Santa Maria is the place where the sun shines most among the 9 islands. Santa Maria was the first island discovered in 1427, it is about 80 km south of São Miguel, from where you can even spot it on clear days far on the horizon.
The sunny island
Santa Maria is somewhat an atypical island among the 9 Azorean Islands. Due to its location further south is gets considerably less rain and has more sunny days that the other islands. Santa Maria is geologically the oldest island, and the only one which does not have any volcano which is considered to be active. Due to its small size, 16 km from west to east and 9 km across you can in explore it by car in one day. Best if you stay overnight though, as you can have a nice evening stroll in the capital Vila do Porto.
Undoubtedly the Baía de São Lourenço is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful bays on the Azores. The little village is encircled by steep cliffs on which wine is grown, all this facing the deep blue ocean, just magnificent. Even though vulcanically not anymore active, also Santa Maria is marked by its volcanic pasts. At Ribeira de Maloás, you can find basaltic columns, similar to the world famous Giant’s Causeway. Not far you can find the lighthouse Farol da Maia, just in case you want to take a selfie with a lighthouse. Last but not least if you want to take full advantage of Santa Maria’s sunny side, then go for a swim at the Praia Formosa beach. One of the rare sandy beaches in the Azores which does not have black sand. Nowadays the airport of Santa Maria is a quiet place, but until the 1980’s it was a popular refueling stop over for transatlantic passenger flight. Sadly also several tragic accidents happened during that period.
Santa Maria has 5.500 inhabitants and can be reached by plane on a daily base from São Miguel, there are also regular direct flights from Lisbon. Both connections are operated by SATA Air Azores. During the summer, there are seasonal ferry connections to São Miguel as well, but it is worthwhile to check schedules ahead.