Nicknamed “The Green Island” (Ilha Verde) for its striking flora, fauna, and expansive vistas, the island of São Miguel—and its main city of Ponta Delgada in particular—is the gateway to the adventure-filled Azores archipelago. Here’s what to know before you go.
What is Ponta Delgada best known for?
On São Miguel’s southwest coast, the port city of Ponta Delgada is best known for charming cobblestone streets, lively cafés, and centuries-old architecture. The main city on the island, it’s also the ideal jumping-off point for water sports and nature excursions in the Azores.
Many of the city’s main attractions can be found along the seaside Avenida Infante D. Henrique. Start at the Portas da Cidade (City Gates), which were constructed in the 18th century and moved to their current location on Gonçalo Velho Cabral Square in the 1950s. There, you might encounter a concert, food festival, or simply locals enjoying a meal. On the next block you’ll find the Igreja de São Sebastião—an impressive illustration of centuries-old Azorean architecture—with basalt stone construction, Baroque porticos, and gilded carvings. Less than a ten-minute walk away is the Mercado da Graça, where you can stock up on local cheeses and Azores pineapples or snack at a food stall. Make your way back south toward the sea and dip into the Piscinas do Pesqueiro, natural pools nestled within the Portas do Mar (Gates of the Sea) leisure district.
For a uniquely Azorean experience, be sure to book a tour at an authentic Azorean pineapple plantation for a taste of the island’s small and super-sweet fruits—and get some boxed up to fly home with you.
When is the best time of the year to visit Ponta Delgada?
The weather in São Miguel is mild and moderate year-round, but the sunny summer months average temperatures in the mid-70s °F (low- to mid-20s °C). This makes June through August the best time of year to experience Ponta Delgada’s adventure excursions, seafood, and fresh produce (including the aforementioned Azores pineapple). It’s also the ideal time to experience the region’s traditional Holy Ghost Festivals: Set up around local churches from May through September, these include colorful religious parades, live music, and stalls of tasty Azorean foods.
Is Ponta Delgada expensive?
While luxury hotels and exquisite cuisine are easy to find in Ponta Delgada, it is a generally inexpensive travel destination on par with Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon. A double occupancy room in a mid-range hotel costs about $60-70 in the winter and $80-100 in the summer. Restaurant costs vary, but it is feasible for visitors to spend about $40 per day on meals, particularly if they take advantage of the delicious daily lunch specials (prato do dia) at small cafés around the city.
What is the best way to get around Ponta Delgada?
It’s easy to walk around Ponta Delgada if you stay close to the waterfront or downtown. For destinations further out, taxis are the most convenient way to explore. However, with taxi rides starting at 5 Euros (about $5.50), transportation costs can add up quickly.
The most affordable and flexible option for visitors aiming to see more of the island is to rent a car. Rentals at the airport start at just $17 a day. (Make sure to reserve an automatic vehicle if you can’t drive standard, and note that budget cars there are much smaller than their American counterparts.) Meters within the city are affordable, and free street parking is the norm elsewhere. Azoreans drive on the right side of the road and traffic outside the city is minimal. Anticipate navigating steep, winding mountains and narrow small-town streets as you explore.