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A villa overlooking the sea

by Paulo Santos


La Villa at The Cliff Bay is a family home providing all the comfort and services of a hotel. It is ideal for groups of friends or families who simply want to enjoy the sun, the sea and the pool, or as a base for exploring all that Madeira has to offer.

For many visitors, among the strongest memories they bring with them from Madeira is the immensity of the ocean, the inhabitants’ close connection with the sea and the views of the island’s coastline. All of this comes together in a single image: the landscape as seen from the gardens of La Villa at The Cliff Bay.

Straight ahead is the horizon. To the left, a view of the Desertas Islands in the distance and Funchal Bay, the townhouses cascading down the hillside.

The name, La Villa at The Cliff Bay, refers to a house. And that's what it's all about: a large family home, in a prime location on the Estrada Monumental coastal road; there simply aren't any other houses like it. It is the ideal space for family holidays, or to gather together a group of friends. It makes for a holiday with a difference, to complement the amenities offered by the PortoBay group.

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Let's delve into what a trip here entails. Five days in Madeira, the island often referred to as the “Pearl of the Atlantic”. Picture a family comprising a couple and three children in their early teens.

The house has private parking. So hiring a car from one of the many rental companies in Madeira is a good choice. Good quality roads link the airport to Funchal and the entrance to La Villa at The Cliff Bay is easily accessible.

Once through the gates, the adventure begins! Guests are greeted by one of the dedicated team of assistants at La Villa at The Cliff Bay; they will have previously exchanged emails to introduce themselves, ask how the guests want their rooms arranged and what time they expect to arrive.

They are checked in smoothly, and without delay. Assistants are available to satisfy a whole range of requests, from hotel services to information on tourist attractions in Madeira. They are there to make your stay easier.

La Villa at The Cliff Bay has four bedrooms, all suitable for couples but also adaptable for children and people with reduced mobility. The room is spacious and the decor has a contemporary feel with smooth shades, following the PortoBay style. Comfort can be found in every detail, from the large beds to the spacious bathrooms with double showers. Guests are shown around the house and the formalities are completed.

Then you are free to explore. In addition to the stunning sea view, there is a swimming pool to enjoy, and a fireplace in the centre of the garden, where it is possible to light a fire at night. The spacious garden will help you forget that there is a city all around you, with other hotels and the customary urban bustle.

In the fully equipped kitchen a welcome kit is laid on for you. This contains traditional Madeira sweets, fruits and jams, Madeira wine and a bottle of champagne. There is also a selection of bottled water, as well as a mini bar service.

Guests staying at La Villa at The Cliff Bay have the option of a self-sufficient holiday, or they can choose to use the services of The Cliff Bay, the 5-star hotel adjacent to the house. Room service is available and the property has direct and exclusive access to the hotel.

At lunch time, the Blue Lagoon is a good option. This is at The Cliff Bay on the seafront. As you would expect, sea flavours dominate the menu. There is a range of fish and seafood plus suggestions from the chef. It is ideal in any season.

The fine weather throughout the year means you can always enjoy the sea, and as guests at La Villa at The Cliff Bay you have access to the hotel's solarium. After a day out, there is nothing better than cooling off in the warm waters of the Atlantic which surround Madeira.

Plans for an afternoon need be nothing more complicated than a dip in the sea and sunbathing, with possibly a trip to the indoor pool at The Cliff Bay or the pool at La Villa at The Cliff Bay.

At dinner, you can enjoy a unique gourmet experience at Il Gallo d’Oro, a restaurant with two Michelin stars and a green star. Here Chef Benoît Sinthon and his team have a choice of tasting menus waiting for you, all of which can be matched with appropriate wines.

Younger children can be left in the care of a babysitter, a service easily requested through the assistants at La Villa at The Cliff Bay.


On the second day, nothing beats breakfast at the Avista, the restaurant in Les Suites at The Cliff Bay. This hotel is also part of The Cliff Bay complex. The sea is a constant companion, as is the morning sun and the view of the Funchal Bay.

Breakfast is a full buffet, with various suggestions on offer including a healthy food option. There are also à la carte specialities, such as pancakes and eggs to order.

Then… a walk around the island, which may well be towards the north coast. The routes are well signposted, and places to visit are indicated on digital maps.

The first stopping-off point could be the Miradouro do Guindaste, a suspended glass viewpoint that allows you to appreciate the north coast of the island and the sea. Afterwards, a visit to the centre of the little town of Santana, where four small, thatched cottages are open to the public, the Casas de Santana, iconic features of Madeira‘s landscape.

If there is time, the tour could include a visit to the Madeira Theme Park, which offers several attractions reflecting the island's culture and ethnography.

The tour continues; stretches of modern roads alternate with winding roads, which reveal what it was like to travel around Madeira in the past. There are several roadside restaurants along the way, offering homemade cooking in generous and flavoursome meals. Whatever you choose, you will be well served. It's a pleasant challenge.

Heading along the north coast, the tour takes you to the towns of Ponta Delgada, São Vicente and Seixal, where a dip in one of the natural seawater pools is a must. The most spectacular example on the island is to be found in Porto Moniz, located on the northern tip of Madeira.

You can return to Funchal via the Paul da Serra plateau, a unique landscape that provides a stark contrast to Madeira’s predominantly mountainous terrain.

After a long day, you can have dinner in the comfort of La Villa at The Cliff Bay, using the room service menu, or perhaps in the Rose Garden, where there are à la carte options offering Mediterranean-inspired food.


In fact, the Rose Garden could well be the option for breakfast on the third day. Again there is a wide range of buffet and à la carte specialities.

Afterwards, a tour starting with a visit to the Botanical Gardens is a good option. Hundreds of species from different ecosystems coexist here, all adapted to Madeira's versatile climate. There is no shortage of hidden corners to photograph and areas of great beauty, with an easy-to-understand route that is well signposted and explained.

Another option to consider on a visit to Madeira is exploring the mountains. On the way up, you could stop off at Abrigo do Pastor or Abrigo do Poiso, two restaurants in converted mountain shelters, originally for shepherds and travellers, which offer food with a winter flavour, including game and traditional fare.

This makes for a much-needed stop before ascending Pico do Areeiro, the third highest mountain on the island at 1,861 metres, and the highest it is possible to go by car. It is less crowded in the afternoon, so it is advisable to visit after lunch.

The peak offers a view right across Madeira, sometimes above the cloud cover, particularly over the mountain range that divides the island into its northern and southern slopes.

Then we head downhill, more than a thousand metres, to Ribeiro Frio, an area of Laurissilva forest that looks like something out of a fairy tale. The lush vegetation and rushing streams provide the main colours and sounds.

One of the shortest recommended walking trails in Madeira starts from Ribeiro Frio, the Vereda dos Balcões, PR11. It is almost 3 kilometres (round trip), and helps you understand what a Madeiran levada is, as you plunge into the Laurissilva forest and enjoy the rich landscapes of the island's interior. The route converges at a viewpoint with a stunning panorama.

But there is still time for a trip to the west of the island. Ideally, look on the map for Venda do André, in Quinta Grande, and try Madeira’s poncha there. This typical drink mixes sugar cane alcohol, honey and lemon juice, and can be tasted in practically any bar and restaurant on the island. But at Venda do André, it is made fresh in front of the customer, so you can learn for yourself how to prepare this authentic Madeiran beverage.

And since we're in the area, it's worth trying the Madeiran kebab. This is beef, cut into cubes, seasoned with salt, garlic and bay leaves and grilled over hot coals. It should be eaten rare. It is usually served with fried corn on the cob, another Madeiran delicacy.

In this area of the island, especially in the parish of Estreito de Câmara de Lobos, there is no shortage of restaurant options, including Santo António, Vides, Viola and Lagar.


The next day, why not take a stroll through the centre of Funchal after breakfast. The capital of Madeira is a town with 600 years of human history, and traces of every era have survived.

Losing yourself in the back streets, enjoying the architecture, the calm of the city or simply sitting at a pavement café could be all on the itinerary. But it's worth stopping by the Mercado dos Lavradores, a showcase of Madeiran products and culinary delights.

Another place worth seeing is Funchal Cathedral, an example of the Manueline style, the late Portuguese Gothic, with its gilded chapels and recently restored Moorish ceilings.

Nearby is the Colégio church, from the Baroque period, which is also worth a visit, as it is one of the most beautiful on the island.

There is much more to do in Funchal; these are just a few suggestions for spending a relaxing morning. There is also no shortage of restaurant options for lunch; but afterwards why not visit the Adegas de São Francisco, the Blandy company’s Madeira wine cellars. This establishment brings together four of the most historic brands of Madeira wine: Blandy’s, Leacock, Cossart & Gordon and Miles.

You can book a customised guided tour, which takes the visitor to places that are not on the usual itinerary. After getting to grips with the ageing and enrichment processes of Madeira Wine, there is nothing like a tasting session of wines of different ages and varieties, combined with cheeses and dried fruits.

To relax, The Cliff Bay spa offers several options, with treatments featuring Espa brand products. The customer can choose from various essential oils, which in addition to the aroma, produce a relaxing, antioxidant and invigorating effect.

There is a massage for couples in the beautiful setting of the spa suite, with its natural light and sea view, as well as a jacuzzi to relax in after the treatment.

A family dinner could be Italian food in one of Funchal's most vibrant restaurants, Il Basilico. In addition to pizza, it has a wide range of pastas, risottos and main dishes.

It is located in another PortoBay hotel, the Vila Porto Mare, about a 10-minute walk from La Villa at The Cliff Bay. Next to Il Basilico, PortoBay offers the Horta, a restaurant where the fish, meat or vegetarian dishes always have vegetables as the main ingredient.

You can start your meal with any cocktail you desire, as the two restaurants share the same bar.


On the fifth day the sea awaits. Waking up early and having a light breakfast is the perfect preparation for a boat trip. Why not try a yacht, chartered specifically for the family by the La Villa at The Cliff Bay staff?

The route, off the south coast of Madeira, includes whale and dolphin watching, a stop for some diving and snorkelling and lunch on board, which can be prepared by a chef who accompanies the trip.

In the afternoon, it is time for tea at the Avista. It is a full service, with sandwiches, toasties, cakes and scones. For adults this can be accompanied by a glass of champagne. There are more than ten types of tea to choose from, whether simple black, green or Earl Grey, to more complex blends, which include names such as Morning Star (herbal with a spicy tea), or Romantic Fantasy (herbs with apple, green rooibos and several other plants).

The view, as always, is absolutely fabulous, one of the best in Madeira.

And this is where the afternoon can continue, with cocktails at the bar, enjoying the sunset before dinner, either at the Avista Asia, with options from several Far Eastern countries, or at Avista, where Mediterranean choices predominate. Here dishes are prepared in a Josper charcoal oven, which ensures slow and succulent cooking of the food.

This is a golden finish to round off our suggestion for a five-day circuit in Madeira. La Villa at The Cliff Bay is your base, with plenty of comfort and space for leisure. And it can also be a destination in itself; it is possible to stay, enjoy the sun, order services, or even cook and simply let the time pass.

When it's time to leave, the staff are there to make sure everything has gone well and to say goodbye with a simple “See you soon!”, accompanied by a smile.

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