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Family Adventures in the Azores

by Barbara Rogers

Feb 24, 2023

© Henner Damke | Dreamstime.com

Destinations

Whale watching, swimming with dolphins, volcanic craters, lava tubes, beaches, bubbling hot springs, dinner cooked underground from the heat of a volcano — these are only a few of the reasons kids love the Azores. All these activities and sights are why you should put these Portuguese islands on your family travel agenda.

 

The Atlantic Ocean surrounding the Azores is one of the best places in the world to see whales. Terra Azul, on São Miguel island, offers whale watching trips year-round, but you’ll see the most different whale species in the summer, when as many as 28 species have been spotted. You’ll also find whale-watching excursions from waters around Faial Island and Pico Island.

 

For even more of an up-close wildlife experience, kids as young as 5 can swim with dolphins. Terra Azul offers three-hour dolphin and snorkeling experiences, May–October, providing Neoprene suits, and snorkel masks.

The Azores are really the peaks of giant volcanoes submerged deep in the sea, and many of the best things to do here relate to the islands’ volcanic past. Ambitious hikers can walk around the entire rim of the Sete Cidades crater on São Miguel. Visitors can also hike shorter segments of the trail or just drive to the top to look down at the lakes inside the crater.

 

Kids will enjoy another perspective on volcanoes by exploring Gruta do Carvão, near the capital city of Ponta Delgada. This ancient lava tube is a deep cave formed when a river of molten lava solidified on the top while lava continued to flow into the ocean below. Nearly a mile of this cave is open to the public, filled with lava bridges and spooky stalactites.

 

Hot springs and geysers bubble up from pools in Furnas, a spa town known for its geothermal activity. At Caldeira Grande, you can swim in a pool fed by a warm waterfall. Complete your tour of volcanic phenomenon with a dinner cooked from volcanic heat. At the edge of Lagoa das Furnas, islanders cook Cozido nas Caldeiras, a tasty stew of meat and vegetables, in pots buried for hours in the hot earth — nature’s own slow cooker.

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