I have all the information you need to plan your hot springs road trip across the island of São Miguel, Azores.
There’s something so magical and relaxing about bathing in naturally occurring hot springs. It’s one of my favorite gifts that nature has given us. I know everyone is all about the hot springs in Iceland, but there is a European destination where you can find some of the best thermal waters in the world. São Miguel, Azores is a hot spring lover’s paradise.
Where is São Miguel, Azores?
São Miguel is the largest island in the archipelago of the Azores. It’s in the middle of the Atlantic about 900 miles west of Portugal and 2300 miles east of Boston in the United States. This string of islands are some of the most lush, green you will find anywhere on the planet and a very popular destination for European tourists but not as much for American tourists.
There are 3 volcanic regions across São Miguel which makes it the perfect place to find hot springs. On my vacation to the Azores, it was so surreal to see boiling water at every turn as we explored the town of Furnas.
Because of their location, the Azores Islands have fairly mild weather. They experience cooler temperatures during winter months but the great thing is that hot springs are actually most enjoyable when the weather is cooler!
São Miguel Hot Springs Itinerary
1. Caldeira Velha
Caldeira Velha is a nature park with two thermal pools up in the mountainside near Lagoa do Fogo. What I enjoyed most was the natural backdrop the hot springs are set in. There is so much green foliage surrounding the hot springs which make you feel like you’re in the Land Before Time.
On my visit, this stop was part of a group tour. However, if you rent a car you can easily find it. Just keep in mind that during busy season it can get crowded and parking is limited.
My recommendation is to go to the spring that has the waterfall first. This one was mildly warm but you will definitely want the photo op. It’s shallow all the way back to where the waterfall is so no worries about having to swim.
Next, you should head back down the pathway to the other hot springs pool. This one was the most crowded when I went.
I fully admit, that my first thoughts were that I didn’t want to be sitting in people soup and I honestly wished there had been less people. But fortunately the group that was already there when I arrived cleared out pretty quickly.
Just step in and find a rock to sit on and let the warm waters nourish your skin.
This is a popular tourist spot, so it’s not going to necessarily give you peace and quiet but I promise the water does feel great and it’s very soothing.
If you visit on the shoulder season just at the start of spring like I did, the crowds won’t be too bad and you just might get the pool to yourself.
Cost: 8 EUR
Swimming Conditions: Swimming is allowed. The water is shallow and you can stand throughout both pools.
Changing Area and Restrooms: Yes
2. Poca da Dona Beija
Poca da Dona Beija is a bathing area that has been modernized to take advantage of a naturally occurring hot spring and divert the waters to 5 different pools.
It’s a beautiful setting with tropical plants and flowers and waterfalls throughout to set a very relaxing ambience. The pools vary in temperature from 82 ℉ to 102 ℉.
The waters are very rich in iron and other minerals so beware of what you wear into the pool. My coverup for my bathing suit was white and the iron stains never washed out completely. But hey this place is so serene and relaxing that it’s totally worth ruining a bathing suit LOL.
This was probably my favorite of all of the hot springs I visited on the island. My only regret was that I visited this hot spring as part of a tour so I did have a limited amount of time to spend there.
When I return to the island this Azores hot spring will definitely be on my list of things to do. They are open at night as well which I think would be a real nice vibe.
Cost: 6 EUR
Swimming Conditions: Swimming is allowed. The water is shallow and you can stand in all of the pools. Keep in mind the that the temperatures vary. You cannot swim in the source spring where the hot waters originate. You can see this cave and take pics but you cannot touch this water unless you don’t like having hands.
Changing Area and Restrooms: Yes. There are also lockers for a fee.
3. Ponta da Ferraria
Ponta da Ferraria was the hot springs adventure I was most looking forward to on my trip because this one requires some maneuvering to get to it and some pretty strong guts.
This Azores hot spring is unique because it’s a cove in the ocean heated by the hydrothermal vents beneath the surface. You can actually still see the caved in dome of a small volcano along the hike down to the pool. It doesn’t get anymore natural than this.
There’s nowhere else accessible on the planet where you can experience this phenomenon in the ocean. I didn’t find a tour that would take me here on the west side of the island so I opted to rent a car.
To experience the most warmth it’s best to go at low tide and with calmer seas. You will have to cross jagged lava rocks to get to the pool and then lower yourself down on a ladder built into the craggy rocks. There are ropes suspended across the pool to hold onto and keep you from washing out into the ocean.
There is also a spa there with treatments using the same thermal waters. I would love to come back and experience this on another visit.
For more pics and a detailed overview of what the experience was like, check out my dedicated blog post on Ponta da Ferraria.
Swimming Conditions: Swimming is allowed. Be advised there is no lifeguard on duty and you cannot stand in the pool. Best for strong swimmers comfortable in the water. Also check the weather conditions before you go.
Changing Area and Restrooms: Yes.
Bonus: The Termas da Ferraria is a spa onsite with additional pools fed by the thermal waters. You can experience this if you book treatments at the spa.
4. Terra Nostra Park
Terra Nostra Park is in Furnas set among massive curated 200 year old gardens. The beautiful Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is also on the property.
The pool was first built in the 1700s and expanded in 1935 to its current size. The large pool in front of the big white house may look like something you don’t want to get into because it’s a steamy pool of brown water.
However, this is just due to the large deposits of iron and other minerals over the years. The pool temperature ranges from 95 to 113℉ and it feels amazing.
On the day I went to this pool I had done a very challenging hike down into Lagoa do Fogo. Soaking in this pool soothed my aching muscles and reenergized me. I went late in the day so it wasn’t very crowded, however I would recommend giving yourself enough time to enjoy the gardens and the grounds.
Cost: 8 EUR
Swimming Conditions: Swimming is allowed. The water is most shallow around the edges. It gets deeper toward the middle to the island, but not much. I’m 5’8″ and I was able to stand throughout the pool but it did come up to my neck at one point.
Changing Area and Restrooms: Yes. Lockers and towels can be rented for a fee.
Bonus: You can book spa treatments at the Terra Nostra Wellness Spa in the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel.
5. Caldeira das Furnas
Surrounding the Furnas Lake is a park where the earth is truly alive. There are trails and boardwalks that take you across boiling hot springs and mud springs.
The lake is sulphuric and not one you want to swim in and it also doesn’t smell great but the the eerie greenish yellow color is till mesmerizing to look at, especially from up above at the lookout point.
While you can’t swim in these hot springs because it’s dangerously hot, there is another really cool and unique experience you can have here.
This area has a Portuguese cuisine called coizidos where a pot of meats and vegetables is lowered into holes in the ground around this volcanic activity.
The food is cooked from the thermal vents in the ground for about 5 hours and then served to you at a nearby restaurant.
Letting nature do the cooking is certainly a foodie adventure worth trying. I did this Green Jeep Tours as part of a half day excursion. You can go on your own to explore the area if you rent a car. You can also rent bikes and ride the trails around the valley.
I’m glad I did this as a group excursion because our guide knew all of the points of interest. We also went walking through an area of the town where there were hot springs literally around every corner. They also have mineral water fountains that you can drink from, though I didn’t enjoy the taste.
Tips for your hot springs tour of São Miguel, Azores
Where swimming is allowed normal swimwear and a change of dry clothes and towel is what you will need. Wear something you don’t mind getting stained because the mineral deposits may not wash completely out of light colored clothing. Also wear water shoes.
The beauty of hot springs is that they are still great even when the weather is cool. You can visit them year round. The winter months and should season just before spring will be the least crowded.
Kids are permitted at all of the springs mentioned above but I would suggest that Ponta de Ferraria is probably best for older children that are strong swimmers but not suitable for younger kids.
Keep in mind that if you visit Furnas there are boiling pools of water throughout the area, so small kids should be kept very closer and prevented from breaking away from you.
Allow yourself a few days to do them all and not feel rushed.