Imagine swimming on the crater of a volcano in the middle of the ocean. Thats exactly what this is. It is about 1km from the mainland and is what you read in books..
Going to this environmentally protected little island, a short boat ride off the coast of the village of Vila Franco Do Campo on San Miguel, was a magical experience. This is a unique swimming hole formed from an ocean volcano. The water is mostly between four and about 10 feet deep, but on one side there is a sandy area that is much more shallow, depending on the tide. Also, at the place where there is an opening to the surrounding ocean, the water is much deeper.There is no food or drink available on the island, but you can bring food and drink with you. There are restrooms (one male, one female) that double as changing rooms—which can result in lines at times. When you're not in the water, you are basically hanging out in the nooks and crannies of the slopes of the volcano. There are few flat and no soft surfaces to stretch out on. There's a small wooden platform that is partially covered for shade for a lucky few. We saw a few people coming to the island in (probably rented) kayaks, but most people pay the 5$ (euros) for the boat that goes back and forth all day, on a schedule that depends on the passenger load. There is supposedly a limit of 700 (I think) visitors allowed on the little island per day. But, I don't know how well that is monitored. When we left in mid-afternoon, there were still new people arriving.The water was warm—very pleasant. Several people were snorkeling, but most were swimming around, jumping in, and lounging.
A truly amazing place to visit, I don't think there's anywhere quite like it. I visited last week, just as the larger ferry had stopped for the season. A small boat is available, for which we paid 10 Euros each and we were collected 2hrs later (the journey takes just 15mins or so). We rented wet suits from a scuba shop in the marina for 10 Euros each as we visited late in the season and were worried about the sea temperature. I highly recommend doing this as we were able to swim and snorkel for an hour and a half, whereas another visitor managed 15mins. The water was incredibly clear and we saw so many fish of various sizes, and also spotted a star fish and sea cucumbers, but you can also view the rock formation under the water, which was truly spectacular and different in various parts. We believe this was due to the island's volcanic origins.It should be mentioned that there is no where to buy food or drinks on the island, so we purchased sandwiches from the Marina Bar beforehand. On the island, we spotted a toilet building, but I could not say what the facilities are like, and there is a little area next to the WCs to shelter, if needs be.It must also be said that you do not need to swim and snorkel to enjoy this island. You can enjoy the view of Sao Miguel from the island, and climb and explore the edges of the island to gain a higher view point. If you are visiting Sao Miguel, you must visit this idyllic little place.
This little lagoon is a gem. The only reason why I didn't give it five stars, was that it lacked a small bar or something similar. But I guess you could just bring with you what you want to eat/drink. Be quick to fetch a ticket early in the morning, since the island had a limitation of 400 persons per day. Snorkling, swimming, splashing, sunbathing and chilling are just a few things you could enjoy yourself with at the island. Plenty of things to see under and above the water.
The island is geologically interesting, with a circular crater in the center and a small channel open to the sea. Think of it as a very large natural saltwater swimming pool. Encircling the pool is a thin strip of volcanic rock. You can walk around most of it but the higher parts of the island are closed off for preservation. We were there on a very hot, sunny day, and it was crowded with several hundred people swimming and sunbathing on the rocks. It was so busy that simply walking around from one side to the other (no more than a couple hundred meters) took a very long time. The walking is difficult, as there is a thin strip of flat rock the width of a sidewalk, and everywhere else is rough rocky with steep slopes. Some folks seemed to think it was appropriate to pitch ubmrellas or lay towels or blankets directly on the pathway, making navigation very difficult.To enter the water for swimming there were a couple of staircases going down into the water, but these were crowded with inconsiderate people who blocked access. Entering the water anywhere else you would really need water shoes, as it is very rocky. Due to the crowds we decided not to bother swimming and stayed only until the next ferry arrived. To be honest, we would have loved the visit had it been less crowded, but with the crowds we couldn’t wait to get back to the mainland. The ferries too were standing room only, though the ride was relatively smooth and easy. Others have posted that the ride is very rough, but it certainly wasn’t this day, so it depends largely on the weather.Bottom line, I’d suggest going on a cloudy day or in the off season when it isn’t as crowded. Or you may wish to go early in the day on the first ferry (10am) so that you are there to enjoy the island before it gets crowded. But on a hot, sunny, summer afternoon I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m not sure why anyone would want to lay down on volcanic rock among a dense crowd of people to swim and sunbathe here, when there are numerous lovely, un-crowded beaches on the south shore of Sao Miguel.
Wonderful place to bring children. Small natural wave pool and shallow warm waters. Small fish and other sea creatures can be found swimming along side you.
The ilheu forms a bay in the middle of the ocean. The water is warm and clear. You can snorkle and see lots of nice fishes. Be prepared to lay dowm on the rocks as there is no sand!
If you love nature and are able to walk up and down rocks and stairs, this is the place to see. It cost 5 euros to go to the island, the first boat is 10am. Bring food and drink with you, no concessions, just washroom/change room. It can be very dangerous, bring runners/hiking shoes. Very clear water, nice swim.They only allow 400 visitors per day.
The boat ride to the Ilheu was CRAZY!!! Was told the boat could take maximum 30pax and we were close to 50pax - the ocean was so choppy that most people got soaked and thrown around a bit. Getting off the boat when you get to the Ilheu is not for everyone... so dangerous! We had a nice swim and strongly advise anyone planning a visit to bring water shoes, sunscreen and googles. It gets very crowded so we only stayed 1.5 hours.
I echo the comments made by other reviewers. The Ilheu is unique, the water warm, an excellent place to snorkel, and the ride out is more than worth the €5 charge. One of the things that I will remember that I didn't see noted though is the tiny floating rocks we found in the lagoon. Obviously it is a type of volcanic rock full of air voids, but they fascinated my young girls, and we had loads of fun looking for them. We also saw many small subtropical fish in the shallows while snorkelling. Bring lots of liquids, and snacks, as there are no services on the Ilheu. Also it is important to bring a blanket or chairs if you can, as the ground is extremely rocky.
Worth the 5 euro to take the boat ride. Boat ride can be a little choppy--warning to those who are easily frightened or motion sick. The swimming there is seriously some of the most beautiful, fun, and unique in the world.
If you visit Sao Miguel you HAVE to do this: Go by the small ferry boat to that island near Villa Franca do Campo. Just go to the Marina in Villa Franca do Campo, there is the ferry. It will go from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to that small island (fee is 5 Euro), it takes ten minutes to go there. This island is an old volcano crater, in the middle open and filled with ocean water. There are guardians, toilets, a watch-out and a way around the natural water pool. I have climbed a little bit in the rocks. It's lovely to bath there, to lay down in the narrow water and just feel easy. BUT: Prepare to get a sunburn. One has to put on constantly sunscreen. I did just once... ooops... and I got a very red back. People from Sao Miguel just call that volcano island the "toaster", and the name suits this experience very well. You won't get the only not only from above you, but also from the reflecting of the volcano rocks around you. Nevertheless, protect yourself with a good sunscreen and you will have a nice day there!
10 minutes by boat, only 5 euros - and amazing crater with warm lagoon! You will spend here from 1 hour to a whole day depending on your schedule and interests. Bring all your picnic/snorkeling/swimming stuff here. Highly recommended to everyone.
They are famous for their unique pastries I enjoy seeing the workers doing and wrap in the pastries to send out and the tastingAnd bough same to give away
Unique and wonderful island,mini sunken volcano, underated, and unspoilt.Easy safe anchorage on northern side , - nice to spend a day here, bring your own picnic.We spotted whales just South of here.Caretaker of house loves Bacon!