The Azores of Portugal: Expat Paradise Off the Beaten Path

Perfection does exist in retirement without any lifestyle compromise. This perfection is found in the Azores. My name is Casey Hartnett and I had been searching over the last five years for the perfect island retirement location. My search took me through Asia, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and of course, the United States. My grading criteria were extremely harsh and no place could come close to passing the comprehensive final. There were good characteristics of each country I visited but not enough that could justify a permanent residence.The cost of living could be low but the crime was terrible, or the crime was low but the heat was unbearable, etc. Nothing had it all, that is, until I stumbled upon the Azores.

One of the gorgeous views at Lago Do Fogo.

The Azores is a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic made up of nine islands situated an hour and a half flight fromLisbon and about a five-hour flight from Boston.The Azores hasa subtropical climate that enjoys pleasant temperatures all year round with mild wintersof temperatures in the 60s and warm summers in the 70s.The islands are one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal,which have one of the lowest tax rates in Europe and incredible incentives for foreigners to start businesses.  The islands can best be described to Americans or Canadians as the Hawaii of the Atlantic, unspoiled by commercialism, at 1/10 of the price with more beauty, abundance, and quality of life.  Each island has its own unique characteristics.Flores is covered in flowers and waterfalls, Sao Miguel & Sao Jorgehavelush jungles and indescribable natural wonders, Pico is a meeting spot for whales all over the world and has one of the tallest mountains in the world measured from base to peak.

The sub-tropical climate offers pleasant temperatures all year round.

Upon researching & critiquing everything I could find on the Azores, it was perfect on paper.  Not only did it pass the final but with extra credit.  The weather, the culture, cost of living, real estate, nightlife, gastronomy, infrastructure, low cost of health insurance, organic and fresh food, stable economy, ancient architecture, bilingual population, championship surfing, hiking, mountain biking, whale watching, scuba diving, sailing, kite surfing, and paragliding, just to name a few activities andcharacteristics are all world class.  Not to mention it is the center of the developed world between the United States and Europe with many direct flightsthroughout.  Needless to say to more, I was on a flight the next week and visited the islands for two months.   When I returned to the US, I put my house up for sale, applied for a Visa, took care of my dog’s paperwork and moved here five months later and have not looked back. The entire process with a Visa was less hassle than waiting in line at the DMV, but a Visa is not required as I found out after being here for several months.

The Azores offer much more than just beautiful beaches - ancient architecture can be found throughout the islands.

Since arriving, every day has been as amazing as the day before.  The most difficult decision in the morning is to go surfing, hiking, sailing, diving, kayaking, snorkeling, or wind surfing.  All activities are either within a thirty second walk to the marina and beach or a fifteen-minute drive to the mountains from the town of Vila Franca Do Campo.  Vila Franca Do Campo is the town I eventually fell in love with on the south side of the Island.  In Vila Franca, all the local Azoreans I have met have been extremely helpful and accommodating and it has been a very easy transition to feel at home quickly.  The point of life in the Azores is to enjoy life without all the unnecessary stresses that seem to be typical in western culture.  Here, everyone works only enough to enjoy life.  If work interferes with beach or party time, it will not last long.

There is much more to be said about the Azores.  However, anyone who is looking for a semi retirement destination with adventure above or below the water, values a rich culture and quality of life, loves food, enjoys a clean environment, and wants to live free with little stress should highly consider the Azores.

Stop Looking South, Look East To The Middle of the Atlantic

What awaits you is what you have been looking for and daydreaming about for years.  Do not let the propaganda of Central and South America be the only benchmarks for your retirement search.  There are better locations, safe,culturally vibrant, affordable locations, with an excellent quality of life waiting for you at absolutely no lifestyle compromise.  Right now, Europe is on sale and one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world that very few Americans and Europeans know about sits between Boston and Lisbon.

The most appealing Volcanic Area in the World according toWorld Travel Guide.

National Geographic Traveler selected the Archipelago as the second best islands in the world for Sustainable Tourismout of 111 islands evaluated.

Lonely Planet named the Archipelago as one of the best destinations in the World.

In 2010, Forbes magazine named this Archipelago as a Unique Travelling Destination.

In 2011, BBC Travel named this Archipelago one of five most secret islands of the World.

National Geographic Traveler acknowledged the Archipelago as one of the 50 best tours to take in Europe of a Lifetime in 2012.

The Nottingham University Magazine elected this Archipelago as one of the best places to go to in 2012.

Budget Travel elected this destination as one of the best budget destinations for 2012.

The archipelago holds the official status of Quality Coast Destination – being the most sustainable coastal destination in Europe to spend holidays, contains several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Project “Life Priolo”award winner,  “Best of the Best – Nature” from the European Union, and the list goes on… and you probably still have no idea, it’s ok.  There are hundreds of millions of dollars aimed at promoting your social security checks for direct deposit in Central and South America it is not your fault this place has not been presented to you until now.

This magical destination is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal and is named the Azores.  For a semi retired, burned out American who was living downtown in a big city, the Azores is everything I had been searching for the last eight years.  The charm of the islands, physically and culturally, will embrace you and there will be nothing you can do to fill the void once you experience it but become an implant.  Since space is limited in this article, I want to introduce some of the basic landscapes of several islands.   In future publications, I will expand on the prudent and analytical decision processes that makethe Azores hands down one of the best decisions you can make in your lifetime personally and fiscally with the emphasis on no compromise for quality of life.

The Azores is a group of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic situated an hour and a half flight from Lisbon and about a five-hour flight from Boston.  The Azores has a subtropical climate that enjoys pleasant temperatures all year round with mild winters of temperatures in the sixties and warm summers in the seventies. The islands physically can best be described as the Hawaii of the Atlantic, unspoiled by commercialism with European villages dotting the coastline that date back to the 1400s, with more beauty and abundance in nature.  Unlike Central and South America, there are no poisonous insects or snakes on the island or mosquitos that dominate the night.  Andlike Hawaii, each island has its own unique characteristics.

First, is Flores Island, known as the flower islandand is covered in flowers and waterfalls that rise from sea level to over a thousand feet.It is the most remote island of the Azores and its physical beauty is a mix of romance with savage nature.  Throughout the interior of the island, there are huge peaks and imposing cliffs with deep valleysforming lagoons and natural hot springs with waterfalls feeding into them.  Within the cities you may find yourself with the background noise of water mills next to manicured streams with an occasional horse carriage passing, visually stunned at the white houses with the natural backdrop and radiant color.One of the most beautiful areas of the island is near the town of Fajazinha, where a large waterfall several hundred meters high is met by twenty other waterfalls causing rainbows to appear over the deep green mountainside.  Flores is a place of imagination and will change anyone’s depiction of reality.

Next, is the island where whales from all around the world come to call home, has one of the tallest peaks in Europe, and a wine lovers paradise, Pico.It is difficult to say the island has the most dramatic landscape, but it would be one of the top three.  “Born from the Sea,” composed of lava rock, exotic vegetation, a mountain peak extending beyond the clouds, UNESCO historical vineyards lining the roads, and ocean views that include the islands of Sao Jorge and Faial, Pico is an island of fairy tale with Giants.  Whale watching in Pico is probably the most underrated spot in the entire world.Blue whales, sperm whales, humpback whales, whale sharks (I know, not a whale), numerous species of dolphins, and many other species below the surface including sharks and mantas call Pico home.  When encountering these giants, it is on a rubber raft in extremely close proximity with the chance to swim with the dolphins, which their pods can exceed one thousand. Swimming with 700 dolphins in Pico was one of the most memorable moments in my life.  After being mesmerized by the sea, the vineyards will transport you into another experience.  All wine making goes back hundreds of years with care given to each grape and a sense of pride that is found only through tradition.  Food and wine is the competitive sport in Pico and as an expat you will be invited everywhere to be the judge. It is an Island oftranquility with world-class activities.  You can sample your neighbor’s wine while watching pods of dolphins from your patio, trek up a 7000 ft. mountain, or dive with Devil Rays.

Lastly, I wanted to introduce my home island, Sao Miguel, ”The Green Island.”This is the largest of the islands at 293 square mileswith a population of150,000.  Sao Miguel by far is the most enchanting island as it has the allcharacteristics of the Archipelago in one islandwith the most to offer.  I often joke that there is more variety here than in the Continental United States, and it is not far from the truth.  You can spend as much time doing things as you have available. Sao Miguel has multiple world class hiking destinations such as; Sete Cuidades, Logoa do Fogo, and Furnas that will leave you breathless and are ranked as some of the most incredible natural wonders in the World (remember all the testimonials above?). The surfing rivals Hawaii with perfect waves and no crowd here bra.  Windsurfing, sailing, diving, kite surfing, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, boating, whale & dolphin watching, and body boarding are also very popular aquatic activities.Along the coast are beautiful beaches dwarfed below the cliffswith many natural swimming pools. Lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs are also abundant but its best quality is the people. This is the first place I have lived where I feel at home.  Nobody has any hidden agenda and is genuinely great people.  Everywhere on the island you go anyone will go out of their way to help you and make sure you feel welcomed and at home.  There is much more to be said about the people and culture, beginning to describe the beauty is a difficult task.

There are other islands of the Azores that are just as remarkable that I did not discuss and I am sorry for this.  If this article caught your interest feel free to email me any questions you have.  There will also be additional topics in the future that are more in depth.  This is truly the last great place in the world.  The Azores inspires imagination and is unlike any destination.  Once you come here, you will not be disappointed and will start your retirement planning immediately after.

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  1. Bob Weisenberg December 3, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Wow. I’m new to EFAM, and the first two articles have been wonderful.

    Never knew about the Azores until now. Can’t wait for the next articles. And EFAM is just exactly what I need right now. Thanks,


  2. Ada December 7, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Sounds lovely, yet for all the beauty described, one word is too scary: VOLCANO!

    I look forward to hearing more about how safe – from volcanic eruptions – this volcanic chain of islands in the middle of the Atlantic is?

    Thanks for the article, and I look forward to hearing more about the finance, tax, and air/boat transport to the island (and of course those pesky volcanoes :^).

  3. Joe December 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I visited the Azores about 5 years ago for 15 days, and hiked on four of the islands. The author of this article is right on — it is, in many ways, a very unknown tropical paradise. A couple of comments and questions:

    1) I wish the article had provided more information about the cost of living on the islands. What are the author’s living arrangements — is he renting, did he buy a place…also, while the town he mentioned was Villa Franco de Campo (where I presume he is living) he did not mention which one of the islands that town is on. Such information would be helpful. I don’t doubt that the cost of living is reasonable, but would like some info on rents, food prices, real estate., etc. Portugal is in many respects, a third world country, and some information about daily existence would be helpful.

    2) I visited the islands in late May, and it rained a lot. One day it rained the entire day, and it was not a gentle rain — more like a monsoon. It would be helpful to hear more of the climate conditions from a year round basis. The geographic location of the Azores (North Atlantic) and the rainy climate might be a deterrant for some

    3) Ada, I would not worry about the volcanoes — as far as I know, the Azores, while a volcanic chain like Hawaii, are pretty much dormant. There are some hot springs, but as far as I know there have not been any eruptions in recent history.

    • Casey Hartnett December 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      This was an intro, I will elaborate later on the financial issues or you can email me –

      When you visited the highway system was not in place. Now, it is easy to get around the island quickly thanks to the European Union giving billions to the Azores for infrastructure developments.

      Portugal is far from third world. Central America and most of South America is third world. Here in the Azores people are paid to vacuum the sidewalks. It is extremely clean with an incredible infrastructure.

      As for living, rentals range from 300 – 700E a mo. I bought a place here on the island 3 bed, 3 bathrooms 2400 sq ft on a bluff overlooking the beach for 300,000 E, the link is below. Something comparable if you could find it in the states would have to be in Hawaii and it would run around $2 – $3 million. I know because I have looked numerous times in Hawaii.

      Also – is the capital city.

      Rain is hit or miss but most days are sunny with a little rain. It is December and it has not rained in three weeks with around 68 degrees a day.

      • joe December 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm

        Casey — thanks for the info re the questions I posed about living arrangements…..congratulations to you for making the move, and best wishes to you. (Irionically, I noticed from one of your other comments that you use to live in Denver — I am not far away in Lafayette, in Boulder County…..small world) — joe

  4. Donna Morang December 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Wonderful report. I am seriously considering checking it out in Aug. Could you please give me information on rental prices for an efficiency apartment, hotel or hostel accommodations.
    I am a retired person, who is a writer. How is internet service?
    Thanks for your help.

    • Casey Hartnett December 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      I am in front of my computer and talking on the phone 10 hrs a day for work. I have yet to have a problem or break in communications.

  5. Ian MacDonald December 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    A large number Portugese from the Azores emigrated to Bermuda, Boston, Montreal and Toronto. Many retired and moved back or their children have. It is one reason there are so many inexpensive direct flights. Do not be surprised at how many speak English.

    They get few American tourists but lots from Germany and mainland Portugal who have vacation homes there.

    The cost and quality of local wine, liquor, fruit, vegetables, local cheeses, bread etc were excellent. Anything is easily grown in their rich volcanic soil. Flowers were growing wild everywhere in the countryside.

    The service in the hotels and restaurants were some of the best I have encountered. I visited tea plantations and pineapple plantations on the first day. It surprised me that fish was not the primary part of their diet. They love their cows and steak is on every menu.

    I was there in the spring. You wanted a jacket. It is a lot like the Bermuda climate which is equally far north.

    If you are into night clubs, wild parties and a go go environment then the Azores is not your kind of place. It is a pleasant, quiet, peaceful, safe island of tranquility.

    • Casey Hartnett December 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      Ian is 100% correct but there is a vibrant nightlife here. The locals are crazy and stay up until 7 AM the next morning with festivals and events weekly. If one is into theatre, the cost is 5E per performance and artists are flown in weekly from all over the world.

      There is no sacrifice for quality of life moving here or I would not have come.

      • Paul B. December 25, 2012 at 9:58 pm

        Overall, you have written a splendid article.

        I will echo Ian’s reply regarding wild nightlife, etc. however. I have visited Sao Miguel a half dozen times over 10 years, stayed in Ponta Delgada, Povoasao, Ribeira Quente, Furnas & Nordeste, and to no degree whatsoever would I describe Azoreans as “crazy.” I drove through Vila Franco but spent no time there, so although your description might well pertain to that town, or to a specific age group in that town, it does not fit Sao Miguel Azoreans as a whole. I visited Sao Miguel both during festivals and the off-season, and with the exception of festival days, they pretty much rolled up the sidewalks at 11PM or so.

        To use Ian’s well-chosen words, the Azores are “… pleasant, quiet, peaceful and safe …” It makes sense to me that a people who are basically agrarian, and 85% or more devout Catholics, would not be uber-partying “crazy” people. For people who really need that, there’s always Brazil, Cancun, etc., or pretty much any university town in America.

        Am I going out on a limb here by assuming that readers of Escape from America are not really looking for craziness? I don’t think so. I think they want an alternative to craziness. The America that we grew up in has become more and more divided, angry, warped, violent and crazy in so many ways that it is barely tolerable any more. Almost nobody feels safe here. Ever. And where we once had hope for America’s future, for many of us, there is no longer any real basis for being hopeful. This past November 6 America reached a tipping point toward a course that is irreversible. Best case, we will become another Argentina. Worse, Venezuela. Or, the scary version – Zimbabwe.

        “Pleasant, quiet, peaceful and safe” sound damn good to me right about now.

        Thanks again for a fine and informative article, but please let the Azores be the Azores, and let the Azoreans be who they are, and not who you might wish them to be.

  6. Mike December 14, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I agree with Joe. Need more info re cost of living, rental property, health care and restrictions on length of stay.


    • Casey Hartnett December 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      I will have another article up soon on the cost of living and additional details. This was an introduction. All of your needs will be met :P

      • Casey Hartnett December 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm

        Find me on Facebook for photos and videos:

        Casey Hartnett – Vila Franca Do Campo

        • Jeff Thompson December 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm

          Thanks for the info, Casey! I’ll look forward to your next article. Can Americans buy property in the islands?

          • Casey Hartnett January 17, 2013 at 9:52 am

            Yes, there is no limit on foreign ownership.

  7. Suzan Rawlins-Meyer December 14, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Hi Casey,
    Wow, the Azores sound too good to be true but I am in Corfu right now and have wasted three years trying to live here and was on the verge of just returning to the States and starting another search for my retirement paradise.

    Was it difficult to find good accommodation? How is the cost of living? Sure would like to avoid having to heat a house in winter as I am currently doing on Corfu and really struggling since I am a sun worshipper. I also love rain and tried Dominica in the Caribbean for a while but was not made to feel at home. So important to be around a local populace who actually are friendly and seem to want you there.

    I have two cats who are part of my family and I am going to look into moving from Corfu to the Azores. Might try Flores first since sounds so lush and would love to live within the sound of water.

    Suzan Rawlins-Meyer
    surviving but not thriving on Corfu

    • Casey Hartnett December 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm


      Email me. I have lived in the Cayman Islands and I can relate to some of your experiences.

  8. lee mackey December 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I am an old man who is quite interested in making a permanent move to The Azores. I realize you can’t have an answer for every specific question that is asked, but to the extent you can, please respond to these:

    1. Availability of, quality, and cost of adequate health care.
    2. Same as #1 for food.
    3. Availability and cost of rentals – both apartments and houses.
    4. I speak only English – would this be a problem?
    5. What would my status be as a “permanent” visitor insofar as immigration laws?

    Thank you very much.

    • lee mackey December 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm


    • Casey Hartnett December 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm


      I am a bit younger than you but I pay $11 Euros a month for healthcare. If I have a need that cannot be taken care of I am flown to Lisbon to be addressed and it is covered in my insurance. Health care is great.

      For food, it is all fresh and mostly locally grown. Bigeye tuna steaks will set you back about 5 Euros and wine is around 1 – 2 Euros per bottle. The only thing I miss is pho and dim sum in the states. There are great restaurants and if you really need something you can always fly to Lisbon for a few days at 88Euros roundtrip.

      I only speak English, no issues.

      Apartments are extremely cheap – around 500E a month. For something very nice maybe 1000 E. I can elaborate more on this later.

      Immigration 6 months no visa required, residency is extremely easy as long as you are not a criminal.

      Feel free to contact me –

  9. John Milone December 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I don’t doubt the geological uniqueness & beauty of the Azores but Joe mentioned some very valid points. That is, he asked about the pragmatic realities of housing costs, both rental and ownership, food costs, & other costs of living. Also, as a recent retiree, my foreign born wife and I do a considerable amount of international travel and we would want to examine the cost and quality of health care as a comparison to other countries we have visited. This is probably the single most important issue.

    Nonetheless, your article has sparked our interest in wanting to know more. Amoung them, what effect does the global, economic downturn and political climate have for the potential ex-patriot living in the Azores?

    In summary, you offer a thought provoking article worthy of further research. Thanks for your input!

  10. jacki December 14, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Great article! I have been searching for something unique…this seems to have it! Could you please give more info on costs of renting in the Azores. Also did you book a tour when you 1st went, or just jump on the plane and hope to learn Portuguese when you got there?

    Thanks. for any response,


    • Casey Hartnett December 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm


      I came here a year ago for 2 months to try to find something wrong with the place. I did not and when I went home to Denver, I started selling off my houses and preparing to move. Since then, I have been living here full time for 8 months and I love it.

      You don’t need portuguese to live here as most people speak English. Travel is very easy from here all throughout Europe. For me the Azores is a sanctuary in a crazy world.

  11. Louis December 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I was in Praia da Vitória, Terceira back in 1997 on a deployment. Landed at Lajes Field and spent the day with a
    Sgt with the local police. Had a great time. He took me to where that statue of the Virgin Mary, had lunch, then we went to Angra. The people are the friendliest of all Europeans. They do not have a Pensionado Program like Panama, and I believe it isn’t cheap, especially to fly on commercial. Also, I think you can’t get a clear title on real estate. If they were heading towards the same direction as Panama, I’d move there in a heart beat.

    • Rich December 18, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Fine article. Couldn’t agree more on what you’ve said here about the Azores and Azoreans. You are preaching to the choir. Visited on a US Navy ship in 1966, again via SATA in 2009, and will again in March 2013. I will make Sao Miguel my home when I retire in 3 1/2 years, and am taking Portuguese lessons to make that transition easier. I would like to hear about your experiences at Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, for example how soon can a retiree get permanent residency?
      Thank you.

      • Rich December 18, 2012 at 11:53 pm

        Sorry, meant to reply to Casey of course.

    • Heather Adams May 1, 2013 at 7:27 am

      At Louis. I spent two weeks there in July 1997 and again in August 1998. I was an Air Force Reservist pulling my Annual Tour. I would have been there in 1999 if I wasn’t offered a promotion. I spent more time awake, because I did not want to miss out on the fun. I was stationed in Lajesfield Air Base, where I spent all of my free time at Praia and Angra. There were other villages I stopped by to check out. What I missed the most was the food, scenery and the great lava pool. I might take a vacation there when I am completely retired. :-)

  12. Ken December 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Very informative article. I would be interested to know more about the cost of living in the Azores; about how much for a nice 2 bedroom apartment? taxes? Food, etc…Do they have a robust internet/wireless/telephone infrastructure? Could you run a small internet based business there? Maybe you’ll be writing about that next, so I should probably be patient. It just sounds so perfect and beautiful. I have friends in Costa Rica who are moving back to the US because the cost of living there has skyrocketed. Friends in other parts of South America who are very concerned about the increasing crime rates and narco-trafficing, so The Azores sound very attractive.

  13. Steve December 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Sounds great Casey, thanks for revealing your paradise with no selfish intent!
    Very good of you.

  14. Joe Morgado January 2, 2013 at 10:03 am

    As an add on from a long living in Azores:
    Thereis more islands no spoken about in this article. Casey is living in the largest island, but there are others equally beutifull. All are beautifull, all differente, they are nine nations.
    Casey does not mention Terceira Island where lays the historic city of Angra do Heroísmo, UNRSCO world Patrimony Heritage, the historical capital of the Azores. Terceira Osland is also where is installed an USAF air base _ Lajes, since 1944. In most of the islands there is a strong internet service as well as cable TVand cell phones. Depending on package on cable(I hvae ZON) one may have free phone calls to most of the countries, including USA and Canada.
    For the lovers of USA history search for a Peter Francisco, hero of the American Revolution, one man army as is called by many historians.
    I live in Terceira Island, as you may have guess already. I travelled throughout all of them, but this island hooked . Beautifull as any of the others, magnificent city of Angra, excellent people, Festivities of a very charcteristic type are on all year round and everyone is invited on sight to participate. English is spoken by a great majority of people, and if you start to learn a few Portuguese, then you are in heavens. There many USmilitary retirees reiding here. A couple got married locally. Housing is not that cheap, but not as expensive as most touristic places; 400euros/month get you a nice small apartment. 150 000 and up one may buy a house. The harassment is not that big, but slow it is the process of registration, but you may move in in most cases if you sign a contarct and enter a down payment.
    USA military retirees and many many active duty military of all brtanches are unanimous to say that Lajes and the Azores are the best kept secret of USAF.
    Any information you need drop a message to me

    • Rhonda February 15, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      I lived here from 1989-1990 and it was wonderful. Warm and friendly people, a culture that cherishes family and children and natural beauty everywhere you look . . . from the waves crashing against black lava cliffs to the birds of paradise and calla lilies that grow wild. And don’t forget a fantastic golf course. Would love to go back for an extended stay.

  15. Inge Perreault January 15, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Ola Casey,
    We have lived on Sao Miguel for over 6 years, first 3 renting in Caloura and then purchased a wonderful
    Condo (todos janelas com visto do mar) in Santa Cruz, Lagoa. I wrote my Azores Journal the first year we were here and it has brought tourists to the island from all over the world, hence the Azorean Government honored us with a Natal flash-card that went global using my words and my husband’s photography. Go to my website and click on the card. They did a great job and we have tried also to give back since I am teaching and have taught English conversation at the Morada da Escrita in Ponta Delgada.
    There are some things you are leaving out, such as the fact that you cannot be a permanent resident but receive a TEMPORARY residency renewable every 2 years (or 5 years but only if you are fluent in spoken and written Portuguese) Right now the Azores are in a major slump economically and poverty is on the rise, best time to purchase property though just make sure you have clear and clean title. The health-care system is wonderful on Sao Miguel, if you need hospital care, especially important for retired folks like us, you don’t want to be on Flores (Aldeia de Cuado is gorgeous), Faial, or any of the other islands. Sao Miguel has two excellent hospitals and wonderful physicians who are here from the Continent because of the better quality of life though they earn less but they are very dedicated. Starting an Internet business would be o.k. I guess but looking for a job, even if you are a professional, at this time is impossible, tons of Azoreans are leaving for Brazil or Canada, even Angola to find work to feed their families. I like Vila Franco do Campo, especially Ilheu but we chose Santa Cruz, Lagoa – better educated people though give me any Azorean farmer and he will be just as nice and helpful as the majority of Azoreans are. Never met a more friendly and hard- working people in my life who also knowing how to have a great FESTA and relax on fim de semana. Being born and raised in Germany but an American citizen having lived in Manhattan, Chicago, New Yersey and on an island off the South Coast of MA near Cape Cod (38 years in the States) we just had to see the Azores for ourselves and the Schengen Visa came through once we decided on Sao Miguel for my husband, myself and our two cats in record time of 6 weeks. Destiny for sure! We have wonderful Azorean friends, are not interested in belonging to any expat community but rather blend into the local culture we have not looked back once over the past six and a half years. Please don’t try to attract too many US expats, it would spoil our little paradise, ever think of that? Much has changed during the time we have lived here, no Scut then, more small cars and more horse-drawn wagons we miss. We withdrew almost immediately from the German expat community in Bretanha, if living in the Azores, get to know the Azoreans and get to love them. Anyone interested in the story of my first year on Sao Miguel, go to my website and read the monthly journals.

  16. Jules Ralston August 4, 2013 at 5:11 am

    My friends in the US (I live in the UK) just forwarded me a link to this page and I couldn’t agree with you all more! After visiting the islands 6 years ago we fell in love with them and bought a holiday home on the main island of Sao Miguel – main reasons being accessibility for friends and family (direct flights from UK & US), excellent medical services (just in case, for my elderly father!), and the range of experiences on offer on the island.

    Unfortunately we now have to sell the property, but will definitely visit again in the future as the beauty, easy going and kind nature of the people have captured our heart and soul! If I can be of any assistance in answering any questions you may have about living on Sao Miguel today do get in touch – I am very happy to share our real life experiences!


  17. Natalie August 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

    would love to get as much info on St. Michael. Parents were born there. June will be my first trip there. how do I find out the cost of housing, med. care, visas, and info on family history. I would love to reside there for 6 months out of the year, how to transfer money from the states to the bank in st michael. I am 70 years old and would love to get as much info as possible. Thank you

  18. Stefan September 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I was thinking about Madeira and almost forgot about Azores. Does anyone have an experience with both places (what would be pluses / minuses)?

  19. Letitia Peery November 17, 2013 at 11:12 am


    I am sitting on my boat in Bocas Del Toro thinking about where to go next? My husband and I recently refitted a 40yr old yacht last yr, leaving So Africa and Residency to do this project out of St Petersberg Fla. It took a yr to complete …we headed south to Panama and although we really appreciate it here for many reasons, it is not enough to buy and settle here. So we now find ourselves facing a bigger issue…where from here?

    2 yrs ago we met a couple with 2 young children at the immigration office in Cape Town. They were “round-the-worlders” and simply said we found the perfect spot, in the Azores. I have never forgotten their remarks and not till this very moment have I realized what impact their comments made on me.

    I loved your article and it sounds …”too good to be true” but my feelings tell me otherwise. I think they were right and you are as well. We have been looking for “the right place” for 10 yrs plus and I do think this may be the place. I think the best plan is obviously to get to the Azores…right away! Taking the boat up there would be the natural and best way to see the islands but I think for the sake of time I would like to fly up and visit first.

    I think we could arrange a trip after Christmas. any general info re this would be much appreciated…ie where to fly to 1st, and begin our explore.

    Thank you for your info. It is much appreciated.

    Best Regards,

    Letitia and Richard Peery

  20. Letitia Peery November 17, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Hi, I am modifying my querry. My husband and I are in Bocas Del Toro. We would like to get more info, and take a trip there after Xmas. Any tips on where is best place to visit 1st, etc. Immigration info as well. We are in our mid 60’s. This sounds so wonderful! Many thanks

  21. Inge Perreault November 6, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Nov. 6th, 2014 (8 year anniversary of living on Sao Miguel
    Hi everyone,
    It has been a while since I commented on Casey’s Azores experience and I can only vouch for the validity of everything he wrote. If anything, the island of Sao Miguel has become cleaner still and
    we have had FESTAS all summer long, as a matter of fact this Sabado is the celebration of S. Martino
    and we will be celebrating at a great restaurant with members of the Lagoa Wellness Club Aguafit
    who have become my second family. Four years ago I unfortunately contracted Fibromyalgia which
    has been very limiting, but our 3BR Condo we purchased a little over 4 years ago fully furnished
    and with all windows as well as balconies facing the ocean overlooking the ancient village of Santa Cruz, Lagoa for 140,000 Euros (the Presidente of Lagoa lives in the same building) never give me the
    feeling of being “locked-in” and I can easily afford a weekly physical therapist as well as hydro-gymnastic at Aguafit several times a week which is only a 5 minute drive from our condo. Having lived here now for 8 years I cannot even imagine ever living anyplace else again, my language skills have vastly improved and while in the States Fibromyalgia is often not properly treated or not at all with adequate pain-medication, in Portugal all chronic diseases as well as psychology and psychiatry are being treated FREE OF CHARGE. I am checked every month at the hospital and handed my medication. Americans would jump for joy if only they knew how well a socialist one- payer healthcare system works. We chose all our own physicians, they are wonderful and better qualified than the average American physician, medication is a fraction of what it would be in the States.
    Here I can afford a cleaning woman, due to my disease I can no longer do housework and she is a
    treasure. The majority of our friends are Azorean, I could never have hoped to live a retirement such as this in the United States. The cost of living is substantially less, we pay 53 Euros per month for telephone, (free calling worldwide after 9pm here) high-speed Internet and TV with channels from all over the world. Since I speak German and French as well this is most enjoyable and the
    choice of good movies on YOUTUBE is virtually unlimited. We did not have a TV for 4 years but after
    I became ill we broke our vow to never watch TV again but find that some of the none-American
    news-channels are well worth watching to gain a better insight of the economy in different parts of the world. Only on rare occasions do we watch the American news being so biased and not truthful
    but more of a propaganda media network. There have been no volcanic activities, the seasons have been beautiful and I can still ride the waves, even if not as long any more as I used to. My Azores Journal draws visitors from all over the globe; I recently received an inquiry from a family in Tasmania wanting to retire here and even bring their animals along. Mostly I have met with people who contacted me, be they from Capetown South Africa, Rio de Janeiro, Russia, the UK, Germany, Skandinavia, Hungary and many other countries. People who visit this region are strictly eco- tourists and not like the ones who visit Madeira which is terribly overbuilt and caters to a very different part of the tourist industry. Like Casey, we feel very much at home here and don’t ever look back, especially since the American police force seems to have turned into a part of the military. Even in the town in New Jersey we lived near innocent civilians are beaten and abused as we found out today via the Internet, something that is difficult to fathom because it was a small town near the Pa border with the Poconos. I yet have to meet an unkind member of the local police force here, no school shootings either and I know how good the education system, NOT funded by property taxes,
    is here since most of our neighbors in this complex are high-school teachers and they demand a lot from their students. Yes, at this time the EU is struggling because Brussels acted very unwisely regarding and following with some arm-twisting the USA Sanctions imposed on Russia but we don’t feel it because we buy local supporting the economy of the island we live on. I added chapter 14 and 15 to my AZORES JOURNAL, if there ever was a time to invest wisely in a wonderful location it is now, even if retirement is a few years in the future. It has virtually become impossible for those of us in the middle-class to retire with dignity and a good standard of living in the United States. Meanwhile we cherish the peace, tranquility, natural beauty and a population that is kind and most helpful here on Sao Miguel. When I found out recently that one of our acquaintances who has dual nationality and travels to Boston on a regular basis had to strip naked and was searched by the TSA, a man in his mid-60ies, it just made us realize all the more that when we left in 2006 we took the right path.
    Inge Perreault

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