Marvels of Madeira

Travel advisor Katie Anderson smiling for the picture
Curated By

Katie Anderson

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  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

  • Nature Escapes

  • Portugal

  • Bucket List-Worth

  • Sightseeing

  • Coastal

Rocks within the sea in Madeira.
Curator’s statement

Madeira is a true beauty, often known as the "Hawaii of Europe." From black sand beaches to mountain hikes above the clouds to swimming in the natural pools at Porto Moniz, it's a bucket list destination with an activity for every type of traveler.  Madeira is unique in the fact that almost everything is uphill.  They often joke that the only flat spot in Madeira is the airport.  While we did rent a car, Madeira is absolutely doable without a car.  In fact, I would highly recommend utilizing the taxis, Ubers, and tour pick-ups unless you are very comfortable with a manual vehicle.  Madeira is a stunning island and absolutely one of my favorite destinations!

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay in Madeira

Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Madeira

Experience timeless luxury and breathtaking views at Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Madeira, where elegance meets tradition amidst the lush landscapes of Portugal's stunning island. Indulge in impeccable service and unparalleled relaxation, creating unforgettable memories in this iconic Atlantic retreat.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Quinta da Casa Branca

An elegant boutique hotel nestled amidst lush botanical gardens, offering a unique blend of tranquillity, refined service, and modern comfort in the heart of Madeira, Portugal.

Fora Perks
  • Daily breakfast.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Travel advisor Katie Anderson smiling for the picture

Unlock perks by contacting Katie to book your trip.

Things to do in Madeira

Aerial view of Madeira.

A must do in Madeira is a full day jeep tour of the west island to the natural pools! Enjoy the scenic views while letting someone else do the driving up the steep hills and mountain roads in addition to a bit of off-roading. This was a highlight of my trip to Madeira!

Take a Madeira Top Sunrise small group tour (limited to 6 people) for some breathtaking sunrise views from Madeira’s highest point.  This tour is geared toward the active travelers with a 1.5-mile hike in the dark to watch the sunrise.  Transportation is provided to and from your Funchal accommodation. 

Enjoy a half day (or full day) Nature & Professional Wine Experience.  You will visit Cabo Girao, the highest cliff in Europe and second in the World and enjoy an unforgettable experience with the main wine producers in Madeira.

For those traveling with children, head out on a whale and dolphin watching excursion.  This is a 2.5 hour tour with morning and afternoon options and a great way to see some marine life in their natural habitat.  Snorkel gear is provided for those who choose to snorkel.

Take a toboggan ride down the Monte Toboggan run with amazing views of Funchal.  This is a thrilling toboggan ride in Monte wicker basket cars.  This activity is suitable for all ages.  My 3 year old and 1 year old rode on our laps and absolutely loved it!  My 3 year old still talks about this ride.

Go on a full day tour of Madeira East with stops in Santana and the breathtaking views of Ponta de Sao Lourenco (approximately 8 hours).  Transportation to and from your accommodation is provided. 

For the true adventure seekers, try a Canyoning in Madeira Island Tour.  This is perfect for first timers with all of the canyoning gear provided.  Madeira is one of the best canyoning areas in the world.  Transportation to and from your accommodation is provided.

Take a Madeira Grand Experience tour by making your way around in a tuk-tuk (approximately 6 hours).  This is a full day tour, with a private guide, and customized itinerary.  You may stop at the fishing village of Camara de Lobos, stroll through the botanical garden, and see the sights from Cape Girao.

Enjoy a Desertas Island Catamaran Tour from Funchal where you can snorkel,  try standup paddleboarding, and see countless species of wildlife (approximately 9 hours).  This tour includes a delicious lunch buffet of Madeiran food.

DAY TRIPS

Take a ride up the cable car (gondola lift) from Funchal to catch breathtaking views of the entire island.  This will drop you off right near the Madeira Botanical Garden so you can absolutely combine the two for a fun morning or afternoon.

Places to eat & drink in Madeira

Restaurant at sunset on an island.

Dinner at Vila de Carne with complimentary transportation to and from your hotel and beautiful views. Dinner at their sister restaurant Vila do Peixe if you prefer seafood options.

Grab drinks at Rei da Poncha, a lively atmosphere where you can sample the lemon Poncha or The Old Town Bar for some live music.

Make sure to sample the local Poncha, an alcoholic drink made with aguardente de cana, honey, sugar, and either orange juice or lemon juice.

Driving in Madeira is extremely challenging.  They say “if you can drive in Madeira, you can drive anywhere.”  While we did rent a car, it’s a place where I would probably not recommend it.  With the extremely steep, narrow, and mountainous roads and the ease of accessible transportation (taxis, Ubers, and tour pick-ups), I personally didn’t feel like a car was worth it.  Unless you are super comfortable with a manual vehicle, this is a place where you may struggle.  You can choose to do the east, west, north, or south tours of Madeira either as a group or private.  We did them as part of a group, but both options are available.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, A Couples Escape to Maui.



Travel advisor Katie Anderson smiling for the picture

Travel Advisor

Katie Anderson

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Portugal.