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Faial Island Azores – What to See in 3 Days

by Valerie Vanr
Faial Azores Capelinhos Lighthouse and Volcano

Where do you find two volcanoes, the world-renowned Horta marina, stunning ocean-side pools and beaches? Faial Island, in the Azores.

This tiny island, two hours by air from mainland Portugal, packs a scenic punch.

The now dormant 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 will give you lots to see and do and the friendly residents will make you want to stay.

Faial Island Itinerary

You will see all of Faial Island with this itinerary.

For each day, we provide the must-see places. Other things to see and/or do are also listed, so you can fill your day or extend your time on Faial.

We’ve included at least one Azores Walking Trail per day which visits a site from that day’s list.

Get ready to make memories to last a lifetime!

Day 1: Horta Marina and Monte da Guia

Founded in the 1400’s, the city of Horta is the largest population center on the island. Here you’ll find lots of accommodation and food options. Horta is a great base for your adventures since any destination on the island is less than 40 minutes away by car.

What are the best things to see in Horta? The Horta Marina and Monte da Guia Geosite.

Horta Marina

The marina sits in the center of town. It is a linking point for international regattas and a favored stop on cross-Atlantic sea trips. There is artwork everywhere along the marina sea walls and walks. Sailors paint their boats’ symbols or logos along the marina in order to ensure their boat and crew arrive safely at their destination. This began as sailors’ superstition, but is now a tradition.  Make sure to wander through this free outdoor art gallery to see the beautiful artwork from around the world. The marina is home to a number of tour operators offering whale watching tours, fishing expeditions and sightseeing cruises.

Close to the marina, there are two interesting sites to see.

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 working hotel often called Castle Santa Cruz.

Peter Cafe Sport

This is a great historic place to enjoy lunch or dinner. Celebrating 100 years in business in 2018, Cafe Sport is considered by some to be yachting’s greatest watering hole. It is worth a visit just for the décor alone. Beautiful walls of colored yacht flags and ensigns allow you to travel the world from your chair with beverage in hand.

Visit the Scrimshaw Museum on the top floor of the building to see the largest private collection of Scrimshaw artwork in the world. Scrimshaw art, typically created by whalers, is engravings and carvings on or of bone, cartilage or ivory, the byproducts of the whaling industry. The museum pieces date back to the 19th century.

Monte da Guia Geosite

A Faial highlight, the Monte da Guia Geosite consists of 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.

From the tops of Monte da Guia and Monte Queimado, see panoramic views of Horta, the south coast of Faial and the island of Pico.  The sheltered bay created by Monte da Guia and Monte Queimado is called Porto Pim Bay.

Walking around the bay, you’ll discover a number of interesting places to visit.

Porto Pim Beach

This beautiful, wide expanse of sand is very popular with locals and tourists alike. There are washroom and shower facilities nearby. There are several restaurants and bars on the streets at the north end of the beach.

Porto Pim Whaling Station

This museum 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 Station 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 Ocean Observatory, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education and activities in relation to ocean science.

Casa dos Dabney

Dabney House contains exhibits which explain the story and lasting contributions of three generations of the Dabney family to Faial. 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 is home to fish species found in the waters around the Azores. A visit is a great way to 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.

More things to do in Horta

If you’re spending more than a day in Horta, here are some more places to visit.

Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Viewpoint

This viewpoint (Our Lady of Conception) is one of the best places for an overhead view of Horta.  It is on the top of the headland called Espalamaca, north of Horta on the main road EN1-1A. It is hard to miss the 30-metre high cross and massive statue of the Virgin Mary. The view of Horta below is breathtaking and much of eastern Faial can be seen from here. On a clear day look east to see the islands of Pico, Sao Jorge and Graciosa.

Torre do Relogio (Horta)

This clock tower was used as a watchtower in the 1800’s. Climb to the tower to get a bird’s eye view of Horta. Across the street is Florencio Terra Garden, a beautiful park with a gazebo. It is a perfect spot for a rest while you gaze over the town.

Sao Salvador Church

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 Trail – Entre Montes (PRC08 FAI)

This circular route links all the places in the Monte da Guia geosite. It is an easy 3.4 kilometer walk, taking about 1.5 hours.  Locals use this route for circuit training, so watch out for runners.

The most convenient place to park your vehicle is in the parking area for Porto Pim Beach. A great place to start the trail is the paved path at the back of the Porto Pim Whaling Station. Walk west up to the top of Monte da Guia.  Our Lady of Guia Chapel is at the top.  It was built in 1943 to replace a chapel built in the late 17th century to honor the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. Follow the trail markers to wind your way south, down to the south side of the bay, past the Porto Pim Aquarium, Dabney House and the Porto Pim Whaling Station. From here, wander across the beach, along Rua da Rosa. Finally, head up over the top of Monte Queimado and back to the parking lot.

Day 2: Capelinhos Volcano (South and West Faial)

Faial’s best known attraction, Capelinhos Volcano, is on the western tip of Faial. By heading west on the EN1-1A highway, which circles the island, you’ll pass through stunning countryside and along amazing coastal areas. Faial’s roads have many beautiful viewpoints, often with picnic tables, making them perfect refreshment stops. You may want to pack a picnic lunch.

Capelinhos Volcano

The Capelinhos Volcano is the newest volcano on the west coast of Faial. The volcano was created as a result of a 13-month long eruption episode lasting from September 1957 to October 1958. The eruption first created an island off the coast.  Enough material was ejected from the volcano to join the new island to the Faial mainland, increasing the area of Faial by 2.4 square kilometers. This area is one of the geosites of the Azores Geopark.

You can wander the area, walking on the material jettisoned from the volcano, admiring the cliffs along the edges of the volcano. There are a number of other things to see here.

Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Center

The Interpretation Center, which opened in August 2008, concentrates its exhibits on the Capelinhos Volcano eruption, the formation of the Azores, and the various kinds of volcanic activity in the world.  There is information on the history of Azorean lighthouses, including the Capelinhos Point Lighthouse.  The Interpretation Center was built underground so that visitors can still see how the area looked in the days shortly after the eruption in 1957.

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. 

Porto do Comprido

Port Comprido, a sheltered cove, is just a short walk south of the lighthouse. Cool off in the natural pool, or kayak from here to take a look at the volcano from the ocean. If you stand here and look back towards the lighthouse, you are looking at the edge of Faial Island before the eruption. It is amazing to see how much new additional land area was added to Faial as a result of the 1957 eruption.

Casa dos Botes

Visit the Whaler Boat House to learn more about the whaling industry.  At the museum, located just off the access road to Port Comprido, you’ll 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.

There are many interesting things to see in South and West Faial. We’ve listed some below.

Things to see in South Faial

Piscina Lajinha and Poca da Rainha

These pools are natural hollows at the coastline which are refreshed by wave action.  Steps lead down from the cliffs to the pools, so that you can have a refreshing dip.  The sharp jagged rocks here are volcanic. They were created when the rapidly flowing lava from the central region of the island cooled quickly as it hit the ocean. The cliffside has beautiful caves and arches. This section of coastline is another geosite of the Azores Geopark. The viewpoint at Ponta Furada is a beautiful spot to stop to see the whole shoreline.

Morro de Castelo Branco

This imposing monolith at ocean’s edge is visible from many miles away. Both a Faial Nature Reserve and an Azore’s Geosite, it is a volcanic dome and forms a peninsula with plunging cliffs that extend into the water. It is protected as an important nesting area for several species of birds native to the Azores.

To reach the Morro’s parking area, you can either drive, turning off the main road and following official signs, or hike to it by taking the Morro de Castelo Branco Trail, described below. From the parking area, walk the path to the amphitheatre and on to the base of the dome. Climbing the dome is not permitted.

Things to see in West Faial

Capelo Handicraft Center

The Centro de Artesanato do Capelo is housed in a small traditional white stucco building. This handicraft museum is located in Capelo, just before you turn off the main road on your way to the volcano. From its yard you’ll have a beautiful view to the ocean. Inside are traditional island handicrafts are displayed and available for purchase. You’ll find carvings in bone and whale’s tooth, fig tree pith (the center core of the fig tree), straw embroidery, old lace and much more.

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 you can see Vulcao dos Capelinhos (1957/58 eruption), Cabeco do Canto, Cabeco Verde and Cabeco do Fogo (1672 eruption). Looking down you see 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 texture of rocks created when lava cools in contact with water.

Walking Trails in South and West Faial

Morro de Castelo Branco Trail (PRC05 FAI)

This trail goes through some of the protected area of Varadouro, in the Faial Nature Park. Its halfway point is the Morro de Castelo Branco. This is an easy circular trail. It is 3.7 kilometers long and should take you about 1.5 hours. 

The trailhead is on the main road about 3 kilometers west of the airport. Follow the main road north, watching for the trail markers for your left turn. Walk to the coast and then turn south toward the Morro de Castelo Branco. You’ll then reach a gate. Here you can turn right and walk to the monolith. Alternatively, you can continue ahead and circle left along a sideroad, which returns to the main road and follow that until you return to your starting point.

Cabeco do Canto Trail (PRC01 FAI)

The Cabeco do Canto trail 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 2.6 kilometers and takes about 2 hours to complete.

The trail begins on the access road to Cabeco Verde. 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. Here you can turn around and return to your starting point or continue on a portion of the 10 Volcanoes Trail (described below) and end in the parking lot of the Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Center.

Day 3: Caldeira (East Faial)

Caldeira, the massive crater in the center of Faial. The crater was formed by a major episode of volcanic activity hundreds of thousands of years ago. The landscape here and on the east side of Faial is a stunning sea of green with lots to see and do.

Caldeira – a Faial “Must-See”

Caldeira, the crater of the Caldeirado Faial Volcano, is about 2 kilometers across and has an average depth of 400 meters. It was created by different phases of volcanism over the last 400,000 years. Inside the crater you’ll see a cinder cone and, in some seasons, two small lakes. There was a permanent lake in the crater before the 1957/58 Capelinhos eruption. That volcanic activity created new cracks in the lake bed, allowing the water to drain. Today, the lakes often disappear in periods of little rainfall.

Caldeira has several different habitats within it. Many species of plants and animals native to the Azores are found here. Caldeira is classified a Nature Reserve in the Faial Nature Park. Additinally, 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, described below.

The area east of Caldeira has a number of interesting things to see. Several are related to an earthquake that hit the area in July 1998. It was centered about 5 kilometers off the coast of the parish, measured 5.6 on the Richter scale, shaking the islands of Faial, Pico and Sao Jorge for about 20 seconds. The parish of Ribeirinha, suffered the most damage as a result of the earthquake. Many buildings were seriously damaged and remain abandoned.

Things to do in East Faial

After your visit to Caldeira, here are some more things to see, as you drive back Horta.

Botanical Garden of Faial

Jardim Botanique Faial showcases plants native to the Azores. Opened in June 1986, the garden conserves and protects local environments and educates its visitors about the importance of this mission to the Azores and the world’s biodiversity.  Originally 1.4 acres, the garden is now over 3.7 acres, allowing for conservation of more species and habitats. There is a visitor center with an auditorium, exhibition room and snack bar. The Botanical Garden also manages a natural rehabilitation area of almost 15 acres nearby.

Pedro Miguel Church

This large church ruin on the west side of EN1-1A in Pedro Miguel is an example of one of many churches destroyed by the 1998 earthquake. 

Farol da Ribeirinha

The Ribeirinha Lighthouse started operation in November 1919. It was a 4-sided tower 20 meters in height with living accommodations for 4 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 the 1998 earthquake, and had to be abandoned. In 1999, a smaller automated light was erected to replace the function of the lighthouse. You can drive directly to the lighthouse or hike there by taking the Ribeirinha Trail described below.

Salao Windmill

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.

Walking Trails in Caldeira and East Faial

Caldeira Trail (PRC04 FAI)

This circular trail follows the Caldeira rim, starting in the Caldeira parking lot. It is an easy 6.8 kilometer walk for 2.5 hours.

From the parking lot, cross through the small tunnel and enjoy your first look into the Caldeira interior. The trail begins up the stairs toward a small chapel. Along your walk you’ll 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, described below. Stick to the left, continuing along the crater rim.  Here you’ll climb toward Cabeço Gordo, the highest point of the trail, 1043 meters above sea level. On clear days, the islands of Pico and Sao Jorge can be admired. The trail from Cabeco Gordo back to the trailhead is very uneven, so be careful.

Ribeirinha Trail (PRC09 FAI)

This circular trail, around the parish of Ribeirinha, goes through the Graben of Pedro Miguel, one of the geosites of the Azores Geopark. This area is the oldest part of the island (around 800,000 years). This area suffered the most damage as a result of the July 1998 earthquake. This is an easy 8.3 kilometers and should take about 2.5 hours.

The trail begins in the middle of Ribeirinha (on Rua da Igreja). Follow the trail markers south and east eventually reaching the harbor of Porto da Ribeira. This is an old fishing pier where you’ll find 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.  As you come out of the woods, you’ll see the ruins of the Ribeirinha Lighthouse in the distance.

The trail continues to the left up the hill. When you are back to the road through the village, turn left and walk a short distance. Here you’ll see the ruins of the Sao Mateus Church, built in 1934 and destroyed in the 1998 earthquake. If you’ve had enough for the day, just continue south and back to your starting point. 

The trail continues west, crossing the main island highway, where you’ll walk along farm fields and pastures and enter the protected area of Lomba Grande (which is part of the Faial Nature Park). Shortly after entering the Lomba Grande, the trail markers will show an intersection. At this point, you’ve also been on the longer Caminhos Velhos and Coast to Coast trails, described below. If you want to explore more of the Lomba Grande, turn right, otherwise continue back to your starting point.

More than 3 Days on Faial?

If you have more time planned for Faial, add more things from the above 3 Day itinerary or take a longer walking trail. There are also many boat tours that depart from Horta harbour. These tours give you 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.

Have fun extending your time on the beautiful island of Faial!

Faial Day Hikes

Here are some additional walking trails which will take a half to full day to hike. Before you start any of them, you’ll want to confirm both lodging and transportation options at either end of your 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 (PR07 FAI)

This trail takes you through the Lomba Grande Protected Area and ends at the Caldeira Nature Reserve (Day 3). It is a hard linear trail that is 17.5 kilometers long, which will take about 7 hours to walk one way.

Follow the Ribeirinha Trail (as noted in Day 3) until you reach the intersection of the two trails. 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 (PR06 FAI)

This trail takes you through the Caldeira Nature Reserve (Day 3) and ends at the Capelinhos Volcano (Day 2). It is a hard linear trail, 19.3 kilometers long, taking about 5 hours to walk one way. 

Follow the Caldeira Trail (as noted in Day 2) until you reach the half way mark. Turn right, going down the west slope of the Caldeira. You’ll join another Azores Trail, Levada, for a short while until the trails separate again.  You can follow Levada for a short walk to Cabeco do Trinta, then return and descend through forest to the Cabeco do Fogo viewpoint. Continuing on, you’ll go through more forest and by fields passing Furna Ruim, Algar do Caldeirão and Cabeço do Canto. Here you’ll have a great view of Capelinhos Volcano. Continue to the end of the trail at the Volcano Interpretation Center.

Coast to Coast Trail (GR01 FAI)

This trial is the combination of the two trails above (Caminhos Velhos and Ten Volcanoes), taking you from the east coast of Faial to the west coast.  It is 36.8 kilometers long and will take 12 hours to complete.

General Background

Azores Walking Trails

Each island in the Azores has a number of Walking Trails.  These trails are based on the footpaths used by islanders for centuries in their daily lives before automobiles arrived to the islands.

At the trailheads, you’ll find signboards which give the following information: Description and map of the route, Pictures of trail highlights, Operational status (trails may be closed due to trail damage/destruction), Length (kilometers), Difficulty (easy, medium or hard), and Duration (walking time). All trails are well marked.

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 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.

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 the average high 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 colorful boats and kiosks selling foods and other products.

How to get to Faial Island

You can fly to Horta Airport with Azores Airlines (SATA). The airport is on the south coast about 8 kilometers 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.

You can also arrive by ferry. 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 that you rent 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.

Faial Hotels

Looking for an accommodation on Faial Island Azores?

Horta Hotels

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.

Faial Map

Standing on volcanic material from Capelinhos Volcano Faial

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