On my recent solo trip visiting the Azores Islands, I witnessed unfathomable scenes of natural beauty on the island of Sao Miguel. This is the largest of the 9 Portuguese islands that form the Azores, 900 miles west of mainland Portugal.
During my extensive Pinterest board trip planning, I came across the thermal pool of Ponta da Ferraria. There is a cove in the ocean heated by the hydrothermal vents beneath the surface. I’ve been in many a hot tub in my life and I’ve visited a natural hot spring, but I can’t say I’ve been in a volcanic hot tub in the ocean. Yes please!
I didn’t have any success finding a tour to take me so I rented a car to get there on my own. Some advice suggested high tide as the optimal time to experience the pool because it would be uncomfortably warm during low tide. I received another tip to take a dip during low tide because I wouldn’t be able to feel the warmth with high tide. Sigh! What to do?
I decided I would go at the end of low tide. If it was too hot, then I would just wait for the high tide to roll in.
I ventured to the western side of the island, stopping to take in a few supreme views along the way. When I arrived at Ponta da Ferraria, I found a jagged coast of black lava rocks outlining the roaring northern Atlantic Ocean.
As I headed down the boardwalk following the signs for a free natural pool, I started to feel my nerves. The prior day the weather had been grand with blue skies and minimal winds. Unfortunately on this day it was overcast, chilly, and extremely windy. The water rushing into the cove was churning fiercely. It was beautiful and intimidating all at the same time.
I walked out onto the lava rocks to investigate just how perilous this might be. There were ropes in the cove to hang on to although I wasn’t entirely sure what the ropes were attached to. There was also a ladder to lower yourself down into the cove. I got on hands and knees to reach down and feel the water. It was tepid – not icy cold but not the warmth I had read about either.
What a fail. I was disappointed, thinking I hadn’t timed the tides right and this trip would be a total bust. I was freezing so I decided I would head back to the car and on to my next destination.
There was a little voice saying, you came this far to get back in your car? No way. You have to do this. Are you a chicken? This is not the “Adventure Is a Lifestyle Way”. So, I went into the changing rooms and put on my bathing suit and swim shorts and water shoes. Y.O.L.O. right?
My plan was to hold on for dear life to the ladder, snap a couple of Go Pro selfies, then climb out and put on clothes on top of the swim suit, and run to the changing room and change into my spare dry clothes. Oh…and also not to get washed out of the cove out to sea and die…mildly important. Easy peezy right?
So down I went with this new found air of confidence which I have no idea where it came from. But as I approached the cove again, there was a tourist couple there surveying the area just as I had done earlier. They saw me preparing and they asked if I was seriously going to get in. I responded with the most confident yes I could get out. They said they were afraid but they would watch and see how I liked it. LOL I’m thinking well that’s fine with me; at least there are witnesses now. The woman also offered to take photos for me once I got in. Winning!
I backed down the ladder slowly. The water wasn’t freezing but it wasn’t warm either. I took the initial step down off of the ladder and there was a rock ledge there. Perfect! And what do you know?! My legs felt warmth! So I descended all the way down and sat on the submerged rocks with the water up to my neck and it was warm!! I mean warm warm – like hot tub warm. I recorded a Go Pro video, took a few selfies, and then I sat marveling at the raging waters just beyond the protected cove.
COLD!!! It’s so cold! What in THE hell? So this must be high tide rushing in. As the cold Atlantic waves got bigger and stronger the cold water rushed into the cove in one big wave and it caught me slipping. It also started to generate some powerful suction so I had to really hold on tight to the bottom of the ladder. But once the cold water rushed out it was nice and warm again. Ahhhhh, so relaxing. Oh no….cold! So very cold! I had no desire to keep up this hot/cold dance. High tide you win.
It was a nice short stint but hey, mission accomplished. I did it! I swam in the only natural thermal pool in the ocean on the planet! Go me! Gone girl! Who’s bad!
What a magnificent phenomenon. This was a total God moment for me. Nature has wowed my pants off once again. If you find yourself visiting Sao Miguel, it’s worth the drive to check out the thermal pool of Ponta da Ferraria and it’s free!
I was really tempted to do the spa experience, but I was pressed for time if I was going to make it to the other side of the island. The spa, Termas da Ferraria, uses the same thermal waters for thermal baths and other treatments. Hopefully there will be a next time and I can visit the spa too.
Another Pinterest board challenge checked off of the list and most importantly – I didn’t die. How will I ever go back to the common, lame hot tub after this experience?
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