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Trip Report

Portugal Girls Trip including Sao Miguel Island

For our portugal girls trip, The goal was seeing as much of the country as possible in a week. Skipping museums and tours, and aimed to have some great meals, as well as unstructured days.

  • Portugal Girls Trip including Sao Miguel Island+ 3
  • Portugal Girls Trip including Sao Miguel Island
  • Portugal Girls Trip including Sao Miguel Island
  • Portugal Girls Trip including Sao Miguel Island
About Me:Hi! I am a Midwestern girl living in Seattle with my dog Grady. Now that I am in my 30s, I have decided to poke my head up a bit from my job, and invest more time in traveling. Things I love when I travel: Give me a great restaurant or ba... read more

EuropePortugal12 days / September 2015

Highs & Lows

Driving around gorgeous Sao Miguel followed by happy hour and pool time.

There was a taxi strike, and train strike that threw off an entire day .

Itinerary Overview

  • 4 Nights: Lisbon
    Tuk tuk ride around the city, day trips to Caiscais and Sintra, Fado
  • 3 Nights: Lagos
    Beach time, surfing, cave viewing
  • 2 Nights: Porto
    Sightseeing, port tasting
  • 3 Nights: São Miguel Island
    Sightseeing, spa time
Lisbon - Tuk tuk ride around the city, day trips to Caiscais and Sintra, Fado


Tuk tuk ride around the city, day trips to Caiscais and Sintra, Fado

We hired a tuk tuk driver to take us around the city to see the sights. The city is pretty large and would be hard to walk unless you have several days - plus the hills! We did this on the first day, and it was the perfect way to ease in with our jet lag, get the lay of the land and see some stuff. It was well worth it. Guide books will probably recommend Tram 28, but when we were there it was a mess of a line to get on and looked hella crowded. I don’t love crowds. Ferry ride to Ponto Final for HH and the sunset. Catch the ferry from Cais de Sodré to Cacilhas and walk westward for half a mile Don't go on a Tuesday- it is closed. Views are great!  See Fado - a lot of people do this, so we did this. It was not my favorite thing, but it is a big part of the culture there and we may have just picked the wrong restaurant for it. Look into it, you might enjoy it. Day trips - two out of the three days we were in Lisbon we did day trips to Sintra and CasCais.  LX Factory was very cool - I would recommend making time for this. Maybe plan to eat there or do HH there because there are a lot of bars/restaurants within it. At minimum it is fun to walk around and see all of the art. Restaurants/Bars- Cervejaria Ramiro - best known as the place Anthony Bourdain went when he was there. It comes with a long line, but damn the food was good. The ambiance is a bit wack, but again the food was delicious if you like shellfish. We went at like 2pm and it was so much easier to get in. The neighborhood it is in is a little sketchy so keep that in mind if you go at night and with just ladies. https://geral24128.wixsite.com/cervejariaramiro • Park Bar - this place was really fun and just such a cool atmosphere. It is a bar on the rooftop of a parking garage. Definitely go here for a drink or two. We went after dinner the night we ate in the Barrio area. There is no signage, so you basically walk into a parking garage, and take the elevator to the roof and are happily surprised you are in the right spot. The only indication we had that we were in the right place was a subtle nod from a guy who worked at the parking garage. CasCais - Great day trip from Lisbon to a beach town. It is a super easy train ride, no need for a car to get there. • We rented biked and rode them to a beach ( pria de guincho ) , and had picked out a beach that was as far away as possible it seemed. I guess it was only 6 miles. :) If you go, bring towels you got in Lisbon or before you left the town of CasCais - they don't have them there to buy at the beach.  The coast line is gorgeous, lots of rocky cliffs to soak in. If you want to stay here overnight (we didn’t)-- a few recommendations I received: -Fortaleza do Guincho (Fortress on Guincho beach). -Hotel Baia -Hotel Albatroz Sintra. Just like CasCais, no need for a car - just take the train for the day. This is a town with a lot of history, as it has been a longtime royal sanctuary. You can go see a castle or the palace. We chose to take those sights in from afar via a Tuk Tuk ride. Again it’s a bit of a mess to get on the buses up to these places, and I didn't care much for seeing the inside with a huge crowd. We did stop at the Quinta de Regaleira, which I thought was super worth it and cool because I wanted to see the masonic initiation well.  There are some restaurants in the small town that you can grab a bite at, we sat outside and shared a bottle of wine. • If you want to spend the night here - I received this recommendation: https://www.tivolihotels.com/en/

Lagos - Beach time, surfing, cave viewing


Beach time, surfing, cave viewing

Getting Around We had a rental car down here and it felt necessary. Our friend flew into the Algarve region and rented a car for us for the weekend and it was pretty critical for getting around. Things to Do - We did a boat tour of the caves, I think we did the two hour one - which was probably longer than it needed to be. Ultimately you want to see Benagil Cave and soak in the coast line a bit. We tried to get a tour with an english speaking guide, but he barely said anything. It was nice to be on the water though! He let some of us jump off the boat and swim for ten minutes, and that part was great.  Worth a beach day at one of the famous beaches - there are tons – it felt like we popped by every Praia along the coast line. We got a surfing lesson at Cordoama Beach, which we set up in advance to get a private lesson. The waves here are no joke, so it was exhausting, but felt like a more authentic experience. True surfers were camped out here for the day riding the waves. I guess the Sagres area of Portugal is really known for surfing. There is a restaurant on the beach that has great food and drinks, so that was a bonus. Hot tip: you smell awful after wearing those rented wet suits. Be prepared with something else to change into in your car.  Lagos, the city, is pretty touristy and not much to see, we skipped it mostly. I would stick to the coast depending on what you want to do. Restaurants - We went to lunch in Carvoeiro at a place called Once. The food was great, and we had an amazing server named Jose who we just loved. The view was great.  Took in the sunset from a restaurant called Terra in Sagres after surfing- spectacular

Porto - Sightseeing, port tasting


Sightseeing, port tasting

Getting Around- We walked or Ubered everywhere in Porto • If you want to head out further into more of the vineyard area ( near the Duoro River), you might need a car - we didn't do that because we didn’t have time. Things to Do- We did a lot of walking around and shopping here. Taste Port! We skipped the tours and went straight to the tasting. We only went to Ferraira, but below are some additional port spots recommended to me: -Ferraira -Croft -Graham's -Real Companhia Velha -Sandeman -Taylor - supposedly amazing Restaurants/Bars. Drinks at a bar in the middle of a park - called Base. Super cute spot, great on a sunny day.  Miss'opo for dinner. Get a Francesinha for lunch with a beer -- this was a highlight - seems super heavy but it’s really good. We got breakfast every morning at Mercado - nice spot in town to get Pastel de Nata or just get eggs. Other recos I received: -Sessenta-Setenta which is very modern restaurant -A Mesa com Bacchus - They do an awesome tasting menu that is long and slow paced of many small plates.

São Miguel Island - Sightseeing, spa time

São Miguel Island

Sightseeing, spa time

Getting Around- You need a car - rent one at the airport. We hit up a local grocery store and bought a bunch of cheap wine, great cheeses and meats, and crackers and did happy hour in our room every day. Such a highlight. There is some amazing cheese on the island. 

Things to Do -It is a tiny island, but it is packed with things to see. All depends on how active you want to be.  Spa day here: https://www.furnasboutiquehotel.com/homepage. I love a spa day, and this place was really lovely. They have a couple of thermal pools with really interesting water features. Also worth stopping and seeing all of the volcanic activity in the area, I believe there is a park that you can pay to access and get in a hot spring of sort. We didn't do that, but looked popular.  Swim at Ponta Da Ferraria Natural Swimming Pool - the drive there at the end is a bit terrifying – feels like you are driving off the end of the earth. But it felt like a special thing to be able to swim here. • Go see Sete Cidades. You can make more of a hike of this if you want to, but we just drove to them all. It gets crowded at the main sight seeing point, so maybe try to go early in the morning so you can experience it in the quiet. • Just driving around Sao Miguel is so much beautiful greenery, cows, and flowers lining the roads. There are tons of natural sights to see, we hit up many more. • Some people go see the caves, Gruta do Carvao - we did not - caves freak me out. • If we had more time I would have gone to another island, probably Pico.

Q & A

  • What would you have changed?

    I would have stayed longer in the Porto area and checked out the wine scene a bit more, and I would have driven the coast of Portugal like we originally planned but didn't end up doing because renting a car was so expensive (for automatic cars at least).

  • What tips would you give a friend?

    Do not miss the Azores! Sao Miguel is stunning!

  • Transportation Tips?

    No need for a car while in Lisbon, save yourself the drama of driving in a city.

  • Any standout moments?

    Allowing ourselves a mellow day in Porto felt like the ultimate reward, I think because we planned basically nothing there - we felt a bit like we actually lived there - just experiencing the city as it came to us.

  • Anything go wrong during the trip?

    Yes, two transportation strikes! Always have a back up transportation plan. I am not a huge fan of buses, so my initial reaction to the train being out of commission was to find a driver, or rent a car, or figure out how to fly to our next destination. And the bus was hardly luxury, but it did get us to where we needed to be. There were just a lot of hoops to jump through to figure it all out last minute early in the morning.

  • Packing tips?

    Pack lighter than I did - bathing suit is a must.

  • How was the food?

    The food was pretty good, stick to seafood. Or if you are in the Azores eat the beef and the cheese. Not the best meals of my life, but definitely some crowd pleasers.

  • Booking details?

    We booked everything direct ourselves. If I could do it over again, I would have pre booked more restaurants though!


  • Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Lisbon Fontana Park - It was a bit out of the way from the action so I would not recommend it. I think if I went back, the Barrio area is likely where I would aim to stay. Lots of restaurants and bars, and felt a bit younger.

  • Cascade Wellness and Lifestyle Resort - We got an apt like setup there and the property is pretty - nice pools and whatnot. https://cascaderesortalgarve.com/en/. I got a lot of recommendations for where to stay in this area, really just depends on what you are looking for. I probably would have stayed somewhere else if we didn't have three people.

  • Airbnb: Casas de Sant'Ana Oporto Rua de Santana 25 - It was perfect. Super centrally located, we could walk everywhere and the apt was cute. Only drawback was that you could not drive up to it and you had to walk up a few flights of stairs, and we had big suitcases. Would rethink that!

  • Santa Barbara Eco Beach Resort