A sneaky addition to our land and sea page, the Azores are, admittedly, mostly a marine wildlife destination. This archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the mid Atlantic is one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins. An astonishing 26 different species have been sighted here, which is a third of all known species. Taking to sea here is the equivalent of a cetacean safari, and even children with short attention spans will be quickly gripped by the sight of bottlenose, spotted, striped, common and Risso’s dolphins scything through the water alongside the boat. During the Easter vacations, you may be lucky enough to spot enormous blue whales, which stop by the islands for a few days each spring to feed. Sperm whales are present here all year round, but they are extremely shy – it’s tricky to spot them, but awesome when you do. In fact, sightings of any whales can’t be guaranteed, but of all the whale watching hotspots in the world, the Azores is the most dependable, and therefore the best option for family travel.
Specialist family vacations combine whale watching with fun learning opportunities. Children can even spend a whole day at sea, learning to be a marine biologist and trying their hand at some of the techniques used in whale research, such as photo IDing and listening to underwater acoustics using a hydrophone. During a week’s vacation there might be three half-day trips to sea, or one full day and a half day (depending on how sea-worthy the children are), with lots of time to explore the islands or just swim in the hotel pool.
Weather and sea conditions dictate whale watching here. It’s possible from April to October, which happily coincides with the majority of school vacations: Easter, May half term, summer and autumn half term. April and May are the best time to see blue, fin and humpback whales migrating past the islands.