Santa Maria is regarded as the sunshine island of the Azores. With white sandy beaches and vineyards covering the slopes, when looking for houses for sale in Santa Maria, you are sure to come across some true gems. With beautiful architecture, inspired by the Algarve and Alentejo regions of Portugal, where the first settlers hailed from, you are able to live a quiet, peaceful, and simple life. Here, you can relax amongst the Portuguese, embracing a truly authentic experience.
In this article, we’ll run over why Santa Maria is the perfect place if you are looking for peace and tranquility. Following this, we’ll run over the types of houses for sale in Santa Maria, insights into the real estate market, and how the Azores are looking set to increase in popularity following the Portugal Golden Visa changes. After this, we’ll run over practicalities such as healthcare on the island and how to get to Santa Maria.
If you are considering buying a property in the Azores, consult our new book Your Expert Guide to Buying in Portugal, which provides a step-by-step guide to buying in Portugal. You can also book a call with a Goldcrest Advisor here to guide you on the buying process, and discuss which area is best for you.
Santa Maria: An introduction
The Azores are an archipelago of nine islands, each with its own unique characteristics and landscapes, totaling an area of 2,346 km². An overview of the Azores can be found here. In this article, we will focus on Santa Maria, an absolute jewel of an island, with quiet hidden beaches where you can fully embrace a quiet life.
Santa Maria is in the Eastern group of islands in the Azores archipelago, along with São Miguel, the most popular and largest island in the Azores and which lies approximately 50 miles away from Santa Maria. The vibrant green fields, whitewashed houses, and turquoise beaches make Santa Maria truly stand out, although it has been coined the “yellow island” or “sun island” because of its yellowish tone in comparison to some of the other isles as it does not rain as much on Santa Maria.
Houses for sale in Santa Maria
Owning a villa on the island of Santa Maria would be an absolute pleasure, since it’s considered the sunniest of the Azores Islands with its own unique beauty. What’s more, the island is very affordable. The average asking price for an apartment from 2020-2021 was €1,346/m2 and a villa would cost you €1,118/m2.
There are many different types of houses for sale in Santa Maria. Whether it’s a country house, a villa, or a village home, you should be able to find something that suits you.
However, while luxury buyers will find beautiful properties, with a swimming pool and other facilities, you will be hard-pressed to find luxury restaurants. Nonetheless, the local delicacies and family-owned restaurants are simply delicious, and you won’t have a problem finding sublime seafood dishes, fresh fruits, and wine exclusively from the Azores.
Houses for sale in Santa Maria – Portugal Golden Visa
As one of the most popular residency-by-investment programs in the world, the Portugal Golden Visa is a good way to secure entry to other EU-member countries, and potentially Portuguese citizenship after five years. There are a number of different ways to secure the Portugal Golden Visa, although the most popular route is through real estate.
At the moment, to qualify for the scheme through real estate, investors can buy property anywhere in Portugal amounting to €500K (€400K in low-density areas) or invest in real estate rehabilitation to the amount of €350K (€280K in low-density areas).
However, changes are coming into play from 1 January 2022. From this date onwards, investors will no longer be able to invest in real estate in the hotspot locations of Portugal, such as Lisbon, Porto, and much of the Algarve. The thought process behind this is that the changes will instigate further developments in the interior of the country. The full changes can be seen here.
Nonetheless, the Azores (and Madeira for that matter) will each still qualify for the Portugal Golden Visa. Therefore, investments into the islands, including Santa Maria, are likely to increase in the next few years, and securing a property in Santa Maria will be a strong investment.
A background to Santa Maria
Santa Maria has two distinct areas – the flatter west of the island and the more rugged east. On both sides, you will find beautiful properties where you will be able to relax in complete harmony with nature and be in touch with the Portuguese lifestyle. Being an expat in Portugal here is for those with a love of nature, authenticity, and simplicity.
Houses for sale in Santa Maria – the west of the island
In the west, you will find flatter and lower-lying ground where the airport is located. Here, you can find houses for sale in Santa Maria in Vila do Porto, the largest town on the island. Vila do Porto still has influences from the early settlements, bearing ogival doors and windows in the Manueline style (Portuguese late Gothic).
Although it has undergone several alterations, one of the oldest churches in the Azores, the Parish Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção, can be found on Santa Maria. Close at hand, the historic São Brás Fort still has guns pointing out to the sea, recalling the days of pirate attacks from the past. The parishes of São Pedro and Almagreira are in the west of the island.
Houses for sale in Santa Maria – the east of the island
The east of the island is more rugged. With lush vegetation, here you are more in tune with the rugged beauty of nature. The Pico Alto mountain is situated in the west of the island – the highest point of the island and which stands at 590 meters above sea level. You have stunning panoramic views of the island and the ocean. The volcanic shapes of Santa Maria are perhaps best seen at Ribeira de Maloás. Here, the river valley hosts an impressive waterfall of about 20m that was formed as the result of the contact of lava flow with the sea.
The parishes of Santa Bárbara and Espírito Santo can be found in the east of the island. In São Lourenço, not far from Espírito Santo is a natural bay that is shaped like an amphitheater. Vineyards on the hillside stand above the white houses, and the cove has a lovely beach of white sand and rock pools. A little down the beach lies the Islet of Romeiro, another scenic spot.
Lifestyle in Santa Maria
Santa Maria is for those that are looking for a peaceful haven, to enjoy the simplicity of life and nature. Here, you will be able to embrace the Portuguese lifestyle, with local festivals – such as the Ghost Festival or the Maré do Agosto Festival – providing excellent entertainment where you can revel in tradition.
Surfers should be happy to know that Santa Maria has some good surfing spots. Particularly Praia Formosa, which is one of the best surfing spots on the island. With fine sand and crystal blue waters, even if you don’t surf, this is an excellent place to while away an afternoon or two. Paragliding, waterskiing, and sailing are also popular activities on Santa Maria.
If you enjoy exploring, hiking, or simply admiring the beauty of the natural environment, then finding a house for sale in Santa Maria will provide you with the perfect island home. The island is well known for its rugged, dramatic coastline, rocky headlands, and tranquil bays with clear waters – take Tagarete or Raposa Bays for instance.
The rich marine biodiversity also makes scuba diving enthusiasts go wild, as they experience some truly out-of-this-world experiences. 37km from the northwest coast of Santa Maria, the Formigas is a Nature Reserve due to their popularity with nesting birds and rich underwater fauna. You are also able to explore natural caves on Santa Maria, such as Furna de Santana or Furna Velha, with the help of an experienced guide.
All in all, Santa Maria is for those that are looking for an authentic, quiet Portuguese experience, where you can embrace the relaxed local lifestyle, beautiful landscapes and be close to nature. You will easily be able to live a very active lifestyle on the Azores – simply look out the window and the lush landscapes will tempt you.
Santa Maria: Practical information
Santa Maria has its own hospital, the Unidade De Saúde Da Ilha De Santa Maria, which provides good quality healthcare to the population. As a resident of Portugal, you will be able to receive healthcare for only a minimum cost under the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) (National Health Service in Portugal). Procedures and scans will require further payment.
To get to Santa Maria, you can travel by airplane, with daily flights taking off from São Miguel island. By sea, you can also get the passenger ferry if you would rather enjoy the ocean views on your way. The ferry takes 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Santa Maria is not such a big island, so wherever you are situated you should be able to get around easily – however, having a car is important as public transport is lacking.
The climate in Santa Maria
As the most southerly of the islands, Santa Maria is the warmest of the Azores Islands. The climate is typically temperate oceanic, with mild winters and warm summers. Nonetheless, the winters can be rainy and windy, even when the temperature is not low, making it feel colder than it is. In summer, there can be hot periods that resemble the Mediterranean climate. In February, the coldest month, the average temperature is 58 °F (14.6 °C) and in the warmest month, August the average temperature is 73 °F (22.9 °C).