The Gulf Stream runs just north of the Azores, so close-up encounters are common with big fish (yellow-fin tuna and barracuda among them) amid a cave-rich underwater landscape shaped by lava. Pico has some 30 dive sites, the majority of them easily accessible from the shore. Water temps are in the 70s during the summer when several boat tours offer snorkelers a rare chance to swim with smaller dolphins.
Festivals are a way of life in the Azores, from a Semana dos Baleeriros (whaler’s week) in Lajes do Pico and wine festivals to religious processions, some of which can trace their roots back to medieval times. One notable fete, the Bom Jesus Milagroso in August, attracts pilgrims from throughout the archipelago.
Sao Miguel, in the eastern part of the chain, is the most developed of the Azores (two fine golf courses, among other amenities), and Faial’s port of Horta has long been a favorite port with trans-Atlantic sailors. But for a window to the past, take the ferry to Terceira and the town of Angra do Heroismo. Founded in the 1400s, the harborside hamlet includes both palaces and churches that helped it become a World Heritage Site.