14 Tips for Traveling to Pico, Azores
Living in Pico for over 5 months now, it’s clear that traveling to Pico has become increasingly popular. With a lot of tourists from Italy, France, Germany, and more, there’s bound to be someone out there who booked their flight and wants to know the best way to prep for their trip to what is now my home - Pico Island.
Here are some tips for before, during, and after your trip!
10. Try Lapas
11. Bring a Backpack
1. Book a Car/Scooter in Advance
Pico is best explored with a vehicle because it is very big and all there are fun things to do all around the island - why miss out?
It is quite common to have tourists here that are not able to find any cars or scooters for rent - yup, all sold out! So be sure to book in advance.
I would also highly recommend renting a scooter if you come in the summer months. It’s 1/4 of the price per day, it’s rides fast enough and adventure that allows you to experience the moments to the fullest!
2. Book Accommodations in Advance
Very similar to point #1, be sure to book your accommodation, whether that’s a hotel or Airbnb, well in advance because Pico is known for being short of rooms.
That’s right, 2 years ago there were so many tourists who came with no beds available that they literally slept in their cars!
This is part of the reason that my partner and I are working on building a few Airbnb's across Pico!
3. Come Prepared to Climb The Mountain
Besides all the people that come to Pico Island specifically to climb the beautiful mountain of Pico, there are some people that don’t think it’s in the books for them. To those people, I know it might seem like you don’t want to hike Pico right now, but there’s something about seeing it there standing tall and grand that calls your curiosity enough to think… “but what does it look like from the top?”
Well regardless if you’re on your way here to climb for sure or you’re undecided, come prepared anyways. The #1 thing you should bring? Good hiking shoes! There aren’t many for sale here, and they are absolutely essential to a good climb.
If you’re going to be climbing there is no better company than Pico Me Up, which I was very lucky to climb with and 100% recommend. Upon booking with them, they will email you with every single thing you need to bring to have a comfortable climb. It’s an experience of a lifetime that I don’t think you want to miss, especially not because you forgot hiking shoes!
4. Wear Hiking Shoes
Even if you don’t climb the mountain, plan your days (and outfits) to include hiking shoes.
Unless you’re going out to dinner or a night out and then heading straight back to the hotel afterward, or just exploring the city for a few hours, don’t wear anything besides hiking shoes. You never know when you might go on an adventure in Pico! After all, you are walking on a Volcano.
5. Always be Prepared to Swim
As you may have learned from my last blog, 12 things no one know about Pico, Pico is known for its "piscinas naturais" or “natural swimming pools”.
There are hundreds of places to swim in these natural swimming pools all across Pico. Some look so irresistible that you wouldn’t want to waste out on cooling down in some perfectly crystal clear waters just because you forgot a bikini or towel!
The weather might look one way on one side of the island but just a 10 minute drive and it could be a whole different story.
6. Take a Wine Tour
Pico is world-famous for its wines. It would be a sin to not do a wine tasting in Pico. It’d be like going to Hollywood without getting a picture in front of the Hollywood sign! Or going to Rome and not seeing the coliseum. Okay, yes these are a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth!
Pico wines are special because the way they grow and cultivate grapes is unique and different from the rest of the world. They form walls of lava rocks like a maze, intensifying the heat of the sun and blocking harsh winds, allowing the grapes to grow from volcanic rocks and soil. And all because they were abandoned! Yup, you can read more about that here.
I personally would recommend Adega Amaral in Candelária. You taste several incredible wines and such a modest price. They even give you little tapas like bread and jams and even fresh lapas! Oh, and you can’t forget their killer view. Just ask for half the amount of wine if you have something to do other than sleep after :) - let’s just say they are very very generous.
7. Know their Food Schedule
This point not only applies to Pico, but also to all the Azores, and from my experience, many European countries.
Their eating schedule is so distinct that we have found ourselves eating snacks on our day out instead of lunch or dinner because everything was closed.
Not all restaurants are the exact same, but for the most part restaurants open at 11 or 12 pm (bakeries are open sooner). They close at 2 or 3. Then they re-open at 6:30 or 7. That means 2-6 are dangerous hours to be looking for food. You have been warned.
Oh, and almost everything is closed on Sundays.
8. Take an Island Tour
As much as you may think you know about Pico, there are a lot of things that aren’t properly advertised or talked about online.
In order to soak in the entire culture and have an immersive experience, it’s important to be guided around by locals who study the best things to do on the island.
Normally I’m team “ditch the group with the headphones and monotone guide” but I’d have to say that would be a mistake in Pico.
In this case, I would have to recommend Pico Me Up again because I’ve done 2 island tours with them and both were unique, educational, and overall super fun. It’s a very private experience and that makes it so much more enjoyable. Oh, and their guide is far from monotone and no headphones are involved :)
9. Buy Water at Grocery Stores
If you’re like us, you’ll go through at least 5 water bottles of 1.5 litres a day.
Buying water from restaurants is like buying a bottle of wine there versus your local liquor store. That’s a minimum of €10 a day in water.
At the grocery store, you can get the same 5 bottles for €2. I know it doesn’t sound like that much but at the end of 10 days, that’s €100 versus €20! Do you know how many falafels you could eat for €80?!
10. Try Lapas (limpets)
If you love seafood you will love Pico. Being an island surrounded by beautiful saltwater, most restaurants have access to super-fresh seafood.
Lapas (limpets in English) are basically water snails. Done in the traditional Portuguese way, with lots of garlic, olive oil, and a sprinkle of herbs and lemon, lapas are heaven-sent.
They are super famous in the Azores and if you have never tried them, I recommend giving it a go.
11. Bring a Backpack
When you’re in Pico, you’ll be doing a lot of walking. It gets super hot during the day, but due to its wet climate, the weather can change at any moment.
I recommend having a backpack with a lot of water, a snack, a raincoat, a sweater, an extra battery pack, wipes, cash (for certain places that don’t accept cards), water shoes, and a hat.
12. Have a local Taxi number
If you’re not renting your own car, you need to plan your rides in advance because most taxis aren’t available at your demand. However, here is a contact that I can recommend as one of the most reliable taxi’s - Jose Sousa (+351 962 400 120)
13. Take Advantage of The Ferry
Not too many people are aware that you can take a half-hour boat ride and end up in another one of Azores's islands Faial. And in just 1 hour, you could visit another island as well, Sao Jorge.
All the islands are unique and have their own beautiful characteristics so go for it!
The ferries are super affordable, quick and you can explore 3 islands of Azores (known as the triangle islands) within a few days! Of course, I would recommend a minimum of a few days in each.
14. Post a lot of photos
When you’re back home, be sure to post a lot of photos from your trip. Not just to make your friends jealous, but to help educate people on the beautiful islands of the Azores. Tourism provides a lot of jobs and helps the government to “up their game” in taking care of the islands through investments.
Pico is an incredible island, with friendly people, delicious food, and beautiful scenery. These tips will help you have an incredible experience. We are happy to welcome you to our home, so let's remember to all be respectful to the places we visit, just as we would our own home! Let's be kind to nature, please clean up after yourself, and remember to smile because well, you're in paradise!
Follow me on Instagram to stay up to date with my next blogs @im_vacationista :)