The Best Whale Watching in the Azores Islands (2023): When & Where to Go + 6 Amazing Tours

I went whale watching in the Azores Islands multiple times and in this post, I will tell you all about it.

You should know that my whale-watching trips have been canceled 4 times for bad weather. However, since I was in the islands for a whole month I managed to reschedule the tours and I managed to see lots of whales, but also I got soaked when the sea conditions were rough.

This is why I decided to write this post to share with you everything I learned about whale watching in the Azores including things I wished I knew before going.

The Azores archipelago consists of 9 islands and offers tons of great opportunities to spot these gentle giants. This is an adventure you won’t want to miss.

So, if you’re ready for some unforgettable Azores whale watching, let me give you the scoop on how to do it best here. Let’s get started!

Whale Watching in the Azores Islands

Table of Contents

Whale watching in the Azores: At a glance

Can you see whales in the Azores?

You bet! This is the main reason why I decided to visit the Azores.

The Azores Islands are one of the world’s top spots for whale watching. Sitting in the middle of the Atlantic, these islands are a hub for whales and other marine species migrating between cooler and warmer waters. It’s a spectacle you won’t forget.

In fact, in the Azores, you can spot whales all year round. While humpback, blue whales, fin whales, and others are migratory, sperm whales are residents in the Azores and the ones that are easy to spot all year round.

Selfie with the other travelers and myself on the boat for whale watching in Pico Island Azores
Selfie with the other travelers and myself on the boat for whale watching in Pico Island Azores

In a rush? Here is my recommended whale-watching tour!

Azores Whale Watching & Islet Boat Tour
  • Cruise around the beaches and islets of Vila Franca do Campo
  • Enjoy spectacular views across the Atlantic Ocean Spot whales, dolphins, and sea turtles in their natural environment
  • Choice of departure times throughout the day
  • Led by a biologist guide

Which whales and dolphins can be seen in the Azores?

The Azores are a playground for a variety of whales and dolphins. You’re likely to spot majestic sperm whales and playful pods of common dolphins, which can be seen off the coast year-round. But the star-studded cast of Azores whales and dolphins doesn’t end there.

During the Azores whale watching season (April through October), the sei whales, fin whales, pilot whales, and minke whales also make appearances, while bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, and Risso’s dolphins add a dose of charm to these azure waters.

In fact, in the Azores Islands, you can even swim with dolphins in their natural habitat.

Common dolphin spotted in the azores
Common dolphin spotted in the Azores

When is the best time to visit the Azores for whale watching?

Timing is everything when it comes to whale watching in the Azores Islands. Some whale species like sperm whales make it their home, so you will see those year-round. But to catch the heart of the action, aim for April through October – this is considered the best time for whale watching in the Azores.

If you’re especially keen on spotting the larger migratory species like blue whales and fin whales, circle the last two weeks of April and the first two weeks of May on your calendar.

That’s when these oceanic giants are usually on the move.

Other than that, October is the month when humpback whales show up in the Azores. But whichever month of the whale season you choose, it’s a natural spectacle that’s worth planning your trip around.

Pro tip– keep in mind that although in general April and May are great months to visit the Azores in general, April is a challenging month weather-wise because the sea can be rough, and boat trips to see the whales can get canceled easily. If you have a limited time and you want to have more chances to see the whales, I would choose the end of May, for a better chance.

Futurismo Whale Watching
Whale Watching in the Azores – Futurismo

Best places to see whales in the Azores

Sao Miguel Azores

Sao Miguel is a jaw-dropper. Yeah, it’s known for its lush landscapes and volcanic lakes, but also whale watching in Sao Miguel Azores is next-level incredible. There’s something magical about this place – perhaps it’s the way the cliffs stand tall like they’re guarding secrets of the deep.

This island is also the main island of the archipelago, with its capital city’s airport receiving thousands of tourists from around the world every year. So, if I were going whale watching in the Azores for the first time, this is a great place to start.

There are many reasons why it’s one of the best islands for whale watching, and the top one is that you can go whale watching from Ponta Delgada – the gateway city to the Azores!

Plus, there are so many great tours available here (which I’ll tell you more about in just a bit).

Make sure you rent a car in Ponta Delgada so that after your whale-watching tour you can explore all the amazing sites on the island. More about it soon.

In Sao Miguel, you can also do whale watching from Vila Franca do Campo, a cute fishing village located a 30-minute drive from Ponta Delgada. I did my tour with Terra Azul which has their office right at the port.

In Ponta Delgada I did my tour with Futurismo Azores which is one of the biggest and oldest companies and I found them very reliable and professional. I took the catamaran tour from which it was easier to take great shots, like the ones you are seeing in this post.

Sperm whale tale from the whale watching in the Azores

Pico Island

Pico Island is a stunner with its towering Mount Pico wearing a crown of clouds. This place is a marine wonderland, but it’s not just about what’s in the water – the dramatic landscapes that frame your adventure are just as breathtaking here.

The landscape is also dotted with quaint villages and vineyards, making whale watching on Pico Island feel like stepping into a beautiful dream. In fact, it’s one of the most popular activities on the island and considered one of the best in the Azores.

If you are a diver, Pico has a lot of dive centers in Madalena, the main city of Pico.

This is where you will spot a large variety of whales as well as dolphins both year-round and migrating in the island’s waters. Also in Pico, you can swim with dolphins as well.

Madalena Port in Pico island
Madalena Port in Pico Island

Terceira Island

With lots of history and culture on offer, Terceira is an island definitely worth exploring, but it’s also just the place to hit if you’re going whale watching in the Azores Islands.

It’s one of the most popular islands after Sao Miguel and Pico, so you will find lots of options for both getting here and finding whale-watching tours.

It’s always better to book your tour in advance especially if you travel in the high season which is June, July, and August. However, keep in mind that if the weather conditions are not favorable and the sea is too rough the tour can get canceled and you can either rebook or get refunded.

Whale and Dolphin watching in the Azores
A pod of dolphins swimming around our boats

Faial Azores

Faial is an island surrounded by deep, crystal-clear waters that are a magnet for whales. I mean, these waters are so rich with life, it’s like a marine party. You can see everything from playful dolphins to majestic humpbacks, and if you’re lucky, a blue whale or two.

The island’s coastline? Postcard-perfect. Rolling green hills melting into the deep blue ocean – it’s a sight to behold. The hydrangea-covered landscapes alone make it worth the visit, but it’s the whale watching in Faial that truly sets it apart.

With such stunning beauty of the island, the backdrop to your whale spotting couldn’t get any prettier. And whether you have gone whale watching before or you’re trying your hand at it for the first time, you will find plenty of opportunities here to experience this magical activity.

Port in Horta Faial
Horta Port on Faial Island

Best whale-watching tours in the Azores

1. Azores Whale Watching & Islet Boat Tour (Sao Miguel)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 675 Reviews

Year-round, the Azores Islands are a whale watcher’s heaven, tucked away in the Atlantic. If you’re in Sao Miguel and want to join a tour to see these majestic creatures, I recommend the Azores Whale Watching & Islet Boat Tour with Terra Azul.

I took this tour myself and I had a blast. The tour guides are usually biologists who are very passionate about whales’ behavior and the Azores. They share all the most important information on those majestic animals

This tour includes not only an expedition to look for whales and dolphins but a short trip around the spectacular Princess Ring Islet of Vila Franca do Campo.

Whale watching briefing from Vila Franca
At Terra Azul office – Briefing before the tour where the guide explains how to behave on the boat, where we will go and what we’ll hope to see

You won’t just be watching, you’ll feel a part of their world. A waterproof full suit and vest are provided.

You can choose between the morning or afternoon tour. Because the animals are in the wild there is not exactly a best time of the day to see them. So I would choose what’s more convenient for your schedule.

What other people say

The care they took looking after us, explaining everything thoroughly especially the safety aspects. Their excitement when spotting a whale or dolphin – that rubbed off onto us. Their knowledge was exemplary and it was fun.

Susan_R, Jul 2023
Whale Watching tour departure
Whale watching tour departure with Terra Azul

2. Half-Day Whale and Dolphin Watching Tour in Ponta Delgada (Sao Miguel)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 326 Reviews

A great tour to go whale watching from Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, is this half-day whale and dolphin watching tour.

This wildlife-watching trip is all about seeing nature in its true form, all from the comfort of a speedy open boat. And trust me, it’s not just any boat ride. You’ll be guided by an experienced captain, a real pro in spotting the spectacular oceanic wildlife.

From playful bottlenose dolphins to towering sperm, sei, bearded, and even blue whales, there’s a chance to encounter a wide array of species. The tour is perfect for families, and a big hit with the kiddos, and you can choose a morning or afternoon departure.

Whale tale while the whales is diving
Whale watching in Ponta Delgada

You can also choose between a speedboat (zodiac) and a catamaran. If you are a photographer I found the catamaran much better because you can move around and choose the best location for your picture and you don’t get the risk to wet your equipment.

The zodiac is for the more adventurous and you have a good chance to get wet, so make sure you ask the company for a water-repellent jacket and pants to wear over your clothes, even if the weather seems good.

I was fooled by the good weather and I was soaked by the end of the trip. Also I would advise you to change your shoes and wear flip-flops or similar so that you don’t wet your shoes.

What people say:

Fantastic catamaran tour! Our guides were amazing, full of knowledge. We saw many whales and dolphins.

Hannah_S, Jul 2023

3. Whale and Dolphin Watching in Pico Island – Half Day (Pico Island)

Pico Island has no shortage of incredible opportunities to spot whales, dolphins, and other incredible sea life.

I did a couple of whale-watching tours in Pico and even if I got soaked, I had a great time and saw lots of whales and dolphins.

Before jumping on the boat there’s a cool briefing beforehand, giving you the lowdown on what’s ahead. Also, while you’re out on the lookout for our finned friends, don’t forget to take in the Pico shoreline. It’s simply majestic.

This tour leaves from the pretty village of Lajes so you can plan a nice meal in one of the cute restaurants in the village.

Whale types
Photo © Terra Azul – Azores whale watching – the board shows whale types and what has been seen during the previous tours.

4. Whale and Dolphin Watching Tour on Pico Island (Pico Island)

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 2 Reviews

Another amazing tour from Pico Island, is a dolphin, and whale-watching tour that’s seriously epic. This adventure takes you south of the island in Lajes as well.

What makes this tour extra special? It’s the crew. These guys aren’t just pros, they’re passionate. You’ll feel their excitement as they explain about each species.

So, if you’re a fan of the ocean and its residents, this is a must-do. Pack your binoculars, sunscreen, and hop aboard this unforgettable journey.

What people say

Had a wonderful time watching pilot whales and dolphins. Our guides we very knowledgable about these amazing animals. Safety was well taken care of. And our guides stayed a safe distance from the animals so as not to disturb them.

Paul_J, Jul 2023

5. Whale Watching in the Azores, Terceira Island | OceanEmotion (Terceira Island)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 210 Reviews

Just like Sao Miguel and Pico Island, Terceira is another great place to go whale watching from in the Azores. And for one of its most stunning tours, this 3-hour cruise off the island’s coast is highly recommended because of the spectacles it offers.

We’re talking pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, and sperm whales in their home turf. Oh, and this isn’t a seasonal gig, they run tours all year. Best part? A whopping 90+ percent success rate for sightings! I mean, those odds don’t get any better!

While you’re scanning the horizon for fins, don’t forget the views. Terceira’s beaches, bays, and other Azorean jewels will leave you awestruck. This isn’t just whale watching, it’s an Azorean spectacle – and you’re in for a treat.

Unfortunately in my 5 days in Terceira, the weather was not good so the tours got canceled on the days I was available.

An absolutely fun tour with knowledgeable and thoughtful tour guides! We were lucky to see both dolphins and whales on our trip, but even the boat ride itself was a lot of fun and we got to get up close to the shores of São Mateus and Monte Brasil. I would 100% recommend this experience!

Steph, Jun 2023
whale tail
Whale watching in the Azores

6. Whale and Dolphin Watching Tour at Terceira Island (Terceira Island)

This one is a small-group whale and dolphin tour that’s guaranteed to wow. You will be part of a small group of people which guarantees a closer connection with marine life.

There will be professional guides with you, who know their cetaceans like the ABCs. Plus, they’ve got lookouts all along the coast pinpointing the best spots for sightings.

In fact, like in every island, even in Terceira there are Whale spotters scattered along the coast to help the boat captain spot the whales. This is one of the interesting local traditions that you will learn about when you are on the island.

The tour starts with safety and species info, then they gear you up with waterproof jackets and life vests, before boarding. All in all, this 2-3 hour trip is a medley of fun, discovery, and oceanic learning worth joining if you want to go whale watching in the Azores.

What people say:

The guides were very friendly and competent. Saw 3 whales and 4 dolphins (two different species). It was just a dream.

Silas_B, Aug 2022
Sperm Whale Blowing
Sperm Whale Blowing

Things to know before going on a whale-watching excursion in the Azores

Chasing, feeding, and disturbing the whales is prohibited

So, first things first and this one is a vital rule that you need to keep in mind – the marine world is their kingdom, we’re just visitors. So make sure you don’t chase, feed, or annoy these exotic underwater creatures in any way, it’s prohibited in the Azores.

We’re privileged to get this up-close view into their world, let’s not abuse it. This rule ensures that we protect these beautiful creatures and their environment. Remember, they’re not our entertainment, we’re there to appreciate their beauty as guests, and that’s it.

Swimming with the whales is not allowed

The azure waves, the majestic whales, and the urge to jump in can be overwhelming. But hold your horses. Swimming with the whales is strictly off-limits. You’re going on an excursion just to see whales and other marine life on a whale-watching tour, it’s in the name!

So, when you finally spot these gentle giants, make sure not to forget this rule of whale watching. These are wild animals, and we need to respect their space. Plus, safety should always be a priority, both for us and the marine life.

Dolphins in the Azores
Common Dolphin in the Azores

There should be no more than 3 boats in one spot

On the subject of space, this one’s about giving these aquatic wonders room to breathe. There are many rules in place to protect the marine life of the Azores.

These include things like leaving the area if the whales seem annoyed by your presence, not spending too much time near the same whale, and approaching them from a certain direction (usually from the front and not behind).

One such rule is also to avoid boat clusters – the rule is a max of 3 boats in one spot. We’re here to enjoy their grandeur, not stress them out. So, let’s steer clear of overcrowding and enjoy the view from a safe distance.

Keep your distance from the whales and dolphins while navigating

Another rule to protect marine life is keeping a distance from whales and dolphins. While navigating these waters, your boat needs to stay a respectful distance away from these two marine species.

The minimum distance policy is at least 50 meters (164 feet) in case it’s just adult whales and a minimum of 100 meters (328 feet) if there are calves with the whales.

Intruding can stress them out, and we don’t want that, do we? Let’s appreciate their presence from afar and enjoy the spectacle without interrupting their day.

Common dolphin in the azores
Common dolphin

Seeing a whale or dolphin is not always a guarantee

Now, onto expectations. While chances are high of spotting whales and dolphins, remember, the ocean isn’t a zoo. These creatures follow their own schedule, and there might be days when they’re playing hide-and-seek.

Tours have experienced guides, so they find spots where seeing whales and dolphins is most likely. But even that doesn’t guarantee a sighting, so keep that in mind when going whale-watching in the Azores. Don’t lose heart, though. The ocean is full of surprises, and each day brings a new adventure.

Sometimes, if you don’t see any of either whales or dolphins you will get a credit to reschedule the tour.

The weather can be unpredictable

Last, but not least, prepare to bow to Mother Nature’s whims. Weather in the Azores can be a bit unpredictable. Both rain and fog can arrive at any moment on these islands, which makes exploration on land as well as the ocean very dangerous.

That being the case, rough seas could mean cancellations when it comes to whale-watching tours. But don’t be disappointed. It’s all part of the thrill of this oceanic adventure. Plus, safety should always be first. And when the skies clear and the seas calm (which happens pretty quickly), trust me, it’ll be an experience that’ll make the wait worth it.

People from a boat whale watching and island tour Azores
Whalewatching in Sao Miguel – Azores

Dress properly

If you are on a zodiac (more about it down below) No matter how the weather is, I always recommend wearing the waterproof jacket and pants provided by the tour company, they are thick and protect you very well even from the wind. Your windbreaker wouldn’t be enough to protect you from the water “sprinkles”.

How to choose your Azores whale watching tour

Tour Schedule

The first thing to consider when selecting a whale-watching tour is the schedule. Depending on when you drop by, you’ll see different whale species. Dreaming of spotting those mind-blowingly big blue whales? April to May is your sweet spot. But if it’s the mighty sperm whales you’re after, you’re in luck – those beauties are around all year.

Now, about the tours. Most companies do two outings a day: morning and afternoon excursions. If you’re wondering which one is a better time to set out, I can tell you both are equally good (or bad). You never know when whales decide to show up and they don’t have a preferred time of the day.

Just check out the schedules before you book with a specific operator and choose the time that suits you best. After all, this is your whale-watching adventure, so it’s gotta fit your vibe and travel plan.

Zodiac with tourists on leaving for a tour for whale watching in the azores

Boat type

One more aspect of a whale-watching tour is the boat type that you will take for this unforgettable excursion. It can significantly impact your whale-watching experience.

Usually, there are three types of vessels you’ll come across: zodiacs, fiberglass boats, and catamarans. Let me tell you about each so you can choose the one that fits your preferences best.


Zodiac RIBs (rigid-hulled inflatable boats) are compact, inflatable boats that ride close to the water. They provide an up-close and personal experience with marine life. Think of it as your VIP, front-row seat to the marine life show.

These boats are quick, and nimble, and can zip you right to where the whales are chilling. Plus, they carry fewer folks (usually a maximum of 12), so there’s less chance of someone’s head blocking your killer whale shot.

But a word of caution: zodiacs are generally very smooth and stable, but they can get bumpy on rougher seas and you can get wet very easily. So, if you get seasick easily, have back problems, or are pregnant, you might want to consider other options.

Fiber Glass

Next, we have the slightly bigger fiberglass boats. They offer a smoother sailing experience, which is great if you’re prone to seasickness, but it’s not that different from zodiac boats.

Just remember, being larger means they carry more people, which could mean a bit of a crowd when a whale decides to show up.

Futurismo Catamaran for whale watching in Sao Miguel
Futurismo Catamaran for Whale Watching in Sao Miguel


Finally, we have the calm and cool catamarans. Thanks to their dual-hull design, these boats offer the smoothest ride of the bunch.

They’re spacious, often decked out with bathrooms and snack bars, making them perfect for families or anyone wanting a relaxed experience.

They might not have the speed of a Zodiac or a fiberglass boat, so it may take a bit longer to reach the whales. However, they are more convenient if you want to avoid getting wet and if you want to take good pictures of the whales with a professional camera. You don’t risk ruining it and you have space to move around and find the best spot.

Me dressed up for the whale watching
This is how you are supposed to get dressed when whale watching in the Azores on a Zodiac (me in the picture)

What to bring on an Azores whale watching trip


If you’re someone who tends to turn green at the slightest rock of the boat, you need to bring your seasickness meds. Taking preventive medication before your tour will save you a lot of trouble.

Because the waters can get choppy, and the last thing you want is to miss out on the majestic spectacle of a breaching whale because you’re hunched over the side of the boat. (This is not a medical advice, so you should ask your doctor first)

Hat & Sunglasses

Moving onto gear, let’s start at the top. Literally. A good hat and a pair of sunglasses are a must. Opt for a hat with a wide brim and a strap that you can secure under your chin so it won’t blow away with the sea breeze.

Sunglasses go really well with the hat as well. You’re going to be out in the open sea, and the glare off the water can be intense. Polarized sunglasses reduce this glare and help you enjoy your whale watching better.

Baseball hats can fly away, and won’t protect you from the cold. I would wear a wool hat in a chill day

Sperm whale and a bird in the azores

Waterproof Jacket

You’re on the high seas. A wave can splash over the boat, or it can drizzle. Be prepared with a good waterproof jacket. It’ll keep you dry and warm. A lightweight, packable rain jacket can be your best friend in such a situation.

Also, many whale-watching tours in the Azores do provide a waterproof suit, so you can ask your tour operator beforehand – but whichever option you choose, make sure you come prepared!

Waterproof Bags

Waterproof bags aren’t just about keeping your stuff dry. They’re also about protecting valuables like your phone, camera, passport, and such. Since saltwater and electronics don’t mix really well, a good waterproof bag or case can save the day when on a whale-watching excursion in the Azores.


This one’s a must. You’re going to be out in the sun for several hours. Protect your skin with a good, high-SPF, waterproof sunscreen. And remember to reapply it every few hours. Because a sunburn can quickly turn a dream vacation sour.


It’s a good idea to bring some warm clothes when going on a whale-watching tour. A day out at sea can be rough, especially if you’re on a zodiac. Water splashes are not unheard of, so ask your tour guide to provide a waterproof jacket and pants.

They should all have one. But don’t dress too much underneath, depending on the season especially if you are prone to seasickness.

Camera or GoPro?

One last thing that you can’t forget to bring is a camera. As an amateur photographer, I brought both cameras on my first trip on a zodiac in case dolphins or whales get close to the boat.

However, although it can happen for dolphins, it’s rare that it’s happening with whales and I find it’s much better to use the big camera with a good zoom.

It is different if you choose the option to go whale watching + swimming with dolphins, which is also available. In that case, you should definitely bring your GoPro with you.

Whale pictures in the Whale Museum in Lajes Pico

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the best place to see whales in the Azores?

There is no single best Azores island for whale watching. Honestly, the whole Azorean archipelago is a whale-watcher’s dream.

Sao Miguel is the island that’s the most convenient for whale watching because it offers tours from Ponta Delgada.

And when it comes to the rest of the archipelago for whale watching, Pico Azores, Terceria, and Faial are also some really nice spots to hit.

How much does it cost to go whale watching in Azores?

Whale-watching tour prices in the Azores are pretty pocket-friendly. On average, you’re looking at around 55-60 USD.

What time of the year is best for whale watching in the Azores?

Great thing about the Azores? Whale watching is a year-round gig! But if you’ve got your heart set on seeing specific species, like the blue whales, try to visit between March and June. Sei and fin whales also show up during the April-May window. And the best time to spot humpback whales in the Azorean waters is the month of October.

Is Madeira or the Azores better for whale watching?

Choosing between Madeira and the Azores for whale watching is like picking your favorite taco – tough, because they’re all so darn good.

In the Azores, you’ll find over 20 species of whales and dolphins that either call these islands home or swing by on their migratory paths. The entire archipelago is like a five-star hotel for marine life. Every island offers the chance to see an impressive variety of these creatures, all while you take in the jaw-dropping beauty of the Azores.

But don’t count Madeira out. Known as the largest whale sanctuary in the North Atlantic, this spot is a haven for more than 28 species of whales and dolphins. Madeira doesn’t just offer a whale-watching trip, it gives you a full-fledged whale-watching experience that lasts throughout the year.

So, whether it’s Madeira or the Azores, you can’t go wrong. It’s all about your vibe and what you want out of your whale-watching adventure.

tourists on the boat at the islet in Vila Franca
Islet Vila Franca – Sao Miguel

Is whale watching better in the morning or afternoon in the Azores?

Here’s the thing: both mornings and afternoons are pretty spectacular. You will find whales and dolphins in the Azorean waters all day long, especially when it’s whale season in the archipelago. It just boils down to finding the right schedule for your travel plans and your preferences.

What do you wear to a whale-watching trip in Azores?

Think layers and waterproof gear! The weather can shift on a dime, so a waterproof jacket and some warm clothing underneath is your best bet. Also, don’t forget your hat, sunglasses, and slather on that sunscreen.

Dolphins swimming around the whale watching boat in the Azores.
Dolphins swimming around the whale watching boat in the Azores

Final Thoughts: Whale watching in the Azores Islands

Well, there you have it! Your complete guide to the Azores and the spectacular whale-watching adventures that await you there. We’ve scoured the details from choosing your ideal sea voyage to what to bring to make your excursion unforgettable.

The Azores, brimming with diverse whale species and awe-inspiring vistas, is a veritable playground for these majestic marine giants. So, bear in mind the marine etiquette, and prepare to be swept away by the magnificence of nature’s show.

This isn’t merely an item to check off your bucket list. It’s about being part of a grand, stunning spectacle in nature that is every bit as humbling as it is breathtaking. So here’s to your upcoming journey! May it be filled with some incredible whale sightings.