Madeira Island is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Europe! With nicknames like “The Hawaii of Europe” and “The Pearl of The Atlantic,” Madeira is home to some of the most amazing hiking and outdoor scenery we’ve ever come across.

From levada walks and waterfalls to relaxing coastal towns and beautiful viewpoints, Madeira is great for all types of visitors.

If you’re looking for a place to relax while also having a sense of adventure, this island is perfect for you. We’ve spent over 6 months here over the past few years and every time we go, we discover something new.

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From the flower festival in the spring to the ultra runs in the mountains, (and given the sub-tropical climate) there’s never really a bad time to visit this beautiful island.

Once you’ve read this post, you’ll understand why we love Madeira so much – and we hope you will too!

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Full travel guide to Madeira

Small village on the coast of Madeira.

Getting to Madeira and travelling around the island

Since Madeira is an island, you can get there in two ways: By flying or by boat. However, there are no public ferries that run there so the only option to go by boat is on a cruise ship.

Taking a cruise ship can be quite exciting but it also means you will only have 1-2 days on the island which, in our opinion, is far from enough time.

So the simplest and most flexible option is to fly to Madeira – and while we sometimes do need to take a layover somewhere, there are plenty of options and you just need to find what works best for you! Below we’ve listed out some more details about the flights and cruise ships.

Flying to Madeira

As we mentioned, flying to Madeira is the best option if you want to spend more than just 1-2 days on the island – and you can get there from almost anywhere in Europe with just a single layover (or direct depending on where you fly from).

You can get direct flights to Madeira from Lisbon and Porto (with flights leaving almost every hour), from multiple airports in the UK, Amsterdam, Prague, Frankfurt, and even JFK (New York). We were shocked when we realized it was faster to get to Madeira from New York than it is coming from Denmark where Jo is from!

Flight prices to Madeira are always changing and, again, it all depends on where you fly from. We have two suggestions for how to find good flight deals to Madeira:

The first thing you can do when looking at flights is to go into “incognito mode (command+shift+n)” before searching. This will keep your browser hidden and hopefully keep the flight tickets low especially if you’re continuously searching for flights to Madeira.

The other option is to browse airfare search sites like Momondo, Expedia, or Skyscanner. Skyscanner also has a cool feature where you can set up flight alerts!

Is flying to Madeira scary?

As a little side note here, we thought we’d answer a question we get asked a lot when talking about Madeira. Is flying to Maderia scary?

The short answer is “no, it’s not scary.” However, Maderia does have a really unique airport! It used to have an incredibly short landing strip but it was expanded between 1982 and 1986 and then again in the year 2000.

The runway is now 2781 meters long which is still shorter than a lot of other runways and this is why all pilots that fly to and from Madeira have extra training. They’re all very skilled and capable and because of this, we do not find it scary to fly into Madeira.

Another thing to note here is that because of wind, sometimes flights are unable to land in Madeira. If this is the case, the flight will either reroute back to its original destination, to Lisbon, or to one of the nearby islands (often Porto Santo or Tenerife).

This is good to keep in mind if you are going to Madeira for a special event such as a wedding. It’s always good to plan your arrival at least a few days before and not last minute.

Cruise ships to the island

Madeira is a famous spot for cruise ships! Cruise ships have been coming to Madeira way before it was popular for all the hiking, canyoning, and outdoor adventures that it is known for today.

Back in the day, people used to come to Madeira for the fancy tea houses and relaxed island vibe. The cruise ships that would dock up would spend a night or two in Funchal which allowed people to explore Funchal, the tea houses, and of course, some nearby levada walks.

Still to this day, cruise ships make up a large part of Madeira’s tourism. If you’re looking at that option you can take a look at for example Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, and AIDA (this one is mostly catered to Germans).

Getting around the island

Madeira is a small island of 740 km2 (286 square miles). It’s 55 km (34 miles) long and 22 km (13.5 miles) wide. You can get from one side of the island to the other in around 1 hour and 15 minutes by car – so the island is pretty small!

But just because it’s small, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of stuff to do as you will see throughout this post!

Renting a car in Madeira

Dom and his rental car exploring Madeira Island.

If you’re coming to Madeira for a week or two and want to see as much as possible, renting a car is a good idea. This makes it super easy and convenient to just pack up and go every day and drive straight to the trailhead, viewpoint, or whatever you want to experience on that given day.

We have two dedicated blog posts about what it’s like driving in Madeira and how to rent a car from Madeira Airport that you can read if you want all the details.

We personally find it really easy to rent a car there, and it’s usually pretty affordable (starting at €30 a day + insurance). As for the driving, there are some steep roads that can be interesting to navigate, however, the majority of the island is connected by a 2-lane highway so we find it easy to drive around for the most part.

The best way to find a good deal is to check DiscoverCars. It’s a search engine that compares the price and cars from all the different car rental companies on Madeira.

A little tip to find a good car for a good price is to book the car in advance – especially during the peak seasons which are from June through August and around Christmas and New Year as well.

Click this image below to search for a car on DiscoverCars:

Picture of a car rental from Madeira Airport in Portugal.

Also read: Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Madeira

Getting around by public transport

If you don’t drive or prefer to get around Madeira without one, that’s definitely possible! There is a great public transport system on the island – especially if you’re staying in the capital, Funchal. However, it’s not completely without flaws.

There are three different public transport companies in Madeira: Rodoeste, SAM, and Horários do Funchal – each of which covers a different part of the island. Rodoeste covers the west side, SAM covers the east (and the airport bus), and Horários do Funchal covers Funchal’s city and surrounding areas.

While you can get to pretty much anywhere around the island by bus, it often takes longer and is less convenient than having a car or going on a guided tour – but it’s totally possible if you plan it well!

Google Maps is also getting better at showing the timetables from A to B but keep in mind that not everything will show up there so the best way to plan is by looking directly at the individual bus companies’ websites for timetables.

Different types of accommodation around Madeira

Madeira is known for its amazing accommodation. We’ve stayed in some of the most beautiful hotels on the island like Quinta do Furao (the place you see in the pictures above) but we’ve also stayed in long-term accommodation through Flatio and we’ve always been pleased.

The beauty of Madeira is you’ll find all sorts of different accommodations from villas and boutique hotels to hostels and private apartments right in the heart of Funchal.

Whatever the budget or type of accommodation you’re looking for you’ll be able to find here in Madeira. Below we’ve listed some of the places of accommodation we think are the best options (some of which we’ve stayed in and some of which friends of ours have stayed in):

Luxury hotels Madeira

Mid-range hotels

Unique stays in Madeira (villas, boutique hotels, glamping)

Hostels in Madeira

Dining in Madeira

Madeira has a lot of delicious local dishes and drinks and a ton of incredible produce that’s grown right here on the island!

Since Madeira is an island you can expect a fair bit of seafood but they also have some other delicious local meals (with meat or vegetarian) and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that we didn’t know about until visiting for the first time!

Best cafes in Funchal

There are some great cafes and coffee shops all around the island but some of the best ones can be found in Funchal since it’s the biggest city on the island and the most popular place for people to visit.

We’ve listed out some of our favourites before but we also have a full blog post with the best cafes in Funchal here.

Three House Cafe

Three House is one of the coolest cafes in Funchal! It has one of the best locations and even has a nice outdoor patio on the third floor if you want to eat outside in the sun while looking at the city and the water in the distance.

The food is exceptional (especially their brunch) and the coffee is also amazing as they get locally roasted beans from Monte (just above Funchal)! Sometimes we go to Three House just for their coffee.

Land Food & Coffee
Inside Land Food & Coffee shop in Funchal.

This is another amazing café near Funchal (in Monte) that’s worth a visit. You can get here by taking the cable car and combining it with a visit to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden or you can take a Bolt or taxi here.

If you’re up for a bit of an adventure you can also hike to Monte via the Levada dos Tornos to Monte in Funchal. Whenever we do Levada dos Tornos (we’ve done it a few times) we always stop by Land Food & Coffee after.

Fun fact: This is actually where they roast the coffee beans which they use at ThreeHouse.

Padaria Pastelaria Mariazinha
A Chinesa coffee and two Pasteis de Natas

If you’re looking for a local and authentic coffee experience, this is the place to go! While this is more of a bakery and coffee shop than a café, you can get lots of good food here.

We recommend going first thing in the morning to get the best local experience where you have your coffee (and maybe a Pasteis de Nata or a Queijada) inside the bakery leaning over the bar.

Even though it is located in the heart of Funchal on Rua de Santa Maria it’s still very much a local gem and one of our favourite places in Funchal!

Other cafes in Madeira

Tea Houses are also very popular in Madeira so if you’re looking for a more high tea experience you can check out visiting Reid’s Palace, Loja do Cha, or Quinta Jardins do Lago (at their Colombo Bistro)!

We have a full guide to the best cafes in Funchal here where we highlight more of our favourite cafes and coffee shops in the city. These cafes are also all highlighted on our Madeira Maps.

📍 Want to know about all the best spots in Madeira?
Then check out our Madeira Maps with +135 locations around the island that we have personally visited and love! 🗺️

Must try restaurants in Madeira

There are so many delicious restaurants in Madeira that we couldn’t possibly list them all out here. We’ve listed out a few of our favourites below, most of which are located in Funchal since that’s where we spent the most time and also where the majority of visitors decide to stay when they visit the island.

Overall, the most popular place to have dinner in Funchal is on Rua de Santa Maria which is a pretty cobble-stoned street full of painted doors.

It’s worth visiting this street at least twice during your visit to Funchal: Once in the morning to see the painted doors and try out the bakery we recommended above and once for dinner!

Restaurante Taberna Ruel

This is one of our favourite restaurants on Rua de Santa Maria where you’ll have the chance to try out the famous “Madeiran Espada” and “Espetada” (two of the most famous Madeira meals which we’ll share more on in just a minute).

Aromas de Italia
The chicken fusilli at Aromas de Italia is so good!

This is a super cute, small Italian restaurant that serves the most delicious pasta we’ve had outside of Italy. It’s freshly made every day and they even have a big parmesan cheese which they will stir your food in if you order pasto carbonara. Seriously so good!

We know it’s not local cuisine but when you spend a few months in a place like we do, it’s fun to try out different types of cuisine as well!

Casa do Farol

Located in Câmara do Lobos (a cute fisherman town next to Funchal) you’ll find this delicious local restaurant which serves great traditional food. Their tomato soup with egg and Espada fish with banana and passion fruit are both really good options!

According to the restaurant, this is also the birthplace of the ‘Nikita’ which is a famous drink here on the island. Think alcoholic (or non-alcoholic) milkshake made with homemade ice cream. Yum!

There are plenty of other delicious restaurants in Funchal and around the whole island. If you’re spending some time in Funchal we highly recommend going on a food tour (this one is really good) where you’ll have a local guide share all the best spots, things to try and hidden gems.

Food markets in Madeira

Mercado dos Lavradores

This is probably the most popular market in all of Madeira. It’s located right next to Rua de Santa Maria and the market is inside this historic building where you can find all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, seeds, and freshly caught fish.

It’s a beautiful market and there’s a good chance you’ll walk by it as you’re out exploring Old Town Funchal since it’s in a very central location near the water.

It’s definitely worth checking out and seeing all the fruit but please know that this is a very overpriced market since it is catering to tourists and foreigners. For a more local price, you can check out the fruit shop we normally go to about 10 minutes away (map location here).

Santo da Serra Mercado

The Santo da Serra Farmers Market is a very different market than Mercado dos Lavradores. It’s a bit out of the way but it’s a lot more authentic and more affordable as well!

You’ll need a car to visit this market as it’s up in the mountains in Santo da Serra but it is well worth the visit – and if you do go, make sure you try out the orange cake 😉

This will be a great way to get a feel for the local lifestyle here in Madeira!

Local cuisine and dishes

Madeira has a lot of great local and traditional dishes and drinks that they’re very proud of! Some are similar to what you can find on the mainland of Portugal with a Madeiran twist – and some are completely unique like the black scabbard fish with banana!

Espada com Banana

This is one of Dom’s favourite meals in Madeira! It’s a black scabbardfish fish that, supposedly, can only be found in Madeira and Japan!

The fish is fried and served with a banana on top – sometimes even with passionfruit too. We know this sounds weird but if you like fish, you absolutely have to try this meal at one of the local restaurants in Madeira.

Espetada

You’ll be able to find this dish at most taverns and local restaurants! It’s basically a beef skewer that is grilled the traditional way – and oftentimes they use wood from the laurel trees to grill the meat.

Locals tell us that we need to order this meal at restaurants that serve them on laurel skewers, however, we were also told that the laurel trees are now protected and that it is no longer allowed to create laurel skewers.

Unless the restaurant already has laurel skewers, they will only be able to serve them on metal skewers. Personally, I don’t think there’s a huge difference in flavour between the two so either way, it’s a good meal to try!

Bolo do Caco

Bolo do Caco is a bread you’ll see almost everywhere on the island from the grocery store to almost any cafe you go to. It’s soft and fluffy and tastes great!

It’s probably the most famous bread on the island and we love to get the garlic bread version of it. It’s nice with soup, as a starter, or even if you use it as sandwich bread.

Milho Frito

Milho Frito is basically fried cornmeal cubes and they’re super popular to get as a side dish with meat or fish. If you order fish or meat at any traditional restaurant in Madeira you’ll most likely get Milho Frito (or potatoes) as a side!

Local wine and drinks

Madeiran Wine

The name speaks for itself! This is a traditional wine that is famous on the island and it’s actually something Dom’s not sold on but Jo likes it – and maybe you will too.

It’s a fortified wine (similar to Port Wine, but don’t tell anyone we said that 😉). You can get it in different ages and styles like dry or sweet but we do think it’s an acquired taste! You can let us know what you think about it after trying it!

Poncha

Poncha is an alcoholic drink that’s mainly made from sugarcane rum, honey, and lemon juice! Some bars also have tons of different flavours that are worth trying. Beware, Poncha is highly addictive (and very high in alcohol percentage)!

The best place to try out Poncha in Funchal is at Rei da Poncha. We really like the black one (made with black vodka) and the tomate inglés one.

Fun fact: The sugarcane rum is made right here in Madeira and is one of only two factories on the island.

Nikita

If you thought Espada com Banana was weird, you need to try a Nikita which is a combination of beer, vanilla ice cream, and wine! We’re not joking! It sounds super weird but it is so good and you have to try it at least once while you’re in Madeira (non-alcoholic options are often available).

Jo’s favourite is the strawberry one at Rei da Poncha and Dom’s favourite is the passionfruit one from Bar Number Two.

Coral beer

Coral is a traditional and local beer to Madeira and the go-to for most locals. In our opinion, this is just an average beer. We might be biased because we’ve lived in Prague for a few years but there isn’t really anything special about this beer.

Brisa Maracujá

Brisa, on the other hand, is very special and you need to try this passionfruit drink when you’re visiting Madeira! It’s a pop/soda (whatever you want to call it) with real passionfruit juice in it – and it is a locals’ favourite.

Fanta and other brands have tried to replicate it and make their own version of it but they’re just not quite as good. So make sure to try the original Brisa!

Out of all the traditional meals and drinks in Madeira, I would say to get the Espada Com Banana paired with a Nikita at Casa do Farol (the restaurant in Camara de Lobos we recommended). 

It’s such a unique meal and something that is very local to Madeira! We’d love to hear what you think about it after trying it so please let us know!

Outdoor activities in Madeira

Beautiful sunrise in Madeira.
Jo in front of Agua d’Alto Waterfall
Dom rappelling down a waterfall

The outdoor scene is one of the primary reasons why people go to Madeira these days. With the island being more accessible than ever (thanks to the upgrade of the highway and the tunnels) the amount of outdoor activities we can do around the island has continued to grow. 

From the iconic levada walks to canyoning down mountain streams to mountain biking. the island has really become an adventure playground – and we love it!!

On top of the mountain activities, there is also great scuba diving (which a lot of people don’t know about), snorkelling, and surfing so there are a ton of more outdoor activities to do!

Hiking trails around Madeira

The hiking/walking trails around Madeira are one of the many reasons we keep coming back to this island over and over! From levada walks to waterfalls there’s a nice variety of lengths and difficulties to do.

One thing we also love about hiking in Madeira is that there are no dangerous animals on the island (no snakes, no bears, or whatever else you might be used to). The main thing you need to look out for is the weather and the safety of the trail.

You can read this guide with the apps you should download before visiting Madeira.

Levada walks
  • Levada do Moinho –  Less touristy and beautiful waterfall 
  • Levada dos Tornos to Monte – Near Funchal and stop by cute tea house
  • PR18 Levada do Rei – One of the easiest yet beautiful levada walks
Mountain & Coastal hikes
A guy posing for a picture at the top of Pico do Arieiro!
A girl posing for a picture along the Pico do Arieiro trail in Madeira.
  • PR1 Pico do Arieiro – The most iconic hike in Madeira, also known as the Madeira’s Stairway to Heaven
  • Vereda do Larano – Stunning coastal hike
  • PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço – Beautiful views the whole way
Waterfall hikes
  • Cascata Agua D’Alto Waterfall
  • Levada do Alecrim
  • Caldeirão Verde Waterfall – Another top contender for one of the most unique hikes in Madeira

Also read: Top 10 Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Madeira

Water sports around Madeira

Madeira might not be famous for water sports but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. There are actually a few great spots to surf around Machico, Seixal, and Porta da Cruz.

The whole scuba and snorkeling scene is also completely underrated – and if you’re into that you’ll definitely find some spots around the island. There’s a chance you get to see blue sharks, hammerheads (although they’re pretty shy), manta rays, whales and dolphins!

On top of surfing and scuba diving, you also have some more soft adventures like going on a boat tour and kayaking & snorkelling.

Of course, if you love boats of any kind you’ll be able to sail and kayak in Madeira!

Adventure sports around Madeira

Lastly, we also want to highlight some of the more adventurous activities for those who want a bit of an adrenaline rush! Madeira has a great variety of adventure sports for all the thrill seekers!

We’ve been canyoning in Madeira a few times trying out both levels 1 and 2 and they were both amazing. Something we definitely recommend to anyone who wants to try it or has done it before.

Sightseeing and attractions to do around Madeira

One thing we absolutely love about the island is the amount of different sightseeing tours you can do! You can either go on a guided tour (very affordable) and just lean back and relax or you can rent your own car in Madeira and go explore on your own!

Natural attractions to visit in Madeira

Laurisilva Forest
A man standing next to an old Laurel tree in Fanal Madeira.
A couple posing for a photo in the Fanal Forest.

The Laurisilva Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madeira and it is one of the most unique places on the island when you have the right weather conditions. If you go on a moody day it looks like something straight out of a fairytale! (however, it’s also stunning on a clear, sunny day).

You can do a guided tour of the famous Fanal Forest or you can go on your own – either by driving there or hiking along the PR13.

Cabo Girao Skywalk
Looking down from the Cabo Girao Skywalk in Madeira.
It’s hard to comprehend but there’s 580 meters down from Cabo Girão

If you go on a Madeira West tour you will stop by this famous cliff edge spot which is one of the highest accessible sea cliffs in the world. Standing 580 meters (1903 feet) directly above the ground below, this is not for people with a fear of heights!

You can visit the Cabo Girão Skywalk yourself if you go by bus or rent a car. You can read more about Cabo Girão here.

Porto Moniz Rock Pools
Velhas Natural pool in Porto Moniz.

The rock pools in Porto Moniz are well worth a visit and a great place to swim on a warm, sunny day! A lot of people don’t know this, but there are actually two natural pools in Porto Moniz: Piscinas Naturais do Porto Moniz and Piscinas Naturais Velha.

The two natural pools are located just a short 5-10 minute walk apart and both are worth a visit. The Piscinas Naturais Velha are the ones you see in the photos above and are free to enter. Piscinas Naturais do Porto Moniz is the more popular one to visit and that one costs €3 to enter.

You can also visit the rock pools on this guided tour! You can also drive there yourself and make a day out of it!

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Also read: 3 Natural Pools You Need to Visit in Madeira

Cultural and historic sights

Funchal Old Town 
View from our free walking tour in Funchal, Madeira.

Funchal Old Town is well worth a visit and where we usually spend the most time when we visit Madeira. We find that Old Town Funchal is one of the best ways to get a proper sense of Madeiran culture, the food, and the people!

You can walk around Rua Santa de Maria, along Avenida do Mar, and Av. Arriaga (which is what you see in the picture above). You’ll find a ton of good restaurants, tascas (local snack bars), and shops!

Monte Palace Tropical Garden
Madeira botanical gardens in Funchal.

Located in Monte right above Funchal, you will find the beautiful Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. Madeira is known for its beautiful flowers and gardens and this is one of the best places to really see them.

It costs €15 to enter the gardens and they’re open every day except for December 25th (closed for Christmas). You can find their opening hours and rates here.

If you’re up for a bit of an adventure after visiting the botanical gardens, you can try out the famous Monte Toboggan Sledge down to Funchal!

Santana Cultural Theme Park

Santana is known for its typical Madeiran houses (cute A-framed houses with thatched roofs) but there is also a really cool theme park!

The theme park in Satana is great for families but also fun to visit for a few hours as a couple. On top of displaying the A-framed houses, you can also learn about Madeiran handcraft, experience a simulation of the Madeira Islands, and visit a bunch of cute animals!

You can check out the Santana Theme Park’s website here to learn more.

Gardens and Parks in Madeira

Botanical Gardens

As we mentioned above, the Botanical Gardens are located in Funchal! You can visit them on your own by taking the cable car or by taxi (or Bolt). You can also go on a fun guided tuk-tuk tour to the garden where you’ll ride up in Tuk Tuk while learning about the history of Madeira and the gardens. 

Palheiro Gardens

Jardines Palheiro is a beautiful and peaceful park located 500 meters above sea level just above Funchal. It’s a great place to walk around and enjoy the beautiful gardens as well as the stunning views of the coast.

You can also go on a guided tour and visit Palheiro Gardens by tuk-tuk

Santa Catarina Park

The Santa Catarina Park is a cute little park close to Old Town Funchal that’s always filled with locals and tourists. Inside the park, you’ll find a few cafes, benches you can sit and read a book on, and a large grassy area where you can enjoy the peace and quiet right next to the busy streets of Funchal. 

This is a great park to visit if you want to relax and get a break from the noise of the city. It’s a great place to go and read a book for an hour or two while soaking up some sunshine.

Festivals and Events in Madeira

Madeira is known for its festivals and events and there are a few of the iconic ones such as the Madeira Flower Festival and Madeira Carnival that attract travellers from near and far every year – but there are also smaller less popular ones that are worth a visit!

No matter what time of year you come there’s a good chance some sort of event or festival will be going on somewhere around the island for you to enjoy!

Flower Festival

The Flower Festival in Madeira is one of the biggest festivals on the island and takes place in May every year. For almost the entire month of May, there will be flower celebrations with the parade being the biggest event (the parade is usually on the first Sunday of May).

Carnival in Madeira

The Carnival in Madeira usually takes place between the end of February and the beginning of March. The city comes to life during a parade similar to the famous carnival in Rio De Janeiro (on a much smaller scale though).

During the parade, different municipalities around the island will have their own floats and outfits and dance as they walk down Avenida do Mar. We’ve never been to other carnivals but this one in Funchal was definitely an experience we’ll remember for years to come!

Wine Festival

The wine festival takes place from late August to the beginning of September and – you guessed it – it’s all about wine!

This fest is a great way to learn about Madeiran Wine and the stories and culture behind it. There are multiple spots around the island where the festival takes place so on top of learning about wine you’ll also end up visiting other parts of Madeira!

Christmas and New Years Festivals

From Christmas lights to New Year’s fireworks Madeira puts on quite the show from mid-December to early January. If you plan to visit between these two holidays you’ll be able to enjoy all sorts of different shows and events all throughout Funchal and the island.

It might not be cold and snowing but it will hopefully feel like the Christmas holidays with all the decorations. Madeira is famous for both of these events and their NYE display is supposedly one of the best ones in the world!

Day trips and excursions from Funchal

There’s a reason why we’ve spent over 6 months in Madeira – it never gets boring! From hikes and outdoor adventures to exploring nearby islands, there are a ton of different excursions you can go on in Madeira.

Whether you’re planning 7 days on the island or longer, there’s more than enough stuff to keep you occupied during your visit. Below we’ve listed out some of our favourite day trips!

Porto Santo Island

Praia do Penedo beach in Porto Santo on a quiet day.

In case you didn’t know, Madeira isn’t just Madeira Island. Madeira is actually an archipelago and the name of an island group which consists of multiple islands: Madeira, Desertas Islands, and Porto Santo!

Porto Santo is the second biggest island (although still much smaller and older than the main island) and it is well-known for its sandy beaches and beautiful coastline. Its 9 km long beach actually made Porto Santo win an award as the best beach destination in Europe!

To get to Porto Santo from Madeira, you can take the ferry from Funchal or fly. Taking the ferry takes around 2.5 hours and flying takes you 25 minutes. Taking the ferry is usually the cheapest option and by the time you’ve gone to the airport, waited to board, etc. the total travel time by plane could easily add up to 2.5 hours as well.

While we’ve highlighted Porto Santo here as a destination for a day trip from Madeira, you can easily spend a few days exploring this small island though. Some people even go to Porto Santo without visiting Madeira at all because of the beautiful beaches and some excellent golf.

Also read: Taking the Ferry From Funchal to Porto Santo

Madeira West day trip

View of Porto Moniz a cute little coastal town on the island of Madeira.

We briefly touched base on this earlier, but doing a West Coast tour is one of our favourite full-day trips in Madeira. On this tour, you get to see and explore some of the iconic spots west of Funchal. From Cabo do Girão to the rock pools in Porto Moniz.

You will also go on a banana walk (Rota da Banana), visit a black sand beach with a beautiful waterfall, and see Paul da Serra, one of the biggest natural reserves in the world.

This kind of tour is one of the best ways to see multiple parts of the island in one day while just leaning back without the hassle of planning everything! In our opinion, the West tour is one of the best full-day tours you can do from Funchal.

Santana and the traditional houses

There’s a good chance you’ll see the traditional A-frame houses in souvenir shops, postcards, and paintings around the island. To see them in person, though, you’ll want to go to the north side of the island to the famous town of Santana.

Santana is a beautiful place to visit for a day or longer (we spent 3 days in Santana). If you only have a day, check out the beautiful traditional houses in the town centre as well as the “Santana Old House“, check out the Miradouro da Rocha do Navio viewpoint, and then stop by the beautiful Aguage Waterfall.

Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley)

View of Nuns valley from the top of Pico do Arieiro trail.
View of Nun’s Valley from Pico Ruivo

This small town known as the Nun’s Valley is located deep in the Madeiran mountains! It’s one of the most famous mountain towns in Madeira and the history of the town is super interesting.

When pirates used to stop by Madeira, Nuns would hide in this town deep in the mountains to protect them from being captured or harmed. The town itself is also super beautiful and it’s worth doing a half-day trip here or going on a hike nearby!

Practical information about visiting Madeira

Before visiting Madeira, there is some cultural and practical information that’s good to know such as the language & currency, how to navigate your way around the island, and how safe it is!

It’s also good to know that for example, Uber doesn’t work on the island but a very similar app called Bolt does. Little things like this are good to know before making the trip to Madeira.

Also read: 7 Must-Have Apps for Your Trip to Madeira

Currency and Costs

The currency in Madeira (and the rest of Portugal) is Euro (€). Our guesstimate is that around 95% of all businesses around the island accept credit cards in Madeira and you’ll rarely be in a situation where you need to pay cash. The buses do not accept credit cards and some of the fruit markets are cash only.

If you do feel like grabbing some money from an ATM try to use one from one of the trusted banks in Madeira. There are a few yellow and blue ATMs called EuroNet and you should avoid these at all costs unless you are from a country that also uses Euros. These ATMs will charge a huge conversion fee (the highest we personally saw was €30 fee to withdraw €100) so avoid these at all costs.

Instead, use the ATMs from banks as they will have a better conversion fee. When you go to withdraw the money make sure to “decline the conversion”. By doing this you will then use the conversion that your bank (or credit card provider) gives you which is the lowest possible one.

Speaking of costs in Madeira, we think that things are a lot cheaper than say in the US, Canada, or the UK – but we also go to a lot of local places when we visit. If you try out all the touristy highlights, you might not find it that cheap.

Accommodation can be quite expensive (especially during peak season) but things like eating out, going on guided tours, renting a car, and entry fees to various places are a lot cheaper than in most other Western European countries and North America.

Stunning view of the eastern coast of Madeira!

Language and basic phrases

Since Madeira is a part of Portugal, the official language is Portuguese. However, a lot of locals – especially the younger generation and those who work in the tourism industry – speak English as well so you can, for the most part, get around with English.

Something people get mixed up all the time is that they think Brazilian and Madeiran Portuguese are the same. While they are very similar, they aren’t 100% the same and especially the accent is different. Even mainland Portugal and Madeira have some differences in the dialect, etc.

To make the most out of your experience in Madeira and to be able to communicate with the locals, here are a few standard phrases that are good to know for your time in Madeira:

  • Olá! / Bom dia! / Boa tarde! / Boa noite!
  • Hello! / Good morning! / Good afternoon! / Good night!
  • Por favor
  • Please
  • Obrigado (anyone can say this) / Obrigada (more correct usage if you are female)
  • Thank you
  • Quanto custa?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Posso pagar?
  • Can I pay?
  • Onde fica…?
  • Where is…? (when asking for directions to a place).

These are just some of the basic phrases and you may even pick up some more during your visit but we think this is a good starting point. Even when we use them at the market or at a local coffee shop they go a long way to connect with the locals!

we’ve always found that making an effort to say even just a few basic words in the local language makes a huge difference and the locals really notice it and appreciate it.

PS: If you want to practice Portuguese on an app like Duolingo, keep in mind that they teach you Brazilian Portuguese – so it’s going to be slightly different than what they speak in Madeira. 

Health and Safety in Madeira

Safety and natural disasters
Beautiful terraces along the Levada do Moinho hike.

Something to always keep in mind when travelling abroad is health and safety. Generally speaking, Madeiar is very safe (amongst one of the safest holiday destinations in Europe). However, you should always beware of petty crime anywhere you go.

You also need to pay attention to the weather – especially when going outdoors. If it’s raining or has been raining a lot recently, make sure the trail is in good condition if you’re going hiking for example. Madeira has multiple micro-climates so always check the weather for the specific area you’re visiting.

You also want to be careful before going into the water. Especially on the north side of the island as there are often strong currents. Always look out for flags or a lifeguard and only go in if it seems safe.

In terms of natural disasters, some people think that there are active volcanoes on Madeira since it’s a volcanic island. However, there are no active volcanoes on Madeira anymore!

The only natural disaster that can happen here is an occasional earthquake but these aren’t common and only happen every few years (we actually felt one back in 2022 during our first visit). This is not something you should be worried about though.

Personal safety and responsibility

The main thing to keep an eye out for while visiting Madeira is your personal safety when enjoying the outdoors. Always go prepared when you’re exploring the outdoors – wear and use proper gear, check the weather and trail conditions before hiking, and bring enough food and water for your trip.

You should also always have travel insurance for your trips, adventures, or holidays. We recommend SafetyWing as a travel medical insurance because you can literally buy it the day you leave for your trip and it’s super affordable.

From as little as $2 a day ($56.28 for 4 weeks) you can travel stress-free with SafetyWing. They have excellent and personal customer support and they can help you answer any question you may have about your policy.

It’s also good to know that the hospitals and the healthcare system in Madeira is very good. 

Nomad Insurance photo from Safety Wing.

Other travel tips for Madeira

If you’re planning to come to Madeira and know the dates already we suggest you go ahead and book your flights, accommodation, and car rentals in advance. Madeira doesn’t have to be expensive but if you leave stuff till the last minute it can get more costly.

In terms of guided tours, these rarely have to be booked far in advance – unless you’re travelling during peak season. Entry tickets to museums and restaurants usually don’t need to be booked in advance.

Lastly here are a few resources that may help with planning and organizing your trip to Madeira:

Other than that, we think we’ve covered everything you need to know about Madeira in this blog post. If you want your planning to be easy, we have created a map of Madeira with all sorts of fun and unique places you can find around the island here.

And if you need any additional help planning your trip, we can do that as well. Reach out to us here and we can create a customized itinerary for you!

📍 Want to know about all the best spots in Madeira?
Then check out our Madeira Maps with +135 locations around the island that we have personally visited and love! 🗺️

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Recap of the ultimate guide to Madeira

Photo of Camara de Lobos Bay and beach in Madeira.
The cute fisherman village, Camara do Lobos

We hope this guide covers all of the questions you have about Madeira and that it gives you some inspiration for your trip! If you’ve made it this far, well done – this was a big post!

As you can see, there are a ton of things to do in Madeira and even though we’ve spent 6 months here, we still have more things to learn and discover!

If you have any additional questions or need help with anything, feel free to DM us on Instagram or leave a comment below. We’re more than happy to help with any questions you may have!

Have an awesome time in Madeira! We can’t wait to hear about it so please drop a comment and let us know about your experience!

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