The hot springs of São Miguel Island. You probably don’t think of the Azores as a wellness destination, but that is wrong. The island of São Miguel is blessed with thermal waters, which are geothermally heated and rich in many different minerals. This is one of the advantages of volcanic islands; the heat that comes from within the earth warms up the water sources and creates hot springs!
São Miguel has many hot springs and they are all special in their own way. Most of them share the fact that they are located in remarkable places, and in the open-air, which made it impossible for us to pick only one to experience visiting a hot spring. So, we went to several of them, and combined our visits with a tiring day of hiking or an afternoon of kayaking or a whale watching cruise. All were good excuses to end the day with a bath in a steaming pool to re-energise and increase the sense of well-being.
1. The thermal pools at the Terra Nostra Garden
The thermal pools at the Terra Nostra Garden are probably the most famous spa on the island. Don’t make the mistake of going to Terra Nostra just for the spa alone. The garden itself is one of the highlights of the island and one of the most beautiful we have ever seen. It is such a rich and lush garden, that we – who had mainly gone there with an eye on the pool – ended up spending more time strolling around the park than lying in the huge mud coloured pool.
Besides the big pool, there are another two hot springs in a more reserved area, with a feel of Japanese onsen – small for intimacy and surrounded by green plants. They are definitely a more romantic alternative to the big pool.
Entrance fee: 8 EUR (with garden access)
Opening hours: Open from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm
Check our article of the Terra Nostra Garden for a complete guide about the Terra Nostra Garden.
2. The thermal pools at the Poça Dona Beija
Another option in Furnas is the Poça Dona Beija. This complex has five thermal pools, each with different water temperatures (from 25 to 39 degrees Celsius) for different tastes or for different warm-water tolerances, as Jorge used to say. Their pools also vary in depth, with some being merely 30 cm deep and others 130 cm.
This complex is probably the cosiest of all, as the pools are at different levels, with the ones above offering visibility over the others. Despite one’s having the feeling of being in nature, the pools are located in the centre of the town, and there are even a few houses on one of the sides of the pools’ yard.
Dona Beija remains open until late at night, which creates a special atmosphere, with lights illuminating the yard and the pools in the darkness. No matter what time you visit, the feeling of relaxation you get from soaking in these waters is unbeatable and it leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated for the next few days.
Entrance fee: 6 EUR (4 EUR for children below six)
Opening hours: Open every day from 10 am to 11 pm (last admission at 10.30 pm)
2. The thermal pools at the Caldeira Velha
From one blissful place to Caldeira Velha, the most idyllic of the three. It is located in the centre of the island, surrounded by truly tropical scenery, and away from any hustle and bustle from a town. The first and most imposing pool is fed by a waterfall, and seems a sight from the Garden of Eden.
The water here is more refreshing than hot, therefore this one is skipped more quickly than it deserves to be. Caldeira Velha also has two smaller pools, where the water is a bit hotter and, once again, these are surrounded by lush vegetation, and particularly huge versions of ferns. Here, in this sweet spot, we soaked away all our pains, feeling rejuvenated and ready for another day, which we hoped would be filled with many more adventures.
There is nothing better than this feeling of well-being. Since the beginning of time, it is said that these waters provoke more than just a good feeling. Locals believe that each of the springs in Furnas has different healing powers. Some treat hangovers, other gastritis or rheumatism. As for us, having so much pleasure with something that actually is healthy, was a hell of a good feeling!
Entrance fee: 8 EUR
Opening hours: October to April (9.30 am to 5.30 pm; May to September (9.30 am to 8.30 pm)