From natural hot springs bubbling out from the lush Azorean landscape to thermal pools set in luxurious spa settings, São Miguel is one of the world’s best destinations for soaking in hot waters. Furnas is the premier location on the island for this soothing activity but there are a few other gems to discover. In this travel guide, we will be revealing the best hot springs in São Miguel – so you know where to head for a little R&R after your outdoor adventures.
The various hot springs and thermal pools of São Miguel pair perfectly with the island’s hikes, miradouros, boat trips and other experiences that get the heart pumping. The Azores is the ultimate playground for nature-lovers and there is no better way to recuperate following a long trek (for example) than by jumping in a hot spring. These waters are filled with healthy minerals that stem from the islands’ volcanic origins – rejuvenating both body and mind.
Since São Miguel is situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the weather tends to be mild and unpredictable all year round. A day might start off sunny and warm but end with rain and cool winds passing through. Four seasons in a day is not an uncommon occurrence here. This temperate climate means the thermal pools of São Miguel can be enjoyed 365 days of the year. Even on hot days during the middle of summer, the nights are cool enough for a dip.
First stop on your hot springs tour should be Furnas. The village of Furnas is a geothermal wonderland – home to amazing volcanic landscapes, smoldering hot caldeiras and steamy fumaroles vents. There is no need to pay hefty price tags at luxury day spas when the thermal waters of Furnas can be accessed for a fraction of the cost. There are several great hot springs to choose from in Furnas, with Parque Terra Nostra and Poca da Dona Beija being the best two.
Parque Terra Nostra
Not only is Parque Terra Nostra a nice place for a warm soak but it also boasts impressive gardens, parks and forests which guests can explore. The botanical garden of Terra Nostra was built in the 18th and 19th centuries and today it’s one of the most popular places in the Azores. Don’t be put off by the brownish color of the main pool because it’s rich in iron and beneficial for your skin. Tip: bring an old swimsuit as sometimes the mineral-rich water can stain clothes.
The other two thermal pools at Parque Terra Nostra have a different color and act more like natural little jacuzzis nestled in nature rather than being a large open pool (the main pool was once referred to as the “tank”). If you book an overnight stay at the beautiful Terra Nostra Hotel, access to the gardens and thermal pools is available 24/7 and you don’t need to pay an entrance fee. Otherwise visitors can come here every day of the week from 10am – 6pm.
Poca da Dona Beija
Another thermal bath in the Furnas area is Poca da Dona Beija. There are four hot pools to enjoy here where you can warm up your bones in 39 degrees Celsius waters (100.4 Fahrenheit). Some features of the facility include thermal pools, a lukewarm river and lush nature everywhere that makes you feel instantly at peace. The earthy aromas of the water also add to this tranquility. Tip: visit Poca da Dona Beija during a weekday morning to avoid the crowds.
Or go during the evening, before it closes at 11pm, for a touch of stargazing while you bathe. It might be busier at night but the experience is definitely more magical. Just imagine lying back in gorgeously warm waters with your natural facial mask on, the clay of which was sourced directly from the pool walls, and staring up at a dark sky filled with shining lights. Tropical trees and lush vegetation surround you – and you think to yourself: “Is this heaven”?!
No trip to São Miguel is complete without seeing the highlights of Furnas. You can do this on a half day or full day tour with our team here at Azores Dream Tours if you would like support and guidance along the way. Of course, these tours all include stops at the thermal pools as well. One of the first things you will notice as you reach this region of the island is the smell emanating from the springs and geysers. It’s a strong aroma but you will get accustomed to it.
Thermal activity has been integrated into the culture of Furnas for centuries, beyond just getting used to a unique smell. The locals even use geysers to cook meals such as the famous Cozido das Furnas. Trying this stew is a must on your trip to the Azores. It consists of big pots being filled with different types of meat and vegetables – which are then placed into deep holes underground. Five or six hours later and you have yourself a delicious stew.
Another example of the natural abundance that is found in Furnas are the water fountains where fresh spring water flows endlessly. As you explore the village, you can stop by these fountains for a taste of the purest and cleanest water on planet earth. Each fountain has a slightly different flavor and it’s a fun activity to try them all out. One hot water fountain turns green tea into a purple color – it’s a bizarre sight but one that every traveler will revel in.
If Parque Terra Nostra and Poca da Dona Beija in Furnas seem too much like visiting a “facility”, and you really want to be immersed in authentic nature while you soak in the hot springs of São Miguel, then we recommend heading to Caldeira Velha. This nature preserve has hot springs, a beautiful waterfall and lovely vegetation – everything you need for moments of serenity. The highlight of Caldeira Velha isn’t even the thermal pools, it’s the lush nature.
The most unique hot springs in São Miguel have to be the ones at Ponta da Ferraria – volcanic activity right under a small rocky section of ocean located on the island’s southwest shore. But these waters can get smoking hot, so it’s a good idea to find the best spot where the hot thermal waters mix with the cold ocean sea – creating the ideal temperature. Tip: visit at low tide so there is less boiling water around, otherwise it will be impossible to hop in for a swim.
Termas da Ferraria is a luxury retreat situated right on the ocean’s edge which offers guests geothermal pools, spa treatments and a restaurant for dining. It’s not too far from Ponta da Ferraria – so you can visit both on the same outing if you would like to. One truly special experience here is watching the sunset. The views straight out into the ocean are just spectacular. It caps off your day of relaxation and wellness in the most fitting manner possible.
The spa treatments at Termas da Ferraria include everything from jacuzzis and saunas, to hot springs and thermal pools, to cold water plunges and indoor swimming pools, to Turkish baths and jazz massages. Each program can be customized to suit your needs – whether you are an individual visitor or coming in large groups. It’s worth staying for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays as well, with delicious Azorean dishes and fusion cuisine being served up.
Termas das Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande is situated in the interior of the island and it was built back in the 19th century. It houses some of the oldest baths in the Azores. There are three small thermal pools at the facility but only one is open to the general public and it’s located in the backyard of a 19th century hotel building. The pool is very charming with a large wall draped in flowers. The flower petals here fall down into the pool making it even more romantic.
The health benefits of São Miguel hot springs shouldn’t be underestimated. Thermal pools are fantastic for your mental health as you quiet the mind in a peaceful setting. The more your body relaxes, the more your mind tends to relax at the same time. Your skin, muscles and bones will also thank you for the visit. The mineral-rich waters full of iron cleanse your skin and release tension in your body. That night, you will have the best sleep of your life!