Overview

Introduction

The Island of the Sun

Santa Maria is the oldest island of the archipelago. It was here that Christopher Columbus sought refuge in 1493 on his return from his voyage to America. Santa Maria is different from the other islands in that it is flatter and therefore dryer, warmer and with a lower humidity. The west, being the flatter area of the island, has higher temperatures and low growing vegetation. The central mountainous area and the rest of the island are more heavily wooded (with many endemic plants) with high cliffs and hillsides plunging into the ocean. To the South is Praia Formosa, one of the best beaches of the Azores (Blue Flag status) – and one of the few white sand beaches in the archipelago and the Baia da Praia nature reserve.

There are wonderful exploratory itineraries around the island.

Anjos, where Columbus landed, the quaint town of Sao Pedro, the white Algarve style houses of picturesque Santa Barbara in the forested north and Pico Alto (587m) from where one can see the whole of the island.

The 15th century town of Vila do Porto is the oldest in the Azores and has long streets leading to the 16th century cliff top fort of Sao Bras with the port below.

At the tiny village of Maia, the steep hillsides leading down to the ocean have been terraced with black volcanic rocks over many generations to hold the fertile soil in place in order to grow vines, wheat and corn. Maia also boasts a natural swimming pool that has achieved Blue Flag status.

There are also the Baia de Sao Lourenco, Ilheus das Formigas and Baia da Maia nature reserves – all wonderful places to explore.

Read more

About Santa Maria

Area: 97 sq. km
Length: 17 km (11 miles)
Width: 9.5 km (6 miles)
Population: 5,500 inhabitants
Capital: Vila do Porto

Highlights

Sweet Tooth
Traditional home-made biscuits and cakes can be found in local bakeries. You must try the Pastel de Nata – a deliciously creamy custard tart! There is a good bakery near Santo Espirito.

Pico Alto
The highest point on the island offers magnificent views over the whole island.

Anjos Chapel
The chapel at Anjos is one of the oldest in the Azores. Christopher Columbus attended mass here on his way back from America.

Handicrafts
Traditional handicrafts include weaved table cloths and clothing.

Colourful houses
The window frames and borders of traditional houses on Santa Maria adopt a colour associated with their specific village. Blues, yellows, greens and reds are used.

Festivals

  • Festas de Santo António (Santo Espírito) – 2nd week of June
  • Festas de Sao João (Vila do Porto) – 24 June
  • Festas N.Sra da Assunção (Vila do Porto) – August
  • Festival Maré de Agosto (music festival in Praia Formosa) – 3rd week of August

Note: Dates subject to change.

Activities

Canyoning, Coasteering and Jeep Tour (São Lourenço Adventure)

Canyoning is an exciting combination of walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling and swimming in some of the
most spectacular scenery of cliffs and waterfalls in the island of Santa Maria. It has become a very popular extreme
sport with fans all over the world and provides a unique experience in the middle of nature and at the same time
moments of pure adrenaline.

São Lourenço is known as one of the most beautiful bays in the Azores. The adventure starts with beginner-level
canyoning by eight stunning waterfalls – the highest is 18 metres. Then a little coasteering (swimming, climbing, and
jumping) through turquoise sea water until you reach Ponta Negra beach. After lunch, there will be a Jeep tour along
the Northern part of the island.

Price is £113 per person (May-Oct)

Notes

  • Excursion provider: Bootlá
  • Daily pick-up from properties in Vila do Porto, São Pedro and Santa Bárbara 08:30
  • Duration: 8 hours including 2 hours in the canyon; 1½ hours coasteering; 1 hour lunch; 2 hours Jeep safari;
  •  1½ hours briefing and transportation
  • Location: North coast
  • Minimum 2 people
  • Lunch included at a local restaurant in São Lourenço
  • Suitable for children aged 14 years and upwards. No previous experience required
  • Equipment required: Towel, swim suit, hair-bands, shoes that can get wet (preferably mountain boots or
  •  running shoes), warm clothing and a spare pair of shoes for the journey home
  • Safety equipment provided: Neoprene wetsuit and socks, helmet and harness
  • Note: Canyoning shoes and gloves can be hired locally for a supplement of £5.00 per person

Coasteering

Coasteering is an exciting combination of swimming, climbing and jumping in some of the most spectacular scenery of
cliffs and waterfalls in the island of Santa Maria.

Price is £65 per person (May-Oct)

Notes

  • Excursion provider: Bootlá
  • Daily pick-up from properties in Vila do Porto, São Pedro and Santa Bárbara 08:30
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Location: North coast
  • Minimum 2 people
  • Light snack and water included
  • Suitable for children aged 14 years and upwards. No previous experience required
  • Equipment required: Towel, swim suit, hair-bands, shoes that can get wet (preferably mountain boots or
  •  running shoes), warm clothing and a spare pair of shoes for the journey home
  • Safety equipment provided: Neoprene wetsuit and socks, helmet and harness

Diving
Santa Maria is a place of unique beauty for divers. The abundance and richness of underwater fauna provides
unforgettable moments. The Pedrinha, the islet of Lagoinhas, the islet of São Lourenço, the islets of Formigas and the
Dollabarat reef offer an abundance of both Atlantic and Tropical fish life – parrot fish, groupers, sting and eagle rays,
moray and conger eels, barracudas, amberjacks, turtles and dolphins. A fully equipped PADI dive centre is based in
Vila do Porto.


Prices are:
1 Dive is £58 per person
2 Dives is £108 per person
4 Dives is £208 per person

Diving prices on request for:

  • Dives at Formigas and Dollabarat (minimum 6 people)
  • Snorkelling with Manta Rays

Notes

  • Excursion provider: Mantamaria
  • Meeting point at Mantamaria Office at Vila do Porto harbour at 08:30
  • Daily activity (01Jan-31Oct) – minimum 6 people required between Oct-May
  • Suitable for all - from complete beginner to the most experienced, with boat trips
  • Dives include a 12 litre steel tank (200-230 BAR), weight belt, dive master guidance and boat transportation to and from the dive sites
  • Wetsuits not included but can be rented locally for 5.50 Euros each
  • All divers have to carry valid diving and medical certificates confirming fitness to dive

Canyoning

Canyoning is an exciting combination of walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling and swimming in some of the
most spectacular scenery of cliffs and waterfalls in the island of Santa Maria. It has become a very popular extreme
sport with fans all over the world and provides a unique experience in the middle of nature and at the same time
moments of pure adrenaline.

Price is £65 per person

Notes

  • Excursion provider: Bootlá
  • Daily pick-up from properties in Vila do Porto, São Pedro and Santa Bárbara 08:30
  • Duration: 5 hours (including 2½ to 3½ hours in the canyon) depending on number of people
  • Location: North coast
  • Minimum 2 people
  • Snack (energy bar and water) included
  • Suitable for children aged 14 years and upwards. No previous experience required
  • Equipment required: Towel, swim suit, hair-bands, shoes that can get wet (preferably mountain boots or running
  •  shoes), warm clothing and a spare pair of shoes for the journey home
  • Safety equipment provided: Neoprene wetsuit and socks, helmet and harness
  • Canyoning shoes and gloves can be hired locally for a supplement of £5.00 per person

Guided Walks
The islands of the Azores, with their mild climate (day time temperature ranging from 14-22 degrees), are the most
wonderful islands for walking. Our suggested walks incorporate some of the best scenic walks on the island.

Entre Serra e Mar (Half Day)
This 9.5km (3.5 hours) walk starts and ends at the parish church of Santa Bárbara and passes typical houses and
through rural landscapes. As you travel around the island you will notice the distinctive house chimneys, unique to
Santa Maria and the varying number of colours used – the colours relate to the parish in which they are located.
Following well used tracks, this walk offers excellent views of the bay of São Lourenço. Grade 2 (Medium)

Pico Alto / São Pedro (Half Day)
This 14km (4 hours) walk starts on the Pico Alto forest road (587m), the highest point on Santa Maria, with views over
the whole island – São Miguel Island can also be seen on a clear day. You will pass through
the Barreiro da Faneca, a unique ecosystem made up of reddish clay soil known as the ‘Red Desert of the Azores’, and
a forest of Japanese red cedar trees. Throughout the walk travellers are treated to views of Anjos, Ponta da Baleia, the
Baía da Cré and the Lagoinhas Islet. Grade 2 (Medium)

Santo Espírito / Maia (Half Day)
This 6.8km (3 hours) walk begins in the parish of Santo Espírito passing through Maia and ending at the whaling factory
in Ponta do Castelo. The route runs through the village and passes by the splendid waterfall of the Aveiro in Ribeira
Grande, the Gonçalo Velho Lighthouse and through terraced vineyards. Grade 2 (Medium)

Price per walk is £38 per person

Notes

  • Excursion provider: Bootlá
  • Daily pick-up from all hotels at 09:00 or 14:00
  • Guided walks with English speaking guide
  • Minimum 2 people
  • Recommended: Comfortable clothing, walking boots, swim suit, towel, rain jacket, sun lotion, binoculars and a camera

 

Jeep Tours

Enjoy an unforgettable drive along the islands’ best trails. Driving through trees and pastures often overlooking the
Atlantic Ocean you will discover places and landscapes of rare beauty not often encountered by the average tourist.
During the trip there will be several stops with time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.


North Coast (Half Day)
¦ Anjos bay ¦ Barreiro da Faneca (Red Desert) ¦ Santa Bárbara ¦ Poço da Pedreira ¦ São Lourenço Bay ¦ Santo
Espírito ¦ Pico Alto ¦ São Pedro


South Coast (Half Day)

Pedreira do Campo ¦ Praia Formosa ¦ Calçada do Gigante ¦ Vigia da Baleia ¦ Maia (Aveiro Waterfall) ¦ Santo Espírito
¦ Pico Alto ¦ São Pedro


Santa Maria (Full Day)
¦ Anjos bay ¦ Barreiro da Faneca (Red Desert) ¦ Santa Bárbara ¦ Poço da Pedreira ¦ São Lourenço Bay ¦ Santo
Espírito ¦ Maia (Aveiro Waterfall) ¦ Calçada do Gigante ¦ Pico Alto ¦ Pedreira do Campo (fossils)


Price is £43 per person – Half Day
Price is £81 per person – Full Day

Notes

  • Excursion provider: Bootlá
  • Daily pick-up from properties in Vila do Porto, São Pedro and Santa Bárbara 09:00
  • Escorted by an English speaking driver/guide
  • Minimum 2 people
  • Full Day: 9 hours including lunch
  • Half Day: 5 hours
  • Itineraries are subject to change 

Private Taxi Tours

Sunvil is able to pre-book the following private taxi tour on Santa Maria. Tours can also be tailor-made to suit the
individual requirements of our clients, please telephone us for a quotation.

Santa Maria (Full Day)

Depart from Vila do Porto - the oldest town of the archipelago, to the small seaside resort of Anjos and its small chapel
where Christopher Columbus attended a mass on his return from America. From Anjos, on a clear day it is possible to
see the island of São Miguel on the horizon. Continue to the pretty village of Santa Bárbara where it is possible to
admire the simple and beautiful architecture of the traditional houses of Santa Maria. The tour will proceed to a
viewpoint overlooking the famous and unique landscape of São Lourenço Bay, a volcanic semi-crater covered in
terraced vineyards and divided by basalt stonewalls. Then onwards to the pretty village of Santo Espírito, surrounded by
green pastures and hills, and visit the beautifully restored 17th century baroque church. Return to Vila do Porto passing
panoramic viewpoints over Maia Bay and the lighthouse at Gonçalo Velho.

Price from Vila do Porto is £142 per taxi (Full Day) or £86 (Half Day)

Notes

  • Excursion provider: Melo
  • Daily departure (all year) from Vila do Porto at 09:00
  • Prices are based on a maximum of 3 people per taxi
  • Full Day: 8 hours
  • Not included: Lunch and entrance fees to museums and parks
  • Transfers from hotels outside of Vila do Porto are at a supplement on request
  • A qualified English speaking guide can be provided at a supplement on request
  • Itinerary is subject to change

Useful information

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Rebecca in Sweden
Rebecca Staniford
Best time to go
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
Time Difference

GMT - 1 hour

Currency

Euro

Language

Portuguese

Average flight times

4 hours 5 minutes

  • Average temperature

    Average rainfall

Note: Map is for guidance purposes only.

Talk to our The Azores expert

Rosanna Melaragni
Rosanna Melaragni

Rosanna is the head of our Discovery Department which covers tailor made holidays to Portugal and the Azores, Italy and Sicily, Scandinavia and the new programme to Spain. She is our longest serving member of staff having joined in 1994 after completing an honours degree in French and Italian and subsequently working for a tour operator in Yorkshire. She is responsible for brochure writing, contracting accommodation, programme costing, computer inputting and generally troubleshoots where necessary. She has global knowledge of our tailor made programme.

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Santa Maria

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
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