24 Spectacular Places & Things to Do in Madeira, Portugal

The Portuguese Island of Madeira is a dot in the vast Atlantic Ocean, on the African tectonic plate. This hidden gem paradise is just a 5-ish hour flight from NYC (direct)! And it is renowned for its lush jungles, volcanic topography, and mountainous coastlines. But best of all, it boasts a year-round pleasant climate that usually feels like spring. Madeira is also particularly special in that it offers beach, mountains, or lush jungles within an hour drive. Having just come back from this special island, here are the most spectacular places to visit in Madeira. Bonus – I added tourist traps to avoid on your list of things to do in Madeira!

Table of Contents

My Madeira Travel Tips to Know Before You Go

I wrote a full guide to the 23 things to know before traveling to Madeira. But here are a few things to know before you go.

  • When to Visit Madeira:
    • Dry season: April to September is usually the dry season in Madeira. This is perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities.
    • Winter has lower temperatures at night and tends to be rainier which makes it the best time to see the strongest waterfalls.
    • Summer can get hot in Madeira, especially mid-July through late August. With temperatures hitting the high 80s. This means coastal/mountain hikers should start early to avoid hiking under the hot sun. Especially for Pico do Arieiro which doesn’t provide much shade. Some waterfalls will dry up in summer. This is also when it’s most expensive and crowded to visit Madeira.
  • Beach life: Many of the beaches in Madeira are actually man-made and filled with more pebbles than sand. This is not a destination to visit if you want fine sand and clear waters (except for Porto Santo listed below). The truly special beaches here are the black volcanic sand beaches! The fake beaches were built to boost tourism and compete with other island destinations.
  • Hiking: One of the BEST things to do in Madeira is hiking the multiple terrains. If you’re an avid hiker, do 3 hikes:
    • 1) A mountainous one like Pico do Arieiro.
    • 2) A coastal beach hike like Ponta de São Lourenco.
    • And 3) a lush green levada hike Levada Caldeirao Verde.
  • Hiking Abbreviations: Madeira’s hikes are categorized by numbers with the letters “PR”. For instance, PR1 and PR7. There are 23 official trails categorized in total. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below, but you can find the official list here
  • Steep Roads:I don’t suggest renting a car in Madeira. It can be extremely dangerous due to the steep 90-degree-looking angles. I recommend you hire a private driver or take guided tours. Ask your driver to take the least steep roads even if it’s a little longer. A tourist I met lost control of his car three times trying to go up a hill, and this is a common story in Madeira. 
  • Flights to Madeira: The landing strip in Madeira has unique crosswinds which require that pilots have special training to land here! Flights can be canceled depending on conditions. If you are in mid-flight when the winds kick in, you may have to land on another island (Porto Santo) and wait for better weather.

Special Madeira Places to Visit & Fun Things to Do in Madeira

1. Calhau da Lapa Beach + Cave Houses ★

The secluded waters of Calhau da Lapa Beach are emerald clear, surrounded by volcanic cliffs, a waterfall, and 300-year-old caves! While it’s a rocky stone beach, it offers uniquely beautiful views and fewer crowds because it’s a little hard to get to. You must use wooden harbor links and stone staircases to navigate the walk here. As for the caves, they have old fishermen’s homes built into the cliffs and renovated into hotel rooms that you can rent out for a long weekend in Madeira.

This tour has a stop at Calhau da Lapa, where you can enjoy a dip and some drinks!

2. Food Walking Tours (Funchal) ★

Madeira has a special culinary scene and gastronomic history, especially throughout the capital city of Funchal. Here are two options for a food walking tour:

  • I did this food walking tour and got to sample the most iconic dishes, fruits, drinks, and sweets of Madeira. We hit up 7ish spots. And the interesting thing is that they switch it up! So no two tours are the same. I really enjoyed this as it had cultural elements and insights I wouldn’t have known walking around on my own. Also, as a solo traveler met a lot of cool travelers on this tour. Ask the guide which places you skipped so you can go on your own after!
  • If you want to add wine tasting to your walking tour, then this food and wine tour allows you to enjoy savory local and traditional Madeira dishes at nine local eateries beginning at Dr.João Brito Câmara. You get to learn all about the area’s history from a local guide with a small, intimate group. You’ll sample six varieties of Madeira wine, which are coveted on the island and have been in short supply since the Prohibition era!

If you like culture, food, and storytelling, add this experience to your Madeira itinerary. However, if you like more adventure and big sights, then probably skip this for the other Madeira activities listed next.

3. Porto Moniz Natural Pools (Public Pools)★

Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and towering mountains, visiting these natural ocean swimming pools is one of the most iconic things to do in Madeira. They are created by sea waves and natural rock formations which collect a stream of pools by the sea. Porto Moniz is home to the two most popular ones on the island. The first is the Porto Moniz private pools, which can have long lines during peak tourist season and weekends, feeling like a bit of a tourist trap. But! Just 5 minutes walking, you can find the public natural pools, which are even more beautiful (in my opinion!), have natural rock formations, and are nearly empty! If you’re not renting a car or hiring a driver, here are some tours that include Porto Moniz.

  • Take a multi-village tour that includes Porto Moniz. This tour will guide you through the villages of Camara de Lobos, São Vicente, and Seixal.
  • Take a deep forest tour with a guide in a 4×4 Jeep to visit Porto Moniz, the black sandy beach of Seixal, the plateau of Paul da Serra (stunning views), and Fanal enchanted forest.
  • This tour will take you to Porto Moniz, the skywalk of Cabo Girão, Paul da Serra, and the Sao Vicente vineyards.

4. Camara de Lobos Fishing Town★

An easy stop between your Madeira adventures! Just 15 minutes from Funchal, Camara de Lobos is a lively, colorful fishing town at the base of the mountains with ocean views and even sea lions! Its cobble-stone narrow streets are packed with activity, from restaurants to shops to a pier where you can watch the fishing boats prepare for their journeys.

Here, you can take a kayaking tour or paddle boating tour to explore the town by the water or take a tuk-tuk riding tour to learn more about the importance of the village to Madeira culture. Camara de Lobos’s proximity makes it an easy day trip from Funchal, or you can book an overnight at the cute local hotel of Pestana Fisherman Village.

5. Doca do Cavacas Natural Pools (Funchal) ★

The natural pools at Doca do Cavacas have direct access to the sea between Formosa and Lido Beach. It’s right near Cabo Girão and has platforms for sunning and stairs and bridges to navigate the pools. You’re only five miles from Funchal city center, perfect for an easy day trip by taxi or just a quick hour or so walk through the city to experience all the things the city has to offer. Although you can quickly get to Doca do Cavacas from Funchal, this tour also includes stops at the Rancho Cable Car, the skywalk, and Câmara de Lobos. 

6. Seixal’s ‘Black Sand’ Beach ★

This beach is insanely nice with turquoise water and was a huge highlight experience of my trip. Seixal Beach is made up of soft black sand tinted by volcanic ash and is so much more comfortable than other pebble beaches. There’s a cool, small waterfall at the end of the beach, resembling a bride’s wedding veil, and you are entirely surrounded by stunning lush mountains with thick clouds floating through for shade. Seixal is one of the best places to visit in Madeira, combined with many tours of nearby volcanic swimming pools and hikes of northeast sea cliffs. 

7. Day Trip to Porto Santo ★

Nicknamed “The Golden Island,” Porto Santo is purely tranquil, with 9km of silky, golden sand beach and water said to have healing powers. You can spend the day on the beach or try a mix of activities, including diving, fishing, boat rides, kite surfing, water skiing, paragliding, and so much more. You can take a one-way or roundtrip ferry ride to Porto Santo from Madeira through Porto Santo Line (the only ferry company currently operating this trip) and explore on your own. For a packed day of adventure, Porta Santa excursions from Funchal provide a minibus to sightsee around the island and learn all about the history from a local guide.  

8. Seixal’s Natural Pools

You can visit two different natural pools (lidos) in Seixal just seconds away from each other, both boasting a stunning collection of lava rocks and natural caves, just minutes from the beach. Unlike some other pools in Madeira, there are some pretty nice facilities here, with options for changing rooms, restrooms, a snack stand, and stairs to access the pools. One of the pools is more open (the first you will see), while the other pool is located around the corner from a gorgeous natural rock archway. The only issue here is the path is extremely steep and can be dangerous if your car doesn’t have the strength for the climb (I saw tire marks from cars that slid back!). It’s best (and safer) to park up and then walk the ten minutes down the pathway.

This tour stops at Seixal natural pools and includes Sao Vicente Caves and Fanal Forest!

9. Pico do Arieiro --> Pico Ruivo --> Achada do Teixeria Hiking Trail ★

The hike to Pico Ruivo is one of the top things to do in Madeira, Portugal, offering views of the island from its highest peak. You can only reach the peak by hiking on foot, typically from Pico do Arieiro (longer trail) or from Achada do Teixeira (shorter trail). Some parts have narrow pathways and steep stairs to navigate. It can be cold and windy, so make sure you’re dressing warmly, especially the higher you intend to go. 

There are several ways to get to the top–in my opinion, the Pico do Arieiro-Pico Ruivo-Achada do Teixeria hike is the best route. You don’t have to do it out and back, and the last hour of the hike is easily manageable as opposed to steeper climbs. For beginner or non-advanced hikers, this is a perfect route to get the same view without the effort. 

To be honest, the views from Pico Ruivo were a bit underwhelming and really cloudy, making it harder to see. The epic view of this destination can be seen from Pico do Arieiro at the beginning, the first two hours of our hike. For these views, you only have to hike halfway to Pico Ruivo before turning back. You don’t feel like you missed anything at all and have more opportunities to take photographs of the landscape and surrounding ocean. 

If you really don’t want to hike the whole way, you can hire a round-trip transfer to drop you off at one point and pick you up at another for $35, which is a steal. However, you have to finish the hike in 5 hours, or they will leave you–no joke. Another option is to use taxis or combine a transport drop off with taxi pick up so you can take your time on the hike, stop at the coffee shop, take pictures, eat, etc. Yellow taxis are always waiting to bring people back down for 70 euros, which you can split between other riders you share the vehicle with. 

Tour Options to Pico Ruivo

  • Pico Ruivo hiking tour with a morning transfer to Pico do Arieiro and return to Teixeria. 
  • You can catch a sunrise tour of Pico Ruivo, where the sun slowly breaks through the clouds below you. 
  • This eight-hour walking tour will take you all the way to the top, through an ancient heather forest with beautiful flora and fauna.

10. Sao Vicente Town & Caves

I think the town of Sao Vicente is one of the prettiest villages in Madeira, nestled into a valley and surrounded by green mountains and hidden caves. The caves here have really cool rock formations and hidden lakes created after a volcanic eruption over 890,000 years ago! The town itself is spread through dense laurel grove, with cobblestone streets and elegant homes. You can visit the small chapel from 1692, see the flowers at the Indigenous Garden, grab a bite to eat at the beach cafes and restaurants, or take a tour like this one to learn more about the culture and history of the area. 

11. Faja dos Padres Organic Farm + Beach + Cable Car (near Funchal) ★

The organic fruit and vegetable farm of Faja Dos Padres grows a variety of mangos, bananas, avocados, Surinam cherries, vegetables, and a vineyard they harvest to make local wine. You get to the farm by scaling down a 300m cliff by cable car, with access to a pebble beach and an onsite restaurant specializing in Madeiran cuisine. There are cottages you can book to stay the night and catch a sunset unique to this side of the island. Faja tours will include everything from the cable car ride, a guided tour of the farm, and a sampling of the produce with an opt-in to dine at the restaurant.

If you’re up for a more adventurous experience, I recommend traveling off the beaten path on a 4×4 tour to Funchal’s beautiful destinations!

12. Lush Jungle Levada Hikes & Walks ★ (a MUST)

Lavadas are irrigation systems that flow water, creating lush, verdant green forests with low clouds and waterfalls. Walking through these jungles is one of the most amazing things to do in Madeira, but don’t be fooled–these walks are hikes with steep stairs and steps. 

a) 25 Fontes Levada Walk (PR 6) ★

This walk is one of the most popular in Madeira, exploring the 25 Fountains and waterfalls of the Rabacal. The 25 fountains are a wall of 25 streams that pour down over a fauna-covered rock into a pool below. Departing from Funchal, it’s a full-day walking and Jeep tour that includes a trip to Cabo Girao. 

b) Levada do Moinho Hike (PR 7)★

Thought to be an easier hike than 25 Fontes, the Levada do Moinho walks past the ruins of several water mills: Achados, Levada Grande, and Cancelas. You come in direct contact with Laurissilva, starting in Riberia da Cruz and ending in Junqueira. It takes about 3.5 hours to hike 10.5 km. 

c) Levada Caldeirao Verde in Queimadas Forest Park (PR 9) ★

This walk is relatively flat the whole way, but it’s a long trek (20 KM out and back). You’ll pass the terrace of Levada do Caldeirao Verde and through four tunnels carved into the rock. Spot Caldeirao Verde Lake, mountains, and a waterfall cascading from the brook of Ribeiro do Caldeirao Verde.

This Caldeirao Verde hiking tour is led by a local guide who walks with you on the trail, tells you about the area, gives you a 30-45 minute break at the waterfall pool, and includes round trip van transfer. This Caldeiro Verde transfer, on the other hand, picks you up in Funchal and drops you off at the trailhead. You hike it on your own and then they pick you up a few hours later.

d) Rabacal Levadas★

Rabacal Levadas is one of the most popular hikes in Madeira, with a beautiful waterfall at the end. The waterfall descends from the plateau of Paul de Serra. Some tours also pass the 25 Fontes.

e) Levada dos Balcões (PR 11)

This is an easier, shorter hike, only about two miles, and relatively flat to the Balcões viewpoint. It only takes about 1.5 hours to hike alongside Levada da Serra do Faial, with an opportunity to see indigenous species and spectacular views of the dense green valley. Don’t forget to stop at the rainbow trout nursery at the Aquaculture Center on the way back. 

f) Levada do Alecrim to Lago de Vento (PR 6.2)

Following the Levada do Alecrim, this walk is a one-way 3.5 km hike that reaches the Ribeira do Lajeado spring. It’s considered an easy trail with various views of the forest and access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are also some heather tunnels and a lake with a waterfall you can swim in at Dona Beja Lake. 

13. Laurel Forest of Fanal (UNSECO World Heritage Site)★

This protected forest, known as Laurisilva, is hailed for its biological diversity and paints a picture of what Madeira once looked like when laurel forests were widespread. Within the forest are some of Madeira’s must-see places, such as the 25 Fontes, Paul da Serra plateau, and Sao Vicente. It’s important to choose the right car for this destination as there are a lot of steep hills. You can also choose a guided tour like this one to avoid driving issues which includes Porto Moniz and Seixal, or a private tour to Fanal Forest to go at your own pace.

14. Monte: Cable Car, Palace & Botanical Gardens (Funchal)

The town of Monte has two cable cars you can use to explore the canopies of the Madeira jungle: one to the parish from Funchal and one from Monte to the Botanical Gardens. Within the town is the Monte Palace, an 18th-century home surrounded by a massive exotic plant collection and birds, and includes a museum for visitors. The Botanical Gardens is a highly popular attraction, about a 9-minute ride from Monte, and with an extensive collection of orchids, trees, ornamental shrubs, and an amphitheater. 

  • This tropical gardens tour of Monte Palace goes by tuk-tuk from Funchal and includes a visit to the church. 
  • You can also go by tuk-tuk on this private tour to the Madeira Botanical Gardens, which makes a stop at Old Town in Funchal to explore its rich history. 
  • Madeira has toboggan sliding in traditional wicker basket carts as an added activity to this Funchal to Monte tour (reviews are mixed…people love or hate it) or on this tour.
  • You can avoid admission to attractions by booking a private cable car tour that includes the ride to Monte, admission to the Botanical Garden, and a toboggan ride. 

15. Ponta de São Lourenco Hike ★

Ponta de São Lourenco is set on the eastern point of Madeira in the town of Canical and is full of interesting volcanic rock formations and cliffs that overlook the sea. The landscape is full of evergreen paths and low vegetation due to the winds, with different spots to take a dip in the water. 

The hiking trail Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço Hike (PR8) is a 3 km trail where you can take panoramic landscape photos. It’s moderately difficult, taking about 2.5 hours along the peninsula made of basalt with limestone formations. You can see groups of protected seabirds here, and the paths are generally well-maintained. 

This Ponte de São hiking tour passes through a protected natural park and takes you to viewpoints of the Desertas Islands and Porto Santo. To explore San Lourenco Point, try this guided tour with a picnic lunch. 

Other Beach Mountain Coastline Hikes in Madeira: 

Hiking near the beach is one of the most iconic things to do in Madeira. It’s rare to be able to hike near many beach climates without melting from the heat and sun! Madeira’s mild conditions (outside of July and August) make this type of hiking more tolerable, and the mountains meeting the sea provide unforgettable views. 

  • The Faja Rocha do Navio hike (4.5 km) is on the north coast, providing a flat depression for easier terrain, a steep, rocky hike for adventurous climbers, or a cable car if you don’t want to hike. 
  • Camino Real aka Royal Path Hike (PR 12), is an incredible trail that takes you on an ancient stone path to the highest peaks in Madeira. It’s moderately difficult but long, 12 km one way or 24 km round trip. 

16. Dolphin and Whale Watching + Catamaran Cruise (Funchal) 

Dolphins and whales are a must-see in Madeira and are easy to spot through catamaran cruise boats from Funchal. May and September sport the largest populations of these majestic creatures (including turtles!), and some tours will allow you to hop off the boat to snorkel with the animals.

  • This dolphin and whale tour departs from Funchal Marian and passes Cabo Girão to spot whales and dolphins, providing complimentary goggles and masks for under-the-sea exploration.  
  • Couples and smaller groups may prefer this luxury catamaran tour with an open bar passing Cabo Girão with an opportunity to swim, while bigger groups may like the design of this cruise

17. Explore Funchal Downtown ★

Funchal is the capital city of Madeira, known for its walkability, attraction, and proximity to some of the top things to do in Madeira. 

Things to do in Funchal

  • Strolling: Avenida do Mar is a beautiful community dating back to the 15th century with diverse cultural and ocean views. The painted doors of Rua de Santa Maria are also a favorite Madeira attraction, located in Old Town and known as one of the most colorful streets in the city!
  • Shopping: The commercial areas of Funchal have a ton of shops, both indoors and out. Rua Drive is one of the most iconic shopping areas, while Fernão de Ornelas has the most shops.
  • Museums: The Sacred Art Museum displays a collection spanning over five centuries with paintings, religious vestments, sacred silver, and sculptures depicting the uniqueness of Madeira culture. Soccer is HUGE in Portugal, and you can also visit the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum to learn about the athlete’s contributions to his country. 
  • Restaurants: Grab a bite to eat at TERRA (vegan-friendly and multi-cultural dishes) and Olivia (Mediterranean cuisine)–these restaurants are the best!

18. Go to a Local’s Home for Wine & Food Experience ★ 

Experimenting with different Portuguese dishes is a favorite thing to do in Madeira as they are (for the most part) super fresh due to the island’s seclusion from the mainland. You can try a traditional 3-course meal with this food and wine experience that will allow you to pick your own produce from a Madeira farm before it’s cooked. Plus, you get an up-close and personal lesson on making “espetada,” a specialty on the island made of grilled meat on skewers. 

19. Western Madeira Full Day Tour (from Funchal) ★ 

OK, so you want to hit up several spots in one day but you don’t know how. Here’s where this full-day tour can help you visit popular attractions in Madeira’s west. In one day, you’ll see: Ribeira Brava, Seixal, Porto Moniz, Cabo Girao, Veu da Noiva waterfall, and Porto Moniz’ natural pools!!! This is amazing because many group tours skip the black sand beach and the Porto Moniz natural pools. Best part? You don’t have to drive. You’re picked up in Funchal and taken around by a local guide! Win. Win.

20. Day Trip to Desertas Islands 

The Desertas Islands are rocky islands off the coast of Morroco and a smaller archipelago than Madeira. There’s a lot of wildlife to see here, including bird-watching, monk seals, whales, and dolphins, and hiking throughout the island. Catamaran tours will guide you to all the spots on Desertas Island, including learning about the monk seal conservation efforts, visiting the Natural Reserve, and stopping for a swim. If you want to visit the Desertas Islands and Farol Island, try this catamaran tour for a combined trip.

21. Go Canyoneering Down Waterfalls ★ 

There are so many waterfalls, canyons, and natural rock formations on Madeira that are fun to explore on small-group canyon tours like this one. You’ll start off meetings at the Ronaldo Museum before journeying into the mountains near the center of the island. You’ll scale down waterfalls, slide along natural rock slides, and take a dip in the pools below. Canyon equipment is provided to all climbers (helmet, wetsuit, and shoes), but guests are expected to bring swimsuits, towels, and sunscreen.

22. Try Water Sports in Madeira

Madeira’s climate makes it the epitome of water sports of literally every kind. Some can only be accessed through tours or with guides, and the weather will have an impact, so just be mindful. 

a) Go Paddleboarding

  • Cabo Girao: This private paddleboarding tour offers scenic snorkeling by the sea cliffs. There are some beaches in the area only accessible by the water and tours, like this one, will allow you to visit them. 
  • Câmara de Lobos: The waters here are calm and clear, perfect for this paddleboarding experience, with just a short hike to access the beach and waterfall. 
  • Calheta Beach: For private lessons, try this stand-up paddleboard experience in a protected area with stunning views, and pick-up included. 

b) Surfing Lessons

Explore the best surfing spots on Madeira Island, including Praia do Seixal and Praia de Machico, with this surfing lesson tour/experience with pickup included from Funchal. It is a great surfing opportunity for beginners, and times will depend on weather and tide conditions. 

c) Go Scuba diving in Madeira

Madeira has perfect conditions for beginner scuba divers, including this scuba experience in Funchal’s marine protected area with PADI professionals in a private reef. You can also try this similar experience, but you have to be +13 to participate. 

23. Cascata dos Anjos Road Waterfall (Ponta da Sol) 

Located right outside of Ponta de Sol, Cascata dos Anjos Road Waterfall goes over the ER 101 old highway and is a great stop if you’re in the area or in between destinations but only during a rainy period. You can find it off the Ponta do Sol exit on a small road along the ocean before you go under the tunnel. Your car will get hit by the waterfall, and the road is narrow, so it’s not a place to stop and take pictures. Tours of west and east Madeira will include the waterfall as a stop, but it’s not worth making a separate trip for. 

24. Go Wine Tasting 

Madeira is one of the few regions worldwide that produces wine in the mountains! Estreito de Câmara de Lobos, just 15 minutes from Funchal, has the largest region of vineyards on the island. You can also find wine routes and vineyards between Sâo Vincente and Seixal, in Quinta de Santa Luzia, Ginjas, Fajâ do Barro, and a wine museum in Arco de Sâo Jorge. Desert wines are Madeira specialties, with flavor profiles including hints of oranges, hazelnuts, peaches, caramel, and walnuts in blends presented worldwide. ​​Quinta do Barbusano Winery is a popular spot to taste wine, with beautiful views of the surrounding vineyard, or you can take a tour of Madeira’s wine region with this Jeep safari wine tour.

Viewpoints for Sightseeing in Madeira

I honestly think viewpoints are kind of boring unless they’re a stop between other things to do and experience! So while I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit these places, I think they’re fun to look out for if they’re on the way to your next Madeira attraction. Especially if you love photography.

  • Valley of the Nuns Tour (Curral das Freiras): is a small village in Madeira located in a crater previously created by an extinct volcano. It served as a hiding spot for the nuns when pirates raided the island. I saw this from above when hiking from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. This tour includes a stop here.
  • Ilhéus da Riberia de Janela: Another easy stop between your northwest Madeira adventures. Here, you can admire beautiful ocean rock formations through a wind tunnel. Just a few minutes from Seixal or Porto Moniz.

Other Beaches in Madeira to Consider 

There are very few sand beaches in Madeira, and while these ones are not natural (imported sand from North Africa) they may still be worth the visit due to their softness and proximity to popular places to visit in Madeira: 

  • Praia da Calheta White Sand Beach: Near the town of Calheta with easy access to top things to do in Madeira but without the picturesque views of other beaches. 
  • Praia de Machico: This is a great beach to visit if you are interested in viewing the historical sites and monuments of Machico or if you’re interested in diving, windsurfing, or whale watching. 

Other Cute Small Towns in Madeira to Visit 

Outside of Funchal, the rest of the island’s communities are made up of compact villages–usually gathered around an old church–with deep-rooted heritage to explore while touring the island: 

  • Ponta do Sol: Known for being the sunniest place on the island, it’s one of the most photogenic villages and is considered a “Digital Nomad village.”
  • Ponta da Cruz: A little fishing village with several cafes, restaurants, and a rum distillery. 
  • Santa Cruz: Less than a 25-minute drive from Funchal, with a natural reserve, beaches, gardens, and a golf course. 
  • Ribeira Brava: Named after the waterline, it is a great place to explore local heritage, including the Madeira Ethnographic Museum.
  • Santo da Serra: This can be paired with a visit to Machico Beach and, located on a high plateau–romantic in character. 
  • Machico: The third most populated area on Madeira and a little more modern, with important historical sites for the island as it was the first captaincy of the island and vital in sugar production. 
  • Ilha: Tiny little village in the small city of Santana, located in the mountains under Pico Ruivo. They maintain a lot of Madeiran traditions.

Other Madeira Hikes to Consider 

A few more hikes that are a little less popular or which can be added to larger hikes of Madeira.

  • Cascada Agua D’Alto (waterfall + hike): This is a short out-and-back walk (3 km) that follows a levada to a waterfall. The trail is easy to follow but very overgrown, best done with boots and light pants. 
  • Paul da Serra Plateau (outdoor destination): The only plateau in Madeira, and while it’s beautiful on its own, it’s typically a stop along other excursions like this jeep tour, including a trip to the natural pools of Porto Moniz. 

Madeira Tourist Traps to Avoid 

You’ll find some of these destinations on lists claiming they are some of the best things to do in Madeira, but they’re ultimately taking advantage of tourists. 

  • Mercado dos Lavradores Farmer’s Market in Funchal: They scam tourists. It’s just good to stop here to see and take pics. Also, locals here are super jaded and fed up with tourists, so the service is rough. The only place worth visiting here is the chocolate shop.
  • Wicker Basket Toboggan Ride (Funchal): Considered by some to be a tourist trap and by others a fun experience. There are historical ties to how they used to bring down goods from the mountains. It’s one of the most unusual things to do in Madeira, but not a top attraction on my list. 
  • Cabo Girão Skywalk / Miradouro do Cabo Girão (viewpoint): It can get super overcrowded here as it is one of the top Madeira tourist attractions. Since there’s no entry fee, many visitors go every year. If you DO want to visit, I suggest taking a tour that includes it so you don’t feel stuck here. 
  • Porto Moniz’s Private Pools (NOT the natural/public pools): They’re only like 3 euros, but there is a long line to get in and they’re way more crowded with the tour buses. The public natural pools just minutes walking, are so much better, less crowded, and free! But if you’re with children or need a more accessible pool, the private pools may be a better option.
  • Valley of Nuns: Feels like it’s just a viewpoint from above? Correct me if I’m wrong!

Where to Stay in Madeira Hotels & Rentals

Here are the top two places I recommend staying in Funchal:

  • Apartamento Ferrieros: This is the amazing apartment where I stayed. It was worth every single penny. It’s a bit cheaper in the off-season and pricier in the summer. But I got a gorgeous kitchen, cute town views, and soundproof windows. It was also some of the best sleep of my life! And I felt super safe here. $$
  • Barcelo Funchal Oldtown: Here is where I would have my morning coffee and breakfasts. It has a gorgeous restaurant (indoor/outdoor), a pool area, and a perfect location. If you prefer to stay in a hotel instead of an apartment, I recommend this one. $$$

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