Enjoy a Day Whale watching in the Azores 2023

The opportunities for whale watching in the Azores are excellent and we encourage you to add some time out on the water trying to spot these wonderful creatures if you are visiting between April and October.

Along with being a wonderful place to spot whales, the Azores are filled with green landscapes, amazing hiking trails, volcanic lakes, and surrounded by a sapphire blue sea.

The Azores is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean with nine main islands, each as beautiful as the next: Corvo, Flores, Faial, Graciosa, Pico, São Jorge, Terceira, Santa Maria, and São Miguel.

Filled with green landscapes, amazing hiking trails, volcanic lakes, and surrounded by a sapphire blue sea, Azores is the ultimate destination for any nature lover. 

sperm whales-azores
Sperm whales in the Azores

Whales and wild dolphins are frequently sighted in the Atlantic Ocean surrounding the Azores islands. In fact, the area is one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries and here there are 30% of all the known whales and dolphins worldwide.

If you are passionate about sea creatures and wish to see them in their natural environment and habitat, then traveling to the Azores is the perfect choice.

There is also a wealth of other bird and marine wildlife to spot, including flying fish, manta rays, and sea turtles.

Best time of the year to go to the Azores

The Azores is a great place to visit any time of the year, and you are likely to see sperm whales year round however the best time to view a variety of whales is between April and October.

If your number one reason to visit the Azores archipelago is for a whale sighting, then I recommend you go during Spring, from March to May. In this early part of the season, you are likely to spot larger whale species like Blue Whale, the world’s largest.

At least 28 types of whales travel the archipelago’s coast on their annual migration.

These include; bearded whales, pilot whales, fin whales, sei whales, killer whales, humpbacks, and occasionally minke whales.

While spring is a highlight, the marine life ecosystem of the nine islands of the Azores archipelago is active year-round, and even in the depths of winter, there is something to see here. The resident species of Azores whale, the cachalote or sperm whale, is spotted year-round.

In summer, visitors enjoy swimming with the resident Azores dolphin on dolphin-watching tours.

Many dolphin species, including Risso’s dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, striped dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, and common dolphins call the Azores home.

Check out the beaches in the Azores

How to get to the Azores Islands

You can get to the Azores by plane and boat. Cruise ships arrive in large numbers to Ponta Delgada.

The largest airport in the Azores is São Miguel’s Ponta Delgada. From the check-in counters to the gates is only a 5-minute walk – it’s a very compact airport.

Azores airport

From São Miguel island you can easily catch a plane, boat or ferry to any of the other Azores islands.

You can also get flights to smaller airports in the Azores Islands, including:

  • Airport of Santa Maria
  • Civil Airgate of Lajes
  • Horta Airport (Faial)
  • Graciosa Aerodrome
  • Pico Airport
  • São Jorge Aerodrome
  • Flores Airport
  • Corvo Aerodrome

Despite being small, the airport has a lovely store that sells typical products from the Azores archipelago, so if you forget to buy a souvenir beforehand do not worry since you can get one there.

From São Miguel island you can easily catch a plane, boat, or ferry to any of the other Azores islands.

How to choose the best Azores whale watching tours?

When it comes time to choose which whale-watching trip to take on the nine islands of the Azores archipelago, it gets tough. There are some really great operators, so today we wanted to share some tips to help you make that decision.

Whale watching in the azores

Dolphin-watching trips and Azores whale-swatching tour have the following things in common: 

  • They offer free cancellation (up to 24 hours prior to tour time)
  • You can get immediate confirmation (note that the day trip might be canceled due to weather and sea conditions, in such cases, the company will either reimburse your full ticket price or ask if you would like to change your day trip to another day)
  • The trip offers a qualified guide – preferably a marine biologist.
  • They all offer life jackets and most have raincoats available
  • They operate within strict guidelines so that you observe than animals for a distance that keeps the animals safe and does not disturb or scare them.

Things you should remember before you head out on your boat tours:

  • Don’t wear sandals or flip-flops – closed-toe, rubber-soled shoes will help you keep your footing
  • You generally can’t take your luggage or big bags on board
  • If you wear a hat, make sure it fits nice and tight and won’t blow off
  • Tablets to prevent seasickness are a good idea – especially on the smaller boats.
  • Some operators do not allow young children (under 6 years)
  • Many boats are not accessible to those with mobility challenges, so check this first.

Our top 5 Whale watching tours in the Azores

To help you choose a great tour that best fits your criteria, we have made a list of whale-watching trips we think offer great value and an excellent experience.

São Miguel Azores: Half-Day Whale Watching Trip

This tour with Picos de Aventura is led by a team of expert tour operators, including marine biologists. They use a network of lookouts on the cliff tops so their whale-watching boats can make a B-Line to the whales and dolphins.

Azore whales
Whale blowing in the Azores

Along the way, you will have plenty of time to soak up the impressive geological formations of the Azores island coastline. They guarantee a 99% chance of an encounter with marine life.

Azores Whale Watching Expedition and Islet Boat Tour

On this TERRA AZUL Azores whale-watching tour, you will spend 3 hours discovering more about the whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife from the experienced biologists and naturalist guides on board.

Azoewa whales

On a zodiac boat (seats 12-28 guests) you will tour around the Princess Ring Islet of Vila Franca do Campo affording you an up close look at the volcano.

Along with spotting a variety of whales, you will also see dolphins, turtles, fish, and birds. The marine biodiversity of the Azores Islands is astounding.

This tour is not suitable for kids under 4 years of age or pregnant women or wheelchair users.

From Ponta Delgada: Whale and Dolphin Watching Trip

This full-day 7 7-hour tour offers you a chance to explore the South coast of the island of São Miguel, on a tour that combines some land and sea action.

On this tour, you will also have lunch in a local restaurant and take a boat ride to Vila Franca do Campo Islet, a volcanic crater off the coast that encloses a natural lagoon and nature reserve.

Dolphin and whale watching in San Miguel Island

There you will be able to deep dive and get up close to the fish and bathe in the Atlantic Ocean waters while learning about the history of the area. Enjoy the ultimate unmissable experience if you are visiting São Miguel island.

Ponta Delgada: Whales and Volcanoes Tour with Lunch

On a full-day tour of the Azores with Green Visions Tours, you travel by catamaran and sail the stunning coastline of the Archipelago of the Azores. Spend almost 3 hours looking for whale species, like the resident species sperm whales, blue whales, humpback whales, and orcas that make the archipelago one of the best places in the world to see different marine mammals.

Pilot whale Mount Pico Azores
Two pilot whales swim in front of the volcano Pico in the Azores

Keep a lookout for turtles, flying fish, seabirds, and jumping dolphins along the way.

You will spend a few hours on the water before disembarking and enjoying a tasty lunch at a local restaurant.

After lunch, you make your way to the volcanic landscapes of Lagoa do Fogo and Caldeira Velha (The entrance fee for Caldeira Velha Natural Park Geothermal Pools is not included).

See one of the most beautiful lakes on Azores island of São Miguel and experience the amazing interior of the island up close. Learn about the many uses the volcanic landscape gives to the island, from its medicinal mud to its energy source. 

Terceira Island Whale Watching and Jeep Tour

Start off your day tour with Pro Island Tours by watching magnificent whales and playful dolphins in their natural habitat before getting off the boat and exploring Terceira Island.

Terceira Island

These roads traveled are commonly not a part of tourist itineraries and are mostly used by farmers, so you can see the very best of what the real Terceira island offers.

There are lots of other great experiences you can have chasing marine life in the Azores so check out the full list for more ideas.

What to bring on your whale-watching cruise

  • Even in summer, it can get a bit cold at times out on the ocean, so we suggest you pack a waterproof windbreaker or jacket.
  • Also, be sure to wear flat comfortable shoes as you will probably stand for most of the tour, not wanting to miss any extra sighting chances
  • Sunglasses will make it easier to see marine life in any glare or overly sunny conditions.