The archipelago's headline island - as well as the most accessible - Sāo Miguel is rippled with peaks, between which lie so many tropical jungles, rolling plains, epic waterfalls and hot springs that it's earned the moniker of "the green island". There's a palpable energy here; waves crash against the shore while inland the capital, Ponta Delgada, is a city that sings with things to do, see and eat.
On the island's northern coast, Pico do Refúgio is a heady cocktail of nature, art and contemporary design. It stands out as a hub of creativity at the heart of the slow-living locales of Rabo de Peixe and Ribeira Grande. It's minimalist lofts and apartments set in former tea-plantation buildings are prime for those seeking a boutique, design-forward stay.
Larger party? There are several houses that can be rented out in their entirety. Try Villa Várzea, a bright, off-the-beaten-path mansion a 10-minute drive from the Sete Cidades lagoon and the thermal waters of Ferraria; or the Casa dos Barcos on the shores of the Lagoa das Furnas.
For a stay that strikes the balance between sustainability and luxury, try Solar Branco Eco Estate, a mere 10-minute drive from Ponta Delgada. Powered by solar panels (this is the sunny Azores, after all), the century-old Portuguese mansion-turned-boutique-hotel ticks the boxes for producing zero food waste and banning single-use plastics - so you can polish your eco halo as you avail of its Azorean gin-tasting sessions, guided forest bathing, tile-painting classes and such. This is a place to switch off your phone and inhale a few lungfuls of the citrus-tinged ocean breeze.
TO EAT AND DRINK
This is a place fuelled by deliciously cheap petiscos (Portuguese tapas) and comparably good plonk. In Ponta Delgada, try A Tasca - the island's most popular restaurant - for just-off-the-boat tuna steak, smoked black pudding and pineapple cake; Taberna Açor for cured meats; or the no-fuss Mané Cigano where plates are piled high with grilled-to-perfection sardines. For a more gourmet spin on Azorean cuisine, try Tasquinha Vieira behind the Teatro Micaelense.
Seafood aside, beef, beef and more beef is the raison d'être of many of the Azores' menus, thanks to the flocks of cows that graze happily across the islands' wild pastures - grass-fed is the norm here. You'll find this echoed in the menu at Associação Agrícola de São Miguel, where there are nine varieties of beef to choose from - we recommend opting for the signature Bife à Associação steak. Alternatively, the garlicky Bife à Alcides from Alcides restaurant is brilliant too. While vegetarian and vegan options are few, Rotas da Ilha Verde is a hippy hotspot for plant-based fare - the aubergine cannelloni is very good.
A 40-minute drive east along the coast - factor in time for stop-offs in shoreside boltholes such as São Roque, Lagoa and Caloura - you'll reach the town of Furnas, famed for "cozido das furnas", a traditional stew baked in the earth from the heat of the volcano. Side step any restaurants when you see tour buses; O Miroma and Vale das Furnas are local favourites.
The twin lakes of Lagoa das Sete Cidades - one blue and one green - lie together in the crater of a dormant volcano; hike the 12km circuit around the lakes, with several routes down to the water's edge. Legend has it that the lakes were formed by the tears of a shepherd and a princess who were forbidden to love each other.
On a clear day, you can see the entire island from the top of the Serra da Água and the striking Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire). The viewpoints of Ponta da Madrugada, Boca do Inferno and Vista do Rei provide equally impressive views. Bathe in the clay-brown thermal pool at Parque Terra Nostra and don't miss the ruins of Monte Palace Hotel, the Aqueduct, the Caldeira Velha, the Ponta do Canário, the Ponta da Ferraria and the Portas da Cidade.