It’s safe to say by now that one of our favourite parts of Madeira is the Santana area! Every time we spend time in the area we find more and more hidden hikes, waterfalls, and places to visit.

After a bit of research we figured out about Levada do Cortado and how the trail leads to one of the most incredible viewpoints on the island: Ponta do Clérigo.

Unlike Cascata Agua D’Alto or Aguage Waterfall (which are both located near Santana), this is actually a coastal hike and one of our favourite coastal hikes in Madeira

There’s something so grand and extreme about the coastline on the northeastern side of Madeira. Maybe it’s why we keep coming back to this part of the island.

If you’ve hiked Vereda do Larano or Vereda Boca do Risco to Canical you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. If you haven’t, you now have two more awesome hikes to add to your best hikes in Madeira list! 😉

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Complete guide to the Levada do Cortado coastal trail

The Leveda do Cortado to Ponta do Clérigo is an unofficial trail in Madeira meaning it’s not one of the many PR (official) trails on the island. 

There’s good and bad news about it not being an official trail…

Let’s start with the bad: There won’t be any signs or markings telling you where to go. You won’t know far you are from the coast/viewpoint but you have this hiking guide to hopefully help you in the unlikely chance you get lost.

The good news is that it’s going to be way less touristy than some of the other hikes. For example, the PR8 Ponta do São Lourenço is stunning and beautiful but gets overrun with tourists.

We think the Ponta do Clérigo Trail is equally as beautiful (although very different) but a lot more hidden and way less busy!

Like with most things in life, there are pros and cons to both. We seriously loved this trail and it’s up there with Vereda do Larano and Pico Ruivo as one of the best hikes on the island!

A cool thing about the Levada do Cortado to Ponta do Clérigo is you actually hike above one of the longest tunnels in Madeira. You start at quite a high elevation and hike down towards the coast with awesome views of the Atlantic Ocean (and maybe even Porto Santo on a clear day). 

As the trail continues, you slowly start to descend away from the Levada do Cortado and towards this point on the coast that gives you an awesome view of the whole northeastern coastline.

If you’re lucky, on a clear sunny day you might also see the famous Quinta do Furao Hotel (the bright yellow building to the west) way out in the distance located above the cliffs next to Santana.

Practical information about the Ponta do Clérigo Trail

Distance: 6.8 km return / 4.22 miles return
Elevation: Roughly 1500 m / 4921 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out trail
Length: 4 to 5.5 hours (depending on your fitness level and how many breaks you take)
Difficulty: Hard (the beginning seems easy but then it gets quite challenging)
Rating: 5/5 

Here’s map of the beginning of the Levada do Cortado – Ponta do Clérigo Trail.

Here’s a picture of the beginning of the Ponta do Clérigo Coastal hike:

Finding the trailhead for Levada Cortado near Santana

This is the fun part: Finding the trailhead! It really isn’t that hard to find because there’s a tiny little tunnel you have to walk through to get to the start of the Levada do Cortado. 

The levada is actually quite long but for this hike, you will only hike along a section of it. You can see the exact starting point for the coastal trail here

The hike is tucked away above Santana not too far from the Aguage Waterfall if you’ve been there before. 

It doesn’t really seem like a hike starts from where you’re driving but don’t worry we felt the same way and we found it.

Right near the beginning of the trail, you’ll start to drive on a dirt kind of road and then on the right side, a small tunnel will appear. 

It’s not a very busy road so once you’re at the trailhead, you can try to park your car on the side somewhere near the tunnel. There are only a few local houses down the road so it likely won’t be busy. 

When we did the hike we were actually some of the only people on the trail aside from a few locals. It really feels like one of those hidden gems in Madeira!

It might be why we loved the hike so much! There’s something cool about exploring more off-the-beaten-path places and having trails pretty much all to yourself.

As soon as you walk through the tunnel, you’re in for a world of excitement. The coastal views from the levada trail are incredible!

Hiking along Levada do Cortado

Once you’ve taken in the first bit of coastal views, you can start the hike down towards the coastal viewpoint. Don’t let the first section of the hike trick you. It does get more challenging than this! 

One thing to know about Madeira is that whenever you do a Levada trail, the hike will be relatively flat for as long as the levada goes. It is nice having a little easy stretch to get the legs moving!

So during this first section, as you hike next to Levada Cortado, the trail is super easy and flat (before the descent). It’s perfect if you want to snap some photos of the coast.

Since this is the highest stretch of the whole hike, pictures look really cool from up here. 

There is quite a bit of bush and trees up by the levada so there are not always openings to see the coast but when there are, you can snap a shot! You may even get a view of a bit of Ponta do São Lourenço (the most eastern tip of Madeira).

Once you’ve enjoyed the easy bit of the trail, get ready for the actual hiking to begin! At least the way to the viewpoint is downhill so it’s not bad but the way back is a bit of a challenge! (bring some hiking poles if you’ve got some) 😉

Down towards the Ponta do Clérigo Viewpoint

If you look at the Cortado trail map you can see there’s a little shortcut where you don’t have to go all the way around and go straight down instead. That’s the way we went.

The trail is quite steep but there’s a little plateau that you can stand on and get some amazing pictures. 

It’s basically a big cement block and actually belongs to someone as it’s on someone’s property but we just went on quick for a picture and got off.

The view from the plateau is incredible because you can look out and see the whole coastline. In one direction you have the coastline and in the other direction, you can see the final point you have to hike to. 

Going to the viewpoint is pretty chill since it’s downhill most of the way. You will actually connect back on the same road where you parked your car. Now you’ll just be way further down and much closer to the Ponta do Clérigo Viewpoint! 

At some point, you’ll come across what looks like a little building built into the rock. If you see that, you know you’re well on your way. 

While we walked past it we talked about how it could be a really nice private little pizza restaurant down there so please let us know what ya think once you walk past it. Let us know if we’re crazy or genius! 😉

The final stretch to the Ponta do Clérigo Viewpoint

At some point, you will turn a corner, and you’ll see a few houses down at the bottom of the hike. When you see those houses, you know you’re close. You should even be able to see the viewpoint that sticks out. 

It seems like it’s private property but you only walk around the people’s houses and not through their properties.

You’ll make your way down past the houses and get to a beautiful viewpoint (Ponta do Clérigo also known as the Levada do Cortado viewpoint) where you can see Santana and Fajã do Mar.

There’s one final stretch of the trail that takes you out to the tip where you get this amazing view of the ‘entire’ coast to the east and the west. 

We don’t recommend going too far out on the point as the trail basically ends and then it’s just scrambling on rocks with cliffs into the ocean on both sides. 

We just found a spot we were comfortable with and enjoyed the view from there. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect so we couldn’t ask for much more than that!

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Enjoy the view of the Atlantic Ocean

Dom getting his picture taken along the Levada do Cortado.
View of the stunning coastline near Santana.

If you look to the west, you can see the cliffs near Santana and one of our favourite hotels on the island, Quinta do Furao!

Then look to the east and you can see the stunning coastline and the Vereda do Lorano Trail which is one of our favourite hikes on the island. 

This coastline is really something else. It is so beautiful! The cliffs are crazy, the water is incredibly blue, and you may even be able to see Porto Santo on a clear sunny day!

Make sure to really enjoy your time at the viewpoint because it’s one of the best in Madeira (in our opinion). It’s good to take your time and enjoy the moment because the whole way back to the car is all uphill. We’d say that’s the only downside of the hike.

Most of the time it’s fun having the challenging part first because then you get rewarded by the view and after you can quickly make your way back down. Levada do Cortado is the opposite since the hard part starts on the way back!

Hike back up from Ponta do Clérigo Viewpoint

Let the fun begin! Even though it’s all uphill on the way back you can always take a break, stop, and enjoy the beautiful view! That’s why we hike after all, isn’t it?

You’ll hike back the same way you came down so it’s quite easy to follow. We actually missed the shortcut section when we hiked back so we had to double back and find it.

At the end of the day, as long as you’re making your way back up towards Levada do Cortado you’ll be fine. As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, both trails lead to the starting point – it’s just a matter of cutting a bit of the distance off.

You can look at the trail map for this hike just to make sure you’re on the right path. But if you made it all the way down you should be fine getting back up in terms of finding the right directions!

The way up is quite the leg burner though… It’s not that common to feel that on hikes around Madeira since most of them are quite flat (unless you’re hiking Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo) but it was a nice little surprise. 

We were expecting quite a chill hike before we started this one and it ended up being a nice little challenge. The challenge is well worth the views you get along this hike though so we were super happy! 

Eventually, after the uphill, you’ll reach the Levada Cortado again. From there it’s one last flat stretch before you get back to the tunnel that will lead back to your car.

Who knows, you may end up being the only one(s) on the trail because it really is not that known on the island.

We hope you have an amazing time exploring this coastline of Madeira and take some awesome photos because you should have plenty of chances to do so!

What to bring on the Levada do Cortado – Ponta do Clérigo hike

Like on the majority of the levada trails in Madeira, the trails do get quite muddy. A pair of proper hiking or trail shoes are recommended because there’s a good chance they will get dirty.

This trail in specific has some crazy incline and decline depending on which way you’re going and the trail is quite loose so you really want good shoes for this one.

There are certain hikes around Madeira where regular shoes are fine but for this one in specific, good hiking shoes are recommended.

Also, remember to pack some snacks. Since it’s an unofficial trail there are no shops or restaurants nearby until after you’re done with the hike. The nearest place for food would be in Santana.

You can see the weather for the Santana/Faial area here. This will also help give you an idea of what to pack and bring.

You will be quite exposed to the sun on this trail and it does get quite windy along the coast at times. Maybe pack a few extra layers just in case so that you don’t get too hot or cold during the hike.

Packing list for Levada do Cortado:

  • Water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before hikes and then refill them along the way when we get a chance. Unfortunately, you can’t do that on this hike, so bring at least 1L of water with you if not more.
  • Sunscreen is highly recommended when hiking on Madeira. You’ll be quite exposed to the sun for a good portion of this hike – especially while you’re hiking near the coast and out to the viewpoint.
  • A power bank is always good to bring. Especially when you’re in a place you’re not completely familiar with. For this hike in specific, you may need your phone to navigate to and from the hike.
  • It’s highly recommended to bring hiking poles on this hike – especially if you take the shortcut! Levada do Cortado is pretty steep, so if you want to protect your knees and make it easier for yourself, bring hiking poles.
  • A rain jacket is also good to have in case it starts raining during the hike.

You can also check out this great list of hiking gear to get some more inspiration for what you may need to bring!

The best affordable camera for beginners

The Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera

If you’re looking for the best and most affordable camera for beginners, check out the Sony Alpha a6000 Camera.

This is the camera we’ve been using for years and still use to this day.

It’s perfect for travelling and super easy to use – even if you’re a beginner.

Before you hike Levada do Cortado Coastal Trail

Jo smiling while getting a photo taken of her along Madeira's coastline.
Jo taking in the views along the Levada do Cortado in Madeira.

Check the weather

No matter where you hike, you should always check the weather for that specific area beforehand!

Madeira has a micro-climate so the weather is constantly changing around the island. You can check the weather for Santana/Faial here. This will give you a good idea of what you can expect.

This hike is quite exposed to the elements because you don’t have a forest or anything for protection. If it’s not a sunny clear day then this hike might not be worth doing. If it’s raining, it’s a no-go.

On a clear sunny day, however, you can see the whole coastline, Porto Santo, and the incredible landscapes around you. Plus we enjoy being out in the open while the sun is coming down on you. 

If the weather’s not great in the Santana area, then you can always try the other side of the island. Levada do Alecrim or PR6 Levada 25 Fontes are some good options.

Wear hiking shoes

We recommend hiking shoes for most hikes and levada trails in Madeira. The Levada do Cortado trail is quite steep in a few sections and hiking boots will be your best friend for this hike 

We take our Columbias everywhere even if it’s just on a levada walk. They’re also easier to clean after a day of hiking than runners or casual shoes.

For this hike, definitely wear hikers.

Load the trail map 

We usually load the trail map on our phone or take a picture of it so we have an idea of where to go in case we get lost.

Once you’re on the trail you should have a pretty good idea of where you’re going since it’s an in-and-out trail. You never know though and it’s better to be prepared than to get lost and have no clue where to go.

Just to be safe we load the trail maps on our phones every time we go hiking!

We’ve created a trail map on MapyCZ for Levada do Cortado here or you can also find the Ponta do Clérigo Trail on Alltrails here as well.

Hiking Tip: Look up the trail on AllTrails before starting your hike 🗺️. You can find important trail information such as recent wildlife sights and trail closures. Check out the free version here or get a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+ here.

Leave no trace

When you go hiking (and do other outdoor adventure activities), always remember to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace.

This means:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of others

How to get to the Levada Cortado trailhead

One of the reasons this is more of a hidden hike is that you need a car to get to the trailhead.

You probably could get a bus to Santana and then hike your way up to the trailhead but a car really is the only way we recommend. 

Especially since it’s a bit out of Santana and not right in the centre like the Aguage Waterfall hike. Levada Cortado is located above Santana and somewhere in the middle between Santana and Faial. 

There are two ways to get to Santana but we recommend the coastal way which is mostly on the main highway. This drive is quicker and also a lot more enjoyable. 

You can find the trip details from Funchal to Levada do Cortado via Santana here.

Getting a rental car in Funchal

There are multiple car rentals in Funchal so the easiest way to get the best price is by checking DiscoverCars. There are multiple car rental companies and pick-up locations in the city so it’s super convenient.

Just check what the pickup location is before hitting that booking button to ensure it’s close to your accommodation!

You can look at the prices and different cars on DiscoverCars to see the different options across the different car rental providers.

If you can, it’s best to try and book the car in advance since prices usually rise closer to the day of booking.

Once you have the car you’ll make the trip around the island to Santana. From Santana, it’s a short drive up to the trailhead where the hike starts.

Picture of a car rental from Funchal in Madeira.

Best time to hike Levada Cortado Coastal – Ponta do Clérigo

One thing we love about Levada Cortado is that it is more of a hidden trail so you will never feel like it’s too busy.

If you do this hike earlier in the day you’ll get sunshine for most of the hike as the sun will be rising in the east and cover this side of the island. This is an incredible hike for sunrise, by the way.

The later into the day you do the hike, the less sun you will get.

There’s a good chance though that no matter when you do the hike, you’ll still get a nice bit of sun at the viewpoint since it does stick out quite a bit.

Thankfully the mountains don’t cover it in shade, so from the viewpoint, you should still be able to get some sun for the majority of the day.

Make sure to plan this hike on a nice and sunny day. Otherwise, head to a different part of the island where the sun is shining!

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Recap of hiking Levada do Cortado – Ponta do Clérigo near Santana

This is one of the off-the-beaten-path trails in Madeira and we absolutely love it!

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The coastline over by Santana is breathtaking and really worth spending some time exploring.

Levada do Cortado down to Ponta do Clérigo gives you an awesome taste of the stunning cliffs and nature on this side of the island. On top of that, when you get out to the end of this hike, you get to see one of the best viewpoints in the area. 

It’s an awesome hike and an awesome adventure if you’re looking for something to do near Santana. 

If you have any questions about the hike or other things to do in Santana, feel free to DM us on Instagram or leave a comment below! 

We love sharing awesome things to do in Madeira and off-the-beaten-path spots like this one. Enjoy this amazing coastal hike in Madeira and we hope you have an awesome time exploring the island!

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