You can experience the natural beauty of Santa Maria in many ways. Be inspired by our personal recommendations and find more ideas on the page of the Tourist Office.
Explore Santa Maria’s magical volcanic landscape on foot and discover sleepy villages, hidden coves, roaring waterfalls, abandoned quarries, tropical forests, colorful clay deserts and experience breathtaking mountain hikes with spectacular views and unforgettable sunsets.
We are pleased to provide you with information about ancient communication routes and mule trails, when cars did not exist on Santa Maria Island and people traveled from one place to another on foot or on horseback.
There are different levels of difficulty, the official trails are well marked and mostly easy to walk, even with children.
Notes on markings and safety on the trails.
Away from the well-known and officially advertised hiking trails, there are many more wonderful paths, also starting from our Pensão Francisca. These trails are rather for experienced hikers, who also climb over a stone wall or do not stop in front of some thorns. Sometimes you have to look for the way a little bit, because there are no markings. Ask us for more details!
Upon request, we (or our guides) can accompany you on the hikes and will be happy to show you “our” island of Santa Maria. The hikes usually take about 2 – 5 hrs and can be adapted to your needs. There are many nice places to have a nice picnic, of course this has an influence on the duration of the hike :).
Guided hiking tours
Annett Fröhlich – Hiking guide
Languages: German, Portuguese, English
Paulo Ramalho – Anthropologist and hiking guide
Languages: Portuguese, English
SMATUR – Hiking guide, excursions, tourist transportation
Languages: Portuguese, English
Bootlá – Hiking guide, canyoning, coasteering, Jeep safari
Languages: Portuguese, English
Grande Rota Santa Maria
The multi-day route Grande Rota Santa Maria, 78 km leads in 4-5 day stages around the island and up to Pico Alto. The scenic beauty and impressive diversity of the island can be experienced most beautifully on foot.
Accommodation along the route is offered by Ilha a Pé.
Map and app
A good online map and mobile app is mapy.cz, which shows all official hiking trails as well as other paths.
The official hiking trails are marked in red and labeled with their official names on mapy.cz.
For legal reasons, we decline any responsibility/liability when walking the trails. We also cannot take any responsibility for the condition of the trails; depending on the weather (also weather changes), certain trails can have increased difficulty. Adequate insurance for your excursions is the responsibility of the traveler.
Diving, snorkeling & boat tours
Imagine a place where whale sharks majestically circle around you through crystal clear waters, dozens of graceful devil rays seem to hover above you as if in formation, and curious pelagic fish share the water with you. You have arrived at Santa Maria’s diving and snorkeling destination.
The Azores, and Santa Maria in particular, regularly top the list of diving destinations. No wonder, for they offer a fascinating area for scuba and apnoea divers alike.
The waters of the Azores are warmed by the nutrient-rich currents of the sub-tropical Gulf Stream. In addition to about 600 species of fish, five species of sea turtles and 24 species of whales inhabit the region.
Depending on the wind, weather and swell, there are protected snorkeling and diving sites around the island. In addition to the dive sites near the coast, Santa Maria is also known for underwater elevations called seamounts, which are teeming with life due to the rising ocean currents. Ambrosio, the Formigas Islands and Dollabarat Reef are magical off-shore snorkeling and diving sites.
Detailed descriptions of the dive sites and more information about diving in Santa Maria and the Azores.
Snorkeling is good anywhere along the coast, depending on the swell and wind. Even from the surface you gain insight into the magical underwater world of the Azorean coast. Thus, on the richly overgrown black rocks you will find curious schools of gray triggerfish, colorful parrotfish, octopus and moray eels hiding between the rocks and in crevices, and small fish in bright colors.
In front of Praia Formosa beach, at a depth of about 5-10 meters, lies the wreck of the Canarias, a Spanish ship that sank in 1871. It was used for troop transports during the war between Spain and Cuba, which culminated in Cuba’s independence. When the surf is calm, very good swimmers can snorkel there. Be careful, there are sometimes strong currents along the coast depending on the tide!
The dive centers usually also take snorkelers to their dive sites along the coast and also to the offshore destinations of Ambrosio, Formigas and Dollabarat.
- Portuguese dive center
- English , French , Portuguese
- Diving, snorkeling
- Scuba diving from 85 € per person (two dives, whole day)
- Included: dive guide, transfer, transport, bottles, weights, insurance, small snack
- German-led dive center
- German , English , Portuguese
- Diving, snorkeling
- Scuba diving from 96 € per person (two dives, whole day)
Apnea or freedivers will find Santa Maria an enchanting diving area with rich biodiversity and impressive geological formations such as rock arches, deeply incised canyons and underwater caves. These make the region an enchanting and imposing playground for apnea divers, who can float elegantly through the underwater landscape without the burden of scuba tanks and equipment and enter into a dialogue with its inhabitants.
Most dive sites are suitable for all levels of apnea, including beginners.
- French , English , Portuguese
- Apnea training (AIDA)
- Apnea excursions from 80 € per person (two dives, whole day)
- Snorkeling from 60 € per person (two sites, whole day)
Further maritime trip providers
Mantamaria (diving, snorkeling)
Pico Sport (diving, snorkeling)
Dollabarat Sub (boot tours)
Mountain biking and cycling
Explore Santa Maria’s fascinating volcanic landscapes by bike: it offers riding fun for every taste and level of ability, whether on the road or technical mountain bike single trails.
Santa Maria has a diverse and branched road network that connects some of the most fascinating places. Along the way, breathtaking scenery and culture, pastures, mountains and villages await you. Climb the serpentine roads from the coast to Pico Alto, enjoy the descent and let yourself be taken in by the varied landscape.
After a day on the bike, you can cool off in one of the many bathing places, whether on the beach, in a hidden bay, or in one of the rock pools.
Smatur and Paraiso Radical rent bikes and make guided tours.
Santa Maria also has its own mountain bike community, the club Azpedal, which meets regularly to go biking, build trails and race.
Descriptions of the mountain bike routes can be found on Trailforks.
Self-service stations for bike maintenance
Self-service stations for bicycle maintenance have been available on the island for several years. The stations are equipped with a pump and tools for simple routine work up to tuning gears or replacing cables.
- Almagreira (across from the shop Clotilde around the corner from us),
- Vila do Porto (in front of the PSP),
- São Pedro (Largo),
- Santa Bárbara (next to the community office),
- Santo Espírito (Largo).
The locations are also marked on the Trailforks map.
Sandy beaches, natural swimming pools, hidden bays
Santa Maria has many beautiful places to swim in the sea. Besides the popular beaches of Praia Formosa, Prainha and São Lourenço, there are natural swimming pools in Maia and Anjos and many small hidden coves.
Thanks to the warm Azores Current (a branch of the Gulf Stream), the average water temperature on Santa Maria is between 17 and 24 degrees. So, depending on the weather, we can enjoy the water at any time of the year.
Surf & SUP
On Santa Maria we surf and paddle (SUP) all year round, and there is an enthusiastic small surfing community. Thanks to the warm Azores Current (a branch of the Gulf Stream), the water temperature averages between 17 and 24 degrees.
Depending on the swell, the beaches of Praia Formosa on the south coast and Anjos on the north coast are great for surfing all year round. Visit Tom from Monk Surf for a chat among surfers and rent a surf, body or SUP board.
More information on surfing on Santa Maria and in the Azores.
Santa Maria has a lot to offer for geocachers with over 90 geocaches, with more being added all the time. A nice hobby to get to know our island from an often unknown but equally beautiful sides.
We now know many of the caches and can, if desired, provide logistical support, tips and other useful information about them.
For island hoppers and cache crazies we recommend staying with Agnes and Beatrice on São Miguel. Beatrice is a pro cacher and gladly provides help where needed.
You can find more information on Geocaching.com.
Those who want to explore Santa Maria from the adventurous side can book tours with two companies on the island.
Bootlá, the adventure specialist in Santa Maria, Azores, offer abseiling in spectacular locations, hiking/trekking, canyoning/gorge walking, coasteering and jeep safaris.
The company is well equipped, and the guides are very experienced and reliable.
SMATUR offers various tourism activities including bird watching, hiking, BTT/MBT, transfers and island tours.
Santa Maria has its own historical and cultural specialties, which give its own identity. The “Mother of all Azorean Islands” is still completely authentic, based on a rich historical, cultural and heritage and traditions. The value of our natural landscape invites you to make truly valuable experiences.
Santa Maria Natural Park
Pensão Francisca has been a partner of the Santa Maria Natural Park since 2013. With us you can get information about the 13 protected zones, places of interest, hiking trails and bike tours recommended by us.
As a small welcome gift we offer you the entrance to the exhibition about the geological evolution of Santa Maria at the Centro de Interpretação Ambiental Dalberto Pombo in Vila do Porto.
Combine your stay on Santa Maria with relaxing yoga exercises.
Mandy Brinkley is a certified yoga instructor and has lived on Santa Maria for several years. Mandy offers yoga for beginners and advanced, for individuals and groups, as well as for pregnant women and post-natal. The yoga exercises take place in the open air, e.g. on the beach Praia Formosa, or in the Pensão Francisca, depending on preference and weather conditions.
We are pleased to offer you this additional service.