Madeira really is one of Europe’s finest holiday destinations; a heady mix of lush greenery, rugged volcanic hillsides and crystal clear, warm waters. The Portuguese archipelago boasts nearly 100 kilometres of coastline, as well as a pleasant year round climate, making it an ideal choice for a spot of sun during the winter months.
Madeira’s beaches vary from all-natural rocky coastline, to man-made sandy havens, most of which offer magical views for hiking. What’s more, some even have purpose built seawater swimming pools. Whatever it is that you’re looking for from a beach, you’ll be sure to find it in Madeira. With this in mind, we’ve picked out a few of the lush archipelago’s very best beaches; locations that we feel shouldn’t be missed when visiting Madeira, so read on to discover more.
Known as the ‘Golden Isle’, Porto Santo is well worth spending a whole day at. Easily accessible by ferry, spend a few seconds at this idyllic setting and you’ll know that you’ve reached paradise. 9 kilometres of golden sand is met by gleaming turquoise waters, and all within reach of a seemingly endless stretch of bars and restaurants. Interestingly, the sand here isn’t just nice to look at; due to its fertile volcanic origins, it is rumoured to have therapeutic properties; with many believing that it plays a role in alleviating aches and pains.
Located along Madeira’s west coast, near the old city of Machico, Calheta is a favourite amongst the locals, famed for its stretch of sand and sunnier climate. The beach is actually man-made, with the sand having been imported from Morocco and mainland Portugal, but with its relaxing feel and picturesque location, it’s still a great place to visit. Nearby there’s a fascinating arts centre, as well as a rum distillery where you can sample the unique white rum that’s made there.
Located in the capital of Funchal, Praia Formosa has a variety of smaller, more intimate beaches. What really sets this area apart though is the abundance of bars and restaurants nearby that come alive in the evening. You can spend the day relaxing by the beach, and then take in the vibrant atmosphere, with spectacular views of the coast from a comfortable terraced restaurant.
Jardim do Mar
The name Jardim do Mar translates as ‘a garden by the sea’, and it couldn’t be any more apt. The majestic green slopes of the hillsides here become covered with a rich tapestry of colourful wild flowers during the springtime. Although the beaches here aren’t the best for swimming (they are used as the location for the International Surf Competition, if that’s any indication as to why!), they are some of the most picturesque on the four islands making up Madeira, and it’s well worth spending the day trekking around them.
The beach at Ribeira Brava is unlike anything you’re likely to have seen before. Due to the volcanic geological history of the island, the sand here is completely black. The waters here are very calm and inviting and are perfect for swimming - ideal for something a little bit quirky and interesting.
Seawater swimming pools
For another unique experience, hunt down one of Madeira’s seawater swimming pools. These swimming pools have been carved into the natural landscape, forming a calm oasis that’s perfect for swimming. You can find them in Funchal and Canico, with the most famous being in Porto Moniz in the north. Another amazing location is Ribeira da Janela, a lovely beachside village in Porto Moiz, which is full of vineyards, as well as the saltwater bathing pools. Also worth visiting here are the spectacular natural rock formations along the coast.
There are a few more excellent beaches that are worth a mention, such as those found in the town of Machico, which is about a 20 minute drive east of Funchal. The natural secluded beauty of Prainha, which is further east, is also quite breath-taking. Prainha is another beach that has greyish dark sand, but is unfortunately not very good for swimming during the winter unless you’re a particularly strong swimmer.
Madeira’s beaches are nicely varied, and really do offer something for everyone. The islands’ inhabitants may have chosen to create their own sandy beaches in places, but both Madeira’s natural and manmade waterfronts are up there with the world’s best, and easily comparable to other famed seaside destinations such as Gran Canaria and Tenerife.