Things to do in Madeira, Portugal, The Hawaii of Europe

Travel Advisor Miguel Lopez sitting on a cliff edge during day time.
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Miguel Lopez

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  • Nature Escapes

  • Food & Wine

  • Madeira

  • Relaxation

  • Romantic

  • Local Food

Things to do in Madeira, Portugal, The Hawaii of Europe
Curator’s statement

In July 2023, my fiancé and I spent five days on the impressive island of Madeira in Portugal. The many tunnels through the island's mountainous landscape bring about a sense of exploration. This is the perfect destination for travelers who want a mix of activity and relaxation. The exhilarating activities and stunning views made this an unforgettable trip, and I highly recommend this destination to my clients.

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Where to stay

Saccharum Resort & Spa

Your Madeira retreat, where modern luxury, ocean vistas and island relaxation converge for a delightful stay on the Portuguese archipelago

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.

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  • Daily breakfast.

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Saccharum Resort & Spa in Calheta is where I would recommend you stay while exploring the western side of the island. The resort is located about 50 minutes from the airport, or 40 minutes from the capital, Funchal. The daily breakfast buffet is the best I have ever experienced, including an omelet station. The rooftop lounge is the perfect place to relax and unwind, with views of the ocean, and they often have live music.

Things to do in Madeira: Tours

Paragliding with Madeira Wings

This tour is a must for those that enjoy an adrenaline rush and beautiful views from the sky. The team at Madeira Wings, Rui and Alicia, are kind souls, and they will make you feel welcome on the island.

Dolphin and Whale Watching

The waters around Madeira are home to many whales and dolphins. Seeing these animals in the wild allows you to appreciate how awesome our plant is, and doing it on a boat that includes snacks and beverages, and allows you to take a dip in the ocean is a plus.

Dolphin Adventure Tour

If you would like an opportunity for an exciting dolphin tour. Go on a dolphin watching tour that gives you the possibility of entering the water with the dolphins!

Walk through Asian-inspired gates at Monte Palace

Image 1: Walk through Asian-inspired gates at Monte Palace ; Image 2: Paragliding above the madeiran coastline with Madeira Wings

Sunrise at Seixal Beach

Image 1: Sunrise at Seixal Beach ; Image 2: Hiking from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

Hikes

Pico Do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

Make sure you get there early in the morning to witness the most stunning sunrise above the clouds and surrounded by mountain peaks at Pico Do Arieiro. If you decide to hike to the tallest mountain in Madeira, Pico Ruivo at 1862m, make sure to bring plenty of water and hiking boots, and be prepared as this is a long, demanding hike. You will be rewarded along the entire hike with views of the mountains and clouds below you. I would also recommend you book a transfer so you do not have to hike back to Pico Do Arieiro, or do what we did and find other hikers at the end to share a taxi with back.

Ponta de São Lourenço

This is another stunning hike along a rocky, treeless peninsula. This is an easy hike, but it can get hot, as there is no shade.

Things to see in Madeira

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

This botanical garden has clear influences from Asia and Africa. The gardens are home to flamingos, swans and several interesting plants. The most popular way to reach Monte Palace is by taking a cable car from Funchal.

Seixal Beach

I highly recommend arriving to the beach right before sunrise when you will likely have this incredible beach to yourself. The black sand, the rugged coastline in the foreground, and the charming Portuguese town in the background make this beach unique and a must see in my opinion.

Nossa Senhora de Fátima Chapel

This is a quick stop on the way to Seixal. An endearing chapel in the shape of a tower sits on top of a hill in the middle of a valley. You can see the entire town of Sao Vicente, mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean from here. It is an interesting place to take pictures or even throw up a drone!

Fanal Forest

This rare landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage site. A laurel forest surrounded by a mysterious mist, containing trees that are up to 50 years old. It is best to visit in the morning for the best chance to see the forest completely covered in fog for a chance to snap some unique photos.

Dinner at Restaurante Informal

Image 1: Dinner at Restaurante Informal ; Image 2: The view of Sao Vicente from Nossa Senhora de Fátima Chapel

Where to eat in Madeira:

Restaurante Informal

Located in Funchal, Restaurante Informal was a great find while we were exploring Funchal. This was a great dining experience through and through. The restaurant was clean, service was great, the staff were kind, and the food was delicious.

Casal da Penha

If a Michelin Guide restaurant is what you are looking for, I would suggest Casal da Penha. Located in Funchal, the clams are their specialty, but the entire menu looks delicious at this family-run restaurant.

Agua Na Boca

Located in Calheta, this affordable restaurant on the side of the road is known for its friendly service, and large, tasty portions.

Need to Know

Madeira is somewhat of a hidden gem destination that is uniquely stunning. The view above the clouds along the island's mountain peaks was a dream. Sexial's black sand beach felt like having one of the best beaches in the world all to ourselves as the sun rose above the horizon. Renting a car is key, so you have the freedom to explore on your own. I recommend a trip to Madeira to couples looking for a romantic yet adventurous getaway, or to a group of friends looking for a unique destination with exciting things to do.

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Madeira, Portugal. In need of further inspiration? Check out Elizabeth Roberts’s guide, Top Things to Do When Traveling to Madeira, Portugal.

Travel Advisor Miguel Lopez sitting on a cliff edge during day time.

Travel Advisor

Miguel Lopez

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