35 Best Things to Do in Madeira (for First-Time Visitors!)

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This is a guide to the very best and most satisfying things to do in Madeira – from turquoise beaches to some of the most delicious food you will ever put in your mouth. Read on!

Are you planning your trip to Madeira last minute?

If youʻre booking your trip to Madeira last minute, we have you covered. Below are some of the top tours, hotels, and more!

🌊 Top Experiences and Tours in Madeira:

  1. Catamaran dolphin and whale watching excursion (top tour in Madeira!)
  2. Luxury Catamaran whale watching tour from Funchal
  3. Best of the West of Funchal (tour of western side of island)
  4. Best of the East of Funchal (tour of eastern side of island)

🛌  Top Hotels in Madeira:

  1. The Vine Hotel (luxury)
  2. Pestana CR7 (luxury)
  3. The Marketplace by Storytellers (mid-range apartment)
  4. Madeira Happy Hostel (budget hostel)

🚗   Visiting Madeira independently? Be sure to book your rental car ahead of time to ensure availability!

Best Things to Do in Madeira 

Madeira is absolutely one of the most stunning places I have ever been to.  I had no idea places like it existed in Europe.  Just the thought of that trip still blows my mind and makes me want to book a return ticket (don’t worry- I will soon). 

This guide is a list of awesome things to do in Madeira, created with the help of other travelers who have had the opportunity to visit Madeira.

Monte Palace is one of the best Madeira landmarks to visit
Monte Palace is one of the best Madeira landmarks to visit

One of the best ways to easily travel to Madeira and see the main sights is by one of these amazing Madeira tours and excursions.

This guide is broken up into a few sections – fun things to do in Madeira island for nature lovers, history lovers, food lovers, and more. 

What to do in Madeira for Nature Lovers

Visit Curral des Freiras – Valley of the Nuns

Being an island in the middle of the Atlantic brings many perils, from ever-changing weather to the dangers of the ocean, but historically speaking, the island of Madeira had to worry about pirates raiding the island as they terrorized the oceans.

Curral des Freiras is located centrally on the island nestled between mountains, more or less isolated from the rest of the island, and it was traditionally inaccessible.

Its isolation made it the perfect place for the islands’ nuns to seek refuge from the marauding pirates and keep the convents’ treasures safe, hence the name Valley of the Nuns.

Valley of the Nuns - one of the most popular places to visit in Madeira
Valley of the Nuns – one of the most popular places to visit in Madeira

Nowadays, the village is accessible via a mountain tunnel, the dramatic scenery and high-up viewpoints make it a stunning place to visit. There is an annual chestnut festival, with plenty of music, food, and wine to enjoy.

💥 INSIDER TIP: The best way to see Valley of the Nuns is to book your spot on a half-day tour of the gorgeous Madeira attraction! 

This tour leaves from Funchal and won’t take up too much of your time on this island so we recommend it for travelers who want to see this amazing site!

Take a Levada Walk on Madeira

The levadas of Madeira are one of the most interesting things about the island. These channels were built into the sides of the mountains and have been used for centuries to move water around to different farmlands so that everyone can share in the rainfall.

One of the best ways to learn more about the history of Madeira is to take a guided walk of the levadas. As you go along the channels and see how they are used from an agricultural perspective, you’ll also get a much better understanding of the culture there.

Things to do in Madeira - walk the levadas
Best things to do in Madeira – walk the levadas

Walking up in the mountains is also a fantastic opportunity to see some different landscapes and get amazing views out to the ocean.

You can find and walk along the levadas yourself – after all, there are 2,000 kilometers of levadas on Madeira – but having a guide will help you access the best ones and get a whole heap of local information.

*Contribution by Michael from Time Travel Turtle

Admire Cabo Girao

Cabo Girao is a high sea cliff on the southern side of the island and it is the highest headland in Europe at 580 meters above sea level. In October 2012, a glass viewing platform was opened and called the Skywalk.

Cabo Girao
Cabo Girao

Skywalk provides incredible views out to sea and towards Funchal and Camara de Lobos. The platform is similar to the one that can be found at the Grand Canyon. The location is also a favorite amongst paragliders and base jumpers and other adventurers in Madeira.

Hiking to Pico Ruivo from Achada do Teixeira

If you love hiking, Madeira is the place to be. There are countless Madeira hikes, so the hardest part is to choose a trail.

The hike from Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo (locally called Vereda do Pico Ruivo – PR1.2) is a great choice for many reasons. The distance is less than 3 kilometers (each way), and the conditions are suitable even for the more inexperienced hikers.

Do make sure you bring some water and snacks, adequate shoes, and appropriate clothes, as it tends to get colder and windier as you get closer to the top.

Pico Ruivo is, after all, Madeira’s highest peak, with a maximum altitude of 1862 meters. On a clear day, you can enjoy 360º views of the whole archipelago, but don’t worry if it’s cloudy, as standing above the clouds is equally magical.

We hiked the Madeira trail at the end of the day and witnessed a breathtaking sunset view from the top. As we came down, we were under a sky full of stars.

Pico Ruivo
Pico Ruivo

This experience was certainly one of the most memorable we had in Madeira. If you’re planning on doing something similar, don’t forget to bring a head torch!

There is no public transportation to get to Achada do Teixeira, so you’ll need to take a cab, or drive a rental car to get there. There is a spacious car park at the beginning of the trail.

Most people opt to hike the most famous trail to get to Pico Ruivo (Vereda do Areeiro – PR1), so this alternate trail is usually a lot less crowded – another reason that makes it one of our favorites.

*Contribution by Maria and Rui from Two Find a Way

Visit the Seaside Town of Seixal

Seixal is a super scenic town located on the north shore of Madeira. The town is home to natural swimming pools, waterfalls crashing down towards the sea, incredible viewpoints, and a laurel forest that is recognized as a World Natural Heritage Site.

Spend the day in Seixal relaxing at the beach or exploring nature in this scenic and beautiful little town.

From Seixal, take the opportunity to hike to Brides Viewpoint, located between Seixal and Sao Vicente. This is one of the most stunning vantage points on the island and one of the must-visit places in Madeira.

Seixal beach in Madeira
Seixal beach in Madeira

Hike to Volcanic Cliffs at Ponta de Sao Lourenco

Hiking in Madeira is the most popular activity on the island for a good reason! Ponta São Lourenço Peninsula is located on the east side of Madeira and is considered an easy hike, that is suitable for families with children.

This part of Madeira is particularly sunny. While other parts of the island might experience some rain, you can be almost certain to have sunshine at Ponta São Lourenço Peninsula.

Ponta de sao Lourenco
Ponta de Sao Lourenco

You should still have some warm layers with you, as it can get very windy here. Arrive early if you want to avoid crowds, as many coaches make a stop here with hundreds of tourists. Not all of them will walk the full 7 kilometers round trip trail, as they will be pressed for time.

You should estimate 3-4 hours for the walk with lots of photo stops and a snack break. There will be many viewpoints along the way. The last section is a steep ascent, but it is well worth the effort, as your reward will be an amazing view.

*Contribution by Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl

Visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden

The palace and the tropical garden of Monte is a rare man-made landmark among the natural wonders of Madeira. Normally, on such a beautiful island people, choose not to waste time on buildings or museums but the Monte Palace is an exception.

Plants rare for Madeira’s geographical location have been brought to the Tropical Gardens of Monte from different countries of the world: heather from Scotland, azaleas from Belgium, laurels from the Canary Islands, and many others.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Funchal, Madeira island
Monte Palace Tropical Garden

In addition, two very beautiful artificial lakes were created and filled with fish in the garden of Monte. You can watch black and white swans swim across the lake, and peacocks and fighting roosters from Indonesia stroll in the park. All sorts of stones, figures, and sculptures from different parts of the world add to the park’s unique charm.

Here you can see a collection of ceramic tiles from the 15th-20th centuries, as well as a fancy panel of 166 terracotta tiles called “The Adventures of the Portuguese in Japan”.

You can find the Monte Palace Tropical Garden at Caminho do Monte 174 in Funchal.  To get to the Tropical Garden, you can take one of two picturesque routes. The first is by cable car and the journey takes about 20 minutes. The fare is 11 Euros one way or a round-trip price of 16 Euros.

🌟 GOOD TO KNOW: It is recommended to book your cable car ride to Monte Palace Tropical Garden in advance!  You can purchase your ticket for the cable car ride to the gardens here and you will not have the added stress about worrying about it on the spot.

The second option is by car or bus number 20, 21, 22, and 48 (fare 2.5 Euros). By the way, the road the views are no less spectacular than the ones from the cable car booths.  The entrance fee for visiting the park is 12.50 Euros (including wine tasting on the terrace), and it is free for children under 15.

*Contribution by Jim and Inna from Executive Thrillseeker

Activities and Madeira Excursions

Relax at Porto Moniz – A Natural Swimming Pool

Located on the northwestern corner of the island in the town of Porto Moniz, these large natural pools are the perfect place for a dip. The naturally occurring swimming pool was created out of lava. It is located over 3,800 square meters and features a main swimming pool, kids swimming pool, and play areas.

The crystal-clear seawater naturally fills the pools with salt water. There are amenities such as sunbeds, umbrellas, showers, toilets, and a small snack shop that are open during the summer months.

Porto Moniz
Porto Moniz

You can find the Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pool at R. dos Alfarrobeiras 4 in Porto Moniz.

🌟 GOOD TO KNOW: You can actually book a tour to the enchanting area of Porto Moniz and it will save you the hassle of driving or attempting to venture out of Funchal on your own.

Play a Round at Santo da Serra Golf Course

Play a round of golf at the stunning Santo da Serra golf course. The 27-hole golf course and driving range are located on the eastern side of Madeira and is home to the Madeira Open. The course is famous worldwide with many of the world’s best golfers having played there, along with Spanish and British royalty.

Santo da Serra - goga18128 - Shutterstock
Santo da Serra – goga18128 – Shutterstock

Take time to visit the course and play golf or simply have a drink and enjoy lunch at the clubhouse restaurant.  Golfing in Madeira is a must for sports lovers.

You can find the Santo da Serra Golf Course at Santo António da Serra in Machico.

Take a Drive to Pico do Areeiro 

Drive the scenic route up to Pico do Areeiro, the third-highest peak in Madeira. The drive will take you up above the clouds to amazing views and scenery. If the weather permits, you can also see the island of Porto Santo.

At the end of the drive, there are various tourist facilities and viewpoints to enjoy the views over the island. This mountain is also the start of the hike to Pico Ruivo.

Pico do Areeiro (Arieiro) while hiking to Pico Ruivo on a cloudy summer day
Pico do Areeiro while hiking to Pico Ruivo

Ride the Cable Car to the Diving Beach at Garajau

Garajau is home to some of the best diving in Madeira. The marine reserve has crystal clear waters and a diverse range of marine animals.

To reach the diving spot, you can take the cable car down from the top of the headland to the beach; a cable car costs a small amount, otherwise, you can trek down to the beach independently. On the beach, there is a diving center where you can rent diving equipment and utilize the changing facilities.


On top of the hill, you will see a large art deco statue of Jesus Christ. The statue is located at the point where they used to throw the bodies of people who died on the island who were not Catholic.

Historically on Madeira, it was illegal for non-Catholics to be buried on the island until Christian and Jewish burial grounds were later opened.

Visit Another Natural Pool at Pocas do Gomes 

Much smaller than the Porto Muniz natural pools, these pools at Pocas do Gomes are still insanely beautiful and have direct access to the sea and a beach. Located just outside of Funchal, they are well worth a visit. However, as they are small, during the high season, the pools can get very crowded.

Fortunately, Praia Formosa Beach is just through the tunnel and can be accessed from the beach. The pools have basic facilities such as toilets and changing rooms, and there are also restaurants and cafes nearby.

You can find the natural pools at Pocas do Gomes at R. do Gorgulho 11 in Funchal.

Pocas do Gomes // Editorial credit: Cicero Castro - Shutterstock.com
Pocas do Gomes // Editorial credit: Cicero Castro – Shutterstock.com

Go Surfing on Madeira

There are plenty of surfing beaches around the island and also on the island of Porto Santo. Most of the beaches are only for more experienced surfers due to the dangerous way the waves break over rocky ledges. However, the beach at Faja de Areia is more suitable for beginners to learn.

Although there are still no beach breaks at this spot, this also makes the beach incredibly popular and it can get slightly crowded. On the island of Porto Santo, there is a long, south-facing beach break that occasionally has beginner-level peaks.

Surfing in Madeira - Dennis van de Water - Shutterstock
Surfing in Madeira – Dennis van de Water – Shutterstock

The best time for surfing in Madeira is between October and March, with the best months being November and February.

Things to do in Madeira for Food and Drink Lovers

Enjoy Espetada at Churrascaria Brasa Viva

On the coastal road heading east out of Sao Vicente, there is Churrascaria Brasa Viva, a traditional Madeiran restaurant serving the classic Espetada dish.

Espetada is a beef dish that is marinated and grilled on a skewer and often served with fried polenta.

Eating Espetada is one of the best things to do in Madeira!
Eating Espetada is one of the best things to do in Madeira!

The beef skewer is often hung above the table as a way of presenting the dish. The seafront restaurant is full of rustic charm and has a large outdoor seating area so you can enjoy the waves crashing and the Atlantic sea air as you dine.

You can find Churrascaria Brasa Viva at Av. Marcos Marques Rosa in Sao Vicente.

Get Down with Madeira Wine

Although Madeira wine doesn’t have the same international (or even national) reputation that Port wine has, it’s still one of Portugal’s most popular wines and definitely worth trying during your visit to Madeira.

Port and Madeira are very similar wines. The biggest difference between the two is that Madeira is purposely stored in a warm place, whereas Port is stored in a cool place.

Like Port, Madeira was discovered somewhat accidentally. While it was being transported by boat, the wine would heat up which would affect the flavor.

This would normally be a bad thing, but Madeira wine actually became very popular because of its unique flavor.

Blandy's madeira wine barrels
Blandy’s Madeira Wine // Editorial credit: nicksmith156 – Shutterstock.com

These days, the wine is no longer transported in the same way so winemakers mimic the effects by storing it in an attic rather than in a cellar.

Several places, including Blandy’s in Funchal, offer a Madeira wine tasting and tour. During the tour, you’ll see how Madeira wine is made and, most importantly, get to sample a few different styles of Madeira wine as well.

*Contribution by James from Portugalist

💥 PRO TIP: Madeira wine is so different and special that it is highly recommended to book a tour to learn more about the stuff as you consume it!

This full-day Madeira wine tour and tasting will help you learn about the island’s wine from one of the vineyards (and they will pair it with local food).

Enjoy a Local Beverage, Poncha

Poncha is the national drink of Madeira and every local will have their own method and recipe. The standard mix is rum, honey, sugar, and lemon or orange. Poncha is muddled together with a unique tool created in Madeira called a mexelote.

There are many local places to drink and learn about Poncha, but the best place is in Sao Vicente and aptly named Poncha De Sao Vicente.  It is one of the essential things to do in Madeira!

Poncha in Madeira
Poncha in Madeira

You can find Poncha de Sao Vicente at Estr. do Dr. João Abel in São Vicente.

Have a Seaside Beer at Quebramar 

Enjoy a cold Coral Beer as you overlook the sea at the restaurant Quebramar. The restaurant is the ideal place to take a rest and down a cold one as the Atlantic waves crash onto the beach.

Make sure they sit you outside and not inside because there are some killer views and even better sunsets to be witnessed!

You can find Quebramar at 9240 in São Vicente.

Historical and Cultural Places to Visit in Madeira

Visit Universo de Memorias

Universo de Memorias means “Universe of Memories” and it perfectly describes what this place is about. It is more than a regular, soulless museum. It is a collection of gifts, letters, pictures, and handmade art collected by the ex- Regional Secretary of Tourism and Culture in Madeira, during his trips around the world.

Trips that he made to promote the island. There is, for example, an entire room dedicated to horses and a room full of… ties.

Referred to as a museum, for me, it is a true hidden gem of Funchal and is definitely worth a visit. The collection itself is very unique, but it is also a great place to meet for a coffee in the charming museum garden café with a spectacular view of Funchal Bay.

Tickets cost only 3.50 Euros and admission for children under 14 is free. Check out my post for more information about Universo de Memorias Joao Carlos Abreu.

*Contribution by Edyta from Say Yes to Madeira

Take a Ride on the Funchal Toboggan

The Funchal toboggan is one of the most unusual and unique experiences in Madeira. It’s also one of the more touristy things to do in Funchal, but that doesn’t make it any less fun!

Once you’ve reached the area of Monte perched above the capital city – don’t worry you can get a cable car if you’re legs aren’t up to the hike up the hill – it won’t take long before you see men dressed in white standing around with rather odd thick-soled shoes on.

Toboggan riders on sledge in Monte - Funchal Madeira island
Tobaggan in Funchal, Madeira

You will soon know why these shoes are worn as you are then bundled into a huge wicker carriage that is then transported down the windy steep streets leading down the mountainside back to the center of Funchal, and the only brakes for these toboggans?

Those shoes on the feet of two men who will balance on the back of your toboggan and steer you down around sharp corners and narrow alleyways coming frighteningly close to cars parked along the way.

Prices range from €25 – 40 depending on how many of you are in the wicker sled. Doing the Funchal toboggan was a lot more fun than I expected.

I also enjoyed admiring the views of the city from above before exploring the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte Church before we did embark on the surprisingly thrilling ride down in a wicker toboggan.

*Contribution by Frankie from As the Bird Flies

Visit the Christopher Columbus House

On the island of Porto Santo, you can find the house that belonged to Christopher Columbus. Columbus lived on the island for a few years and married the governor’s daughter.

The Madeira archipelago is credited as being extremely important in the discovery of America as Columbus spent time studying and understanding the Atlantic Ocean while residing on Porto Santo. The house has now been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and exploration.

You can visit the Columbus House Museum and Historical Site at Travessa da Sacristia 2-4 on lha De Porto Santo.

Sandy wide beach landscape of the island of Porto Santo
Beaches of Porto Santo island are the real reason to visit

Check out the Painted Doors of the Old Town in Funchal

The Art of Open Doors” is a name of an interesting project that started around 2010 in the Old Town of Funchal. Local artists, supported by the local government, transformed the bad neighborhood into an area with a soul.

The doors of old buildings have been painted and decorated, some new murals appeared and restaurants and art galleries have been opened. The Old Town of Funchal is now a very colorful and Instagrammable place.

It can get busy and you will receive way too many lunch invitations from waiters, but it is a must-see area in Funchal.

Doors of Funchal - Dziewul - Shutterstock
Doors of Funchal – Dziewul – Shutterstock

When in the area, pass by the Armazém do Mercado or Caravel Art Center to buy some beautiful and affordable handmade souvenirs made by local artists.

To see additional photos, check out my gallery of Funchal Old Town street art.

*Contribution by Edyta from Say Yes to Madeira

💥 INSIDER TIP: Many travelers overlook exploring the beauty of Funchal and its Old Town. We suggest booking a guided tour of Funchal’s Old Town and do the Madeira capital city some justice!.

Go to the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum and Hotel

It is undeniable that Madeira’s two most famous exports are its wine and Cristiano Ronaldo. The world-famous and highly decorated footballer was born in Funchal and it’s hard to avoid his name there.

From landing at the Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport to staying at the Pestana CR7 Hotel, it is entirely possible to dedicate your entire holiday to this legendary footballer.

Christiano Ronaldo Pestana CR hotel and museum - F8 studio - Shutterstock
Christiano Ronaldo Pestana CR hotel and museum – F8 studio – Shutterstock

The large museum is dedicated to the many trophies he has won throughout his career, including numerous Champions League trophies, Premier League trophies, and the 2016 Euro Cup. You will learn all about his humble beginnings in Madeira and his rise to global superstardom and it is one of the best things to do in Madeira when it rains.

If the museum is not enough Cristiano Ronaldo for you, there is a hotel owned partly by him next door that you can stay at called the Pestana CR7 Hotel. You can find the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum (and Hotel) at and close to Praça do Mar, Av. Sá Carneiro in Funchal.

–> Click here for current rates and availability at Pestana CR7 Hotel 

Visit Capelinha N.S. Fatima

High above the town of Sao Vicente is a clock tower and chapel perched on the top of a hill. To reach the chapel, it’s a long hike up a hill and it’s only accessible by foot.

Mountain village Sao Vicente during flower festival
Sao Vicente during the Flower Festival from above

However, once you reach the top the views make the walk well worth it. On moody and gloomy days, the tower can be shrouded in clouds and looks magically dramatic.

You can find Capelinha N.S. Fatima at Rua Caminho da Capelinha in Sao Vicente.

Go to the Sao Vicente Caves and Volcanism Center

The Sao Vicente Caves and Volcanism Center is a great place to learn all about the formation of Madeira and explore lava tubes that were formed as the island rose out of the sea.

🌋 NOTE: The Sao Vicente Caves and Volcano Center are temporarily closed (I called to double-check on October 14, 2023). They are planning to reopen in 2024 if all goes as planned.

The tour takes a couple of hours and starts with an informative film about the creation of the island and how volcanoes work.

Sao Vicente, Madeira Caves and Volcanism Center inside
Sao Vicente, Madeira Caves and Volcanism Center inside

You will then be taken on a guided tour of the lava tubes deep inside the hill.

Around the entrance to the lava tubes is a beautiful botanical garden which in itself is worth some time exploring or just to sit there and relax for a while in the tranquility.

You can visit the Sao Vicente Caves and Volcanism Center at Sítio do Pé do Passo in Sao Vicente.

Check out Europe’s Largest Football Scarf Collection

In the hometown of one of the greatest soccer players to ever exist, it is unsurprising to find many soccer-related places.

One of the most interesting is O Avo, a bar that is home to Europe’s largest football scarf collection.

The collection is immense and it’s unlikely you will not be able to find your team’s scarf there, the owner will proudly show you where to find your colors in the heaping pile of scarves, which people bring and give to him from all over the globe.

In addition to all of the football scarves, the bar sells cold beer and great food so that you can spend some time there for a drink as you admire the quirky decor.

You can find O Avo at R. Da Praia 49A in Funchal.

Educate Yourself at the Madeira Story Center

Learn more about Madeira in this interactive museum which takes you through the history of Madeira and the people who colonized the island.

The museum prides itself on conveying detailed and accurate accounts of the history of the island and tells the story in an interactive way that people of all ages can enjoy.

Within the building and grounds, you will find a small bistro and some gardens with endemic plants growing. 

Please do note that this is a story of colonization and while representative of the history of Madeira, colonization often will depict one side of the story and not the other.

You can find the Madeira Story Center at Rua D. Carlos I 27 in Funchal.

Visit Madeira’s Other Islands

Head to Porto Santo

Take some time to explore the island of Porto Santo, the smallest of the inhabited islands of the Madeira archipelago. The island is home to a 9-kilometer sandy, golden beach that lures in crowds as this is the only one in the group of islands.

Previously, the island had a large amount of vegetation but after it was colonized, much of the flora was destroyed by humans and the rest fell victim to the rabbits that were introduced.

Book here: Day trip to the sandy beaches of Porto Santo

Along with its impressive beach, the island is home to the Christopher Columbus Museum and an impressive golf course designed by Seve Ballesteros. 

There are several ways to reach the island, with regular flights from international countries, ferries, and day trips to the island.

I definitely recommend going there on an organized tour as it is affordable and it gives you the chance to ask questions and educate yourself more on Porto Santo.

Check out a Desert Island at Desertas Islands

Take a day trip to the Desertas Islands, a group of islands around 25 kilometers off the east coast of Madeira.

Desertas Islands
Desertas Islands

These deserted islands have proven to be inhospitable for humans as they lack a sustainable water supply and have an extremely arid climate.

However, they are home to various species of birds, the Madeiran wolf spider, the Madeiran Lizard, a few feral goats, rabbits, and rodents, and most impressively, a small colony of Mediterranean Monk Seals.

Book here: Day trip to the Desertas Islands nature reserve

The islands were made into a nature reserve in the 1980s when the seal population consisted of only 8 seals. This population has now grown to over 20 individuals.

From Madeira, it is possible to take a day trip to the islands and have a guided tour of the nature reserve, where you will learn about the conservation efforts to protect the seals as well as the fauna and flora on the island.

The trip out on the boat also provides a good opportunity to try and spot whales and dolphins.

Festivals in Madeira

Madeira is a hotbed for local festivals. Its year-round good weather means the festival season never really ends and you can find plenty of them happening each month.

They range from religious events to sporting events and there are even festivals highlighting the seasonal produce of the islands- such as the Cherimoya Festival in March.

Enjoy Madeira’s Carnival (the Weekend Before Ash Wednesday)

Madeira’s Carnival is one of the largest in Europe and takes all the flair and spirit from Rio and implants it in Europe. If you’re there during that time, put it on your Madeira itinerary!

Unlike the carnivals in other places in Europe, Madeira’s year-round good weather makes this one of the best Carnivals in Europe.

The festivities start the weeks before the main weekend but the majority of the fun is to be had on the actual weekend of carnival as the parties go on late into the night.

Madeira Carnival in Funchal
Madeira Carnival in Funchal // Editorial credit: anitasstudio -Shutterstock.com

Go to the Festa dos Santos Populares (June)

Festa dos Santos is a popular festival amongst the locals and is one of the coolest things to do in Madeira.

Celebrating three different saints- Santo Antonio (Saint of Love), Sao Joao (Patron Saint of Porto Santo), and Sao Pedro (Saint of Fishermen).

During this time, the streets are colorfully decorated and there are plenty of festivities throughout the towns on the island. There are also several weddings during this period due to the celebration of Santo Antonio.

Celebrate Madeira Day (July 1st)

Madeira Day is a national holiday celebrating the archipelago’s independence from mainland Portugal (although it still remains an autonomous region of Portugal).

There are many local festivities in all the towns and villages around the island celebrating the day. This is a real chance to immerse yourself in Madeira’s local culture.

Imbibe at the Madeira Wine Festival (August/September)

Wine production is immensely important to Madeira’s cultural heritage and every year there is a large wine festival at the start of the grape harvesting season.

The festival starts off in Camara de Lobos with the picking of grapes and continues on into Funchal, where there are heaps of traditional cultural activities all centered around the history of wine in Madeira.

Madeira Wine Festival
Madeira Wine Festival

If wine isn’t your drink of choice, there is also an annual festival to Madeira’s second alcoholic drink, rum, held every April, making Madeira one of the best places to visit in Europe in April!

Madeira Beaches Worth Visiting

Camara de Lobos Beach

This picturesque beach town of Camara de Lobos has been a favorite amongst tourists and locals for several years. In fact, it was here that Winston Churchill used to come and paint during his holidays as he relaxed on the island.

Camara de Lobos - Curioso.Photography - Shutterstock
Camara de Lobos – Curioso.Photography – Shutterstock

During the day on these beaches, there are colorful fishing boats providing a pop of color against the grey volcanic pebbles and sand. The beach is also surrounded by high cliffs adding to the drama and beauty of the scenery.

Jardin do Mar

Consisting of three beaches- Portinho, Enseada, and Ponta Jardim, Jardin do Mar is one of the more secluded and relaxing beach destinations on the island.

At Portinho Beach, you will find showers and parking along with a little restaurant. All three beaches are famous for surfing, although due to the dangers, it’s only advisable for experienced surfers to attempt the waves there.

Jardim do Mar beach - GagliardiPhotography - Shutterstock
Jardim do Mar beach – GagliardiPhotography – Shutterstock

As the beaches are exposed to the Atlantic swell, the waves can break in various sizes making it the perfect surf paradise. Ponta Jardim Beach is one of the few beaches in Madeira where year-round surfing is possible.


Prainha is the only natural sandy beach on the main island of Madeira. The sand is from volcanic origins, so is dark grey to black in color.

There is a small beachside café along with showers and changing rooms. You are also able to rent sunbeds and sunshades for the day.

As the beach is sandy, it can get very busy during the summer months, so it is best to visit Prainha midweek on your vacation. While relaxing on the beach, look out for limestone fossils that are often found in the area.

Prainha beach with tropical plants in foreground near Canical town
Prainha Beach in Madeira

Madeira Things to Do – Commonly Asked Questions

How many days do you need in Madeira?  It really depends on what you’re looking to do, but I would say the perfect number of days in Madeira would be one week. This allows you to see the entire island and have a day or two to relax on the beautiful Madeira beaches.

Is Madeira expensive?  Madeira is not expensive if you plan ahead.  The average cost for a meal in Funchal is about €12 per person in the Old Town and a bit less outside there.

The cost of a beer in Madeira is around €2-€2.50.  Tours in Madeira are rather affordable.

What is the best month to go to Madeira?  If you’re looking for the cheapest time to visit Madeira but also good weather, visit from April to mid-June. Summer is the high season in Madeira and it is the most crowded then. The winter in Madeira offers stable weather but it can be a bit cold for swimming if you’re not from Northern Europe.  

Which is better – the Azores or Madeira?  Both! Madeira is a better destination for beaches and weather. The Azores offers otherworldly geographic features but the scenery in Madeira is more dramatic and rugged.

Is English widely spoken in Madeira?  For the most part, yes. Madeira receives a lot of British tourists, so you will hear English a lot and most menus are in English throughout the island.  Almost every tour will offer an English option, as well.

Where to Stay in Madeira

If you’re looking to have a base and take day tours of Madeira, we recommend staying in Funchal during your Madeira trip.   

You can see our top Funchal hotels and hostels here.  Here are some of the best hotels in Funchal for any budget:

Should You Visit Madeira? 

Madeira was one of the most underrated destinations I have ever visited without a doubt. I am pining for a trip to Madeira again in the near future and I think everyone that visits the island will enjoy it just as much as I did! 

Please let us know your favorite things to do in Madeira (and Funchal!) in the comments section!

More Madeira Travel Guides

1 thoughts on “35 Best Things to Do in Madeira (for First-Time Visitors!)

  1. Patricia - SavvyExploring says:

    Wonderful article! We leave in a couple weeks and this list is a great start. You mentioned snorkeling at Reia Magos Beach. Do you know if places rent gear there or do you need your own? Thanks!

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