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11.08.2022

What to do in Madeira: a complete Travel Guide

What to do in Madeira: a complete Travel Guide

Madeira has been voted "Best Island Destination in the World" seven times and "Best Island Destination in Europe" eight times. Even so, despite its increasing popularity, it is still a little-known destination and considered a hidden treasure.

Many aspects make Madeira a fantastic place to visit. To list just four of those reasons: the mild climate, the wonderful cuisine, its nature and landscapes, and consequently the beautiful places to see and stay.
Find out all about Madeira in this comprehensive guide.


What you need to know before visiting Madeira


Climate

One of the great advantages of Madeira is without a doubt its climate.

Winters are mild. The temperature is never very low and as an island, you will always find micro-climates in different areas; the weather may be bad in one region and sunny in another.

An extra tip; for these occasions, we recommend you use the webcams Madeira so you can see what the weather is like in different parts of the island and follow the sun! 😋

In fact, the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’ is an island full of light, with more than 2,160 hours of uninterrupted sunshine every year!


Transport

To enjoy the island to the fullest, we recommend you rent a car. That way you can easily explore Madeira from one end to the other.
You can also hire a scooter, although this is recommended only for getting around in the city centre.

If you prefer to enjoy the scenery and have worry-free fun, you can also hire a car with a driver.

As you can see, there are options to suit everyone's tastes and requirements.


Cuisine

Prepare for some real #foodie holidays! Madeira is known for its marvellous cuisine, whether it comes from the sea or the mountains. You will eat well all over the island, from grilled scabbard fish to kebabs, to the famous picado (chopped beef) and not forgetting the much-loved bolo do caco (muffin) with garlic butter.


Nature

Walks, viewpoints, waterfalls and lakes, flowers . .. in Madeira there is a whole world of nature to discover. Regardless of which part of the island you head to, you will be immersed in nature. From levada walks and hiking trails to water sports like surfing or canyoning. Believe us, there are no lack of options for activities and things to do in Madeira.



Where to stay in Madeira


Les Suites at The Cliff Bay

The exclusive 5-star Les Suites at The Cliff Bay has a magnificent location and an even better view. Comprising 23 luxury suites, Les Suites combines comfort and serenity. It has an infinity pool facing the bay of Funchal for you to enjoy the immense blue of sea and sky merging in perfect harmony. Les Suites shares its facilities with The Cliff Bay, enabling guests to take advantage of the best that both establishments have to offer.
Every day you'll wake up and feel like you're in paradise...because you really are.


The Cliff Bay

The Cliff Bay is the quintessential PortoBay Hotels & Resort. Here you will enjoy peace, comfort and well-being. One distinguishing feature of The Cliff Bay is its access to the sea, something that is highly valued, especially on an island that offers fantastic swimming opportunities. Here you can enjoy long afternoons in the sun soaking up the beauty of the island.


Vila Porto Mare

A little further down, right next to the Lido promenade, is the Vila Porto Mare Resort. Consisting of three hotels sharing facilities, you will never be short of fun and a different experience every day. In the midst of beautiful gardens, it includes a gazebo with stunning sea views, 5 restaurants, 4 bars and much more.


Porto Santa Maria

In the old town of Funchal one finds the Porto Santa Maria hotel. It is the ideal place to watch the fireworks, either at New Year or during the Atlantic Festival in June. You can climb up to the rooftop and admire the 360º panoramic views, sunbathe and go to the pool, or try out the surrounding beaches. Barreirinha and São Tiago by the Fort, just a few metres from the hotel, are beaches worth visiting.
Nothing beats a hotel with a prime location and uninterrupted sea views.


PortoBay Serra Golf

Escaping the crowds and finding refuge in nature is a privilege that the hotel PortoBay Serra Golf has to offer. This charming boutique hotel in Santo da Serra offers a cosy atmosphere and exudes Madeiran tradition. Here you'll find 90 types of flowers and plants, a heated indoor pool and loungers so you can soak up the sun.



What to do and see in Madeira


Funchal

Funchal is the largest city in Madeira, the island's capital and point of reference. If there is one thing Funchal can guarantee is that you will never get bored, with so much to do and even more to see.

From the historical part of the city, known by the locals as the Old Town, to Avenida do Mar, there are endless things to do.
Starting in the Old Town, be sure to take a stroll around and marvel at the decorative paintings on the old doors of the city. You can also take in the Mercado dos Lavradores, which is a traditional market and well worth a visit.


Botanical Gardens

According to the música do bailinho, “Madeira is a garden” and is widely known for its flowers, so much so that there is a festival dedicated to them – the Festa da Flor.
If this is up your street, then the Botanical Garden is well worth a visit. You can enjoy an exceptional view over Funchal, the sea and the mountains. You can even ride there by cable car.

Monte Palace Madeira

Take the cable car up to Monte and stroll around the gardens of the Monte Palace Madeira. In addition to its natural beauty and the abundant collection of exotic plants, it also has three galleries with sculptures and minerals collected from the four corners of the world.



Câmara de Lobos

Fishing port, with a small bay and traditional fishing boats. This is a very attractive area, where you can also find art painted on the town’s doorways.



Cabo Girão

The highest cape in Europe is in Madeira, 580 metres above sea level. The Cabo Girão viewpoint has a glass platform allowing an unobstructed view below. Prepare to be amazed by the breathtaking views that await you.

Ponta de São Lourenço

Ponta de São Lourenço is the easternmost point on the island of Madeira. It has a breathtaking view, one of the most beautiful in Madeira. Here you can also walk to Cais do Sardinha, go to Prainha or simply enjoy the natural beauty of this area.

Ponta do Sol

As the name suggests, it is a sunny spot where the sun shines for more hours than at any other part of the island. It is a small town with a beach that is much sought after by Madeirans, where you can enjoy a beautiful sunset.


Fanal

Fanal is known for its incomparable beauty; come rain or shine, you cannot help but be amazed. Located in the municipality of Porto Moniz, this area is part of the Laurissilva forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nature and hiking enthusiasts will find several trails such as Vereda do Fanal, Levada dos Cedros, Vereda da Ribeira da Janela, all of which take you through breathtaking landscapes!



Achadas da Cruz

With its wonderful panoramic view of the beautiful blue sea and green hillside, going down the Achadas da Cruz cable car is an experience not to be missed. Enjoy the landscape during the ride and on arrival you will be rewarded with a small beach.



Santana

The characteristic little houses of Santana are one of the most well-protected antiquities in this municipality. This local heritage reflects life from days gone by for the people of the area. Nowadays it is possible to see inside the houses and buy regional products, including handicraft products and other traditional wares.



Beaches

On Madeira the beaches are not the type you may be used to; pebbles rather than sand are the order of the day. Nevertheless, they are beautiful beaches. Most have pontoons, wooden decks or sun loungers for rent, so you can enjoy a beautiful day sunbathing and swimming in Madeira's crystal clear, warm sea.
There are also beautiful black sand beaches like Praia do Seixal, Prainha in Caniçal and Praia Formosa. If you are a fan of yellow sandy beaches, you can always go to Calheta or Machico. If you are up for a boat trip, Porto Santo is another island belonging to the Autonomous Region of Madeira where you will find 9 kilometres of amazing beach, which has been declared the best beach in Europe by the "European Best Destinations” website.
In Madeira, you will also find natural seawater pools of breathtaking beauty, such as Doca do Cavacas in the Lido area and the seawater pools of Seixal and Porto Moniz.



What to eat in Madeira


Traditional food

Where to start . .. we weren't lying to you when we said Madeira is an ideal destination for foodies, because it is!

By the sea you can enjoy limpets, a popular mollusc all over the island, which usually come to the table still simmering in small frying pans! Seasoned with garlic butter and lemon, this is a delicacy you really must try during your stay.

Scabbard fish with banana and passion fruit sauce is another of the island's well-known fish dishes which is part of the local cuisine.

We know what you're thinking, so don't worry! Madeiran food is not just about the sea. Here you can also eat the famous Espetada grilled on a laurel skewer. These cubes of meat are seasoned with salt, garlic and bay leaf, skewered and grilled over an open fire. This dish is, without a doubt, the region's speciality.

The prego and picado are two other dishes you really must try during your time in Madeira. A prego is simply a steak in a bread muffin or bolo do caco with garlic butter, lettuce and tomato, and can also be served with cheese, ham and egg.

Picado regional is chopped beef served on a platter, which is the ideal snack for sharing. The meat comes in a tasty sauce served with chips and fried corn (delicious and typical of the region).

We’ve talked a lot about bolo do caco, but what is it? It’s an irresistible type of bread muffin! It got its name from the flat stone slab on which it is baked, over hot coals, although nowadays it is often made on an iron plate. A bolo do caco is usually served warm with garlic butter; a real treat!

As for drinks, there is the ubiquitous poncha, an alcoholic drink made from sugar cane brandy to which orange, lemon and honey are added. There are several different varieties: regional, fisherman’s, passion fruit, and tangerine. Make sure you try it.

Restaurants

The Avista restaurant, as the name suggests, has a spectacular view overlooking the bay of Funchal. This upmarket establishment is the ideal place to enjoy a drink at the end of the day or to share a meal in good company. Enjoy a range of culinary experiences based on Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.

Despite not offering regional fare, Il Basilico Madeira is a favourite among locals. This Italian restaurant at Vila Porto Mare will win over your heart and your stomach with its wonders of Tuscan cuisine!

For lovers of haute cuisine and Michelin restaurants, the Il Gallo d’Oro at The Cliff Bay is a must. Run by Chef Benoît Sinthon, Il Gallo d'Oro holds two Michelin stars and a green star, which rewards sustainability.
This culinary experience combines refined aromatic cuisine with Iberian inspiration and ingredients from Madeira to recreate the region’s typical flavours.
We recommend that you book in advance, as there is normally a waiting list. Although, of course... all good things are worth the wait (and the best even more so!).




Unforgettable experiences in Madeira


1. Sunrise on Pico Ruivo

Waking up early on holiday may not sound too appealing, but we can assure you this is an experience you won't want to miss. From Achadas do Teixeira a 6km walk awaits you, but the reward when you reach the top will make the effort worthwhile!
Watch the sun rising above the clouds and the colours spread across the sky. .. believe us, it’s an unforgettable experience.

2. Boat trip / dolphin watching

Taking a trip on a private yacht along the south coast of Madeira must be close to perfection, and we can prove it. If you want to experience it first-hand, you can book with PortoBay directly at our hotels or through our website.
You can also opt for a boat trip combined with several experiences that are guaranteed to make your trip unforgettable! Book here


3. Ride down the hill in a wicker toboggan

Make the most of your trip to Monte Palace Madeira to cross one more item off your list: going down a hill in a wicker toboggan! You will probably have seen photos or videos of this experience that dates back to the days when this was a regular means of transport. It's a short ride and a lot of fun. ..hang on tight!!!

 

4. Go to a tasting session of Madeira wine at Blandy’s

Visit the cellars at Blandy's Wine Lodge to explore the 200-year history of Madeira wine and how it is made; and of course, taste the wonderful wines.
You can book this experience on our website.



5. Go Canyoning

Become one with nature and feel your adrenaline coursing through your veins. That's what will happen if you do this stimulating sport! Embark on the adventure of Canyoning in Madeira, jump and abseil the most beautiful waterfalls on the island!

 

6. Explore nature by bike

Madeira has various fantastic biking trails. From the easiest to the more demanding, from sea level to mountain top, there are options for all levels of stamina!



7. Take a jeep tour

The mountains of Madeira are calling you! Exploring in a jeep is a fun-filled experience and great for nature lovers.



Relax and enjoy your holiday to the full

We know that exploring your destination is a very important part of a holiday, but don't forget to leave time to relax and take advantage of everything your hotel has to offer.

Opt for a quieter morning, wake up later, and get out of your normal routine. Live life at a calmer pace. Ask for Room Service and enjoy breakfast on your balcony with a wonderful view, or even in bed! That's what holidays are for.

Slow down and enjoy a spa day! The Cliff Bay has an extensive menu of massages and treatments, allowing you to choose the option that best suits you.

Take advantage of the long hours of sunshine and take a dip in the pool or the sea if you're staying at The Cliff Bay or Les Suites! Nothing says holiday more than relaxing by the pool while reading a book and feeling the vitamin D soak into your skin. Hmm . .. it’s beginning to feel like holiday time already!

All these tips can be found in the PortoBay Travel Guides, compiled in partnership with Stay Classy, a Danish vlogger couple who over the coming months will explore PortoBay destinations and hotels and share their experiences.

Watch the full video and tell us the next destination you want to see on our YouTube channel!

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