As we continue to make our way to each of the Açores islands in order of distance from the United States, the island of Faial is our next stop. Faial is, if nothing else, a contradiction in descriptions. Some call it modest and unassuming; others say it's lively with lots of vibrancy. After taking a deep dive into what makes this Açores island special, I'll say all those descriptions fit the beautiful island of Faial.
Faial is Accessible by Boat and by Airplane
Faial is 3,571 miles from the east coast of the United States and 177 miles from Flores. Faial's population is approximately 15,000 people and has a regional airport that was built in 1971. Faial is also accessible by the ferry system that travels between most of the Açores islands. Because the winter months often present the Açores with rough seas, it's best to plan to fly between islands when visiting Faial.
The Volcano That Opened Gates
Rare is the Açorean, or even first-generation Luso American, who isn't familiar with Capelinhos. The monumental impact that this volcanic eruption had on the people of Faial was so significant that it opened the gates of immigration to the United States from Faial. Therefore, no visit would be complete without taking in the austere sight that changed so many lives. Even for visitors who aren't of Açorean descent, Capelinhos is a fascinating thing to see.
The Capelinhos eruption started approximately half a mile off the island of Faial below sea level. The earth shook and it is said a horrible smell began to stench across the island. Then smoke billowed and later ash began to appear. Less than a month later, a small island was formed and submerged. Then a second one appeared and was also submerged followed by a third, larger island that was created and connected to Faial island by an isthmus. Things went from bad to worse when, months later, a series of large explosions were heard along with the emission of black ash, water, and volcanic gases. Evidence of profound volcanic activity continued until finally, in October of 1958, a cone was formed and volcanic activity slowly ended. But the effects of this volcano reached far beyond what you can see at today at the Capelinhos lighthouse and underground Visitors Center. The Capelinhos Visitor Center was constructed underground so it wouldn't interfere with the stunning landscape. I'm told that visiting this site is a very emotional experience for those whose family history traces back to the Capelinhos volcano eruption.
Eat, Drink And Be Happy
Faial is no exception to the rule that great food is found all over the Açores islands. Two choices that stand out for people are Canto Da Doca Restaurant, where patrons participate in stone cooking at their tables, and Peter Cafe Sport. Peter Café Sport is a legendary place for ship crews to hang their pendants while enjoying their favorite brew. Whether you choose to eat at some of Faial's other great restaurants, create your own culinary masterpiece over rocks at your table or relax over a cocktail while admiring the world's flags, you'll have a great time. Faial's welcoming and slower pace creates the perfect environment to appreciate its great food while chatting with the residents of this lovely island.
An Experience Not To Be Missed
Like the other Açores islands, Faial is beautiful so anything experienced here is bound to be incredible. But since I'm committed to recommending one experience per island, I have to choose a whale and dolphin watching tour for something you cannot miss doing when visiting Faial.
Faial has the honor of being known as one of the best destinations for whale and dolphin watching in all of Europe! It's surrounding waters are home to resident species of bottlenose, common and North-Atlantic spotted dolphins and sperm whales. It's also known to be in the migration lane of blue whales and fin whales passing through in the springtime. Visitors participating in these tours say no one should miss this opportunity. Because of the large number of whales and dolphins living around the island, people are sure to see what they hoped for when taking the tour.
In this blog, I've only scratched the surface of what there is to experience on this charming island. Faial has much more to offer its visitors than can be captured here. It's a place people say one has to visit to fully appreciate. From what I've learned and heard, I will agree with that.