As you've probably surmised from the previous posts, there is unlikely to be a lack of surf while you visit this island paradise. That being said, with open ocean conditions, shifty winds, wild tide swings, only so much paddling you can do before you're noodled, and lots of time in the day, it's a good thing there is much more to do on the island than surf.
There is so much to see, in fact, that you may even stumble across the most beautiful vista you've ever seen just traversing the island to check a surf spot. I can't even count the number of times we jumped out of the car, jaws agape, saying, “are you freakin' kidding me?”
Because of the island's unique geographic features, there are microclimates all over the island that each have their own points of interest. Here's a rundown of the ridiculously beautiful places we went, and things we did.
Tea plantation and factory at Gorreana: Founded in 1883, this is the only operating tea plantation in all of Europe, producing world class single origin black and green teas. Walking through the operating factory was like stepping back in time. Plus, we visited at the perfect time because the unlimited free tea was perfect for our jetlag/hangover.
Crater Lakes at Sete Cidades: Have you ever seen a landscape in a photograph that was so beautiful it looked fake? This is one of those places. Collecting rainwater over the millennia, the two lakes in the western crater of the island look almost fake. Legend tells of a prince and princess, star crossed lovers if you will, whose love was forbidden. Their tears left one lake blue, and one lake emerald green. Take a walk around both, maybe stop for a picnic (no homo).
Abandoned Hotel at Vista Do Rei: A photographer's dream, this 200 room concrete hotel was abandoned about 15 years ago and the forest has started to take it back. We wandered around the mossy ruins taking in the view and imagining the story of the hotel's demise and subsequent abuse by partygoers.
Ocean Hot Spring at Ponta de Ferraria: There is as spot on the far eastern tip of the island where a hot spring runs into the ocean. Because of the morning high tide and large west swell, the pool was cold, but we were told that with a long low tide it can get to a skin melting temperature if you're not careful. Ever seen Volcano? There is also a world class spa, restaurant, and art gallery on the grounds.
Mingle With the Locals at Ribeira Grande: Want to get the best beer in Europe? Well, they happen to be serving it at whichever of the countless neighborhood bars you wander into in each small town. We enjoyed several cold ones, some snacks, and some tall tales outside a 500 year old church, but anywhere there is a “bar” sign, you're sure to meet friends, and learn something about the unique island you're visiting.
Hot Spring at Caldeira Velha: Remember I mentioned having a swim in a Jurassic Park-esque landscape? Well, I wasn't joking. This was another, “are you freakin' kidding me” moment where the view seriously overwhelmed us. Right off the road there is a manmade pool fed by a volcanic waterfall. This “warm pool” is for the elderly and infirm. For those a bit more adventurous, there is a steep path that rises into the ravine to another pool that is much warmer and even more picturesque. Soak your paddle-weary arms, peacefully reflect on your travels, and your blessed life. Seriously, this site is not to be missed.
Lagoa do Fogo: The views just kept getting better this day. After the hot spring swim, we stopped at a view point looking over an absolutely ridiculous lake with the ocean in the background. This rain-fed crater lake has a sand beach voted one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. We didn't have time to hike down (the surf was firing), but it would be a great place to visit.
Are you convinced that there's plenty more to do here than surf? I can't tell you how many times I've sat on a desert beach in Mexico, watching the Pacific do its best impression of Lake Michigan, wishing there was something more to do than rotisserie my skin and drink warm beer. I haven't even gotten to the best part. The next day we spent on the island really necessitates its own post, as it was one of the most unique (have I used that word enough?) days I've ever experienced. Anthony Bordain ain't got nothing on Dailystoke! Stay tuned! (here's a teaser photo)…