There are two main springs to visit in Furnas: the large pool at Terra Nostra Gardens and the individual pools at Dona Beija. Naturally we visited both (!!), with my favourite being the pools at Dona Beija. I’ve reviewed both below so you can decide for yourself which to visit if you don’t have time to go to both.
We visited Dona Beija on a cooler day after a few hours walking in Nordeste in the North-East side of Sao Miguel Island. We were under the impression that the pools at Dona Beija were more rustic and a bit more wild than the ones at Terra Nostra. However when we arrive this wasn’t my impression at all. There were 5 pools: one cooler one which was 28 degrees and four others each 39 degrees. The pools were well maintained situated either side of an orange stream. There were metal ladders into each of the pools, the bottoms were levelled off and flat and a few of them had waterfalls flowing into the pool – one of which you could sit under.
We started down the far end, missing the cooler pool to begin with and instead heading straight into the hot water. We arrived at about half 8, at which point the pools were incredibly busy and a little chaotic for my liking. We spent 15 – 20 minutes in each pool and by the time we reached the end, the sun had set, the stars had come out and the pools emptied a bit, making the atmosphere much more relaxing.
We spent the entire evening in the pools, not realising how long we had been in until we got out to change and were told that we couldn’t have a hot shower because they had been closed. In total we were in for over two hours and were seriously pruned as a result!
I personally loved these baths, with my favourite being the middle pool which had a waterfall flowing into it and a ledge so that you could sit under the waterfall in a little den that felt like a sauna due to the heat from the waterfall. Having seen them in both daylight and darkness, I would definitely recommend visiting these hot springs in the evening. It felt very romantic sitting under the stars in such a unique setting and a was for me, a definite holiday highlight.
However, a word of warning to any other blondies visiting: these baths not only ruin your swimming costume but also dye your hair orange!!! It wasn’t until the next day when RBJ and I were walking and I stopped and looked at my hair that I realised it had a definite ginger tinge to it! It took about 4 or 5 washes to get all of the colour out and I still think it is a little bit orangey. So be warned and put your hair up when visiting! I have been to a lot of hot springs and never have I had my hair change colour from the minerals, so either these are particularly mineral-rich or we have a new record for time spent in a thermal spring!
The thermal baths at Dona Beija score as follows:
COST: 5/5 Entrance to the spring cost 4 euros and towel hire was an additional 2 euros, with car keys or a credit card as a deposit. You could also pay for a hot shower for an additional 2 euros. I think this may be the best value SSS thermal bath on this blog!
CLEANLINESS: 4/5 The changing rooms were very clean and the pools themselves also felt clean. My only recommendation would be that they ask people to shower before entering the water as currently they don’t.
IN THREE WORDS: CHEAP, ROMANTIC, MINERALL-Y.
We visited the pool at Terra Nostra on our last day of the holiday. We spent the morning at Islet Vila Franca do Campo (where the Red Bull Cliff diving had been a few days earlier), ate lunch by the marina and then drove to Furnas to spend the afternoon in the hot pool.
The pool at Terra Nostra has a very grand setting, surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens and situated in front of a huge white house, the foundations of which were built over 200 years ago. We arrived and spent the first half hour wandering the beautiful tropical gardens and feeding the humongous carp in the adjoining lake, before changing into our swimmers and heading into the pool.
Getting into the pool felt like getting into a really big hot bath. The water was between 35 to 40 degrees and was 5ft deep all the way round, meaning you could walk the whole way across. There weren’t any ledges or raised areas to sit and chill in so we waded around a bit before heading to the central island to sit and cool off.
I can imagine on a cooler day lazing in the pool at Terra Nostra would be amazing. However on a hot and sunny day like we had, I found it quite hard to relax. I also think that as my hair was (and to be honest still is!) a bit ginger from Dona Beja, I was very cautious to not let my hair go in the water as we swam around which made it a bit less relaxing.
We were in the pool in total for just over an hour. After we got out, we showered and changed and went for one final wander around the gardens. Annoyingly on the walk we discovered a couple of smaller hot pools which we hadn’t realised were there hidden amongst the trees behind the changing rooms :
On the way out we decided our swimmers had seen better days and were ready for the bin!
Terra Nostra scores as follows:
COST: 4/5 Entrance was 8 euros, then an additional 2 euros for a towel and a 5 euro deposit for the towel. Unlike Dona Beja the hot shower at the end was included in the entrance price.
CLEANLINESS: 4/5 The changing rooms were very clean and the pool itself although muddy coloured to look at, felt clean. My only recommendation would be that as with Dona Beja, that they ask people to shower before entering the water as currently they don’t.
IN THREE WORDS: TRANQUIL, GRAND, MANICURED.
So which is best? If I personally had to chose between Dona Beija and Terra Nostra, I think I would chose Dona Beija. I liked that there were areas to sit and relax and I loved the fact that there were lots of pools to wander between. Even though Terra Nostra was surrounded by tropical gardens, somehow it felt more manicured and I preferred the wilder setting of Dona Beja. Plus cost wise Dona Beja was the cheaper of the two. Both could be improved with the introduction of a bar serving cold beers and juices! However if you have time, I would recommend visiting both as they were quite different.