Most people head to the Azores, a remote nine-island archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, for its nature: hot springs hidden in forests, lakes formed in inactive volcano calderas, beaches ideal for swimming and surfing, dramatic waterfalls cascading down verdant cliffs, and underground lava tubes ready to explore. But the islands’ selection of unique and often luxurious accommodations are just as much a reason to book a trip to Portugal’s easternmost outpost.
Thanks to its remoteness and initiatives by the Azorean government to prevent overtourism, which put a cap on the number of hotel beds on the islands back in 2015, there’s a refreshing lack of large, humdrum international chain hotels here. Instead, expect to find smaller hotels and resorts that draw design elements from their local surroundings, such as incorporating local building materials or showcasing the landscape with floor-to-ceiling windows, and provide a welcoming and comfortable guest experience.
As you might expect from a destination that was named the world’s first sustainable tourist destination by EarthCheck in 2019, most of these hotels are also committed to ecological and community sustainability, with practices like using solar panels or menus with locally sourced ingredients common among them. These are 10 of the best hotels in the Azores.
1. Octant Ponta Delgada
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For a more central stay, consider a room at the contemporary, 123-room Octant Ponta Delgada (formerly Azor Hotel), which overlooks the yacht marina in the heart of Ponta Delgada. Decor, like the studded, copper seats at the bar, offers a nod to the city’s nautical history (it’s long been a refueling point for transatlantic ships) while floor-to-ceiling windows frame picturesque views of the ocean. Amenities include an onsite gym, a spa, pool, food market, and restaurant, À Terra, which features local, Azorean specialties like limpets (a type of aquatic snail) and grilled squid.
While there, don’t miss out on the rooftop level, which features a spacious indoor/outdoor bar and swimming pool with panoramic views of the sea and city. If you’re lucky, you might spot a whale on the horizon.
2. Sensi Hotel & Spa
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Sensi is a peaceful retreat in a restored farmhouse overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a half-hour drive from Ponta Delgada, São Miguel’s main city, on the west side of the island, but near Ponta da Ferraria beach and several volcano hikes. Guests have access to a spa, outdoor and indoor pools, full bar, and restaurant that serves a breakfast of local specialties (cheese, fruit, breads, and a cooked entrée), as well as dinner if you’re enjoying the views too much to bother venturing out. Although you can’t go wrong with any of the rooms, it’s worth the upgrade to a room with a private pool—ideal for a postdinner soak and stargazing session.
3. Octant Furnas
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While on São Miguel, it’s worth staying at least a night or two in Furnas, a small town on the east side of the island said to have the largest collection of natural thermal waters in Europe. If you do, book a stay at spa-centric Octant Furnas resort (by the same group behind Octant Ponta Delgada), which is near several public hot springs and has both an indoor and outdoor thermal pool onsite.
Set on a green, tree-filled property on the edge of town, the hotel blends seamlessly into its surroundings, while inside, modern decor mixes with dark walls and hanging plants to mirror the outside’s lush, and at times moody, atmosphere. A wood-fired oven is the focal point at the hotel’s restaurant, À Terra—yet another nod to the area’s fiery, volcanic nature—where crisp pizzas are served in an airy dining room that resembles a greenhouse.
4. Santa Barbara Resort
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Santa Barbara Resort on São Miguel’s north coast is an exemplar of laid-back luxury, with its low-slung buildings that blend into the landscape, beachfront location, and farm-to-table restaurant that uses produce grown on the property’s organic farm. Founded by avid surfer João Reis, it should come as no surprise that the resort also happens to be near one of São Miguel’s best surf spots for beginners. (Book rentals and lessons at Santa Barbara Surf School, right next door.)
This nature-loving resort aims for sustainability too, using practices like rainwater collection, composting, and low-energy lighting alternatives to reduce its footprint.
5. Pousada Forte Angra do Heroísmo
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History buffs will love Pousada Forte Angra do Heroísmo, a 16th-century fort-turned-inn perched on a cliff just above Terceira’s main town and UNESCO World Heritage site, Angra do Heroísmo. Historic features, such as the original stone wall surrounding the fort, blend with modern amenities designed to make guests’ stays comfortable, including two outdoor pools, a Jacuzzi, and an on-site restaurant. The property also features scenic, undisturbed views of the Atlantic Ocean—making it worth the splurge on a room with a balcony.
6. Pico da Vigia
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It’s easy to miss Pico da Vigia, a low-rise property designed to blend in with its surroundings, on Terceira’s west coast, roughly 20 minutes from Angra do Heroísmo. Each unit in this collection of restored stone farmhouse villas features cozy, midcentury interiors, complete with fireplaces, vinyl record players, and a small kitchenette. They are set on a bucolic, working organic farm overlooking the sea, so guests have access to fresh produce during their stay. There’s no restaurant onsite, but nearby Baia W is an excellent option for a fresh seafood lunch or dinner.
7. Aldeia da Fonte
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The lesser-visited, south side of Pico island is home to the serene, cliff-top Aldeia da Fonte ecohotel, where the 40 rooms unfold in six volcanic stone houses tucked among tropical foliage and overlooking the Atlantic. The hotel embraces its natural surroundings and offers many ways for guests to enjoy Pico’s biodiversity while staying there, such as by hiking on one of its coastal trails, spending a day on its private beach, or whale and dolphin watching from its lounge or spacious outdoor deck (which includes a swimming pool).
8. Lava Homes
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Designed with families in mind, Lava Homes is a cluster of vacation homes full of amenities on Pico’s north coast, with an onsite restaurant (breakfast included), outdoor pool, and incredibly helpful staff. Although each home has its own unique design, floor-to-ceiling windows and wraparound porches put the views of the ocean, Mount Pico, and nearby São Jorge front and center, while wood-burning stoves in the living room cozily heat the space during cooler months.
9. Pocinho Bay
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For a more central stay on Pico island, Pocinho Bay is an oceanside hotel surrounded by vineyards a short drive outside of the island’s main town, Madalena. Set on 32 acres of land overlooking neighboring Faial island, the hotel consists of several stone cottages with an eclectic, bohemian-meets-rustic interior design, a tranquil garden with plenty of hammocks for lounging, walking trails, and a private pool. Although its convenient location makes exploring Pico’s main attractions easy, we wouldn’t blame you for lingering in the tranquil, close-to-nature space (glass of wine in hand; sunset on the horizon) for as long as possible.
10. Aldeia Da Cuada
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Founded in the late 1600s but abandoned by its residents in the 1960s when many emigrated to the United States for better prospects, what was once the agrarian village of Aldeia da Cuada on Flores island has since been lovingly restored and repurposed into a collection of vacation homes. Maintaining as much of the original footprint and architecture as possible, each of these 16 houses features stone-and-wood architecture typical of the area inside and out. Decor items like crocheted blankets, Portuguese lace curtains, and unfussy wood furniture give them a cozy, homey appeal. Each home is equipped with a self-catering kitchen, but there’s also a restaurant in the village that serves a seasonally changing menu of Azorean dishes.
If the history alone isn’t enough to entice you, the location might. Morro Alto and Pico do Se Natural Forest Reserve, which is home to Flores’s famed green cliffs lined with waterfalls, serves as a dramatic backdrop to an otherwise modest property.
>> Next: Why the Azores Should Be Your Next European Getaway