Welcome to the ultimate guide about island hopping in the Azores. The paradise islands in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.
The archipelago consists of 9 islands and a trip to the Azores is not complete if you haven’t at least visited a few of them.
If you want to see the highlights, you need on average 3 days per island with the exception of São Miguel where you can easily spend a week.
That means that you can combine a few islands in one trip. Traveling from island to island, either by plane or by boat, is part of the charm of a trip to the Azores islands.
Below, we share everything you need to know about island hopping in the Azores.
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If you are looking how to get to the Azores from the mainland, click here.
How to travel between Azores islands
There are two ways to travel between the Azores Islands.
You can fly or you can use the Azores inter-island ferries.
Azores Airlines has year-round flights between the islands and planes are often the fastest, but of course also the most expensive, solution.
Azores Airlines doesn’t have any competition on these routes and you will notice that when looking at their prices. You’ll often pay around € 100 or more for a ticket.
Below, we will share a tip to help you save on this expense, though.
The one alternative to flying between the Azores is taking an Azores ferry.
A boat ride is a pleasant and relaxed way to travel between the islands.
It’s also the fastest option when you’re traveling between the central islands of São Jorge, Pico, and Faial.
There are ferries to all islands, but not all operate all year round.
Some routes are operational throughout the year, while others are only available from May to September.
Additionally, Azores inter-island ferries don’t run every day, so you’ll have to spend a bit more time on figuring out your ferry schedule.
We will discuss in detail the 2 options you have below, but first, let’s talk about the location of the Azores Islands.
After all, it’s their location that determines whether your best option is the ferry or plane when island hopping in the Azores.
Location of the Azores Islands
The Azores Islands can roughly be divided into 3 groups.
Centrally located are Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Faial and Pico.
In the west are the islands of Corvo and Flores. They’re pretty close to one another but are far from the central islands.
And then there are the 2 islands in the east: São Miguel and Santa Maria.
Transport between those different groups of islands is very time-consuming by Azores ferry and, moreover, is not possible all year round.
Azores island hopping by plane
Below, you’ll find an overview of the flights offered by Azores Airlines, between the different islands.
Each island, even tiny Corvo, has its own airport.
Here is an overview of the airports:
|Santa Maria||Santa Maria||SMA|
|São Jorge||São Jorge||SJZ|
|São Miguel||Ponta Delgada||PDL|
Flights that require connections are time-consuming. Azores airlines operates many flights and with a little bit of planning, you should be able to fly direct each time you switch islands.
Below is how you can book those flights.
Looking for Air Azores flights
Searching for flights is very simple.
You don’t need to look-up the airport names or airport codes because, for both the place of departure, as well as your destination, you can select the airport from a list by selecting “All airports”.
By default, the system is set to search for a return flight.
When island hopping in the Azores, you’ll typically have to change this to one-way.
If you will be taking multiple flights you can save money by booking them all together with the multi-city option. We’ll talk about this in more detail below.
When you’ve entered your travel dates and the number of passengers, you can click on the blue arrows to see the results.
Above is how the available flights are shown. This screenshot is particularly interesting because it shows a combination of direct flights, flights with a layover and flights with an intermediate stop.
The first result is flight SP 544, a non-stop flight.
The second result is flight SP 564, which has an intermediate stop in Horta. Because of the layover it takes a bit longer to arrive in Flores, but you don’t have to change planes.
The third result does require you to change planes. This is a combination of 2 flights, SP 401 and SP 564 with, in total, 3 stops. When looking at the details, you’ll see that you fly to Ponta Delgada with flight SP 401. There you will need to change planes. The second flight leaves for Flores but before arriving there it makes an intermediate stop in Terceira.
What you need to know
The plane tickets are relatively expensive, but in exchange for that you get flexible tickets with the following perks:
23kg of luggage is always included. At least, that was the case for all flights we researched. And in all honesty, that’s the least they could do for that price. To be sure, we recommend checking this. You can do that by clicking the arrow next to the price.
As you can see above, exchanging and canceling the ticket are included as well (also double-check this). Note, however, that when you cancel your ticket, you’ll lose the service fee. If you exchange your ticket for a more expensive ticket, you have to pay a supplement fee that covers the price difference.
Delays and cancelations. Flights can occasionally get canceled, the flight schedule is regularly changed, and you should also take into account some delays. Out of our 4 inter-island flights, 1 was canceled. We were rebooked to a flight that left a few hours later. 2 other flights were delayed by more than 1 hour.
So, it’s important to adapt to the relaxed lifestyle of the Azores Islands, where it doesn’t matter whether you arrive an hour earlier or later. It’s also best to not fill up your travel schedule too much so that it’s not a total disaster if you have to spend a few more hours at the airport than you expected.
We haven’t yet visited Flores and Corvo ourselves, but we heard that flights to those islands are canceled even more often than other flights. It’s best to foresee a spare day when you’re traveling to or from these islands.
The flight schedule is not necessarily the same every day or every week. So, while planning your trip, don’t just assume that a flight you find on a Monday will also occur on Monday the next week. Always check the specific days you’d like to fly.
Azores Airlines recommends being at the airport one and a half hour before your flight if you’re traveling with luggage. Our experience tells us that the check-in often doesn’t open before that, but it’s of course always better to be too early than too late.
The airports are small and, with the exception of the airport in Ponta Delgada, getting from the entrance to the gate will take 10 minutes.
If you arrive more than one and a half hour in advance you’ll arrive at a deserted terminal where you won’t even see any personnel. We’re talking from experience…
This does not apply to the airport in Ponta Delgada which is larger and serves international flights. We noticed how this airport can become busy at times and to be safe you better arrive here a bit earlier.
On the website of Azores Airlines, you can find more info about this.
The flights between the islands are done with relatively small propeller planes. There are 2 planes that can accommodate 37 passengers and 4 planes that can transport 80 passengers. The flights were usually pretty full and they always had open seating, which means there were no specific seats assigned.
How you can book cheaper flights
If you’re booking more than 1 inter-island flight with Azores Airlines, you can save a lot of money by booking them together as a multi-city trip.
The flights you book together don’t have to be related in any way.
So, they can be on completely different days and they can also be between totally different Azores Islands.
To do this, you have to choose “Multicity” in the booking form (see the screenshot above). You will then get 2 lines where each line represents 1 flight. To add a third flight you click on the plus icon on the 2nd line.
Below, you can see an example of how much you can save. These are some of the flights we took during our Azores vacation. This example is based on the actual flights we took during our first trip to the Azores. We saved a lot back then and as you can see in these screenshots, which I took in November 2019, you still save a lot today.
First, we flew from São Jorge to Terceira. As you can see, this flight costs € 60.72 if it’s booked separately.
A few days later, we continued from Terceira to São Miguel. For this separate flight, we would’ve had to pay € 86.
By booking the flights together as a Multi-city trip we paid only € 93. As you can see on the left, these are the exact same flights on the same days. You save € 50 when you book the two flights together as a multicity trip.
The savings are not always that big. I made another booking where the difference was only € 5.
How much money you save seems to depend on which flights you combine, and maybe also on which days you fly, but it’s certainly something that can keep some money in your pockets.
Enough about Azores Airlines, let’s now look at how you can go island hopping in the Azores by ferry.
Azores island hopping by ferry
Just like there’s only 1 airline that flies between the Azores Islands, there’s also only 1 company that operates Azores inter-island ferries.
In comparison, the prices of ferries are much lower. It appears they take less advantage of their monopoly.
A ferry ride is a much more charming way to travel between the beautiful Azores Islands.
Don’t forget, though, that the islands are located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The ride can sometimes be a bit bumpy.
Below is an overview of the different ferry routes.
The different Azores Islands ferry routes
The central island group
These islands are relatively close together and Faial, São Jorge and Pico are connected to one another by ferry throughout the entire year.
This island group is where the ferry is the most useful means of transportation.
The blue route
This route is available all year round. The ferry travels between Horta on Faial and Madalena on Pico. There are daily departures in each direction.
The ferry ride takes 30 minutes.
Here you can find a schedule of the departures.
Remember that these schedules are subject to change. Azores ferry Atlânticoline advises simulating a booking on the website to ensure that you get the most accurate info.
The green route
This route is also in operation throughout the whole year.
It connects to islands of Faial, Pico and São Jorge.
The route depends on the weekday it takes place and on Pico the ferry sometimes goes to the port of Madalena and on other days to the port of São Roque.
The trip from Faial to Pico lasts about half an hour, while the journey from Pico to São Jorge is approximately an hour.
Here you can find a schedule of the departures.
These schedules are also subject to change. Azores ferry Atlânticoline advises to simulate a booking on the website so you can see the most accurate info.
The yellow route
If you’d like to take the ferry to Graciosa or Terceira, you’ll have to use the yellow route.
This ferry operates only from May to September, the exact dates vary from year to year.
The boat travels from Terceira to Graciosa in 3 hours and 30 minutes, after which it continues toward São Jorge where it arrives 2 hours and 45 minutes later.
The western island group
It’s also quite likely that your vacation will include a trip by ferry if you’re going to visit the islands of Flores and Corvo.
The ferry route between the two islands is operational all year round and takes just 40 minutes. Flores and Corvo are, however, further away from the other Azores islands and traveling there from the central island group is best done by plane.
The red route
The red route connects to islands of Flores and Corvo throughout the entire year.
During the winter months, there are a lot fewer departures, though. From January to April, for example, there are only departures on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
The ferry is a small boat that can accommodate only 12 passengers.
Here is the ferry schedule.
Just like the other routes, these schedules are also subject to change. Azores ferry Atlânticoline advises to simulate a booking on the website so you can see the most accurate info.
The eastern island group
Santa Maria and São Miguel are only linked to each other with the yellow ferry. This means that there’s only a ferry service over the summer months. The boat ride lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Between the island groups
If you have little time to visit the Azores, I would definitely recommend taking a plane to travel between the Azores Island groups.
For lovers of slow travel, taking ferries in the summer months is, however, a great alternative.
The ferry from São Miguel to Terceira takes just over 6 hours, but that’s a good moment to relax and wind down to the sounds of the ocean. On the other hand, it will be a long and bumpy ride when the weather is bad.
The route from Faial to Flores is a little longer, it takes 9 hours.
Planning your Azores Islands ferry routes
The schedules that we shared above are sometimes a little complex to decipher and are also subject to change. Atlânticoline posts a new update every month.
It’s easier and better to simulate bookings while planning your route. This is also what Atlânticoline advises. It will also be the fastest solution, much quicker than puzzling your route together by using all those different schedules.
When planning your Azores itinerary take into account that the schedules aren’t necessarily the same every week. If you found a ferry on a Monday, don’t assume that it will also operate on Monday the next week. Check all departures on your exact dates!
Simulating and booking routes online is child’s play. You can choose between single, return or multiple trips.
You will always see an overview of 5 days. You can compare prices, between the different days but they’ll generally be the same.
If there are no departures on your chosen date, you can immediately choose 1 of the surrounding dates that do have departures.
If there are multiple departures on one day, you can select the one you prefer from the list.
You can buy multiple ferries in one booking with the multiple trips option.
You will then book the ferries step by step. Once you’ve picked your first ferry, this route will appear on the right side of the screen. Then, you can change the from and to fields in the search bar, as well as the date, and search again for the second ferry.
Pricewise, there are no benefits related to this method. The price of the ferries remains the same whether you book them separately or together.
Booking Azores inter-island ferries
You can book your tickets online or you can buy them at ticket counters at the ports.
The price remains the same, so if you’re sure about your travel schedule, you can absolutely buy your tickets online in advance. Changes are free in most cases (see below).
When booking, you have to enter the passport information for each traveler.
You can also purchase your tickets at the port terminal if you want to keep your schedule flexible. Some routes have multiple departures per day, while other ferries operate only once or twice a week.
Definitely take that into account. The longer you wait to purchase your ticket, the higher the chance the ferry will be full. Especially in the peak season.
If you’d like to take your vehicle with you on the ferry, it’s definitely recommended to get your tickets well in advance.
There’s only 1 boat that takes cars and it has only room for 12 cars.
Below, you can find more information about taking the ferry with your car.
You can take your luggage on the boat for free. Two suitcases of 25 kilos are included per paying customer.
Exchanging and canceling your ferry tickets
Passenger tickets can be exchanged for free before your departure.
In case of cancellations within 24 hours after booking, you are eligible for a 100% refund. After that, you still get 90% back.
If your ticket costed less than € 10, you will get the full amount back, minus an administrative fee of € 1.
When you’re traveling with a vehicle, other rules apply.
Cancellations within 24 hours after booking will still be eligible for a complete refund. After that, and until 5 days before your departure, you can get 90% of your money back. For changes within 5 days before departure, an administrative fee is charged.
If you made a mistake in your booking and you have to change your name or vehicle license plate it will cost you €10.
Car on the ferry
It’s also possible to sail from island to island with your (rental) car. The Gilberto Mariano, 1 of the Atlânticoline ferries, has room for 12 vehicles.
This ferry operates on the green and the yellow route.
In some cases, it can be beneficial to take your rental car on the ferry. It is, after all, often relatively cheaper to rent a car for a longer period of time. But do double-check your car rental contract first, not all agencies allow their cars to be taken on the ferries.
Even when this is permitted, in most cases, you will still have to return the car to the island where you rented it at the end of your trip. It is therefore not always ideal for your schedule.
In our case, it didn’t make a difference price-wise but it may be worth checking.
If you’re taking the ferry with your car, it’s best to reserve your ferry ticket and spot well in advance because of the limited capacity.
Here you can read everything about car rental on the Azores.
Below, you can see how you can do that on the website.
You’ll start by making a regular reservation like we’ve shown you above.
If you can take cars on the ferry, you will see a green button “Add products” at add-on services. There, you can add your car to your reservation.
As you can see, there are different types of vehicles that you can add.
Below, you see what these different codes mean.
|P2||Jet skis, Squads & Microvehicles with 3 or 4 wheels having less than 700cc|
|P3||Passenger vehicles up to 7 persons (max 2 ton)|
|P4||Passenger vehicles up to 9 persons (max 2 ton)|
|M1||Light freight trucks with max 2 seats|
|M2||Delivery vans up to 2 ton|
Boarding the ferry
Atlânticoline recommends arriving at the terminal about 60 minutes before the planned departure time.
You have to leave your luggage at the luggage counters, where you must show your tickets so that they can label the luggage and send it to the correct destination.
Additionally, you must also have your passport ready because you have to show it together with your tickets when boarding.
The fleet of Atlânticoline consists of 4 ships. In the high season, it’s expanded with a few larger leased ships that operate on the yellow route.
By the end of 2019, the Mestre Jaime Feijó will join the fleet. This ship will be able to accommodate 333 passengers and 15 vehicles.
This is the smallest ship. It looks more like a large dinghy, and it operates all year round on the red route between Corvo and Flores. It has room for 12 passengers.
This is the largest ship owned by the ferry company. It can accommodate 287 passengers and 12 cars. This ship operates on the yellow and green routes in the central Azores Islands group.
Boarding the Cruzeiro Das Ilhas
Cruzeiro Das Ilhas & Cruzeiro Do Canal
Both ships can accommodate 193 passengers and they operate on the green and blue route between the islands of São Jorge, Pico, and Faial.
Island hopping Azores Conclusion
Island hopping is exactly what makes an Azores holiday so much fun.
Even though the different islands look quite alike, each individual island has its own distinct features and characteristics.
Pico is home to the volcano, São Miguel has its hot springs and Terceira has some stunning caves. This is where you can find an overview of the most beautiful attractions on the Azores.
In this island-hopping Azores guide, we showed you that booking plane tickets and ferry tickets is pretty easy.
Have a great vacation on these beautiful islands!