Faial is one of 9 Azorean Islands, almost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The island is situated approximately 1500 km from the European coast and 3900 km from the North American coast. The size is about 21 km in length and 14 km across at its widest point.
The highest point of Faial is the Cabeço Gordo with an altitude of 1043 meters. The Caldeira, one of the island’s greatest attractions, is an enormous crater about 2 km in diameter and 400 m. deep, surrounded by blue hydrangeas and lush vegetation.
The total population of the nine islands is 237,000 people. Faial’s population is approximately 16,000 inhabitants.
The closest island to Faial is Pico, just 6 km away and a ferry maintains the connection several times a day. The crossing will take just 25 minutes with the classic boat or 15 minutes with a fast catamaran. Pico boasts the highest mountain in Portugal with 2351m.
Climate and Flora
The Azores have a temperate maritime climate, agreeable temperatures and high humidity rate. This translates into mild winters, no snow or ice and the temperature during the wintertime is around 15ºC. The summers are warm with July and August as the hottest months and a temperature of around 25º-30ºC. The weather changes can be very quick, it is said that the Azores can have 4 seasons in one day… The view of rain showers moving across the ocean can be spectacular. And sometimes hilarious, if a sailboat is caught in a small rain shower and they move at the same speed, while outside the rainy area the sun is shining… It goes without saying that the sunsets are of a very special quality, with no pollution to disturb the air.
Due to its mild climate and high humidity vegetation is of a tropical and semi tropical kind. We have banana trees in abundance, avocados, pineapples, guava, passion fruit, custard apple (cherimoyo), tree tomatoes, loquats, figs, plums, pears, apples, lemons and limes, tangerines and mandarins. The flowers are in such abundance, these are just a few: blue hydrangeas, wild ginger, belladonna, honeysuckle, jasmine, hibiscus, tibouchina and strelitzia.
The Azores were discovered in the first half of the 15th century. In 1460-1468 Flemish travelers settled on Faial in a picturesque valley behind Horta now called Flamengos. Cedros was inhabited by settlers from the north of Portugal. Agriculture and the production of pastel were the main activities on the island. The development of whale hunting brought the whaling fleets to Horta during the 18th century. And in 1833 Horta became a city. In 1876 the port of Horta was constructed and in 1919 the first hydroplane to cross the Atlantic made a stop in Horta’s harbor. Due to the excellent geographical position of the island several countries installed intercontinental underwater cable stations on Faial.
In 1957 the Capelinhos volcano erupted. The principal crater is situated 1 km from the west end of Faial. The volcano remained active for 13 months and deposited millions of tons of black ash on the island. Two small islands in front of the coast rose out of the ocean to become connected with the mainland, now a National Park and one of the most visited places of Faial. A remarkable underground museum has been constructed with information about volcanos in general and the Capelinhos in particular.
Horta is the main town on the island and only 20 minutes distance by car from the Casa Azores Holiday Homes.
Whalewatching boats are stationed in Horta as well as the diving club. Other water activities are a glass bottom boat, sailboat, coastal sightseeing and deepsea fishing.
There are numerous restaurants in Horta, an open market, supermarkets, museums, the banks and postal office.
A famous festival the first week of August is very popular and attracts many people from other islands, the continent or tourists.
Inter-island ferry service is several times a day to Pico and S.Jorge and scheduled voyages to the other islands are available as well.
Swimming and Bathing areas
Faial has so many different swimming areas, more than any other of the Azorean Islands.
The beach nearest Horta, with sand lighter in colour than the rest of the island. It slopes very gently into the sea, and is therefore an ideal spot for young children to play. Ideally situated for townsfolks, it is not the most quiet and lonely swimming hole!
Just below the airport, passing the edge of the runway, there is a delightful almost hidden swimming area, enclosed by rocks of impressive formations and a view of the ‘Morro’; the big peninsula off the mainland at Castelo Branco. There is a fresh water shower available, attached to a rock.
The village of Varadouro has always been the week-end and vacation get-away for citizens of Horta. It is situated down a cliff and has therefore its own very mild climate. A popular spot for Portuguese as well as foreign tourists, it boast two restaurants and a number of holiday rentals. And of course, the swimming pool, surrounded by black rocks, but separated from the open sea. Fed with saltwater, refreshed every day and a children’s pool, this is the most luxury of all swimming places. In the summer months there is even a bath attendant looking after you and the children. There are also ladders giving access to the sea and in settled weather, indicated by coloured flags, it is quite a thrill to swim in between those rocks. A proper bath house with female/male bathrooms, showers and toilets is open daily from 8-20.00. A municipal camping is close-by to the swimmingplace.
Near the Capelinhos Volcano is an ancient port, surrounded on three sides by rock walls and adapted for swimming. Access with three different ladders and a ramp, it is also used to launch small boats. The many small pools surrounding the area are interesting study objects for children, with small fish and crabs. The bigger pools make for safe swimming for the smaller ones.
A big black sand beach and waves rolling in make for the holiday feeling. A nearby Pizzeria serves food and drinks and bathroom facilities, showers and toilets, are also available.
Porta da Eira
The Cedros Swimming Hole is not so easy to reach. It involves a steep climb downhill on a paved and cemented path, and back up again after the swim. It proves its worth though, since the water is so clear and fresh. Ladders facilitate access to the sea and a big rock pool served as children’s playground.
Porta da Salão
The swimming place in Salão is similar to Porta da Eira since it also needs a walk to get down and back up, although not as steep. Here is also a camping ground and a snackbar/restaurant with simple Portuguese food.
Praia de Pedro Miguel
This is still the most quiet and hidden beach of all. Hardly any people, a small secluded beach with tranquil waters. Bring your own picnic and drinks, no services available!
Praia do Almoxariffe
Is the closest beach out of Horta to the East. A very popular black sand beach, easy access with a boulevard, carpark and several restaurants/snackbars surrounding it. In the summer months there are musical groups performing in the evenings on the village central square. One of the municipal campings is also located along the seafront. And several restaurants are open for lunch and dinner.