Rising dramatically from sea level to peak, Pico’s volcanic tip at 2351m dominates the beautiful land and seascape of the central island group. The island’s steep slopes continue underwater, and it is these deep waters close to the island’s shores that make Pico the diving, whale and dolphin spotting destination that it is.
42km long and 15km wide, the island is the second largest in the archipelago, with a population of around 15,000 people. The island lies close to Faial at around 4 nautical miles distance, and the Pico - Faial channel provide some fascinating diving spots.
As well as attracting a large variety of cetacean species to its waters and having established a high reputation for its responsible whale watching program, Pico is growing its diving reputation around its prime attraction - the Blue Shark, and, to a lesser extent, Mako Sharks, as well as the sought after dive site of Princess Alice Banks.
Occurring in deep waters a reasonable distance from Pico’s coast, this majestic, sleek pelagic shark species has been studied for a number of years, and their habits are becoming more understood. Classified a ‘Near Threatened’ species, the local dive operator is working hard to ensure minimum impact on the sharks is felt with strict in-water regulation, education and protection programs. With the aim of the species benefiting long-term from better understanding, a donation is also made to the PADI Project Aware foundation for all Blue shark dives carried out.
Princess Alice Bank
A long boat ride is rewarded with an underwater mountain, formed from part of the mid-Atlantic ridge. Its peak sits at 35 metres depth, where Mobula rays are frequent visitors, specifically the Chilean Devil ray. Strong currents often necessitate the diver hanging from the mooring line at a shallower depth, as the marine life swirls around. As well as rays, schools of Barracuda, Jacks and Atlantic Bonito and sharks may also regularly be seen.
San Jorge Pinnacle
Sitting at the western point of Pico, a narrow channel divides Pico and Faial and here sits the pinnacle of San Jorge. About an hour's ride from port, 2 exciting and challenging dives may be carried out conditions permitting, where schooling pelagic fish hang in the current whooshing through the squeeze between the 2 islands. The local dive centres are trying to have part of this area protected as a marine reserve, such is the importance of this area to the area's marine life.
Arcos do Pocinho and Cachorro
These dive sites highlight fantastically the formation of the island of Pico itself. Both sites are formed of lava tunnels, arches and walls which provide beautiful underwater seascapes. On the sea bed of Cachorro, you can spot huge pebbles and easily imagine the routes of the original lava flows.
15th Century Vineyards
Holding UNESCO status, these extraordinary vineyards are planted into the island’s rocky slopes. In addition to its infamous historical whaling background, walking trails, and, for the fit and energetic (allow 24 hours after diving!), a guided ascent of Pico’s peak, provide plenty of above water interest.
Twin Centres & Tailormade - Sao Miguel, Pico, Terceira
The Azores islands are well suited to twin centre island combinations. Sao Miguel can be enjoyed as either a 1 or 2 week stay. If staying for 2 weeks, we highly recommend a split stay with either Terceira or Pico, to really enjoy all that this fantastic destination has to offer.
Pico is best visited as part of a 2-week stay, either spending the whole time on the island, with an obligatory night’s stay in Sao Miguel at the beginning and the end, or splitting the stay on Sao Miguel or on Terceira.
Terceira is best visited as part of a 2-week stay, either spending the whole time on the island, with an obligatory night’s stay in Sao Miguel at the beginning, or splitting the stay with Sao Miguel or Pico.
How to get there
Fly to Sao Miguel on the summer direct charter (1x per week), with an overnight stay, before joining a connecting internal flight (daily to Pico or Horta which is a short hop across the water by boat), or fly scheduled with a change in Lisbon to Horta or Pico. Horta offers the most connections. A new ferry terminal is also in operation on Pico.
Note that Regaldive do not recommend you travel to the Azores for diving holidays until mid-June onwards. However, you can still enjoy the whale watching and could take a gamble on the weather for diving if you wish - we are happy to organise your holiday. Best months for diving are July, August & September.
Pico Island's reputation as a temperate water, exciting dive destination is growing. CW Azores are the leaders in local research on the Blue Shark population, with their shark dives enjoying a high success rate during July to September (95% in 2011 and 86% in 2012). Special trips to see pelagic fish and mobula rays, weather and diver numbers permitting, are also undertaken to the sites of San Jorge and Princess Alice Bank.
All dives are from 7.5 to 8.5 metre RIBs taking 8 divers each. As far as possible, a ratio of 8 divers to 1 guide is maintained. As these dives are true 'drift' dives, divers with their buddy are required to remain close to the guide at all times.
When partaking in the Blue Shark dive, a donation from each diver is passed to the Project Aware Foundation.
Clients staying in the Hotel Caravelas will have a short walk across the harbour. Clients staying in Baia da Barca are a 15 minute walk from the dive centre. If you do not feel up to the picturesque walk, the dive centre can arrange transfers for a fee of €5.
Due to the location of the Azores, all diving is subject to local conditions. The dive centre will operate a flexible programme around the conditions on the day.
Dive medical: A self-declaration form needs to be be filled out on site. If you have a pre-existing medical conditon, please ensure you travel with a valid fit-to-dive certificate.
The closest hyperbaric chamber and larger medical unit is 15 minutes by boat on the island of Faial.
Regaldive recommend you travel to the Azores for diving holidays from mid-May onwards. However, you can enjoy excellent whale watching from March and could take a gamble on the weather for diving if you wish - we are happy to organise your holiday. Coastal diving will especially appeal to marine life enthusiasts and macro photographers who like to explore rocky shores. Nudibranchs become increasing abundant from May, more than 150 species of sea slugs have been recorded in the Azores and divers are still adding species to the list. Huge stingrays are also present from June. Offshore shark diving and trips to Princess Alice are only available from mid-July, August & September. Best months for diving are July, August & September.
Options available include 4, 6 and 10 boat dive packages, a night dive, as well as 6 and 10 boat dive packages with an additional shark expedition and 2 dives at Princess Alice Banks. All boat dives are conducted from RIBs. Please discuss your requirements with the Regaldive team, who will prepare a quotation suited to your needs.
Extras in Resort
Prices listed below are an indication only, and subject to change.
The Blue Shark dive (1 dive - €175), San Jorge and Princess Alice Bank (2 dives - €220), subject to availability, are booked and paid for locally, unless they are pre-booked as part of the package.
Nitrox: Not available at present
Night dive: Euro 55
Please note that equipment rental availability is limited during high season (mid-June to end September). Clients are ideally asked to carry as much of their own equipment as possible.
The dive centre recommends all guests bring their own torches and shark divers are required to bring an SMB and wear full wetsuit, hood and gloves.
Please ensure that Regaldive are advised of any requirements in advance and we will pass these to the dive centre. Prices for kit hire will be confirmed on request.
- Steel 12 and 15 litre tanks available
- International and DIN valve available
Pico is dominated by its spectacular volcano which reaches beyond the clouds at 2351m and is the highest point in all of Portugal. The Island is also famous for its vineyards of Verdelho grapes which are used to produce fortified wine. A large area of the vineyards and surrounding landscape hold UNESCO World Heritage status.
The Azores have a maritime climate with mild temperatures ranging from 16°C (60°F) in winter to a comfortable 26°C (79°F) in summer. On average there are about three to four hours of sunshine a day in winter and seven to eight in summer. Rainfall is distributed around the year, but is heavier and more frequent in winter.
Characteristic for the Azores is the wide variety of weather conditions within a short period; a single day can produce wind and calm, hot sun and showers in any combination. A typical and true remark is that if you don’t like the weather, you just have to wait 10 minutes for it to change!
The waters of the Atlantic and the Gulf Stream meet at the Azores. The sea is warmed by the Gulf Stream and sea water temperature varies a mild 17ºC (62ºF) in Winter to 24ºC (75ºF) where sub-tropical and Atlantic marine life live side by side.
We recommend a double layer 5mm long suit with 5 mm shortie over, or 7mm semi-dry or similar, plus hood and light gloves. If your luggage allows, dry suit divers may want to carry their suit.
Currents and Visibility
The average visibility is 15 - 30 metres, although certain days can offer more.
There are plenty of sites sheltered from currents, although some swell and tidal surge may be encountered. Certain dives sites, such as Formigas and Dollabarat Banks are open ocean dives and as such will only be open to experienced divers in optimum weather conditions.
The Azores are -1 hours behind GMT.
Service charges are usually added to hotel and restaurant bills, otherwise it is customary to leave a 10% tip. Bar staff and taxi drivers also expect tips, which usually entails rounding up of the bill to the nearest Euro.
The cuisine of the Azores is rich and varied. The fish dishes, the seafood, meat and cheeses, the famous wine from Pico island (once the table wines of the Czars of Russia) and the pineapple form an enviable basis for regional cooking. Be sure to try the local Verdelho wine.
Pico has great ferry links to other islands which make a good option for day trips. Island tours are popular and a number of festivals take place so try to time your visit to coincide with an event to enjoy the local atmosphere.
Also, enjoy whale and dolphin watching trips, go bird watching or take a tour of lava caves.
Regaldive do not recommend you travel to the Azores for diving holidays, until mid-June onwards. However, you can still enjoy the whale watching and could take a gamble on the weather for diving if you wish - we are happy to organise your holiday. Best months are July, August, September and October.
Packages are based on the Portuguese owned SATA airline charter route which operates on a Saturday.
Quotes may be provided tailormade for travel on TAP, via Lisbon, on different days of the week.
Sao Miguel - How to get there:
Fly to Sao Miguel on Saturday, or fly scheduled from Heathrow with a change in Lisbon or Porto - several flights per week.
Santa Maria - How to get there:
Fly to Sao Miguel on Saturday, with an overnight stay, before joining a connecting internal flight (daily), or fly scheduled with a change in Lisbon (connections currently 1x per week on Thursday).
Pico - How to get there:
Fly to Sao Miguel on Saturday with an overnight stay, before joining a connecting internal flight (daily to Pico or Horta which is a short hop across the water by boat), or fly scheduled with a change in Lisbon to Horta or Pico. Horta offers the most connections.
Terceira - How to get there:
Fly to Sao Miguel on Saturday, with an overnight stay, before joining a connecting internal flight (daily), or fly scheduled with a change in Lisbon to Terceira - several per week.
Flight duration - charter:
London - Ponta Delgada: 4 hours
Departure tax: None
Passports & Visas
Passengers travelling to the Azores should have minimum six months valid on their passport from the date of return to the UK. Valid passport photo ID required for travel.
Normal rules for entry to EU territory apply for British passport holders. It is your responsibility to check that your passport complies. No visa required.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to the Azores. However, despite being EU territory, for anyone travelling we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and polio. Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure with your GP or local travel clinic.
Local health care standards are good and there are 2 hyperbaric chambers: 1 located on Sao Miguel and 1 located on Faial.
Further information regarding vaccinations for travel to this country can be found at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk and from your local healthcare provider.
Hotel Caravelas - Madalena
Pico: 20-27 July 2013
"The trip was intended to incorporate, 6 general dives, 1 day on Princess Alice Banks (2 dives) & 1 Shark dive – 9 dives in total. The week achieved all of its aims and was thoroughly enjoyably from start to finish! About the only negative comment I can up with is I couldn’t get a cup of normal Tea – so note for other tea lovers is take your own tea bags!! And if that’s the only comment then you really cannot complain!
To get to Pico you have to Island hop and the potential for a slip up on the transfers etc was there – however the local staff at “Milos” who handled all of that, were undoubtedly experienced in this sort of thing, and were always on time, cheerful and unfailingly helpful, this includes the taxi driver from Pico Airport to the Hotel, all spoke good English so communication was not a problem.
Of the two hotels used “Talisman” at Ponta Delgado and “Caravelas” in Pico, both were more than acceptable in both comfort and facilities with helpful staff, the only point of note is that Caravelas does not do evening meals, a thing that worked for the better actually as it forced me to get out more! There are several decent quality restaurants within easy walking distance of Caravelas, serving good food at an acceptable price. If like me people are working on a shoe string and need to keep costs down then the cheaper restaurants can be a little daunting initially, no one has heard of the smoking bans in public areas and the lads and lasses serving you wonder around in baggy shorts and T shirts, but they are very friendly and the food is good and refreshingly no one is going to hurry you – great stuff. Their knowledge of English is what they have picked up of tourists so patience is needed here, if you have a little knowledge of French it will help I think – no one seemed to expect tips but will gratefully accept even a few Euros.
As to the Dive Centre and diving, I really cannot fault this – the staff were unfailingly helpful, communication was easy, and organisation and facilities were more than acceptable!
I took all of my own kit which simplifies matters a great deal; the centre has suits and the basics for hire and will undoubtedly improve in the future, cylinders available are 12 Ltrs & 15 ltrs with most people it seemed using the 15s, although I found the 12s more than enough for the diving available. The water can get a bit chilly especially on the second dive so I found that a 5mm suit was not enough and ended up hiring an extra 2.5mm shorty which I found adequate. A surprising amount of the others had dry suits!
The diving was what I expected, the “normal dives” were very dramatic scenic dives, involving caves, swim throughs and very sharp drop offs, animal life was varied and enough to keep your interest levels up and on the whole enjoyable and challenging! The main reasons I had gone to Pico was however the Sharks and Rays on Princess Alice – I was rewarded handsomely here. The Shark dive went like clockwork with 3 x Blue Sharks turning up as if on order, and remained with us for the duration of the dive, an excellent experience! Expect a long RIB ride on this one, it’s definitely “at sea” Princess Alice Banks were an experience that will remain with me for a long time, a long RIB ride, led to a 40 metre dive shared by a massive shoal of Barracuda, not to mention the Rays that turned up and kept us entertained for the duration of both dives, I counted 25 at one stage and then gave up – afraid I don’t have the big words to explain about this, but rest assured that it is a life experience!!!
All the diving here is very weather and tide dependant, and people need to be aware that it is very adventurous stuff needing at least a decent level of experience and knowledge. The Centre will cancel things (as an ex dive guide and instructor rightly so in my view) if they see fit, although will do their utmost to make things work. All of the guides did their utmost for us and should be commended.
As a single traveller I easily slotted in with the gangs and groups that I met, generally buddying up with the guide during the dives – my only question is why was I the only Brit?
Overall then an excellent week – thank you, I would easily recommend this one to anyone..."
- UK | 30 July 2013