Tips and tours on Madeira, Portugal
On the volcanic island of Madeira, about 700 km west from Lisbon, you can find one of the 7 Wonder Beaches of Portugal, the beach of Porto Santo. But this small group of islands has a lot more to offer than this golden sand beach!
Hikers can explore the trails along the famous "levadas", small irrigation canals that you can follow from the North until the South of the island and that will show you every corner of this magical place.
If you wish to enjoy the sea, hop aboard on one of the dolphin watching boat tours in Madeira. For a once in a lifetime experience, swimming with dolphins in Madeira is our recommendation. The warm water around the island also invites for a surf lesson in Madeira, or any other of the plenty water sport activities you can do here.
Madeira is one of our secret highlights for boat tours and dolphin watching tours in Portugal, taking you on an adventure in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!
- Our favorite beach: Praia da Prainha – Caniçal
- Our favorite restaurant: Maktub - Paúl do Mar
- Our favorite boat tour in Madeira: Swimming with dolphins in Madeira
- Our favorite watersport in Madeira: Surf in Madeira
Getting around on Madeira
If you are looking to discover most of the island, on a short holiday, then hiring a car is the best option. But be prepared, Madeira has steep mountains, curvy and narrow roads, long tunnels, and sometimes low visibility due to fog. Thus, we only recommend hiring a car, and discover the island by car if you are an experienced and confident driver. We recommend hiring a car with some more horsepower.
around the island are actually a good option, especially if you are on holidays in a small group. Daily rates start at 80€ and give you the possibility to stop at any attraction for as long as you want. Regarding public transport, there are plenty of bus routes
around the island, here you can check timetables and routes
By boat, you can discover the coastline around Madeira. If you would like to discover Porto Santo island and desertas island, there are some amazing boat tours on Madeira. To get to most experiences on Madeira, like the boat tours, surf trips and coasteering, you can also opt for a transfer service provided by the tour operator (sometimes even included in the experience price).
Best things to do during your holidays on Madeira
Funchal is the capital city of Madeira island. From Funchal, there are many nice things to do, from great places to eat and drink, to the best boat tours to discover the island. You will find narrow streets full of small restaurants and cosy pubs. You’ll find many places to taste traditional Poncha.
To enjoy a good view and walk around, we recommend taking the Cable car from Funchal to Monte. At Monte you will see fabulous views over part of the island, you will find the impressive Igreja do Monte, beautiful gardens (Quinta Jardins do Imperador and Jardim Tropical Monte Palace) and hiking paths. Part of the tradition, nowadays a tourist attraction, you will be able to do the descent in the traditional basket carts, also known as toboggans.
On Madeira island, there are many trails
that you can explore hiking, walking, running and jogging. Some trails are more challenging than others. You can find more information about Madeira’s trails on the website of the local Government of Madeira
In Câmara de Lobos, if you are not afraid of heights, a visit the impressive cliffs of Cabo Girão is a must. The cliff is very steep and over 580 meter high. There is a glass floor skywalk extending out over part of the top of the Cabo Girão cliff. You can even take a cable car down the Cabo Girão cliff, with stunning views, down to the beach of Faja dos Padres.
At the mountainous interior
of the Madeira island, you will find a small village, called Coral das Freiras
. The village is isolated by huge natural cliffs and peaks. From Eira do Serrado, have the most stunning view over the steep cliffs of the island. If you’d like to go for a full experience of the island, we recommend trying some canyoning or bike tours
which can be combined with coasteering in Madeira
. Like that, you have both a mountain and a sea experience.
At Porto Moniz, there are beautiful natural swimming pools, Madeira’s aquarium and the living science museum (Centro de Ciência Viva de Madeira). Praia da Calheta is a beautiful beach worth a visit. From Calheta, there are two famous walks along the “Lavadas”. The walks are along the “Levada da Rocha Vermelha” and “Levada da Calheta Prazeres”.
If you want to see the typical and historical Madeira houses, visit Santana. The typical houses are built out of stone with a thatched roof. South of Santana, you will find the Laurissilva forest, a beautiful and extensive laurel forest. One of the best walks to discover the Laurissilva forest is by walking along the “Levada do Rei”. There are many but many good tracks for walking or even running. The best views over the Laurissilva forests are definitely on these walks.
In São Vicente, don’t forget to visit the São Vicente Caves, the beautiful church (Igreja Matriz de São Vicente), and the fascinating garden with indigenous floral species.
The best boat tours on Madeira
The good sea water temperature makes the Madeira island a perfect place for sea creatures. From Madeira, you can find many species of dolphins and even whales! The best time of the year to see whales and dolphins is in between April and October. During a year, over 20 species of dolphins and whales can be seen! To see the whales and dolphins in Madeira, the best is to book one of the whale and dolphin watching tours in advance. There are even tours that allow you to swim with dolphins.
The coastal boat tours, allow you to enjoy a different view over the island. And to enjoy Madeira in style, why not charter an impressive yacht, and enjoy the island on your own way?
The best watersports on Madeira
There are many surf and SUP tours on Madeira, which allow discovering the coast paddling around. There are beautiful protected natural areas, like Garajau, which can be visited on a diving experience.
For the most adventurous holidaymakers, go on a coasteering experience, and enjoy the adrenaline of exploring the coast while hiking, climbing and cliff jumping!
Where and what to eat on Madeira
There are some dishes you should not miss, as the typical “Prego no Caco”, “Peixe Espada” and “Espetada”. A must is restaurant “O Lagar”, it’s a typical restaurant, where the most typical dishes can be tasted. Here you can find the best “Espetada” of the island, it is meat on a bay stick, normally accompanied by fried corn.
The most popular fish is Peixe Espada (Scabbard Filet). Try this fish prepared on the traditional way, with passion fruit and banana sauce. Try this dish at Casa Madeirense. The “Prego no Caco” is a grilled steak, served on traditional Madeiran Bolo do Caco. It’s a great option for lunch, the best version we found was at “Beerhouse” in Funchal. Here you can also taste some delicious Portuguese craft beer and seafood dishes like “Arroz de Lagosta e Gambas”.
For a more laid-back scene, and our favorite sunset on Madeira, Maktub at Paúl do Mar is the place to be. Here, we recommend accepting the suggestions of Fábio, the owner. He’ll probably serve you the freshest fish you’ve ever tasted! And the mojito is the best!
Enjoy the beaches around Madeira
Near Funchal, you can find one of the biggest beaches of the island, called Praia Formosa. The best beaches for swimming, also where you can find the natural swimming pools, are Ponta do Sol, Ponta Gorda, Porto Moniz and Doca do Cavacas. If you have never seen a black sanded beach, visit Prainha. For snorkeling and diving the best beaches are Garajau and Caniço. There are many stunning and comfortable beaches along the coastline of Madeira.
Whatever you decide to do during your trip to Madeira, we promise you will love any of the watersports and boat tours on Madeira island! Sunshine and a lot of fun are guaranteed! For any further tips or requests, feel free to contact us anytime.