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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).

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Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: sickle-fin devil ray, dusky grouper, yellowmouth barracuda, common dolphin, loggerhead turtle

Dive trips

This dive location is featured in the following itineraries:

Azores Devil Ray Adventure

Santa Maria is renowned for its pelagic species encounters. Join marine conservationist Danny Copeland and local experts to explore unique dive sites in search of devil rays, seasonal visitors to the area.

  • When to go: Sep
  • Duration inc. flights: 9 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £1,875 pp
  • Trip type: Group trip

Dive Santa Maria

Dive from the beautiful island of Santa Maria and expect large pelagic marine encounters at sea mounts rising from the deep, as well as seasonal visitors such as devil rays at Baixa do Ambrósio.

  • When to go: Jun-Oct
  • Duration inc. flights: 9 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £1,245 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Hotel Santa Maria

This small and quiet property on the island of Santa Maria makes a great base to enjoy the diving on the ‘Sun island’. Pelagic species are frequent and you can expect to see several species of shark.