When he was a kid, my husband, Michael, discovered a National Geographic issue about the distant islands called the Azores and thought, I want to go there someday.
Well, it took us a minute, but we made it!
These nine islands that make up the Portuguese archipelago are known for their stunning natural beauty of volcanic rock coastlines, biodiversity of marine and bird life, natural thermal pools, waterfalls, calderas, lush flora—and all of it surrounded by ocean waters so intensely saturated that Michael would sometimes stare at the expanse and say in a state of wonder, “That blue!”
Thankfully, traveling to the Azores is more affordable than ever!
For us, flying from Boston to JFK to Ponta Delgada was the most affordable. Little did we know that Delta had recently started a non-stop route from New York-JFK to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island, so we were able to partake in this option. We were pleasantly surprised to find how affordable the flights were (between $500–600 per person). We just tacked on a separate flight from Atlanta to Boston, which still ended up being a better deal.
Designated as a nationally protected area, the Azores are, indeed, incredibly special, offering the rare opportunity to see up to 25-26 species of whales and dolphins (a third of all known species!).
Yet it’s possible — even there —to see how climate change and our use of plastic are beginning to impact the islands, offering a profound, if not sobering lesson for us to take environmental stewardship to another level.
In fact, during a whale watching tour, we had the chance to talk with the boat captain who’s Azorean-American. He was in the fishing industry in the Northeast U.S. and then started his family-run whale watching tour business in the Azores about 15 years ago.
Talking with him—you get this palpable sense of what is undeniably delicate and profound about the islands, especially in terms of marine life and ocean conservation.
For instance, he told us about a pilot whale recently found nearby that died from ingesting over 80 kg of plastic. He also noted how tuna fishing in the Azores has decreased about a third within the last three years since the waters were warmer due to climate change.
When Michael asked the boat captain if he felt we had a chance in terms of fighting climate change, he said, “Right now, it’s not too late,” but noted that it would be if we wait much longer to turn things around.
You should visit the Azores for all the reasons you read about in travel articles. But we’d urge you to go sooner than later since the islands are becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists, but also to experience a rare kind of place, one that may —as it did for me —leave you profoundly changed.