Hike to the Porto Formoso Waterfall, São Miguel Azores

1.5 hours

4.8km

±270m

2 - Moderate

Are you coming to the Azores and want to see and swim in a gorgeous waterfall? This hike in São Miguel (the largest island in the Azores), leads you on a journey through cow pastures, waterfalls, and coastlines like nowhere else in the world. It's considered moderately difficult, but well worth it for the scenery.

5 minutes

CONTENTS:

Getting There - Arrival - Starting Point - Hiking the Moinhos Trail - What to do After

Getting there

You’ll want to park in the small beachside town of Moinhos, just outside of Porto Formoso. It's a circular trail, so you can park in the city of Moinhos and end up right back at your car when it's over. Renting a car to get to this waterfall is the most dependable option compared to relying solely on the bus system, which at times can be a bit inconsistent. 

We have known people to hitchhike in the Azores with some success (we picked them up!), but that isn't very common here. 

For car rentals, we have had great luck going with Ihla Verde on multiple islands. Booking in advance is very important, especially if you want an automatic transmission! During the high season there aren't enough cars here for everyone who wants one.

Check out our article on driving in the Azores if you want to know more about public transportation and taxis.

Recommendations:

  • Check Spot Azores for real-time webcam footage of the area you want to go to. (even if it's sunny in one part of the island, it can be totally different somewhere else!)
  • Use Windy for the most accurate weather predictions (Although the best way to lie in the Azores is to say you know what the weather will be).

Arrival

Once you arrive in the city of Moinhos, there is a parking lot that drops you right at the start of the trail. 

Starting Point

Once situated, follow the hiking path sign into Parque dos Moinhos. You will immediately feel like you're walking into a place of dreams. Steps made of wood descend into a valley of blooming flowers, barbecues with firewood free to use, and volcanic picnic tables. Look further and you will see one of our favorite Azores waterfalls in São Miguel. Don’t feel bad if you decide to skip the hike and stay in the park instead, I’ve done it!

Tip: A great day excursion would be to bring a picnic, enjoy it at the table next to the waterfall, and then continue on the hike.

Hiking the Moinhos Trail 

The path is mostly well-marked and maintained. The trail takes you through a rolling landscape where forest, cows, and hayfields are prominent. Some parts are quite steep and open to the sun, but we think it's worth it.

After wandering through the park and hiking through cow pastures and forest, you will end up on a quiet and steep road that you have to walk across the and re-enter a path on the other side. This will lead you to the oceanside, where you’ll see a tall wooden lookout point. If you don’t have a fear of heights, go up!

Once you’ve spent some time trying to spot whales on the lookout deck, make your way along the edge of the field lined with bamboo to the end of the hike. You will see quite a few cows along the way! 

This is the part that coastal dreams are made of. On your right, you will see a few friendly cows. On your left, large rocks jut out of the water delineating the coastline. This extraordinary coastline remains hidden until you go on this hike. As the trail concludes, the pathway opens up to a road. This winding road leads you to descend into the town of Moinhos and back to your car.

For a sneak peak of the hike, check out this video:

Don’t Forget

This island isn't just a vacation destination; it's home to approximately 140,000 people. So, while you're here, it's essential to clean up after yourself and be open to embracing a different way of doing things. When you respect the local culture and the beautiful surrounding environment, you will get an authentic Azorean experience to remember. 

What To Do After 

After this hike we are usually hungry and/or thirsty, and love to stop by our favorite beach-side restaurant at Praia dos Moinhos, O Moinho Terrace Cafe. It has a casual terrace full of picnic tables right on the beach! It's the perfect spot to relax after working up a sweat. There's even a resident rooster that likes to check out what you're eating. We have loved every single thing we have eaten there! From the goat cheese starter to the soups, burgers, fish, and brownies. Follow your stomach and you won't be disappointed. 

If you are still feeling motivated, check out this hike to the Cascato do Salto do Cabrito. It's a longer one so you should make sure you still have enough water.

Sarah & Gregor
Hi we're Sarah & Gregor

We love unconventional adventures and exploring ruins. You can typically find us petting a cat, fermenting veggies, surfing (trying to anyway), or writing another article for you to enjoy.