Santa Maria Island – What to see and where to go

The Island of Santa Maria is located in the extreme south-east of the Azores archipelago and is part of the Eastern Group, together with the Island of São Miguel , 81 km away.

It is 16.6 km long, 9.1 km wide and occupies a total area of ​​97 km². The highest point of all the island is the Pico Alto , with approximately 590 meters of altitude. Popularly it is known as the Island of the Sun.

The main and only municipality of the Island of Santa Maria is the Vila do Porto, the first place in the archipelago to receive the village charter in the 15th century, after the discovery of the island between 1427 and 1432.

The colonization of this territory occurred by the Portuguese originating in the Algarve, Alentejo and Beiras, all under the command of Gonçalo Velho Cabral .

In 1493, the Island of Santa Maria entered history when Christopher Columbus , who on his return after his first trip to America, landed in the region and attended a Mass at the Hermitage of Our Lady of the Angels, to fulfill a promise made while sailing the ocean.

For a long time the economy of Santa Maria Island was driven by the culture and export of cereals to Continental Portugal and Portuguese colonies in North Africa. However, pastel and urzela became the main products exported to countries like Flanders, Spain and England, until century XVIII.

The region has also been attacked by pirates and pirates, who steal the goods and bring the inhabitants as slaves and hostages.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, agriculture became the strongest economic activity in Vila do Porto, with wheat, corn, vineyards and citrus growing, which remain important to this day. The first Municipal Council of the Azores was established in Vila do Porto in 1908.

Nowadays, the main characteristics of the Island of Santa Maria are related to its beauty, as it is an island full of geological richness, beaches of fine sand, welcoming population and several pedestrian paths that take you to fantastic places.

Come and see the Island of Santa Maria and let yourself be enchanted with all its splendor!

Check out some of the main points of interest to visit on the Island of Santa Maria:

Vila do Porto

Founded in 1432, Vila do Porto (Municipality) was the first village in the Azores.

What is most striking in this picturesque village is the historic center, where you can find the main tourist attractions. The wide Dr. Manuel Monteiro Velho Arruda is very trendy, with access to all trade, bars and restaurants.

The historical part is composed by the Ermida de Santo Antão, São Francisco Convent (currently the Town Hall), Mother Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Church of Our Lady of Mercy, Fort of São Brás and the Chapel of Conceição da Rocha.

It is a small village that offers a lot of tranquility and hospitality to all visitors. Therefore, the ideal is to know the historical center on foot.

Forte de São Brás

Located in the parish and municipality of Vila do Porto, the Fort of São Brás had as its primary objective to defend the site against the attacks of pirates and corsairs, frequent in this region of the Atlantic Ocean in the past.

Its construction took place in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, suffering centuries later, in the 60s of the twentieth century, restoration works in its architectural ensemble.

The place is open to visitation and its interior makes available artillery pieces of old. In the outside, the visitor will find great panoramas.

It belongs to the place a small bulwark, the building of the House of the Command and Barracks of Troop, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Conception and the obelisco of Raul Lino’s authorship.

Cooperativa de Artesanato de Santa Maria

Located in the parish of Santo Espírito, the Cooperativa de Artesanato de Santa Maria is part of the history of the Island of Santa Maria.

Cloth handicrafts have emerged since the island’s colonial era in the 15th century, and carpets, carpets, and carpets are used to make quilts, using fabrics on handlooms.

But it is not only retail that the Cooperative survives. There is also the production of woolen bedspreads, linen panels and other manual loom artifacts.

The Cooperativa also produces the traditional sweets of the island, such as ear cookies, chocolate, butter, corn bread and wheat, spirits, among others.

Do not forget to try these delights when visiting the island, you can go to the Cooperative or find the products in the shops of Vila do Porto or one of the parishes.


Term of the Church of Santo Espírito, S / N
9580-238 Santo Espírito – Vila do Porto
Island of Santa Maria – Azores
Tel: (+351) 296 884 888

Praia Formosa

Praia Formosa is located in the parish of Almagreira, in the municipality of Vila do Porto, and is one of the rarities of the entire archipelago of the Azores, with clear sands that, because they are so clear, the black sand beaches originated by volcanic phenomena predominate on site.

The beach is ideal for those who like to bathe, with clear and shallow water, much sought after by tourists. For more than 25 years, Praia Formosa has been hosting the Maré de Agosto Festival every year, a great musical event and one of the oldest in Portugal.

This year – 2018 – the festival will take place on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of August, with various attractions such as Yarah Bravo, Camané, Linda Martini and more.

Do not miss out, it’s a must-see party!

Pico Alto

It is the highest point of the beautiful Island of Santa Maria, with approximately 590 meters above sea level.

The Pico Alto offers a magnificent panoramic view of the whole island, being possible to see the green of the Island of São Miguel on clear / sunny days.

The pedestrian trail to reach the highest point is fascinating, surrounded by a native forest that receives special protection from the Azorean government, as well as natural viewpoints that make it possible to see the island from different angles.

The trail starts at the Pico Alto car park. Next, one must climb the staircase next to a military building and move on. It can be tiring, but each step will be rewarded in the end.

Barreiro da Faneca

Considered the Red Desert of the Azores , Barreiro da Faneca is located on the north coast of Santa Maria Island.

Formed by an arid and arid semi-desert landscape of reddish color of unique feature throughout the Azores, it belongs to an area of Protected Landscape , with an exotic vegetation, where species of the primitive flora of the region such as heather, beeches and tamujos, looking like a real oasis.

The flattened surface had its origin linked to an old lava basaltic drainage covered by volcanic ash. There are several pedestrian paths through the Barreiro da Faneca to be done, with breathtaking landscapes.Enjoy!

Poço da Pedreira

Located in the parish of Santa Bárbara, Poço da Pedreira is a priority geosite of the Azores that deserves its visit, due to its scientific, educational and geotouristic value.

It is an old quarry where, in the past, very old and altered basaltic slag was exploited, carved out of a former slag cone called the Red Peak.

The landscape attracts attention of all tourists passing through, with different angles that can be seen both in the upper part (in Pico Vermelho) and in the lower part (near the lake), becoming an attraction of great scenic importance and ideal for pedestrian trail.

There is a table with benches for recreation and rest.

Ermida de Nossa Senhora de Fátima

The Ermida de Nossa Senhora de Fátima is located in the parish of São Pedro, Alto das Feteiras, Vila do Porto.

Inaugurated in 1925, it was the first Ermida to be built in recognition of the apparitions of Fatima outside the diocese of the city of Leiria.

Before the construction of the Hermitage, the main staircase was built, which is the main feature of the place, dedicated to the Holy Rosary, having 150 steps, reference to the number of beads of a rosary, as well as 10 steps, representing each of the Mysteries of the Third, by invoking a “Our Father.”

The place is of great historical importance and also has a lovely panoramic view of the Island of Santa Maria.

Museu de Santa Maria

The Santa Maria Museum is located in the center of the parish of Santo Espírito and has great ethnographic importance for the region. It was built in the 20th century and has interesting architectural elements such as two tubular chimneys and the bohemian shape of the furnace, referring to typical architectural features rural Marian.

The main attraction of the museum is its ceramic collection, which refers to the history of ceramics throughout the Azores archipelago, made up of pieces of local production, used in the kitchens and shops of houses and also in agricultural activities, all of the nineteenth century and XX.

It is a must visit for all interested in the history of the Island of Santa Maria and the Azores , for the ethnographic goods that are exposed there.

Opening Hours

Summer (April 1 to September 30): From Tuesday to Sunday and holidays from 10:00 am to 5:30 p.m.

Winter (October 1 to March 31) – From Tuesday to Sunday and holidays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed on Mondays.

Address and contacts

Rua do Museu s / n, Santo Espírito
9580-238, Vila do Porto
Santa Maria, Azores

Phone: (+351) 296 884 844


Historic site of the Island of Santa Maria, Anjos has a beautiful architectural complex, to be observed by its houses, which are painted white, with the doors, the frames of the windows and the corners painted in yellow, to make reference to the parish of Saint Pedro.

The main attraction of the place is the natural swimming pool, considered one of the best of the whole island. Soon after arriving in Angels, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, built in the 15th century, draws attention to its simplicity and stories.

One can also observe the Ermida do Pilar, dating from the 18th century, with a baroque altar of fascinating stone.

Another historical landmark of Angels is the arch of the primitive chapel where Christopher Columbus prayed after the return of his voyage of discovery of America in 1493. It is worth visiting this historical site.

Ermida de Nossa Senhora dos Anjos

Located at the entrance of Anjos, the Hermitage of Our Lady of the Angels is part of the parish of St. Peter and was built in the year 1439, becoming famous for the presence of Christopher Columbus after his return from America.

The original church was built in wood and with thatched roof, but between the years 1460 and 1474, underwent a major renovation to become a stone masonry building.

At the end of the 19th century, it underwent restoration works. It is classified by the government as Property of Public Interest and has relevant historical value for the Azores. Annually, on 21 August, the feast of the patron saint takes place.

Baía de São Lourenço

Located in the northeast of Santa Maria Island, São Lourenço Bay attracts visitors for its magnificent amphitheater, which makes it a unique landscape.

For all photography lovers, the bay from the top is splendorous. The site is classified as a Regional Nature Reserve and Corine Biotope, with a variety of endemic plant species such as heather, white-tipped woodpecker, mackerel, laurel and earwig , besides being habitat of seabirds like the cagarro and the rosewood.

The beaches are highlights in the locality, with dark sand, warm and transparent sea. There is all support for visitors, with bar, showers and toilets. It is worth going to São Lourenço Bay, landscape of shivering.

Farol de Gonçalo Velho

Located at the tip of the Castle, parish of the Holy Spirit, the Lighthouse of Gonçalo Velho was inaugurated on November 15, 1927 and is named after the navigator who discovered the island.

Its architectural structure is quite interesting, consisting of a quadrangular tower of 14 meters high, made of stone masonry.

The red lantern set at the end of the tower reaches a radiance of 54 km away, which can be seen at night in various parts of the island.

The place offers visitors, in addition to its history, a perfect visibility of the region, to render great photographs.

Lugar da Maia

Located on the southeast coast of the Island of Santa Maria, Lugar da Maia is a charming parish, with houses painted white and doors, windows and corners of green, which transmits tranquility and peace to all visitors.

The main characteristic of the place is the natural beauty that is around it, because it is at the foot of a cliff that gives rise to a pleasant bay, classified as Nature Reserve.

An attraction that catches the attention of tourists is the natural swimming pool, with calm waters and a wonderful natural landscape. For those who like warmth and silence, Lugar da Maia is ideal, where there is the predominance of green mountains and the blue of the ocean.

Go to the Mirador da Vigia da Baleia to take full advantage of all this charm.

Cascata do Aveiro

Located on the southeast coast of the Island of Santa Maria, in the Place of Maia, the Cascade of Aveiro is considered as one of the most beautiful places of the island, reaching a height of about 100 meters.

To get to the Aveiro Waterfall, the visitor will enjoy a journey through Ribeira do Aveiro surrounded by natural beauties and excellent panoramas. It is advisable to get to know the region by footpath, and thus better appreciate the benefits of the place.

Beauty draws so much attention that it attracts photography professionals and amateurs from all over the world. Another highlight are the ducks that live in the place, that receive the care of the local residents.

Santo Espirito

The parish of the Holy Spirit belongs to the municipality of Vila do Porto. The main sights of the place is the Mother Church, which has a very interesting façade, already considered by many to be one of the most fascinating in the Azores, the Santa Maria Museum, of relevant historical value to the region and the Santa Maria Handicraft Cooperative , ideal for buying regional handicrafts and sweets.

It is recommended to get to know the parish on foot, walking along its calm streets and transmitting some of the history of the island and the Azores.

If you like to enjoy nature, following towards Santa Bárbara, about 2 km, is the Forest Park of Fontinhas, full of trees and plants and a recreational area.

Ribeira do Maloás

The Ribeira do Maloás has geological origin, is located in the parish of Santo Espírito and enchants by the natural beauties.

The place is the result of the contact of the sea with a lava flow and the main highlight is the waterfall, about 20 meters high. It is a must visit for everyone who is touring the Island of Santa Maria.

It is classified as a geosite of national relevance and important scientific, educational and geotouristic value. The route allows the observation of several aspects of the cliffs of the south coast of the Island of Santa Maria and the immensity of the sea. It is an amazing experience!

If you are planning to travel to the archipelago of the Azores, be sure to go to Santa Maria Island and visit this charming island full of points of interest. Check your trip now and come and explore the island of Santa Maria

Santa Maria Island – What to see and where to go
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