In The Middle
The capital of the Azores, Ponta Delgada, is on the southern-central part of São Miguel island. It is also where the international airport and cruise ship ports are located, so there are lot more tourist attractions, global brands, and city services in comparison to the other parts of the island.
Here is a suggested itinerary for the central part of São Miguel island.
9:00am: Mercado da Graça
No city visit is complete without a visit to the local market, so start off your day with breakfast at the Mercado da Graça, located in the city’s central square. While relatively small in comparison to other major city markets, it nevertheless offers a good selection of local fruit and produce. The market is bustling on Saturdays, but remains open throughout the week with fewer vendors. Do note the market is closed on Sundays.
Located right outside the market is a local cheese store, O Rei dos Queijos, which sells a wide variety of Azorean cheeses and other snacks. Pick up some soft cheeses and bread to share.
For your morning caffeine needs, head either to Louvre Michaelense or Intz48 Coffee Roasters, a short walk from the market. Explore the surrounding streets, and wander along the admittedly industrial marina. Try to avoid the stores that clearly scream “FOR TOURISTS”. One store, for instance, sells Azorean tuna at a jaw-dropping price of €6 per tin. At the local grocery stores, the exact same tins can be found for €2.50.
For a tasty educational experience, head over to the Augusto Arruda Pineapple Plantation to learn more about the unique growing conditions required for Azorean pineapples. This is truly a one-of-a-kind experience as Azorean pineapples are currently sold only on the islands or in mainland Portugal. Better yet, visits are free. The plantation also has an attached gift store where you can sample pineapple liquer and purchase other pineapple products.
To fully immerse yourself in the pineapple world, you could stay in an Airbnb located within a plantation! As mentioned previously, the pineapple house comes complete with homemade pineapple jam and a private tour of the greenhouses. Highly recommended!
12:30pm: Seafood Selections
Azorean cuisine is seafood and beef focused, which makes perfect sense given the surrounding ocean and the large number of cows on the islands. To experience some of the best surf and turf on offer, head to Restaurante Gastronomo, a short drive from the pineapple plantation. English menus are available, but the clientele here primarily speak Portuguese. It is always a good sign when the majority of patrons converse in the local language.
Start with some Azorean fresh cheese and bread before asking the staff for the freshest catch of the day. Save room for dessert - a pineapple cake and an espresso is the perfect end to the meal.
3:00pm: Gorreana Tea Factory
Drive over to Gorreana, the oldest and only tea factory in all of Europe, to beat that afternoon slumber. Established in 1883, the updated tea estate now features a museum and a free self-guided tour of the facility. There are also tea samples available, and a small café on site.
The real appeal, however, is the 2 mile hike that visitors can enjoy through the tea plantations. The hike starts right across from the museum, and is a leisurely hour and a half stroll. Along most of the trail ocean views are readily available, making this a rather picturesque journey.
8:00pm: Quinta dos Sabores
To end the day, enjoy a lovely meal at Quinta dos Sabores, a farm-to-table restaurant actually located on a farm. Reservations are required at this rustic but charming spot, and can be made by phone or on Facebook. The menu changes nightly, but expect to be served a delicious five course meal that generally includes a fish and a meat dish. At €40 per person, this may not be the cheapest dinner in São Miguel, but it is definitely worth the price. A wide selection of affordable wines are also available.
Furnas is up next!