Home to a range of small beaches of volcanic or imported sand, Madeira offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy some beach time as well as incredible coastal adventures. Here’s how to get the most out of the best beaches in Madeira, including a guide to the top coastal activities in and around the island.
Known for its lush volcanic environment and scenery of rugged beauty, Madeira is more than just a beach destination – it’s an all-round spot for coastal activity. Here we uncover Madeira’s best beaches as well as the diversity of activities that can be found in and around the beaches of Madeira.
Madeira’s best beaches
Praia de Calheta
Madeira has a variety of beaches made with artificial sand, and this was the island’s first. The unique design of the beach sandwiched in between two sea walls has created an impressive double-sided bay. Praia de Calheta is also a Blue Flag beach with relatively calm waters, making it ideal for families as well as those who enjoy gentle swims in the sea.
Madeira’s largest beach area is actually a series of four beaches – Areeiro, Formosa, Namorados and Praia Nova. A mixture of sand and pebbles, these beaches are full of amenities, restaurants and bars. The promenade and Ponta Gorda bathing complex at the back of Praia Formosa also provide options for coastal strolls, as well as a spot to swim in a saltwater pool.
Praia de Machico
Another of Madeira’s beaches that has been artificially made with a swathe of inviting golden sand, this crescent shaped beach on the east of the island is well protected by two breaks. There are various eateries by the beach, as well as a range of water sports on offer, from jet skiing to more relaxing pedal boating.
Camara de Lobos
This small town is known more for the scenes Sir Winston Churchill painted here than for its stone beach, but it’s worth visiting for a coastal experience that packs a punch. Visit the beach for a walk amid the fishing boats before heading up to the Cabo Girao cliff – the highest sea cliff in Europe – and walk on the glass bottomed skywalk for a view like no other!
Jardim do Mar
This locality has three pebble beaches – Enseada, Ponta Jardim and Portinho – which are particularly loved by surfers. The ideal spot for a quiet stroll, to surf or to spectate the impressive skills of the local surfers, this is one of Madeira’s more off-the-beaten-track beach experiences.
A natural sandy beach, the small but perfectly formed Prainha beach offers a small stretch of black sand amid glorious natural scenery. It feels like a secret island spot, but it does have a handful of convenient facilities too, including sun loungers, sun shades and a café – perfect for a tranquil day out.
For those who want a sandy beach experience while visiting Madeira, a visit to Porto Santo is in order. An island accessed via a two hour ferry ride or 15 minute plane journey from Funchal, visit Porto Santo on a day trip or enjoy a two centre holiday between Madeira and Porto Santo. The island’s beach is widely considered to be the best in the Madeira archipelago, offering a three mile stretch of golden sand with therapeutic properties in between the harbour and a number of pretty villages.
A serene paradise, visitors to Seixal beach can marvel at the brilliant blue of the sea contrasting with the black volcanic sand and verdant green of the mountains. Located next to Seixal harbour, with a variety of facilities available and access to natural volcanic pools, this is the ideal place to soak up the sunshine.
Activities in and around beaches in Madeira
Located near Praia Formosa, Doca do Cavacas is a series of natural pools enclosed by volcanic rocks, and is a great place to have a swim in a sheltered spot of the sea. There are also a couple of eateries here, ideal for a post-swim coffee or lunch. In the north of Madeira, both Porto Moniz and Seixal offer yet more natural seawater pools surrounded by fantastic scenery. There’s also a children’s pool, making it perfect for families too.
Madeira is a sensational place to hire a bicycle and embark on superb coastal bike rides. With trails and tracks suitable for all abilities, cycling in Madeira can involve easy routes or adrenalin-filled mountain adventures. For gentler routes, stick to the paths and trails in and around Funchal, or try the route from Arco de Calheta to Pico da Urze. For more challenging journeys, choose a trail inland of Machico for lots of hills and postcard-perfect views of the coastline.
Madeira is home to various activities that can be done in the sea, which are even available from localities that do not have a beach. Stand Up Paddle Boarding is increasingly popular on the island, with hour-long sessions available in secluded coves, or half day tours that travel along the coastline. Canico and Canical are both popular Stand Up Paddle Boarding locations in Madeira. It’s also possible to embark on other sea adventures from these localities too, including diving trips, snorkelling and dolphin watching.
For those who enjoy a little coastal adventure, Madeira’s geography is ideal for coasteering. Coasteering in Madeira involves guided coastal tours where participants have to walk, swim, climb and jump to progress along a stretch of the coastline. The area around Machico is an especially popular spot for coasteering, as is Ponta de Sao Lourenco.
Canyoning in Madeira is all about traversing the island’s riverways by climbing, swimming and rappelling. Although canyoning usually takes place in Madeira’s interior, the activity offers the best of the coast too, with fantastic views of the sea and coastline to be discovered along canyoning journeys. This is a way to discover the island’s inland streams and to reach secret spots showcasing glorious island scenery. Some favourite localities to go canyoning in Madeira include Ribeira das Cales and Ribeiro Frio.
The immense volcanic environment of Madeira makes it a haven for keen climbers. There are opportunities for people to learn the basics of climbing on the island, as well as for advanced climbers to ascend hills and mountains at Canical or Pico do Arieiro. Blending activity, skill and scenic discovery in Madeira, this is an excellent way to see the archipelago from a different angle.
Hiking with a challenge, Madeira has gained quite a reputation as a geocaching destination. Use a GPS or smartphone to navigate to hidden geocache containers, while traversing some of the island’s best scenery. A treasure hunting game that brings a sense of fun and adventure, discover what other geocaching fans leave in the geocache containers for you, and add something of your own before you leave. It’s possible to go geocaching in locations across Madeira.
Madeira’s golf courses make the most of elevated positions enjoying immense views of the coast. Palheiro Golf Club is an 18 hole course, while Santo da Serra Golf Club has 27 holes. Porto Santo Golf on the neighbouring Porto Santo island is another favourite among the world’s golfing fans. Whichever course you choose, you’re guaranteed some of the best coastal views in the Madeira archipelago too.
Walking and orienteering
The diverse geography and scenery of Madeira means it’s ideal for those who simply want to explore on their own two feet. A number of established trails and paths can be found along the coast or inland. With routes available for people of all walking abilities, go for a short stroll or make an event of it by undertaking an orienteering challenge. It’s ideal for soaking up the best of Madeira’s scenery at a pace that suits you.