My favourite experiences on São Miguel, Azores

I keep telling Marcel that São Miguel became one of my favourite islands. I know that I need to go back – I owe it to my traveller’s heart – and discover the remaining 8 islands of the archipelago, but this first trip to the Azores was so lightly-vibed and so beautiful, that it turned unforgettable.
It was also intense – we experienced so many mesmerising sceneries, tasty foods, and lovely interactions with people! When you say ‘it’s hard to choose’, you’ve already chosen, so here are my favourite experiences on São Miguel, in the order of their occurrence--

Mosteiros
Not knowing what to expect, the first wow flew out of our mouths when we saw the ocean. Wilder than the wild Atlantic we knew, but romantic at the same time: the black and rocky shores typical to volcanic islands, dotted with dramatic islets. The natural pools were flooded, but this added to the beauty of it all; I guess, winters in the Azores are like that.  
Mosteiros, São Miguel, Azores
Mosteiros, São Miguel, Azores
Mosteiros, São Miguel, Azores

Kayaking at Sete Cidades
Most of the travellers reaching Sete Cidades are into hiking the trails above the twin lakes, in search of that perfect view. I, on the other hand, have always believed that a perspective from water is unmatched. Marcel and I were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time (on a Sunday, with a massive weather improvement that we had no idea about), so we rented a double kayak and went paddling. It felt very relaxing, the green was surreal and it went well with the happy Azorean cows. ‘We found spring’, I concluded.
Kayaking at Sete Cidades; São Miguel, Azores
Sete Cidades, São Miguel, Azores
Sete Cidades, São Miguel, Azores

Jardim António Borges
I had read that Ponta Delgada’s gardens are absolutely charming, but my expectations were still exceeded. Close to its closing time, we found our way to Jardim António Borges, studied its impressive plant collection, climbed its interesting structures, and fully unwound. I wished we had more time, but this is the way great memories are created. ‘The best things in life are free’ ♪♫-- do you know the song? 
Jardim António Borges; São Miguel, Azores
   
A Casa da Cascata
When I booked A Casa da Cascata, I knew that it was going to be special – and I am looking for unique experiences in all aspects of my life. When we entered A Casa da Cascata, I understood that it was truly special. Attention to details and to the needs of travellers, interactivity, sensational design… and simply a welcoming feeling passed on to the guests. I could see the stars while going to sleep, that’s the kind of view we had of Ribeira Grande!
Casa da Cascata; Ribeira Grande, São Miguel, Azores
Casa da Cascata; Ribeira Grande, São Miguel, Azores

Whale watching with Picos de Aventura
Let me first say that Picos de Aventura is one of the most eco-friendly companies we’ve ever relied on while booking water-related activities. They are involved in conservation and are encouraging the community to contribute to the well-being of the ocean. Secondly, they are very receptive and organised and, given the good-weather window we had stumbled upon, we did go out to sea eager to see whales, while our guides communicated with their connections on land, in the lookouts, searching for the mammals on the horizon. We weren’t lucky to see whales or dolphins (and were given our money back, based on the company’s policy). However, we were lucky to spend our morning with some dedicated and warm-hearted people and the Zodiac ride was… wild. With sun, wind, rainbows, repeat. Did I mention that the Atlantic was ‘peaceful’ that day? J  
Whale watching with Picos de Aventura; São Miguel, Azores
Whale watching with Picos de Aventura; São Miguel, Azores
Back to Ponta Delgada; São Miguel, Azores
The visit to the Tobacco Museum in Maia felt like quality time spent with family. The official English speaking guide was not in, but we didn’t mind joining a tour in Portuguese, as we both understand the language and Marcel can also speak it a bit. Plus, the Azorean accent is much easier to understand than that of mainland Portugal, in my opinion. We were accompanied by a very nice young lady, who had moved to São Miguel from central Portugal (hope I remember well) and was – as we had become accustomed to people telling us – thrilled to have started a new life in the Azores, eager to understand the culture of the archipelago. We were shown the garden of the museum, we were explained the way in which islanders would smoke and prepare cigars back in the day, as well as the entire process of manufacturing cigarettes using the methods current for that period. Of course, we bought some ‘Dom Pedro’ cigars and enjoyed them back home with friends and a glass of strong wine. They’re exquisite! (I still have one left, btw!)
Museu do Tabaco; Maia, São Miguel, Azores
Museu do Tabaco; Maia, São Miguel, Azores

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