On the island of Faial Azores, find two volcanoes, a world-renowned marina and stunning ocean-side pools and beaches.
This tiny island, two hours by air from mainland Portugal, packs a scenic punch.
The dormant Faial Caldeira and Capelinhos volcanoes provide amazing hiking opportunities and breathtaking scenery. Hydrangeas grow wild everywhere in Faial and transform the island into a blue paradise in the summer, giving it the nickname the Blue Island.
Our 3-day itinerary provides lots to see and do. The friendly residents will make you want to stay.
Table of Contents
Faial Island 3-Day Itinerary
This itinerary covers the Best Activities on Faial Island.
- Day 1: Horta and Monte da Guia
- Day 2: West Faial and Capelinhos Volcano
- Day 3: Caldeira and East Faial
In this article, we provide the must-see places and adventures for each area. Get ready to make memories to last a lifetime!
Faial Island Map
Things To Do in Horta, Faial
The city of Horta is a great base with lots of accommodation and food options. Any destination on the island is less than 40 minutes away by car. Founded in the 1400’s, Horta is Faial’s largest urban centre and has a number of things to see and do.
The marina is a must-see, conveniently located in the city centre.
This world-renowned marina has become a favoured stop on cross-Atlantic sea trips and is a linking point for international regattas. A number of tour operators offer whale watching tours, fishing expeditions and sightseeing cruises from the marina.
A practice, which began centuries ago due to sailors’ superstitions, has become a tradition in the marina. Sailors paint their boats’ symbols or logos around the marina in order to ensure their boats and crews arrive safely at their destination. Be sure to wander through this free outdoor art gallery to see the artwork of crews from around the world. The art is everywhere along the marina sea walls and walks, from the north end to the south, including along the outside walls of the fort which guards the marina.
Forte de Santa Cruz (Horta)
The fort was built between the 15th and 17th centuries and was the main fortification of the island. It became a national monument in 1947. Today, the fort is a Pestana Pousadas de Portugal luxury hotel. The company operates hotels in some of Portugal’s most historic buildings.
Continue past the fort to what some consider yachting’s greatest watering hole.
Peter Cafe Sport
For over 100 years, this has been a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner. It is worth a visit just for the decor alone. Beautiful walls of coloured yacht flags and ensigns allow you to travel the world from your chair with beverage in hand.
Visit the Scrimshaw Museum to see the largest private collection of Scrimshaw artwork in the world. Scrimshaw art is engravings on and carvings from whale bone, cartilage or ivory, the byproducts of the whaling industry. The whalers were the artists. The museum pieces date back to the 19th century.
North of the cafe and west of the marina is Horta’s downtown.
Church of the Holy Saviour
In the centre of downtown, the imposing Igreja do Santissimo Salvador is one of the largest churches in the Azores. The former Jesuit College was abandoned around 1760 when the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal. Other buildings of the college have become the town hall and the Museum of Horta. The museum is noted for its collection of fig wood art, a traditional handicraft.
Walking northward from the town hall, the clock tower quickly becomes visible.
Torre do Relogio (Horta)
This clock tower was used as a watchtower in the 1800’s. Climb the tower to get a bird’s eye view of Horta. Florencio Terra Garden, a beautiful park with a gazebo, is across the street. It’s a perfect spot for a rest while enjoying the view over the city.
Our Lady of Conception Viewpoint is one of the best places for an aerial view of Horta.
Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Viewpoint
This viewpoint, on the top of the headland called Espalamaca, is north of Horta on the main road EN1-1A. The 30-metre high cross and massive statue of the Virgin Mary stand out on the horizon. The view of Horta is breathtaking. On a clear day, look east to the islands of Pico, Sao Jorge and Graciosa. Much of eastern Faial can also be seen.
About 2.5 kilometres west of the viewpoint, the Botanical Garden of Faial conserves and protects local plants.
Monte da Guia Geosite
A Faial highlight, the geosite includes the volcano Monte da Guia, Porto Pim Beach and the volcanic cone Monte Queimado, plus all the sand dunes, slopes, cliffs, bays, inlets and marine caves around and within this area. This Azores Geosite is also two protected areas of the Faial Nature Park, protecting plant and animal species native to the Azores.
See panoramic views of Horta, the south coast of Faial and the island of Pico from the top of both Monte da Guia and Monte Queimado, Porto Pim Bay is the sheltered bay between the two cones.
Walk around the bay and discover a number of interesting places to visit. This walk is part of the Entre Montes walking trail.
Porto Pim Beach
This beautiful, wide expanse of sand is very popular with locals and tourists alike. There are washroom and shower facilities nearby. Several restaurants and bars can be found on the streets at the north end of the beach.
Porto Pim Whaling Factory
This museum, at the south end of the beach, shows the complete processing of a sperm whale. Its exhibits explain whale oil and grease extraction and the methods of handling the meat, bones and blood. The Whaling Factory museum contains most of the actual equipment used by the station during its business operations from 1941 to 1974. It is also the home of the Azores Sea Observatory, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education and activities in relation to ocean science.
Casa dos Dabney
Beside the museum, Dabney House contains exhibits explaining the story and lasting contributions to Faial of three generations of the Dabney family. The family moved to Faial in 1806 when John B. Dabney became the first United States Consul General to the Azores. Over the time that the Dabney family lived on Faial (1806 to 1894), both John’s son Charles and grandson Samuel held the position. Dabney House was originally the summer home of Charles Dabney.
Porto Pim Aquarium
The Aquário do Porto Pim, west of Dabney House, showcases fish species found in the waters around the Azores. Learn about the biodiversity of the local ocean. The aquarium promotes environmental awareness and assists with the recovery of sensitive fish and marine animals. Fish raised here have been sent to public aquariums around the world. The aquarium is housed in a renovated whale oil extraction plant which operated until 1942.
Walking Trail – Entre Montes (PRC8 FAI)
This circular route links all the places in the Monte da Guia geosite. It is an easy 3.4-kilometre walk, taking about 1.5 hours. Locals use this route for circuit training, so watch out for runners.
Park in the large parking area for Porto Pim Beach. Start on the paved path at the back of the Porto Pim Whaling Factory. Walk west up to the top of Monte da Guia and Our Lady of Guia Chapel. It was built in 1943 to replace a chapel built in the late 17th century to honour the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. Follow the trail markers to wind down to the south side of the bay, past the Porto Pim Aquarium, Dabney House and the Porto Pim Whaling Factory. Wander across the beach, along Rua da Rosa. Finally, head up over the top of Monte Queimado and back to the parking lot.
Piscina Lajinha and Poca da Rainha
These pools are about halfway to the airport, west of Monte da Guia. They are natural hollows along the coastline filled with seawater and continuously refreshed by wave action. For a refreshing dip, take the steps down to the pools from the cliffs above. Be careful as the rocks are sharp and jagged. The rocks formed when rapidly flowing lava hit the cold ocean water and cooled very quickly. The cliff has beautiful caves and arches. This section of coastline is also a geosite of the Azores Geopark. The whole shoreline is visible from the beautiful viewpoint at Ponta Furada.
West Faial – Things to See
Head west on the main highway (EN1-1A), which circles the island, and pass through stunning countryside along amazing coastal areas. Faial’s roads have many beautiful viewpoints, often with picnic tables, making them perfect refreshment stops so don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch.
Morro de Castelo Branco
The huge, imposing, rock monolith at the ocean’s edge is visible from kilometres away. It forms a peninsula with plunging cliffs that extend into the water. It is a volcanic dome which was created from lava which was so thick that it didn’t flow away before cooling. The peninsula is an important nesting area for several species of birds native to the Azores and has been protected as both a Faial Nature Reserve and an Azore’s Geosite.
To reach the parking area, either drive, turning off the main road and following official signs, or hike to it on the Morro de Castelo Branco Trail. From the parking area, walk the path to the amphitheatre and on to the base of the dome. Climbing the rock peninsula is not permitted.
Morro de Castelo Branco Trail (PRC5 FAI)
This trail goes through some of the protected area of Varadouro, in the Faial Nature Park and the halfway point is the Morro de Castelo Branco. It is an easy, circular trail, about 3.7 kilometres long and should take about 1.5 hours.
The trailhead is on the main road about 3 kilometres west of the airport in the village of Lombega by the bus stop. Walk down the dirt road by a stream to the coast. Turn south and walk toward the Morro de Castelo Branco easily visible in the distance. At a gate, turn right following signs and walk to the monolith. After exploring the Castelo Branco area, return to the gate and continue. Circle left along a sideroad, which returns to the main road and follow that north and back to the starting point.
About 7 kilometres from the trailhead is the Centro de Artesanato do Capelois.
Capelo Handicraft Centre
The handicraft museum’s yard has a beautiful view of the ocean. Inside the small white stucco building, traditional island handicrafts are displayed and available for purchase. Find carvings in bone and whale’s tooth, fig tree pith (the centre core of the fig tree), straw embroidery, old lace and much more.
Continue west on the main road to more stunning views of the coastline.
Ribeira das Cabras Viewpoint
This viewpoint provides an amazing view over the peninsula of Capelo, the youngest area of Faial (10,000 years old). The peninsula has about 20 volcanic cones of various sizes. On a clear day, see Vulcao dos Capelinhos, Cabeco do Canto, Cabeco Verde and Cabeco do Fogo. Look down to Faja, whose land area was created by lava flows from the volcanoes of the peninsula.
Praia da Faja
Faja Beach and the nearby children’s playground are popular with summer vacationers. This rocky, black coastline showcases the sharp texture of rocks created when lava cools quickly in contact with water.
Faial’s youngest volcano was created during a 13-month eruption episode from September 1957 to October 1958. The eruption initially created an island off the coast. Enough material was ejected from the volcano to join the new island to the mainland, increasing the area of Faial by 2.4 square kilometres. This area is one of the geosites of the Azores Geopark.
Wander the area, walking on the material jettisoned from the volcano, and admire the cliffs along the edges of the volcano. There are a number of things to see.
Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre
The Interpretation Centre’s exhibits explain the Capelinhos Volcano eruption, the formation of the Azores, and the various kinds of volcanic activity in the world. The centre was built underground to minimize its impact on the landscape allowing visitors a better idea of how the area looked in the days shortly after the eruption in 1957.
Information on the history of Azorean lighthouses including the adjacent Farol da Ponta dos Capelinhos is also on display.
Capelinhos Point Lighthouse
Climb the lighthouse for a unique view of the area. The Capelinhos Point Lighthouse, built in the late 1800’s, was operating when the volcanic eruption began. As the eruption continued, workers cleared away the volcanic ash. Eventually the volume of ash became so large, it was necessary to abandon the area. Despite surviving the eruption intact, the lighthouse never operated again.
The port, a short walk south of the lighthouse, is a sheltered cove.
Porto do Comprido
Cool off in the port’s natural pool, or launch a kayak to take a look at the volcano from the ocean. Stand at the port and look back toward the lighthouse. This was the edge of Faial Island before the eruption. It is amazing to see how much additional land area was added to Faial as a result of the 1957 eruption.
Just off the access road to Port Comprido, the Whaler Boats House museum explains the whaling industry.
Casa dos Botes
See a whaling boat and learn about the whale hunt. The whaling industry, one of the most dangerous occupations on Faial, was vital to the island’s economy for many years from the 1800’s until it was banned in 1982.
Capelo-Capelinhos Trail (PRC1 FAI)
This is an active way to get to Capelinhos Volcano. It travels through the Capela Peninsula, a Geosite with about 20 volcanic cones. The trail is an “out and back”, medium-difficulty, trail. It measures 5.0 kilometres round-trip and takes about 2 hours to complete.
The trail begins at the top of Cabeco Verde (there is a parking here). Walk all around the crater rim and then down the access road. Pass Furna Ruim, (literally “bad cave”), a 55-meter deep lava cave. Continue through the laurel forest to Cabeço do Canto. This viewpoint overlooking Capelinhos Volcano is the trail’s halfway point. Turn around and return to the starting point or continue on a portion of the 10 Volcanoes Trail to end in the parking lot of the Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre, about 1.5 kilometres away.
The crater of the Caldeirado Faial Volcano, in the centre of Faial, is a must-see. It is about 2 kilometres across and has an average depth of 400 metres. It was created by different phases of volcanism over the last 400,000 years. Within the crater, look for a cinder cone and, in some seasons, two small lakes. There was a permanent lake in the crater before the 1957 Capelinhos Volcano’s eruption. The seismic activity associated with the eruption created cracks in the bottom of the lake, allowing water to drain away. Today the lakes often disappear during dry periods.
Caldeira has several different habitats within it supporting many species of plants and animals native to the Azores. It is classified a Nature Reserve in the Faial Nature Park. Additionally, the whole volcano is a geosite in the Azores Geopark. This ensures the protection of these habitats, climates and species along with the historic and geologic significance of the area. A great way to explore this area more intimately is by walking the Caldeira Trail.
Caldeira Trail (PRC4 FAI)
This circular trail follows the entire caldera edge, starting in the Caldeira parking lot. It is an easy 6.8-kilometre walk for 2.5 hours.
From the parking lot, cross through the small tunnel and enjoy a first look at Caldeira. The trail begins up the stairs toward a small chapel. On the walk, see native plants and incredible views into the crater. At about the half-way mark, the trail splits. To the right is the Ten Volcanoes Trail, a longer day hike. Keep to the left, continuing along the edge of the crater. Climb toward Cabeço Gordo, the highest point of the trail at 1043 metres above sea level. On clear days, the islands of Pico and Sao Jorge can be seen. The trail from Cabeco Gordo back to the trailhead is uneven, so be careful.
East Faial – Things to See
The eastern side of Faial, north of Horta, is the oldest part of the island, about 800,000 years old.
Botanical Garden of Faial
Learn about the importance of conservation and protection of the biodiversity of the Azores and the world. Opened in June 1986 with 1.4 acres, the botanical garden is now over 3.7 acres, allowing for greater species and habitat conservation. The visitor centre has an auditorium, exhibition room and snack bar. The Botanical Garden also manages a natural rehabilitation area of almost 15 acres nearby.
Farol da Ribeirinha
The lighthouse on Ribeirinha Point began operations in November 1919. The 4-sided tower, 20-metres high, included living accommodations for four lighthouse keepers and their families. The lighthouse was typical of those built at the time; limestone corners, brick walls with the exterior covered in white tiles and a tower topped by a copper dome.
The lighthouse operated until it was severely damaged in a July 1998 earthquake. Centred about 5 kilometres off Faial’s east coast, the quake measured 5.6 on the Richter scale and shook the islands of Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge for about 20 seconds. The parish of Ribeirinha suffered the most damage. Many buildings, including the lighthouse, were seriously damaged and remain abandoned.
A small automated light replaced the function of the lighthouse in 1999. Drive directly to the lighthouse or hike to it on a portion of the Caminhos Velhos Trail.
Much of the land to the northwest of the parish of Ribeirinha is cropland making the landscape a sea of green fields.
This red, wooden windmill operated between about 1929 and 1969 to grind the grain of the local farmers. There are many of these small structures on Faial in various states of repair. These windmills played an essential role in Faial’s important cereal industry in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
More than 3 Days on Faial?
With more time on Faial, visit more of the places highlighted or take a longer walking trail. There are also many boat tours that depart from Horta Marina. These tours are another great way to view the island. Whales and dolphins are plentiful here in the summer. Enjoy a down day by relaxing on a beach or admire the views from a restaurant patio.
Faial Day Hikes
These additional walking trails will take a half to full day to hike. Before starting any of them, confirm transportation options at either end of the hike. Pack and be prepared for any type of weather and remember to carry lots of water and a first-aid kit.
Caminhos Velhos Trail (PR7 FAI)
This trail travels through the Lomba Grande Protected Area and ends at the Faial Caldeira. It is a hard, linear trail that is 15.5 kilometres long, and will take about 5 hours to walk one way.
This circular trail, around the parish of Ribeirinha, goes through the Graben of Pedro Miguel, one of the geosites of the Azores Geopark. At about 800,000 years old, it is the oldest part of the island. This is an easy 8.3 kilometres and takes about 2.5 hours.
The trail begins at the harbour of Porto da Ribeira. This is an old fishing pier with a beach, picnic tables and washrooms. Climb up the many steps through the woods to see species of cedars and junipers native to the Azores. Exiting the woods, see the ruins of the Ribeirinha Lighthouse in the distance.
The trail continues to the left up the hill. Back on the road through the village, turn left and walk a short distance to the ruins of the Sao Mateus Church. It was built in 1934 and destroyed in the 1998 earthquake. Continue west after crossing the main highway.
Walk along farm fields and pastures into the protected area of Lomba Grande, part of the Faial Nature Park. Shortly after entering the protected area, arrive at a trail intersection. Turn right and follow the trail markers to Charcos of Pedro Miguel, a popular bird watching area. Continue along the trail to the forest reserve Cabouco Velho. The trail ends at the Caldeira viewpoint.
Ten Volcanoes Trail (PR6 FAI)
This trail travels through the Caldeira Nature Reserve and ends at the Capelinhos Volcano. It is a hard, linear trail, 20.0 kilometres long, taking about 7 hours to walk one way.
Follow the Caldeira Trail to its half way mark. Turn right and go down the west slope of the Caldeira. Join another Azores Trail, Levada, for a short while until the trails separate again. Follow Levada for a short walk to Cabeco do Trinta, then return and descend through forest to the Cabeco do Fogo viewpoint. Continuing on, go through more forest and by fields passing Furna Ruim, Algar do Caldeirão and Cabeço do Canto. See great view of Capelinhos Volcano. Continue to the end of the trail at Port Comprido, just west of the Volcano Interpretation Centre.
Coast to Coast Trail (GR1 FAI)
This trial is the combination of the two trails above (Caminhos Velhos and Ten Volcanoes) travelling from the east coast of Faial to the west coast. It is 35.5 kilometres long and will take 12 hours to complete.
Faial Hiking Trails
This table summarizes all the hiking trail options on the island.
|PRC1 FAI Capelo – Capelinhos
|5.0 km/ 2:00
|PRC2 FAI Rocha da Faja
|5.0 km/ 2:30
|PR3 FAI Levada
|7.6 km/ 2:30
|PRC4 FAI Caldeira
|6.8 km/ 2:30
|PRC5 FAI Morro de Castelo Branco
|3.7 km/ 1:30
|PR6 FAI Dez Vulcoes
|20.0 km/ 7:00
|PR7 FAI Caminhos Velhos
|15.5 km/ 5:00
|PRC8 FAI Entre Montes
|3.4 km/ 1:30
|GR1 FAI Faial Costa a Costa
|35.5 km/ 12:00
Know Before You Go
Best Time to Visit Faial
The best time to visit Faial Island is between April and October. However, Faial has a temperate climate year-round due to its proximity to the warm Gulf Stream in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The average high temperature in August is 26°C and in winter, it is 17°C. The weather on any particular day can be unpredictable, with clear blue skies one moment then shrouded in clouds the next.
Visit in July and August to see hydrangeas at their peak.
Semana do Mar (Week of the sea) takes place every August. It is a week-long festival celebrating Faial’s link to the sea. There are concerts, exhibitions, a naval parade with dozens of colourful boats and kiosks selling foods and other products.
How to get to Faial Island
Fly to Horta Airport with Azores Airlines (SATA). The airport is on the south coast about 8 kilometres from Horta. Taxi and bus service are available between the airport and Horta. Cars can be rented both at the airport and in the city.
Arrival by ferry is also possible. We took a ferry from Pico Island to the Horta Port Terminal in Horta. Check with Atlânticoline for schedules.
How to get around Faial
We recommend renting a car to see the entire island of Faial, though you can get around by hiring a taxi. Additionally, public bus service is available on Faial, reaching all areas of the island, except Caldeira. Bus stops are plentiful but service is light, so check their timetables carefully when planning to use this service.
Is English understood on Faial Island?
English is understood by many of the locals, with the younger people more adept at speaking English than the older generation. However, it is courteous to know and use a few common Portuguese words and phrases. The local population will definitely appreciate it.
What is the Faial Nature Park and Azores Geopark?
The Azores Islands contain many areas of both geological and ecological significance. The government understood the importance of the preservation of these sites and, in the 1970’s, began to set aside areas on each island to preserve and protect, for future generations. This foresight led to the Azores being one of the early places recognized as a sustainable travel destination. Each island in the archipelago has a nature park within, which has areas categorized for various levels of protection (habitats and species, landscapes, resources).
The Faial Nature Park was an early winner of a European Destinations of Excellence award in 2011 (5 years after the program began) which recognized Faial’s sustainable tourism development models. There are 14 protected areas representing about 18% of the island’s land area.
Many of the areas of the Faial Nature Park overlap with Geosites of the Azores Geopark, a UNESCO Global Geopark. These Geoparks protect the geological heritage of the area.
Looking for an accommodation on Faial Island Azores?
Make Horta your home base to explore the beauty of Faial Island.
We stayed at the excellent Lofts Azul Pastel. This property, located on the outskirts of Horta, offers ocean views and has a great restaurant onsite.
Click here for other great hotels in Horta.
When heading back to Sao Miguel, be sure to check out our article, Things To Do in Sao Miguel Azores, for more places and great destinations to visit.
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