 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).
Most Popular Activities
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 we’re not listing ALL the local companies. These are tailored suggestions that fit the editorial tone of this blog. To narrow down the list we used the following criteria:
- (1) Local companies listed on visitazores.com. We use the term “local companies” for companies that are owned by locals and/or operate locally only.
- (2) 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).
- (3) 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).
A photo posted by Pedro Tradewind Salgueiro (@trad33wind) on
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.
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), they 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.)
Peter Cafe Sport – Cidade da Horta – Ilha do Faial – Açores #petercafesport #shareazores #faialisland #ilhadofaial #cidadedahorta #açores #açoresislands #azores_islands #azores #azoresislands #igers_azores #visitazores #visitazores #best_destinations #insland #beautifulplace #cafesport #photooftheday #pic #sonyalpha #sonyalpha100
A photo posted by Jose Branco Carvalho (@josebrancoc) on
Perfect Local Souvenir
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
Please note that we’re 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, we used the following criteria:
- (1) Properties listed on visitazores.com as local accommodation and/or rural tourism (AL, CC, TH, TR). We excluded chain hotels.
- (2) 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).
- (3) Easy to follow on social media and/or easy to contact from abroad (via a working email)
A typical dwelling house renovated in 2014. Accommodates up to 4 people. Nearby facilities: natural swimming pool (3.5Km/2.2 miles away), bakery (1Km/0.6 miles away), restaurant and grocery store (less than 1Km/0.6 miles away). Rating of 9.6 on Booking.com*
Rua Dr. Manuel Francisco Neves Jr
Low season (October to April) – €45/US $49
Shoulder season (May to June, September) – €55/US $60
High season (July and August) – €70/US $77
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
Territory: Faial is one of the five islands in the Central Group (Grupo Central) of the Azores Archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal.
Time zone: GMT -1 hour.
Currency: Euro (€)
Banks and ATM machines available? Yes.
Post office? Yes.
Visa Requirements*: Same as other Schengen area territories. 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.
Special vaccinations needed? No.
Health facilities: pharmacies, hospital and health centers (known as “centro de saude”).
Voltage: 220 volts (round two-pin plugs)
Public transport: Buses and taxis.
Area: 172.43 Km2
Distance from Lisbon (approx.): 1.690 Km
Population (as of 2011): 14.994
How to reach: By plane – between islands, SATA Air Acores; from the Portuguese mainland and other countries, SATA Azores Airlines, Tap Air Portugal, and via Ponta Delgada (S. Miguel) Ryanair, EasyJet. By boat – between islands (regular trips from Pico and Sao Jorge, Green Line): Atlanticoline SA.
Weather: Climate: Mild temperate. Temperature: average high 19.9°C/67.8°F. Average low 14.9°C/58.8°F. For up to date information from the Azores Weather Institute, you can download the free app Meteo IPMA for iOS* or for Android (Downside: unfortunately, all the information in the app is in Portuguese.)
Best time to visit: August for the “Semana do Mar” events (“week of the sea”).
Seismic activity*: Medium activity mostly West of the island. (Source)
*Note: seismic activity is constantly monitored in the Azores.
WiFi coverage: Yes.
Cell phone coverage: Yes.
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