Last updated on March 13, 2023 by Wandering our World
The perfect beach holiday on a resort with water parks, or a more authentic experience with plenty of adventure and natural scenery – which type of holiday appeals to you more?
One happens to be more like the beautiful Azores, while the other is the exciting Canary Islands. Aaaah! It’s hard to decide, isn’t it? Well, fret not. Right here, we will compare the two and help you pick the one that suits your travel preferences better!
The Azores archipelago is a group of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic just off the coast of Portugal. The islands are characterised by their stunning natural geography, hot springs, and black sand beaches.
So if you’re looking for authenticity, culture, and the “great outdoors” with tons of water sports and hiking, then the Azores are for you. Less touristy and more eco-friendly than the Canary Islands, the Azores are a phenomenal destination for nature, adventure and good food.
In contrast, the Canary Islands are a larger archipelago set off along the coast of southern Morocco. The Canaries are made up of seven islands, among which the largest are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote.
Those main Canary islands are a mass tourism destination, focused more on commercialized beach holidays with modern resorts, theme parks, and national parks. However that does mean a Canaries holiday can be an easy one, with tourist activities on your doorstep, great resorts and hotels everywhere, and food that’ll remind you of home.
However there are many other ways in which both the Azores and the Canaries can be similar yet different and unique in their own ways.
That’s why we’re here to help!
Below we compare their beaches, nightlife, activities, look at which is better for honeymoons, families and more.
By the end, we’re sure you’ll know which one to choose for your next vacation!
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Has Better Beaches?
- Which Is Best For Hiking?
- Which Is Best For Water Sports?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Has Better Food?
- Which Has Better Sightseeing?
- Which Is Better for Nightlife?
- Which Is Best For A Honeymoon Trip?
- Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
- Which Has The Better Weather?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
Which Is Easier To Get To?
It is definitely easier to get to the Canary Islands, as they are a more popular tourist destination than the Azores. And you will have no problem finding affordable direct flights from all over Europe.
The four largest islands of the Canaries, -Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote – all have international airports serviced by major airlines such as British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Air France.
Low-cost carriers like Ryan Air, Vueling, EasyJet, and Air Europa also operate flights from Spanish cities and other European hubs.
If you’re traveling from the US, remember that all flights will be via a stopover or two in Madrid or any other European city.
Traveling to the smaller islands like La Palma and La Gomera can be tricky and take a little more time, as you will have to fly or take a ferry from one of the bigger islands. It’s best to therefore start your vacation in either Tenerife or Gran Canaria and hop to other islands by ferry or local airline.
In contrast, the Azores have fewer direct flight options. However low-cost carriers such as RyanAir and EasyJet fly do directly from a few select European cities to Sao Miguel, the largest island. MBut mostly, flights to the Azores are via Lisbon or Porto in mainland Portugal.
Travel options from the US and Canada vary. You can take a direct flight from Boston, New York, or Toronto to the Azores with Azores Airlines, TAP Portugal, or United.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
The Canaries, being a well-known tourist hotspot, have a better public transport system than the Azores. The bigger islands, especially Tenerife, have several reliable modes of transport.
If you prefer to be more independent on your holiday, renting a car or bicycle is probably the most exciting way to move around on the islands. You can explore at your own pace and even get to see more remote areas and hidden gems.
Public transport in the Canaries is reliable and cheap. All the major towns are connected. Taxis are also an option widely available but can put a dent in your pocket.
Island-hopping both the Canaries and the Azores is convenient and can be done by taking direct flights through local airlines or by taking the ferry. However, those prone to getting seasick should avoid the ferry and opt for a flight instead.
Public transport in the Azores is not as reliable or developed for tourists as in the Canaries. Your best bet is renting a car on the larger islands or a scooter or bike on the smaller islands. It’s a fun way to explore the islands and you’ll have the freedom to pace your vacation too!
Remember to book in advance as it can go crazy expensive or be unavailable during peak seasons.
Which Has Better Beaches?
What do you prefer – beaches with black sand or gold? Bustling with activities and crowds or serene with laid-back spots? Both the Azores and the Canary Islands have some of the most popular and beautiful beaches, so it can be difficult to decide who has the better ones.
The Azores have more secluded and laid-back beaches than the Canaries. There may not be many of the classic white or golden sandy beaches, but the Azores have their share of some gorgeous spots.
Praia de Santa Bárbara, the most popular beach on the Azores, has black volcanic sand that is perfect for some great vacation photos! The beach is ideal for sunbathers and is also a great spot for water sports. If you love surfing, this beach is for you.
Another great beach is in the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo (see photo below), in a secluded spot inside a volcanic crater. You have to take a boat ride to get there.
However the Canary Islands are just what the beach bums wished for.
The Canaries are a fantastic beach destination all year round, mainly because the weather there is much better than in the Azores. There’s a whole range of beaches there – from black sand to golden – and many more that are suited for sunbathing and swimming than in the Azores.
Playa de Cofete on Fuerteventura Island is one of the most popular beaches as it offers some of the best views. Whereas beaches like El Cotillo have lagoons that are great spots to enjoy swimming.
Since the Canary Islands are a commercial tourist destination, the beaches there often have many resorts offering lots of amenities. So, you can sunbathe on the beach during the day and then retire in the evening at bars and restaurants.
To sum up, the beaches in the Canaries are best for a touristy vacation, where you can grab a tan in the morning and a cocktail in the afternoon. While the beaches in the Azores offer more serenity and a range of water sports.
Which Is Best For Hiking?
Adventure-seekers will love both islands for the hiking opportunities they offer. But one outdoes the other.
Azores: The Hiking
The Azores is a dream come true for hikers and adventure lovers. The islands host over 80 well-maintained hiking trails and several more that are off the beaten track. The official trails are approved ‘safe’ by the Azores Tourism Board.
Some of the well-known hiking pathways are on the main island of Sao Miguel. Often called the “green island” for its lush forests, Sao Miguel is home to stunning waterfalls, lakes, and mountain peaks. All hiking trails lead to one or the other of these natural landscapes with spectacular views.
The Vista do Rei is a must-see spot on the island. It’s an easy hike to the viewpoint that overlooks the twin lakes of Verde and Azul below. Better have your cameras ready here!
Note here that the hiking trails in the Azores vary in altitudes, lengths, and difficulty levels. So whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, you’ll find one that suits you.
Canary Islands: The Hiking
The Canary Islands are not a big hiking destination, and are established more as a beach destination than one for adventure lovers.
Even then, if you wander off to one of the smaller islands, you’ll find hidden gems. The island of El Hierro is little visited but has a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and plenty of hiking trails that will take you through some amazing natural landscapes.
The popular trail of La Llania is one you should not miss, as it will take you through an ancient forest and beautiful black sand craters. Other noteworthy trails are the Camino de la Virgen, going through flower-filled fields, and the Camino de Jinama, winding up and down cliffs.
There’s also Spain’s tallest peak, El Teide on Tenerife Island, and the Parque Nacional del Teide. Both have some exciting hiking and walking trails amidst breathtaking views of valleys and volcanic landscapes.
Which Is Best For Water Sports?
There are some fantastic opportunities for many water sports in both the Azores and the Canary Islands. Where you choose to go depends on what your interests and preferences are.
However there’s a variety of water sports, such as surfing, diving, snorkeling, boating, swimming, whale and dolphin watching that are possible at either of these destinations.
The Azores is big on water sports. If you love the ocean, you’ll love the Azores! There are many great diving spots where you can explore interesting marine life and even old shipwrecks and caves. The diving is arguably better in the Azores than the Canaries.
One such diving spot is off the coast of Santa Maria, the smallest island of the Azores. Another diving spot, Princess Alice, will have you swimming with sharks, dolphins, and even marlin.
The Canary Islands are different, though. While there are opportunities for water sports like surfing and snorkeling, there are also more ‘artificial’ water activities.
For example, the Canaries has many water parks. Yes, you read that right! With beach resorts, commercialization has also brought water parks to the islands. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a child or an adult, you’ll have the time of your life!
If you’re traveling with your family or friends, or even if you’re on your own, waterparks are all fun. Tenerife is home to Siam Park, arguably one of the best theme water parks in the world.
The Canaries have their share of water sports too. La Catedral is a great diving spot in Gran Canaria, with caves, arches, and crevices to explore. The scenery is breathtaking! While in Tenerife, you can look for dolphins and whales on a boat tour on the Atlantic.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: With stunning sea and mountain views, a wonderful garden, swimming pool and fantastic service, Sao Vicente Lodge – Atlantic Retreat is a fantastic choice which feels like luxury but is well within a budget price point. See photos and rates!
Luxury: White Exclusive Suites & Villas is a gorgeous five-star resort which sits right on the coast with exceptional sea views and a swimming pool worthy of a honeymoon.
It’s one of those resorts we should all stay in at least once in our lifetime. See photos and rates!
Budget: For an excellent family choice, the Relaxia Lanzasur Club – Aqualava Water Park should definitely be checked out. There’s a clue in the name as to why this is a winner with families. If you book at their all-inclusive rate, you will get unlimited access to the Aqualava Water Park!
There’s a bar with live entertainment, and an on-site supermarket, and the gym and four pools ensure there’s always something to do. See rates and photos here.
Luxury: One of Tenerife’s top luxury options is The Hard Rock Hotel. This luxurious beachfront hotel set in the tranquil residential area of Costa Adeje features three swimming pools, a saltwater lagoon, and free WiFi throughout.
There’s a spa, a fitness center, and a Hard Rock shop, in addition to several dining and entertainment options, a miniclub for children and teenagers, and a beach club – it has everything! See rates and photos here.
Which Has Better Food?
Both the Azores and the Canary Islands have unique cuisines influenced by their respective cultures and history.
The Azores has a cuisine heavily influenced by the sea and its volcanic soil, with dishes that feature seafood and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Seafood dishes are a must-try, especially lapas (limpets), which can be had grilled, or even raw.
Another dish to try is a tuna steak. Did you know that the Azores produces world-famous tuna that’s shipped to Japan?
The Canary Islands have a cuisine heavily influenced by African, Spanish, and Latin American flavors. Fresh seafood is abundant, hence typical dishes comprise grilled fish (tuna, sea bass, swordfish), ceviche, and paella.
If you’re in the Canaries, don’t forget to try “Papas con mojo”, a traditional dish of potatoes in a spicy sauce called “mojo”.
The Azores and the Canaries both have their unique desserts and drinks as well.
The Azores produce their own tea from plantations on Sao Miguel Island, and fine-quality white wine. The Canaries have “Ron Meil”, a sweet and strong honey rum produced on Tenerife Island. There’s also Tipico, a liqueur made from local fruits, and a sweet, white wine made from Malvasia grapes.
So foodies, which cuisine would you prefer?
Which Has Better Sightseeing?
Bath islands have some really interesting sights and attractions to visit and enjoy, alongside all of the beaches and the natural landmarks.
What types of places attract you may decide which islands you’d prefer to visit. So let’s check out the main sights:
The Azores: Sightseeing
There are plenty of landmarks and cultural places to see in the Azores.
Culture lovers and history buffs will surely enjoy a trip to Terceira Island. The ancient 15th-century city of Angra do Heirosa lies on the island.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site has preserved medieval architecture, such as the Cathedral of Angra do Heirosa, a fortress, an impressive Town Hall, and a museum filled with historic treasures of the city.
Natural landmarks like hot springs are other sights you must check out in the Azores. Most of the hot springs are on Sao Miguel Island and are believed to have healing properties. These are lovely and warm so perfect for a relaxing soak in the waters!
The Canary Islands: Sightseeing
The Canary Islands are not short on sightseeing attractions. In fact, there’s definitely more than what you can find on the Azores.
Nature lovers will be in awe when they visit the Loro Parque (Parrot Park) which is home to around 330 different species of parrots. The park also has penguins, surprisingly. Another park is Teide, one of the most popular national parks in the world, and home of Spain’s highest peak.
If you’re a history buff, Tenerife Island has much to offer. In the capital city of Santa Cruz is the Castillo San Miguel, a replica of a medieval castle with towers and a massive tournament hall, where different medieval sorts are recreated. While at the Museum of Nature and Man, you can learn how the Canary Islands were formed.
Avid stargazers can revel knowing that the Canaries have two well-known spots for astro-tourism too.
The first, Centro Astronomico Roque Saucillo on Gran Canaria Island, is an observatory for stargazing. The second is the Temisas Astronomical Observatory on Aguimes Island. December to March are usually the best months for stargazing in the Canaries.
Which Is Best For Nightlife?
Again, the Canary Islands are perhaps the best for nightlife.
The Azores doesn’t have much of a “party scene” as you’ll find in the Canaries. But there are still some good places to check out. There are bars such as Chamine Club on Santa Maria Island and some fun ones on Sao Miguel Island too.
The Canary Islands have much better nightlife, owing to its status as a commercial holiday destination and having a bigger population. Gran Canaria and Tenerife are usually the most happening, where you can party all night long.
Which Is Best For A Honeymoon?
If you’re planning your honeymoon, you can choose either the Azores or the Canaries depending on what kind of trip you have in mind.
The Canaries are famous for their beautiful beaches, clear waters, and year-round warm weather. So if you’re looking for a romantic beach getaway with plenty of activities, sightseeing, and nightlife, go for the Canary Islands.
However, if you’re looking for a more relaxed honeymoon trip, then the Azores will suit you better.
The Azores offer breathtaking natural landscapes, secluded black sand beaches, and a more laid-back atmosphere.
Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
What kind of family trip are you planning? Does your family prefer to relax and unwind? Or do they want to explore the outdoors and have an adventure of the beaten track? Both islands have something to offer in that regard.
The Azores are arguably a better destination for older kids as they will have tons of activities to enjoy. You can island-hop and visit natural attractions like hot springs and waterfalls and go on some of the many hiking trails.
Places such as Furnas, which have geothermal pools, and the Calderia Velha waterfall with its hot spring pools, are a fun treat for the whole family. On the other hand, swimming with wild dolphins and going on a whale-watching boat trip is great fun too!
The Canary Islands have many beach resorts, so if a proper beach holiday with lots of sun and amenities is your thing then head over there. There are some nice theme parks on the islands, and lots of kid-friendly resorts, making the island an easy vacation for families – especially those with young children.
On Tenerife Island, Siam Water Park makes for an exciting day of fun and frolicking for the whole family and kids of all ages. Whilst in Las Palmas, the Holiday World Maspalomas is a major amusement park that has a Ferris wheel and many thrilling rides.
In Tenerife, there is also Loro Park, an exciting place that kids will surely enjoy. The park has everything, from tortoises to jaguars to seahorses, and a shark tunnel underwater that allows you to see sharks swimming around you.
Which Has Better Weather?
The climate in both the Azores and the Canaries is sub-tropical and pleasant.
The Azores have mild and sunny summers. The weather can be quite unpredictable though – more so than in the Canaries – with frequent and unexpected changes in temperature and humidity. The best time to travel is from May to September.
Be sure to steer clear of traveling in August, though. While the weather is usually perfect in August, it’s also the busiest vacation month of the year in Europe, so you’ll have more crowds and therefore higher prices. But if you’re planning well in advance, it shouldn’t be a problem.
The Canary Islands have almost perfect weather all year round, with lots of sunshine and warmer winters. Islands with higher altitudes such as Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and El Hierro are cooler than the rest. Rainfall on the Canaries varies from island to island, depending on the geography and greenery.
Which Is Cheaper?
That all depends on the specific island, and time of year you are planning to visit.
However in general, the Azores are less touristy and less developed than the Canary Islands, so prices for accommodation, activities, and transport tend to be lower. However, this also means that there may be fewer options available.
The Canary Islands are more popular tourist destinations and may have more expensive prices as a result.
But then again, the Canaries have proper beach resorts, theme parks, and other sightseeing, so there are more options, so you are paying for better facilities and more things to do.
Ultimately, it depends on what type of vacation you are looking for and what you’re willing to give up or compromise on to offset the price difference.
Canary Islands vs the Azores: Which Is The Better Choice?
Both the Azores and the Canary Islands are gorgeous vacation destinations. So it all depends on your vacation style and preferences to choose which one to go for.
The Canary Islands are popular for tourists looking to relax and soak up the sun. The islands are home to beautiful beaches and plenty of family-friendly resorts and activities such as water sports, hiking, and theme parks.
The Azores offer a different experience. The islands are known for their natural beauty, including volcanic landscapes, lush green forests, and hot springs. The Azores are also a great destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, bird watching, and whale watching.
In summary, if you’re looking for a beach holiday with lots of sun, the Canary Islands are a great option. If you’re looking for a more natural and outdoor-oriented vacation, the Azores may be a better choice.