São MiguelEarth > Europe > Southern Europe > Portugal > Azores > São Miguel
São Miguel is the biggest and most populated island of the nine islands that form the Azores archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. It is located in the Eastern Group of the islands together with Santa Maria. The government of the Azores is also located on São Miguel, in its biggest and most important city Ponta Delgada. About 45,000 of São Miguel's 140,000 inhabitants live there. São Miguel is also the Azorean island most frequented by foreign tourists with direct flights to several different locations in Europe and North America.
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Hitchhiking is quite easy and works well on São Miguel. Although some public buses exist, they often don't go when and where you want, so many people will accept you as a hitchhiker without long explanations. As a signal the thumb works perfectly, there is no need for a written sign. Many people will drive you straight to your destination, show you around or at least make a detour. As many people on the island live from tourism, you might find people picking you up only to practice their English. Also, you are more likely to get picked up by foreign tourists with rented cars. And finally, you will get lifts on the back of pick-up trucks as well.
How to get there
The only way to get to São Miguel for free is probably by hitchhiking a sailing boat, either from Europe, North America or maybe the Caribbean. There are no ferries from mainland Portugal, and ferries from the other Azorean islands are charged per person. If coming from outside the Azores, then a plane is most likely to be your only choice. Tickets are cheapest from Lisbon. There is no public transport available at the airport, so hitchhiking or walking is the only way to get out. It's quite a bit to Ponta Delgada's city center.
When travelling to any of the other islands, see useful information for tips on saving money when taking a ferry. In summer, ferries are sometimes completely booked out, so buy your ticket ahead at the port in Ponta Delgada.
As on most of the Azorean islands, there are a few spots marked as "public swimming pools" in the Atlantic Ocean on free tourist maps. Go there to have a free shower after swimming. Some are not so nice though (e.g. the one in Lagoa). Wild camping seems to be forbidden, but as long as you leave in the morning, you won't have any problems. If you like hiking, get some free maps with hiking trails at tourist information offices.
Central Group: Faial • Pico • São Jorge • Graciosa • Terceira
Eastern Group: São Miguel • Santa Maria