The island is also known as Ilha Azul or Blue Island, due to the Hydrangeas that bloom during the summer months. Faial is hilly; the highest mountain, the Cabeço Gordo Caldera, is 1,043 metres high and the inner crater is 2 km wide and 500 metres deep. The deepest part of the crater is filled with a lake.
Along with other Azorean islands, Faial is of volcanic origin and is close to the tectonic divide between the European and American plates. Indeed, the island can be considered the westernmost point of Europe (the two islands west of Faial, Pico and Corvo, are actually already on the American plate). Relatively small in size the centre of the island is dominated by Cabeço Gordo and its Caldeira. Between 1957/1958 the Volcano dos Capelinhos, located in west of the island, erupted for more than one year. Because of this eruption, the island of Faial increased by 2,4 sq km
Whale watching and the museums
Faial is one of the best places to go dolphin and whale watching in the Azores if not the world. The dolphins are playful around the boats as they glide through the water. The whales are the most majestic creatures of the sea, they dive when the noisy, party-friendly dolphins come along, which always makes me chuckle.
Tours are plentiful and the prices are all fairly similar. Every operator is conscious of their environmental impact and this is something that everyone is aware of. The animals are treated with the utmost respect and disruption is minimised. Of course, when watching the whales now in a protected world, it has to be remembered that these animals were once cherished for a more deathly reason. There are several small museums close to the city of Horta who can take you through the whaling history of the Azores.
You can also go scuba diving, Faial is a key departure point in summer for divers searching for sharks and other aquatic species. June – August are popular for recognising many migrating creatures in addition to providing the most effective visibility and water temperatures.
Hang out on the beach
Faial’s foremost beaches are Praia do Porto Pim. The dark volcanic sand that contrasts splendidly with the intense blue sea. You can also visit Praia do Almoxarife as well. Other beaches include Priai da Conceicao and Priai do Norte.
Horta city and marina
Horta is a splendidly picturesque city with a number of churches poking up from the quayside. In the summer season, yachts from all around the world make anchor within the marina, taking a break from their travels throughout the Atlantic. Don’t miss a stroll along the harbour to check out the colourfully painted square slabs. Sailors and visions come here to paint messages, traditionally a way to pass the time and the belief these murals will convey good luck to their voyage. You’ll see many flags and crew names originating from all around the world. You can buy / hire the materials needed from Peter Sports Bar.
Peter Sports Cafe
“If you sail to Horta and you don’t visit Peter’s, you have not actually been to Horta.” Peter Sports Cafe is a must visit when on Faial. This is an institution as much as a bar. It started as an assembly spot for sailors on a break from cruising the Atlantic ocean and continues in this role today. The cafe is stuffed wall to wall with sailing memorabilia, with many flags left by their crews, as well as historic images. Check out the panel above the bar, where notes are left by captains searching for crews or vice versa.
Top tip, enjoy one of their homemade G&Ts.
Just outside of town (you will need to drive or take a taxi) you will come to the volcanic crater at Caldeira. From the top, you will have the most gorgeous view of Faial. Only go there on a clearance day, otherwise, you will not get the view! It is possible to hike across the crater’s edge, which takes about 2 hours. It is advised not to do this on on wet or muddy days for obvious reasons.
Hike around Capelhinhos
At Capelhinhos, on the western coast of the island, an entire new coastline island emerged after a volcanic eruption in 1957. The lighthouse along with this he village houses became submerged in layers upon layers of mud and volcanic rock. A must see when visiting Faial. Hike to the highest point of the crater for some stunning views as you look down onto the moon-like landscape and ocean waves crashing into the volcanic bay below.