10 Things to Do in Madeira, Portugal

10 THINGS TO DO IN MADEIRA, PORTUGAL

Madeira is certainly the most beautiful island that I have ever seen. Also known as European Hawaii, Madeira has everything that you can possibly imagine. It has impressive mountains, spectacular ocean views, unforgettable waterfalls, hidden caves, mouth-watering food, unique nature, 6 different climates, world famous wine, hospitality like never seen before and of course, Cristiano Ronaldo.

This means there are a lot things to do in Madeira, but where do you start? Let’s dive in and discover the best things to do in Madeira that you have to include in your itinerary.

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Try Toboggan Ride

Cool experiences in Madeira, Portugal

Maybe you have tried the toboggan ride before, but in Madeira, things are done differently. This means that you sit in a regular wooden basket while two men, called “Carreiros” dressed in white and wearing straw hats, will be your chauffeurs on this downhill adventure. 

It takes about 15 minutes and it can get speedy. Like 40km per hour! So get ready for the ride! Price for 2 people is 30 EUR and be ready for a long line, because this is one of the best things to do in Madeira. Something that you won’t find anywhere else and it is part of local history. Yes, this is how locals used to go down back in time.

TIP! Leave your car at home or in Funchal. Take a cable car from Funchal and use the basket to go down. Make sure you visit gardens while you are up there and avoid taxi because they offer unreasonable prices.

Discover cuisine of Madeira

Food in Madeira

Food is another reason I love Madeira. It is similar to Portuguese cuisine, yet there are things that you won’t find in the mainland of Portugal. Be prepared to try fresh fish, best meat of your life and much more. 

Let’s start with bolo do caco. It is Madeiran flatbread and normally it is served as a starter with a butter and garlic. Every single restaurant that I visited would serve it warm and just out of the oven – your taste buds can thank me later.  Sandwiches with bolo do caco were not so good in my opinion, so I don’t advise.

When it comes to main dishes, Madeira has some of the best fish that I have ever tried. Most of the place show you what fish they have and let you choose the type and size. Honestly, I have no idea what kind of fish I tried, but I was left impressed every single time. Make sure you try lapa.

If you are a meat lover, you can’t miss Espatadas. It is meat on skewers, but you know what is the best part? They put butter and herbs on the top of the stick and serve you while it is still melting down. Restaurante O Polar has the best espatadas that I tried in Madeira. Another traditional dish that you should try, is picadinho.

And local drinks

Poncha in Madeira

I believe that by now you are full, but wait for the dessert. Try anything with passion fruit and make sure you buy bolo de mel as a souvenir on your way home.

In case you are a wine lover like me, I believe you have heard about Madeira wine before. Locals are very proud of this drink, so make sure you try it. You can even visit wine cellars to learn more about wine making process and taste it all.

Another jewel of Madeira is Poncha and it is made with aguardente de cana, honey, sugar, and either orange juice or lemon juice. However, don’t buy a bottle with a label that says Poncha on top, instead find a place where they make it on the spot in front of you. I tried it in the Bar o Avô in Funchal and I kept coming back for more. The owner is there to show you the process behind poncha and share interesting things about Madeira as well – he offers food and has a passion for football as well.

More things to try: Pé de cabra, Coral beer, Brisa, local coffee or anything from fresh passion fruit.

See the unique houses of Santana

Santana, Madeira

Another gem of Madeira that you can’t miss is Santana. People say that this is touristic attractions and yes, the main square is just a perfect photo spot, but if you step outside, you will find more typical small, triangular and colorful houses where people actually live. Since we speak basic Portuguese, one of the ladies invited us in and simply wanted to socialise a bit – this is not something that happens in a touristic destinations.

This is probably the best location on the island to observe traditional Madeira’s houses.These simple houses made of wood with reed roofing were built by poorer inhabitants of the island and for quite along period of time.

This type of houses usually consisted of one or two rooms and could host one family.

Santana is also known for its arts and crafts especially a type of embroidery, bordado da Madeira. Lovely tablecloths, place mats and tea towels can be bought in several specialist stores or souvenir shops. Main income in this county comes from tourism, so make sure you support local businesses.

It can get crowded during the day, so make sure you plan an early visit here.

Explore hiking trails

Hiking in Madeira

Madeira is a paradise for hike lovers, because there are many different places for many different hikers. I want to focus on the hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, because I personally think it is the most impressive one. Of course, if you have more time, make sure you do other hikes as well.

From Pico do Arieiro to the summit of Pico Ruivo and back it is 11 kilometre hiking. This will take you anywhere between 3 to 5 hours and you should keep in mind that this hike is not for beginners.

First thing that you should keep in mind is the mud, so make sure you have suitable shoes. I advise you to check the weather forecast before, because it often gets foggy and this means that all the magical views could be completely ruined. Then again, with mountains you never know.

This hike is open all year around, but gets extremely busy during the summer.

In case you are not ready for a heavy hike, you can still visit Pico do Arieiro. When visiting Madeira, you will need a car to move around, so simply look up Cafeteria Pico Areiro on Google maps and it will bring you to parking lot right next to this viewpoint.

Swim in the natural pools of Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz, Madeira

There are natural swimming pools at Porto Moniz that are formed by volcanic lava, naturally filled with crystal-clear sea water yet it is warmer than any other beach in Madeira. The natural pools of Porto Moniz are the highlight of the village of Porto Moniz.

The pools are open all year round between 9 am and 5 pm during the winter and 9 am and 7 pm during the summer. There is an entrance fee, but it is very affordable (1,50EUR maximum) and it is totally worth it. 

You also have a bar near the pools, so you can easily spend your entire day here.. just make sure you bring your sunscreen! 

Go on the adventure around the island

10 THINGS TO DO IN MADEIRA, PORTUGAL

There was another memorable things that I did during my visit in Madeira and I want to share it with you. I have to mention that this took us entire day, but it was amazing experience.

We planned an itinerary that took us around Madeira island and we saw how contrasty it can get in a day.. we went from sun to hail to fog to crystal blue sky in 12 hours. Down below I will leave the main stops during this itinerary. 

Funchal – Santa Cruz – Ponta das Gaivotas – Ponta de São Lourenço – Porto da Cruz – Miradouro do Guindaste – Fajã do Mar – Faial – Santana – Miradouro da Beira da Quinta – Restaurante Caravela – Seixal- Porto Moniz – Ponta Do Sol.

It sounds like a lot, but most of the places are viewpoints where you don’t need more than 10 minutes. But honestly it was amazing to see Madeira from every possible corner. Then again, centre of Madeira has even more gems that you can keep for another day.

Find the hidden gem of Madeira – Parque Forestal de Queimadas

Parque Forestal de Queimadas, Madeira

This park is actually hidden gem in Madeira, so you don’t have to worry about masses of tourists. A true fairy tale in a green paradise that starts in the Queimadas’ house. Until you reach the majestic waterfall, the path is remarkably green. Along the way you have a magnificent view over the village of São Jorge and the great mountains.

To enjoy Parque Forestal de Queimadas, you will need to follow Levada do Caldeirão Verde. It is not a difficult hike, but it can take 3-4 hours since it is quite long.

My personal tip is to bring some food with you and make a little picnic surrounded with nature, that is going to me a remarkable experience.

Hiking with a twist to Vereda dos Balcões

Vereda dos Balcões, Madeira

Technically this is another hike trail of Madeira, but I wouldn’t even call it a hike, because it takes approximately 1 hour to visit Vereda dos Balcões. The path is not challenging at all, but there is a surprise for you at the end.

You can see fearless wild chaffinch birds that are always around. They are so used to people at the balcony that they are friendly welcoming you, waiting to eat some seeds out of your hand. So make sure you bring some food and and make friends. Apart from birds, the views here are spectacular as well.

Park your car in Ribeiro Frio and go to explore the beautiful nature of Madeira. This is one of the most unique things that I have ever done, so I can’t suggest it enough.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Madeira

The Monte Palace Madeira occupies an area of 70.000 square meters and houses an huge exotic plant’s collection, coming from all over the world, together with swans and duck’s, that populates the central lake, peacocks and chickens, that walk free in the main areas of the property.

I have to say that this was a very unique place and it didn’t really feel like you are in Madeira. Honestly, it is a mix of many things, so I really can’t identify it. I normally wouldn’t visit tropical garden, but this one is very different and I’m glad that I did it. 

Do you remember Toboggan Ride? I mentioned that this can be combined with Tropical and Botanical Garden (see next), so you can use cable car to visit this place.

The opening times are from 9.30 AM til 6 PM. Monte Palace Museum is open from 10 AM til 16.30 PM. The entrance fee for the Monte Palace Tropical Garden is 12,50 EUR for an adult and children under 15 years have free entrance. 

We choose to visit the garden late in the afternoon, so keep in mind that it will take you 3-4 hours to enjoy the place.

Botanical Garden 

Botanical Garden, Madeira

Another gem nearby is Botanical garden. It is one of the most beautiful gardens in the region, with marvellous views overlooking the city of Funchal. Once again, I normally visit a Botanical Garden, but this one caught my attention. 

From October 1 to April 29 the opening time are from 9 AM to 5 PM (last entry at 4.30 PM). From April 30 to September 30 the opening times are from 9 AM to 7 PM (last entry at 7.30 PM)

The entrance fee to the Botanical Gardens Madeira is 6 EUR and it takes couple of hours to see everything. Might take longer in case you are passionate about flowers and read more detailed descriptions.

Visit the black sand beach in Seixal

In case you have a love for photography, make sure you bring your camera and take wonderful photo at the black sand beach in Seixal. In case you don’t care about photos, you still need to visit this beautiful gem of Madeira.

It is easy to reach and you have available parking nearby. This is a public beach, so there is no fee. Black sand is very unique, but keep in mind that most of the beaches in Madeira are with rocks, so this one is particularly comfortable place where to spend your day.

More impressive places for beach lovers. Praia da Calheta – A rare, white sand beach with sand imported from the Western Sahara. Machico – located on the South coast of Madeira, this beach also has imported sand and is actually pretty close to the airport. Ponta do Sol – This extremely sunny part of Madeira is home to a small, 160-meter beach with excellent swimming conditions.

Get lost in the old town of Funchal

Funchal, Madeira

I personally think that you should focus on the nature and small beach towns when visiting Madeira, but the capital of Madeira deserves a proper visit as well and it is called Funchal. Most of the people choose to stay here, because it is filled with restaurants and shops, but I don’t think it is necessary. Either way, you will need a car, so moving around will be part of your trip.

Make sure you visit Cathedral of Funchal, Rua Santa Maria, Santa Catarina park, fruit market, maybe book a wine tasting, but keep your itinerary flexible and simply get lost in tiny streets and explore. That is the best way to discover Funchal.

Take the ferry to Porto Santo

Porto Santo is another island right next to Madeira and you will need a ferry to get here. It is mainly known for incredible beaches, but there is more to do and see in Porto Santo.

Porto Santo is full of hike trails as well and nature here is extremely wild, untouched and unique. Similar to Madeira Island, yet so different. You can rent a kayak, go scuba diving, look for the best sunset spots, experience tidal pools, appreciate the tiny islands nearby and so much more.

Ferry ride takes 2,5 hours and it will cost you around 60 EUR for a return ticket.It gets very pricey in case you want to bring your car with you (around 200 EUR). You should consider to spend a night here (actually 2-3 nights) and maybe rent a scooter to move around. Bike is a good option as well and it costs around 10 EUR per day.

Taste local goodies in Mercado dos Lavradores

Taste local goodies in Mercado dos Lavradores, Madeira, Portugal

I kept this market for the end because I have mixed feelings about it. It is one of the main attractions of Madeira and you can see (try or buy) so many different fruits and vegetables, but I have to mention that prices here are crazy. For 5 different fruits we paid more than 30 EUR while you can find the same products in other places 3 times cheaper.

It is a beautiful place and certainly deserves a visit, but don’t feel obligated to buy something, even if the sellers offer to try some of their products.

While in Madeira, make sure you try different kinds of passion fruit, bananas, medlar, their special cherries, tabaibos and anona. Don’t be scared to try some never seen before fruits, everything is delicious that comes from Madeira.

In conclusion..

10 THINGS TO DO IN MADEIRA, PORTUGAL

I’m sure that this list will help you plan your itinerary for Madeira and include your favorite things to do to discover the real charm of Madeira.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.

Pin it for later and make sure you know the best things to do in Madeira!

10 THINGS TO DO IN MADEIRA, PORTUGAL

10 THINGS TO DO IN MADEIRA, PORTUGAL

82 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh, I was right there with you as I read your article. What a lovely round-up and I would do all of these! How I am wanting to return to Portugal now.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Fingers crossed you can do that soon! And so glad to hear your feedback, thanks ❤️

  2. I love that dusty pink dress of yours – it’s soooo beautiful!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thanks, lovely! 😍

  3. Wow Madeira looks absolutely incredible!!! It was never really on my radar before, but your photos and post has convinced me! Thanks for sharing all of this awesome info!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Feedback like that makes me so happy! Glad you found something new and I hope you can visit soon ❤️

  4. I just visited Portugal in November and absolutely loved it!!! I didn’t visit Madeira but I am adding this to my bucket list. 🙂

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Portugal is hard not to love haha. Sounds like you already know your next destination 😀

  5. I have been wanting to get back to Portugal and I am definitely putting Madeira on my list! Saving this!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Yay! So glad to read this 😍

  6. The markets and the fruit would be one of my first stops. I love to wander through them. The hikes also look challenging.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      And the best thing, you can try anything that they sell! It’s great for those weird fruits that you haven’t seen before 😀

  7. The food, drinks and scenery look incredible, but I would love the challenge of hiking to Pico Ruivo. Wow! Thank you for putting all of these incredible sites (and food!) on my radar. Love your work!!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      So kind of you, huge thanks!! Madeira is wonderful so it was easy haha… Hope you can see it for yourself one day ❤️

  8. Portugal has been on my list for some time! That hiking trail with the steep steps looks a little scary, but I could definitely see myself trying it! And as always, the food looks incredible!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      I hope you can visit soon! Portugal is amazing all around, but Madeira probably is my happy place! Oh and if I could do it, so can you haha.

  9. Jenn | By Land and Sea says:

    Wow, looks like there are lots of great things to do here! I love your dresses too – so pretty!!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you so much! And there sure is 😍

  10. Santana sounds amazing! I would love to see those houses and that is so cool that you got invited in to visit with one another. Plus I love seeing local arts and crafts where I visit.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Sounds like you would love Santana! Maybe hang around for a longer time until the other tourists leave and have the place for yourself 🤗

  11. This is honestly the perfect itinerary for visiting Madeira. Everything you suggested sounds both unique and fun! I’d love to visit the botanical gardens or try a Toboggan ride. Sampling delicious cuisine is right up my alley too!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Seems like we have a similar taste when it comes to traveling, so I’m sure you would love Madeira! It really is a beautiful place 😍

  12. Really amazing photos wow! Looks like a place that should be in Southeast Asia, not Europe!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      I kinda have to agree, but it really reminds me of Hawaii haha!

  13. Portugal looks incredible and your photos are stunning. I’d love to be able to go there one day. The food, gardens, and the hiking seem amazing.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      It really was! And if you like these things, you certainly won’t be disappointed. Thank you so much ❤️

  14. The Espatadas and fish sound DELICIOUS! I didn’t realise there was so much lush greeneery in Madeira

    1. lasma.plone says:

      It really is!! No need for a fancy restaurant, simple grill and salt is all you need haha!

  15. Portugal looks so amazing, and Madeira is no exception. I’d love to take the ferry to Porto Santo – the water is so blue and it looks beautiful! Also, your photo with the rainbow is simply amazing! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. lasma.plone says:

      You get views like that in Madeira a lot! Also it can go from rain to sun in 5 minutes, so loads of rainbows around 😀 thank you, Brittany!

  16. It’s funny, I just saw a youtube video about the Toboggan Ride down the hill there a couple of days ago…I have to admit, that looks soooo flipping fun! And now you’ve let me know Madeira is a hiking paradise you have me convinced that I need to go!

    Gorgeous photos as always Lasma!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you so much! From what I know, you would love Madeira and Porto Santo as well. So highly recommend you to visit soon ❤️

  17. Ahh! You’re making me kick myself for not going to Madeira when I was in Portugal – it looks so beautiful!!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Another time!! Because Portugal always deserves another visit ❤️

  18. Portugal looks amazing. I can’t decide what I want to do or see first, but the Botanical Gardens look absolutely stunning!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Right?! It’s a hard one, but you can’t go wrong here haha!

  19. As always, your photos are absolutely stunning! I’ve been dying to visit Portugal, and as I was reading through each new section of your post, I was thinking to myself, “I’d love to do that!”. Sounds like I’ll just need to plan a trip and do all of the activities you suggested 🙂. Also, how wonderful and charming that you were invited in to socialize with one of the women living in Santana! Sounds like you had the most amazing experience here. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Xx Sara

    1. lasma.plone says:

      What a sweet comment! Thank you so much, Sara! I really have a special love for Madeira and I have been there 3 times, so I think it shows and I’m happy you noticed that! I really hope you can visit this beautiful place at some point ❤️

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Same here, but the views make it so worth it haha! Sounds like a nice plan 😊

      1. I was going to ask Lasma…I didn’t know you were into hiking too… but those views would tooootally tempt me out to the trails, even if it’s muddy!!

        1. lasma.plone says:

          Haha, not at all! And I’m never prepared to hike (my dresses take all the space in the luggage 😀), but sometimes I have to make an exception and do it!

  20. I learned a lot about Madeira from you – it sounds like an awesome place to visit! Love your photos. Whenever I get to Portugal I’ll be sure to visit!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      So glad to read comments like that! Means a lit ❤️

  21. Gorgeous photos! I’ll be in Portugal in November for a few days. Wish we had more time there to explore more cities. We’ll be spending 3 days in Lisbon

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you! That means you will have to go back to Portugal haha! And I have an itinerary for 3 days in Lisbon, I hope it helps 🤗

  22. I’d love to visit Madeira, it looks so beautiful! That toboggan ride sounds so wild!!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Haha it was!! And I’m sure you would love Madeira! ❤️

  23. We had only one day in Madeira on a cruise trip and we loved it. We missed the fun toboggan ride but we did see a lot of the lovely countryside. And we sure did not miss on the Madeira wine! Thanks for some great reasons to plan a return visit.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Oh that’s exciting! Glad to hear you managed to see beyond Funchal, because I know how limited is the time on the cruise ships! Madeira is waiting for you 😍

  24. Valentina says:

    I have been to Madeira last September and this article made me travel back in time, so thank you very much. It is such a great island. I loved everything about it. It is also very cheap!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Glad to hear that ❤️ Madeira is one of my favorite places, so it’s exciting to hear that others have been as well and how much they liked ❤️

  25. I want to visit Madeira so badly! It looks amazing and there is so much to do. And your photos are spectacular.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you so much, Bea! I’m sure you won’t be disappointed once you actually do 😍

  26. Madiera looks like an amazing place to visit! Your pics are beautiful & so inspiring! Thank you!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you so much! And you are right, Madeira is such a gem 😍

  27. The toboggan ride sounds fun (and somewhat hilarious). The hiking sounds challenging and I would definitely go to the botanic gardens as they look beautiful.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Sounds like a perfect and fun plan for Madeira! Hope you can visit one day 😊

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you! So glad to hear that ❤️

  28. Lovely pictures, looks like a wonderful place to see!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      It really is! Glad you like it ❤️

  29. I have so many beautiful memories from Madeira… this article brings it all back! Luckily, I can say that I did most of these things. Yaay!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Well done! Maybe another trip to Madeira to tick off the rest? 😀

  30. Of course, what a splendid blog and educative posts, I will bookmark your website.All the Best!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you so much!

  31. Davvero i miei complimenti alla modella, e poi la bellezza di questi luoghi non si piò misurare! mi fai viaggiare con la fantasia.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Ah grazie mille Rita ❤️

  32. Stunning photos! Reading about local food is always my fav part of any cityy guide..thanks for the recs and inspiratoin!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      I love to try local food as well, so glad you liked it! And thank you for your kind comment!

  33. Madeira looks amazing! I’d love to visit someday and try all of the food.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      I really hope you get a chance to visit soon!

  34. Love your photos. Makes me want to visit.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you so much!

  35. Kudos to the photographer. Madeira looks like a beautiful location and your description of some of the amazing meat, fish, and desserts made my mouth water. The hiking would be a draw for me as well.

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Hah, glad to hear that.. Everything is local and fresh, I guess that’s the trick! Never tried better fish in my life 🙂 Hope you can try it for yourself one day!

  36. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous! You have way more than convinced me that I need to visit Madeira. I especially want to go to Santana, how beautiful and what an amazing photo spot!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Thank you so much, Kate! I still can’t believe place like Santana exists.. so unique and unseen! Hope you get a chance to visit soon!

  37. Oh my goodness, I literally want to do every single thing on here. A toboggan ride sounds like such a fun, unique experience! And those pools! And I bet the views at Pico Ruivo are incredible. And local markets are always the best. Great post, hopefully I can make it to Madiera one day to try all of this!

    1. lasma.plone says:

      Hah, I love the enthusiasm, but you are right, all these things are so unique and cool! And I hope so too, you won’t be disappointed!

  38. It is very hard for me to decide what i love the most in this beautiful island. For sure i haven’t been in a place that i loved more than this, always felt welcomed and happy in every part of this wonderful island! And food…❤️

    1. lasma.plone says:

      I will have to agree with you, Madeira is such a unique place, I hope more and more people get to visit this amazing destination!

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