Top 10 vacations in the Azores

We’ve gone through our vacations with a fine-tooth comb, analysed our booking stats and read our travelers’ reviews – and the verdict is in for our best tours in the Azores. They’re not just amazing adventures, either. They provide the best experience for you and the people and wildlife of the Azores, taking you out to see whales in the company of marine biologists and matching you up with local guides who’ll show you how to career through canyons while keeping the fragile endemic flora in mind.

Keep reading to discover our best vacations in the Azores.

1. Whale watching

With an almost 100 percent viewing success rate, the Azores is one of the best places in the world to watch for whales. Partly, that’s because of the sheer number of cetaceans in this part of the Mid-Atlantic, with fin, sperm, sei and blue whales feeding on the plankton and crustaceans here. The other part is down to your guides. Marine conservationists team up with captains and land-based spotters – many of whom originally honed their spotting skills while working in the whaling industry.

When to go: late March to October (March to May for blue whales)
Our top trip: Whale watching in the Azores
See all our trips: Azores wildlife tours
Read more: Azores whale watching guide

2. Canyoning

Waterfalls that drop into the ocean, cracked-open canyons, forests straight out of Jurassic Park… With landscapes like these, it’s no wonder that Flores is the darling of canyoners worldwide. This island hunkers down in the wild west of the Azores. Our favourite canyoning vacation mixes easy and more challenging trails, while offering experienced canyoners the chance to split away from the main group and tackle trickier trails with expert guides.

When to go: May to September
Our top trip: Azores canyoning vacation
See all our trips: Azores adventure vacations
Read more: Azores canyoning guide

3. Island hopping

Spend two weeks island hopping around the Azores for a rounded understanding of this Atlantic archipelago. On this trip, you’ll use a mix of propellor planes and ferries to get around five of the nine islands: São Miguel, Terceira, São Jorge, Flores and Faial. This trip highlights the volcanic mountain paths and crater lake hiking trails, while also giving you the chance to explore the pretty port cities of Ponta Delgada and Angra do Heroísmo.

When to go: May to October
Our top trip: Island hopping in the Azores small group vacation
See all our trips: Azores small group vacations
Read more: Azores island hopping guide

4. Swimming with dolphins

“A profoundly beautiful experience,” writes one of our travelers. This swimming with dolphins tour is fun, educational, and run by marine experts who really care about dolphins and who can teach you how to swim in the ocean without disturbing them. It’s one of the best shared family experiences there is, with several chances to go on boat trips throughout the week.

When to go: April to August
Our top trip: Family swimming with dolphins in the Azores
See all our trips: Azores wildlife tours
Read more: Azores dolphin watching guide

5. Small group hiking

Hiking is the best way to get up close and personal with the unique volcanic landscapes of the Azores. On this tour, your guide uncovers the bluest displays of hydrangeas on Faial, explains how weather-beaten vineyards eke out a living on Pico, and introduces you to generations-old cheese producers on São Jorge. Exploring as a small group means that you’ll be with up to 16 like-minded travelers and stay in locally run accommodation that’s all arranged for you.

When to go: May to September
Our top trip: Azores walking vacation, Portugal
See all our trips: Azores walking vacations
Read more: Azores walking guide

6. Volunteering with marine biologists

Stay for one week… or stay for eight. The conservationists on this whale conservation vacation are glad to have you for however much time you can spare, ready to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about the whales that frequent the Atlantic around the Azores. You’ll mostly help biologists collect photo IDs and ecological data on blue and sperm whales, becoming both a valued and valuable part of the team.

When to go: April to July (March to May for blue whales)
Our top trip: Whale conservation vacation in the Azores
See all our trips: Azores wildlife tours
Read more: Whale conservation guide

7. Self guided cycling on Terceira

With its green forests, gull-white fishing villages and coastal paths, Terceira is a great island for confident cyclists who are happy going their own way. This is a self guided trip, but you’ll be accompanied by route notes filled with tips and tricks, plus accommodation, transport and bike hire that’s booked ahead of arrival. Expect 4-6 days of 20-45km daily rides that can be tailored to your likes and abilities.

When to go: Year-round
Our top trip: Terceira self guided cycling vacation in the Azores
See all our trips: Azores vacations
Read more: Cycling in the Azores guide

8. Multi activity vacation on São Miguel

São Miguel is a playground for energetic adventurers. This is the biggest and main island of the Azores, packing in landscapes that range from open ocean where you can go whale and dolphin watching to volcano craters ringed with high-rise hiking trails. This trip is steered by reassuringly expert local guides who’ll reveal the hidden trails and viewpoints, while keeping both beginners and more daring guests happy.

When to go: All year round
Our top trip: Azores multi activity vacation
See all our trips: Azores adventure vacations
Read more: Azores activity vacations guide

9. Small group activity vacation – with extra dolphins

Sit back and let knowledgeable guides steer you around the island of São Miguel via a series of volcano hiking trips, whale watching boat trips, city walks, and canyoning in Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park. The highlight of the tour? A chance to swim with wild dolphins in the wide-open Atlantic Ocean, where they have plenty of space to check you out from near or afar, as they choose.

When to go: April to October
Our top trip: Azores activity vacation, including swimming with dolphins
See all our trips: Azores adventure vacations
Read more: Azores activity vacations guide

10. Blue whale watching tour

The mighty blue whale – the biggest animal to have lived on our planet – uses the Azores as a feasting ground. Observing is key. This week of whale watching doesn’t disturb the whales, but catches them diving, breaching and peering up at you with one huge, curious eye, all from a respectful distance. Marine biologists, researchers and local boat captains lead this trip, so you’ll get unparalleled and passionate insights into the lives of blue whales and the people who live alongside them (and, in some cases, who once hunted them).

When to go: April and May
Our top trip: Blue whale tour in the Azores
See all our trips: Azores wildlife tours
Read more: Azores blue whale watching guide

Responsible Travel would like to thank Azores Tourism for their sponsorship of this guide.
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nessa Gnatoush] [1. Whale watching: Jon Eckert] [4. Swimming with dolphins: iStock] [7. Self guided cycling on Terceira: Portugal A2Z] [10. Blue whale watching tour: Christopher Michel]