MADEIRA IS AN UNBELIEVABLY STUNNING ISLAND OFF THE SOUTHWEST COAST OF PORTUGAL. KNOWN FOR ITS VOLCANIC BEACHES, RUGGED MOUNTAINOUS INTERIOR, AND WARM CLIMATE, madeira is the hidden gem of portugal! In this post, we will go over all of our favorite things to do on the island and why we think you`ll love them too!
Visit Pico Arieiro for Sunrise
Pico Arieiro (also spelled Areeiro) is the third highest peak in Madeira and the highest point that is accessible by vehicle. Known for boasting one of the most incredible views of the entire island, this viewpoint is one you can’t miss! If you get the chance, we would highly recommend going for sunrise. The colors, the views, and your chance of seeing a cloud inversion are well worth the early morning wake-up call. Sunrise in Madeira is usually between 7:30 and 8am, so you can roll out of bed at 6:45 and still make it to the top in time.
Hike From Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
While you’re up there, why not throw in one of the most phenomenal hikes EVER? The hike to Pico Ruivo is not for the faint of heart, but it is 1000% worth every step. From Pico Arieiro, you will lose about 500 meters of elevation right off the bat. This is actually one of the most scenic parts of the hike! You can take in the sunrise views while making your way down the steps that are meticulously perched along rugged ridgelines and steep cliffs.
From there, the trail levels off for a few kilometers as you make your way along the side of Pico das Torres. This portion of the trail is narrow and built on the side of a steep rock wall. There are several tunnels that bring you safely around/through the mountain to Pico Ruivo.
From here, you will climb up a number of ladders followed by a series of switchbacks that will bring you to the top of Pico Ruivo. We estimate that you gain about 600m of elevation gain over these last few kilometers. From the top, you are rewarded with views of the entire island in all directions. The total distance of this hike is 11km with 1180m of elevation gain.
TIP: Get on the trail as early as possible. This is one of the most popular hikes in Madeira and the narrow path can get tricky to navigate when it’s busy. We ran into several hiking tours on our way back to the car. This really slowed us down as you often have to wait to let the whole group pass before you can proceed.
Spend the Day at Seixal Beach
This beautiful black sand beach is located along the north shore of the island in the town of Seixal. If you only have time to visit one beach in Madeira, this should be it! The luscious green backdrop against the stunning volcanic coastline gave us mad Hawaii flashbacks. It’s a great place to go for a swim, bask in the sun, or explore along the coast to find hidden waterfalls that drop right into the ocean.
Hike “The Tail of Madeira”
Verada da Ponta de Sao Lourenco AKA The Tail of Madeira is a hike to the most eastern tip of the island. With jaw-dropping coastal views the entire way, this is without a doubt one of the most popular things to do in Madeira. The rugged landscape and views in every direction make this hike incredibly unique. There is even a bar near the end that serves up cold drinks and runs completely off of solar power. I`ve never seen anything like it on a hiking trail! We didn’t stop in for a drink, but it could be a fun way to split up your hike.
I would highly recommend going for sunrise for three reasons. First, you will beat the crowds and have it almost entirely to yourself. Secondly, there is zero shade on this trail. If you go for sunrise, you will beat the heat and avoid being burnt to a crisp. Lastly, and most importantly, you will get a phenomenal 360-degree view of the sun coming up over the ocean and lighting up Madeira!
Dolphin and Whale Watching
A dolphin and whale watching excursion is an excellent thing to do in Madeira if you are looking for a laid-back day. There are several tours that leave from Funchal, most of which are 3 hours long and cost between 25-60 euros per person. Our personal favorite is VIP Dolphins. Although they are on the higher end of the price range, they offer smaller group sizes, an open bar, food, snorkeling equipment, and tons of room to roam around the catamaran!
Lagoa do Vento Waterfall Hike
Lagoa do Vento and Cascada de Risco make up a massive two-tiered waterfall on the east side of Madeira. There are hiking trails that will bring you to the base of each one and to viewpoints that overlook them. Our personal favorite was the trail to the base of Lagoa do Vento Waterfall. It’s a 7 km out and back hike with about 300m of elevation gain.
TIP: Do this hike instead of the popular Levada das 25 Fontes. We found that hike to be insanely crowded and completely overrated! They both begin at the same trailhead, so save yourself some time and effort and head straight for Lagoa do Vento!
Porto Moniz Sea Pools
Madeira has volcanic sea pools scattered through out the island, but Porto Moniz is the most developed and the most impressive. Located on the northwest side of the island, the drive is well worth your time! The cost to enter is only a few euros per person after which you can swim, bask in the sun, and even jump off the diving board into the ocean. This pool does tend to get busy so if you are looking for a quieter experience, get there in the morning when they open.
Pico Grande Hike
Pico Grande seems to be lesser-known and less busy than other hikes in Madeira but I have no idea why! This peak offers breathtaking views of the entire island and surrounding mountain ranges. With a total distance of 7.2km and 700m of elevation gain, this is one of our favorite hikes in all of Portugal! The best part? If you go early in the morning, you are likely to have it all to yourself.
There are a few different places you can begin, but we would recommend parking at Miradouro Boca da Corrida. The first half of the hike is relatively mild in terms of elevation gain and full of spectacular scenery. The trail is well maintained and you will follow it around the side of a ridge before veering up to the right at a sign that says “Pico Grande” in spray-paint.
From here, your elevation gain really takes off and remains consistently steep all the way to the top. In order to make the final ascent up to Pico Grande, you will need to climb up a large boulder with a rope attached to the side. Don’t let this part intimidate you, though, it’s not as technical as it looks at first glance. David and I barely needed to use the rope to summit the peak and it takes only a few minutes to do.
Cascata dos Anjos
Have you ever seen a waterfall that flows down directly onto a road? I sure hadn’t until our trip to Madeira! Cascata dos Anjos or “The Waterfall of Angels” is located on the southwest corner of the island and is definitely worth a stop! The small local road that it cascades onto is still in use so vehicles actually have to drive underneath the waterfall to get by.
The capital city of Madiera is lively, vibrant, and full of excellent restaurants! It is worth spending a few evenings exploring the old town or “Zona Velha”, doing some shopping, and trying different cuisines. There is one section of Funchal that is extra colorful thanks to the painted doors project. Over the span of a few city blocks, there is colorful artwork painted on over 200 doors! We had so much fun walking around and taking it all in.
Stay at a Savoy Property
David and I had the pleasure of calling two different Savoy properties home during our time in Madeira. From the incredible ocean views to the best buffet breakfasts we have ever had, we were completely blown away! Every staff member we encountered went above and beyond to ensure we were comfortable. The rooms were spacious, the amenities were luxurious, and each property boasts multiple pools. Yep, you read that right! If you are looking for the perfect place to relax and unwind after your days of adventuring, look no further! Savoy is the only group of hotels we would recommend during your stay.
Savoy Signature has a total of 6 properties on the island of Madeira and not one of them is the same. They did a fantastic job of diversifying each location and creating a completely different story for each of these astounding resorts. While the décor, the atmosphere, and the food are all diverse, you can count on the same excellent quality and delightful small details that make a huge difference.