How To Make The Most Of A Day In Faial (Azores Islands)

December 17, 2023
faial azores,faial island,faial rental car,what to do on faial

Boasting a slightly less-wild version of the famous Azores lush greenery and its own unique barren volcanic landscape, Faial Island is a popular Azores itinerary addition—partly because its size makes it easy to explore in a short time.

My last day in the Azores took me on the ferry from Pico to Faial for a day trip, before flying back to Sao Miguel, so I wanted to share what to do on Faial and how to plan a day trip itinerary!

View from Monte de Guia - Faial is a tiny island in the Azores, perfect for a day trip or base for visiting other islands.

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Should you visit Faial Island?

Honestly, it depends.  I had trouble choosing between different islands for my six-day Azores itinerary.  I knew I wanted to do Sao Miguel and Pico (I picked it over Terceira because of its wine history), and also toyed with the idea of Sao Jorge.  Faial made the itinerary precisely *because* it’s an easy day trip and I could juuuussst cram it in.

Home to about 15,000 locals, Faial is known as the Blue Island of the Azores due its profusion of blue hydrangeas (especially in July and August).  I visited in early September and didn’t see them at all, but not sure if that’s because of where I went, or if it was a down year.

To me, this island felt more settled and domesticated than Pico did, even to some extent versus São Miguel.  It had less of that wild Hawaii-like vibe.

It was easy to navigate and there are some cool things to see like the Capelinhos volcano landscape, the Caldeira, natural pool swimming, and plenty of whale-watching opportunities.  Outside of the Capelinhos, most of those can be found on other Azores islands as well.

Faial is a small island and it only takes about one hour to circumnavigate if you stay on the main road.  That makes it a perfect day trip option since you can fit all the main sights into just a day.  However, you should be aware that if you have a specific thing you want to do or see, consider how the unpredictable weather could impact your itinerary and necessitate a longer stay.

Conversely, you could base yourself in Faial and use it to visit Pico and Sao Jorge.  However, Pico is quite large and so I would recommend against just doing a day trip.  So to me, basing in Pico and then doing a day trip to Faial made more sense.

A windy day at Capelinhos on Faial Island

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How to get to Faial

As I was coming from the island of Pico, ferry was the easiest way to get to Faial.  I booked ahead of time with Atlantico Lines for €3.80.  The boarding process was smooth, though it was a rollicking 30-minute ride (I don’t have any issues with sea sickness so that wasn’t a problem).  I made a fun IG Reel about it if you want to take a peek!

Faial is connected to Pico, Flores, Sao Jorge, and Corvo (all tiny islands, excepting Pico).  I stayed a couple nights on Pico and came over to Faial as a day trip, then flew directly from Faial to Sao Miguel that evening to fly back home the next day.

A rollicking ferry ride from Pico to Faial Island, Azores

The ferry coming into the harbor at Horta, Faial Island (Azores)

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How to get around & where to stay

You’ve got two options for getting around—guided tour, or rent a car.  I typically strongly prefer to explore on my own, but I really waffled back and forth in this case since I wasn’t going to have tons of time on the island.  I have a detailed guide to renting a car in the Azores that you should check out as well!

I ended up getting a rental car in Faial for greater control.  I used DiscoverCars to book all three rental cars across the Azores and would highly recommend them…good rates, no hassle, and they found me an automatic when no one else could.  I also always compare RentalCars.com.  I picked up my car from the Ilha de Verde office at pier and hit the road in just a few minutes.

Another great option is a half-day or full-day guided tour.  I strongly considered this one and this one but the times didn’t quite match up with my ferry and flight times so I opted for the freedom of a rental car.  Also, I STRONGLY thought about this “swimming with sharks” (friendly sharks!) experience.

Where to stay in Faial:  I had three options picked out when I thought I’d stay there overnight.  For something unique and local, Azul Singular or Quinta da Meia Eira and the Internacional Azores Boutique is another great option.

Stopping at one of the many miradouros on Faial, Miradouro da Ribeiro das Cabras

Other Azores adventures to help plan your trip:

Everything You Need To Know About Car Rental & Driving In The Azores

A Super Detailed Road Trip Guide For Sao Miguel Island

Exploring the Vibrant, Medieval City of Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel

Sao Miguel’s Glorious Sete Cidades: Miradouro Vista do Rei & More

Steeped In Tradition: Visiting A Tea Plantation In The Azores

Where To Stay On Pico Island: The Unique, Beautiful, & Historic Casas de Incensos

A Unique Taste Of History (& Wine!) On Pico Island, Azores

Check out all my Portugal posts here!

A few packing tips

As I’ve mentioned in my other Azores posts, one of the things I wasn’t quite prepared for was how hot and humid it was!  I was visiting in early September, so still summer I guess, but it was SO hot and a lot of both cars and hotels aren’t air conditioned (thankfully my car in Faial was).  With the super humidity they have, I was constantly sweaty.

I wished I’d brought more sundresses (a lot of mine are from StitchFix & I love this one from Amazon).  I had mostly brought lightweight, breathable stretchy travel pants (Athleta and these Eddie Bauer ones are my faves), lightweight sleeveless or short-sleeve tops, and alternated between my beloved cute/comfy walking sandals and my cute white sneakers.

I also relied on my my fave natural, non-toxic makeup (which does great in sweaty weather!), a headband (for keeping my hair out of my eyes in the wind along the coast), and polarized sunglasses.  I’d skip jeans (too heavy, don’t dry easily, and take up packing space).

Girl with red headband at Miradouro do Nossa Senhora de Conceicao on Faial Island

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What to do on Faial

I’ll start with what I *wasn’t* able to do—visit the famous Caldeira.  It’s a massive volcano crater in the center of the island, covered with greenery and 2km in diameter.  But the weather there wasn’t cooperating.

How did I know that??  The webcams!  It’s one of the most important thing to know about traveling in the Azores.  The weather is mercurial and varies depending on where you are on the island.  Many of the viewpoints, lakes, and hikes are prone to fog and cloud cover but a weather forecast is too general.  You’ll want to download the SpotAzores app to see a real-time view of the weather at different sites.  IT’S CLUTCH.

So with that said, let’s dive into what I *was* able to see and do in Faial.  I got my rental car at the airport and drove into Horta in search of coffee and breakfast.  There was a lot of road construction going on along the waterfront, which made stopping there a little messy (and less picturesque).

Instead I ended up parking down near Praia de Porto Pim, a small black/gray sand beach in Horta.  I parked and walked around a bit, enjoying the brightly-colored murals and buildings.

What to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Praia de Porto Pim

What to do on Faial Island (Azores) - colorful murals along Praia de Porto Pim in Horta

What to do on Faial Island (Azores) - colorful murals along Praia de Porto Pim in Horta

What to do on Faial Island (Azores) - view from Praia de Porto Pim in Horta

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I finally found somewhere open (A Padaria) and snagged a coffee and delicious pastry, which I took outside to enjoy with the waterfront view.

What to do on Faial Island (Azores) - view up toward Monte de Guia from Praia de Porto Pim in Horta

What to do on Faial Island (Azores) - view up toward Monte de Guia from Praia de Porto Pim in Horta

What to do on Faial Island (Azores) - view up toward Monte de Guia from Praia de Porto Pim in Horta

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I also realized that Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Angústias was close by, so decided to swing by and see that before heading out to explore the island.

It’s a beautiful church built in what I’ve found to be the typical Azores style, likely in the 1460s or 1470s.  I loved how the mosaic tile contrasted with the building as well!

Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Angústias in Horta, Faial Island (Azores)

Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Angústias in Horta, Faial Island (Azores)

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I’ll be back to Horta later in the day, but for now let’s see what else Faial has to offer…

First stop was Monte da Guia which overlooks Horta.  Finding it was a bit tricky…it was NOT the first place Google Maps tried to take me.  And even once I got to the right place, it still wasn’t clear.  Basically, keep going up the hill…it’s a very narrow road so watch for oncoming traffic.

But WOW, is it a great viewpoint!  I just made a quick stop here but apparently there’s a hiking trail as well?  On a clear day, this is definitely one of the viewpoints on Faial to hit.

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - drive up to Monte de Guia for a great view over Horta

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - drive up to Monte de Guia for a great view over Horta

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - drive up to Monte de Guia for a great view

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I was heading clockwise around the island from Horta toward the Varadouro Natural Pools, but stopped whenever the whim struck.  I made a quick stop at Miradouro da Lajinha, which has nice but not earth-shattering views.

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - drive around the island & stop at miradouros

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - drive around the island & stop at miradouros

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - drive around the island & stop at miradouros

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I also found some of the most colorful and quirky church architecture on Faial.  The ones in Horta seemed very much traditional for the Azores, but as I drove around little villages and even crossroads, I found these smaller chapels that each had their own personality.

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - appreciate the unique church architecture

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - appreciate the unique church architecture

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - appreciate the unique church architecture

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Many people will tell you that the Varadouro Natural Pools are one of the “must” things to do in Faial.  I made a quick stop but if you’re not planning on swimming then I’d skip.  There are better coastal views elsewhere, and these pools feel much more manmade (or “mankind-touched” at least).

This is something you could include on a private full-day tour as well, if interested (if you’re traveling in a group, a private tour may be more cost-effective and gives you control over the itinerary and timing).

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - consider a dip in the Varadouro Natural Pools

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - consider a dip in the Varadouro Natural Pools

What to do in Faial Island (Azores) - consider a dip in the Varadouro Natural Pools

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I continued on toward Capelinhos, one of the top attractions on Faial Island.  This volcano last erupted in 1957-8 and it created this 3 square kilometer part of the island—it’s why it looks so different from everything else.

It’s a fascinating, barren landscape more suited to like…the moon.  I was able to snag a parking space and started to walk toward the volcano cone.  Sadly the weather was a bit wild on this day and it was SUPER windy.  I was just getting insanely sandblasted as I walked even just a few steps, getting in my mouth and ears and eyes.

It was miserable so I gave up partway and turned back around.  You can see it blowing in some of the pics below.  I don’t know if it’s always like that, but maybe bring some protective gear (especially for your face) just in case?

Capelinhos will definitely be a stop on most tours of Faial.  You can walk around and up the ridge of the volcanic cone to view inside, and they have a very informative underground museum.

Visiting the relatively new volcanic landscape at Capelinhos is one of the most popular things to do in Faial Island

Visiting the relatively new volcanic landscape at Capelinhos is one of the most popular things to do in Faial Island

Visiting the relatively new volcanic landscape at Capelinhos is one of the most popular things to do in Faial Island

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I was absolutely starving at this point but having some trouble finding a decent place to eat lunch.  I kept driving but had to stop for a few minutes at Miradouro da Ribeiro das Cabras.  This was secretly maybe my favorite miradouro in Faial?

You can see a deep gorge between two lava streams that opens up to a beautiful view of the crashing waves below.

Things to do on Faial Island -take a few minutes to stop at Miradouro da Ribeiro das Cabras

Things to do on Faial Island -take a few minutes to stop at Miradouro da Ribeiro das Cabras

Things to do on Faial Island -take a few minutes to stop at Miradouro da Ribeiro das Cabras

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I did finally find a…unique lunch spot that got great reviews and is definitely an interesting local experience to try.  It was a few minutes off the main road, but I easily found Restaurante O Esconderijo.

I was just Googling anything that was open that had decent reviews.  The owner is I think German maybe, or similar?  He serves a set four-course surprise plant-based menu from his garden or other local stuff he can forage, nothing imported.  My napkin was a leaf 🙂

The first course was a salad, then a kind of bland tomato soup, then the main was a kind of bean patty that was pretty good with some potatoes and root veggies that could have used salt.  Dessert was bananas with apple purée.

It took a bit longer than I’d have liked but was definitely a unique and unexpected experience!  I didn’t love the food but enjoyed sitting in the verdant back patio area and relaxing.

Restaurante O Esconderijo

Lunch at Restaurante O Esconderijo on Faial Island (Azores)

Lunch at Restaurante O Esconderijo on Faial Island (Azores)

Lunch at Restaurante O Esconderijo on Faial Island (Azores)

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At this point it was starting to get late and I still wanted to explore Horta some more before my flight, so I completed my loop of the island fairly quickly—sadly cutting out the far west side.  But I did briefly stop at Miradouro de Nossa Senhora da Conceiçāo (a.k.a. Ponta da Espalamaca).

There are two separate views here, one which looks out over Horta, the harbor, and out to Pico.  The other looks toward the unique black sand beach of Praia do Almoxarife.  I didn’t have time to visit that beach, but I’ve heard it’s a really relaxing spot with crashing waves and great views (you can see it in the second and third pics below).

Using the webcams, try to time your visit for when there’s little or no fog, and ideally blue skies.  This will increase your chances of seeing Mount Pico on nearby Pico Island.

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Make a brief stop at Miradouro de Nossa Senhora da Conceiçāo (a.k.a. Ponta da Espalamaca)

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Make a brief stop at Miradouro de Nossa Senhora da Conceiçāo (a.k.a. Ponta da Espalamaca)

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And now we’re back to Horta!  I first headed toward the famous marina to see the painted murals.

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

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Horta’s harbor is one of the most visited in the world due to its advantageous location in middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s a stopping-off point for sailors and yachtsmen from around the world, and many of them paint a small mural to commemorate their voyage.  You can walk throughout the marina and see thousands of them.

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Horta's marina is one of the most visited in the world by sailors and yachtsmen, & the small murals are cool to see

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Horta's marina is one of the most visited in the world by sailors and yachtsmen, & the small murals are cool to see

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Horta's marina is one of the most visited in the world by sailors and yachtsmen, & the small murals are cool to see

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Horta's marina is one of the most visited in the world by sailors and yachtsmen, & the small murals are cool to see

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Horta's marina is one of the most visited in the world by sailors and yachtsmen, & the small murals are cool to see

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I then spent a half hour aimlessly wandering the streets of Horta.

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

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In addition to the big one we saw at the beginning of the post, I came across a couple other imposing and visually-arresting churches in Horta that I couldn’t resist snapping photos of.

I believe the first one is Igreja de Sao Francisco but it doesn’t even show up on Google Maps (see here).  The second one is the Church of the Holy Savior (or Sao Salvador).  The buildings that surround it became the Town Hall and Museum of Horta.

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

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I also stumbled on the Municipal Market of Horta, which was pretty dead when I was there but you may find a nice local souvenir.  Try earlier in the morning to see the farmer’s market portion.

faial azores,faial island,faial rental car,what to do on faial

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I loved the detailed images in the sidewalks, a little bit different than the patterns you see elsewhere in the Azores (and Porgual writ-large).  I also enjoyed the colorful buildings and different architectural styles.

There wasn’t much to “do” in Horta per se, I just walked around a bit and soaked it in.

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

Things to do on Faial Island (Azores) - Explore charming little Horta

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Finally it was time to return my Faial rental car and hop a tiny plane back to Sao Miguel!  One note, the flight was very stuffy and warm and they didn’t do drink service since it’s so short so bring your own water bottle (once you’re past security).

SATA airlines tiny prop plane flight from Faial to Sao Miguel

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I enjoyed my whirlwind exploration of Faial!  On balance, I think it was worth coming over here for just one day, though there’s a piece of me that wonders if I should have spent one more day exploring Sao Miguel (doing one of the half-day hikes, maybe).

Hopefully this post has given you plenty to think about to plan your own trip to Faial or decide whether you want to!

Other day trip adventures you’ll love:

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Faial is a tiny island in the Azores, perfect for a day trip or base for visiting other islands. What to do on Faial Island, Faial rental car recos, hotels, & more...I share my thoughts on whether Faial should be on your Azores itinerary, what to do, how to get there, what to pack. Where to go in the Azores. #azores #faialisland #portugal

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