Santa Maria Island Activities
Santa Maria is best known for its white-sand beaches contrasting the dark volcanic sand beaches found on the rest of the islands of the Azores. The warm weather and beaches make Santa Maria’s activities revolve around water sports and oceanic activities. Praia Formosa and Sao Lourenço are the two best beaches due to their fine-grain sand and length. These beaches are excellent for windsurfing, surfing, water-skiing and sailing. Skin and scuba diving can be better appreciated in Prainha and Xareus Cave.
Fishing is also a popular activity: one can catch of bluefish bream, amberjack, conger eels, stone bass, grouper, mackerel, snapper, anchovies, and many others. In addition to its great beaches Santa Maria’s coastline features natural swimming holes such as Sao Lourenço, Maia, and Anjos.
Hiking and trekking can also be done in the many pedestrian walking trails and hiking circuits featured all over the island. The hiking circuits allow the user to experience a range of diverse eco-systems and protected areas of the island that are not easily accessible to most visitors. Several natural landscapes have been preserved or designated points of natural interest by the Regional Government in order to foster conservation and support endemic species of flora and fauna, as well as provide communal forms of recreation and nature interpretation.
Santa Maria’s cultural heritage consists of many public buildings, churches and other structures such as military constructions that have been remodeled and preserved for their important historic and cultural significance. Since there is no historical volcanism and therefore fewer incidences of earthquakes, Santa Maria, which was the first island to be colonized, features buildings and structures older than any found on the other islands.