Santa Maria – the ‘Sun Island’ – is the most south easterly in the Azores, with underwater diving highlights that include exploration of caves, tunnels and sea mounts.
However, it’s the nature reserve at Formigas and the Dollabarat Bank that divers hope to get to experience for their pelagic encounters. During the summer months (Jun-Oct) the island’s famous visitors are devil rays at Baixa do Ambrósio. Loggerhead turtles, dolphin, schools of tuna and other pelagic fish are also present at this time. Whale sharks and manta rays are occasional visitors.
The central areas are heavily wooded and offer spectacular views of high cliffs and hillsides plunging into the ocean. Visit the beautiful beach of Praia Formosa and explore the island on a half day tour with its unique sites and sounds; an island where Christopher Columbus once took refuge. The 15th century town of Vila do Porto features long streets leading to the cliff-top fort of Sao Bras with the port below.
It's possible to fly here from Lisbon and other islands in the Azores and is easily reached by ferry from São Miguel (seasonal).