Tucked halfway between Portugal and the coast of Morocco sits the lush tropical island of Madeira. Often called the “Hawaii of Europe”, this stunning volcanic island boasts breathtaking views, scenic hiking trails, volcanic sand beaches, and never-ending terraces of vines used to make the famous Madeira fortified wines. For those looking to enjoy the perfect island vacation, we uncovered what to see and do while in Maderia, Portugal.
Where To Stay In Madeira?
Most visitors traveling to Madeira will likely book a hotel in the capital city of Funchal. This location is not only a great spot to explore, but also an excellent place to base yourself to take day trips to various parts of the island. We found Pestana Churchill Bay in Câmara de Lobos, a suburb of Funchal, to be the perfect place to stay during our visit.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with a complimentary welcome glass of Madeira wine before checking into our room. The property has an onsite restaurant, bar, pool, sauna, and massage room. However, the best part of the hotel is its location. Winston Churchill was known for painting the fishermen's port that rests footsteps from the hotel and a statue of him can be found at the entrance of the hotel smoking a cigar and painting the view.
Do You Need To Rent A Car In Madeira?
While it is possible to explore parts of the island via taxi or bus, renting a car is the best way to explore the island of Madeira. However, driving in Madeira is not for the faint of heart. If you plan to head out of the main cities and explore the many hiking trails, beaches, and natural hot springs, expect to spend some time driving up steep winding roads. Still, in order to see and do all the amazing things Madeira has to offer, renting a car is definitely your best option.
If you are not a driver or are on a budget, Madeira does have many excellent bus routes that go to various points around the island. Additionally, you can always book private bus tours that will pick you up from your accommodation and take you to some of the top spots.
➡️ Pro Tip: Looking to book an epic adventure? Check out these 10 Most Affordable Places To Travel in 2023.
What To Eat And Drink In Madeira
Fuel up for your epic adventures by chowing down on some of the following popular food and drinks in Maderia.
Bolo do Caco
You’re sure to find Bolo do Caco on most menus in Madeira. This delicious bread is made from flour and mashed sweet potato and is a staple of Madeira cuisine. The bread is often made in a pan on the stovetop and coated in butter and garlic, making it the perfect appetizer.
Bolo de Mel
Bolo de Mel is one of Madeira’s oldest pastries that was created by nuns in the city of Funchal. This molasses cake with baking spices and chopped nuts will pair perfectly with your morning coffee or an end of the evening glass of Madeira wine.
Poncha is a traditional drink from Madeira. This strong alcoholic beverage is made from Aguardiente de Cana, a distilled alcohol from sugar cane, honey, sugar, and lemon or orange juice. However, many bars and restaurants have extended their Poncha menu to include more versatile flavors like passion fruit, mint, mango, and more. During our visit we went to Bar Agrela and tried the meter of Poncha challenge to try as many flavors as possible…at least that’s the excuse we used to justify our drinking. During our time a small crowd formed around us cheering us on. Needless to say, I don’t know if my mother is proud.
Beer, ice cream, and pineapple may not seem like the best combo, but somehow the island of Madeira manages to make them work. After a long day exploring the tropical island, your taste buds will thank you for ordering a refreshing Nikita.
The Best Madeira Wine Tours
Madeira is known for its bold fortified wines that range from dry to sweet in style and are often commonly paired with dessert or drank on special occasions. However, you don’t need an excuse to enjoy a refreshing glass of Madeira wine, although we won’t judge you for pairing it alongside a sweet treat.
Whether you are a wine lover with some knowledge of how wine production is done and what Madeira wine tastes like, or a total wine beginner just interested in learning about what makes Madeira wine so special, the following spots make for the perfect stops while exploring the island.
If you are new to learning about Madeira wine, a visit to Blandy’s is the perfect place to start. During your guided tour you will walk through the onsite museum and learn about the history of how Madeira wine came to be, how it is made, and the best ways to drink it. Tickets for the tour will include a tasting of Madeira wines.
The Premium Tour includes a tasting of two Madeira wines to wet your whistle. For fans of Madeira wines, the Vintage Tour includes a tasting of two premium vintage wines. On the property is an additional tasting room where you can try specific glasses of different wines Blandy’s produces, in addition to, a restaurant where you can enjoy a delicious meal.
Barbeito is a staple within Madeira wine production and their tours reveal why. Explore the production facility to see firsthand how Madeira wines are made and aged before enjoying a tasting.
The Silver Tasting includes two wines and lasts thirty minutes, whereas, the Gold Tasting includes four wines and lasts an hour. However, during our visit, we upgraded to the Platinum tour that included an eight wine tasting of some of their best wines. For €22.50 this tasting option is a steal!
Quinta Do Barbusano
If you aren’t a fan of fortified wines, but still want to visit a winery in Madeira, Quinta Do Barbusano offers an experience like no other. Producing a wide range of white, rosé, and red wines, Quinta Do Barbusano is the perfect place for wine lovers to explore and sip on delicious wines.
Located in a steep mountainous region of Madeira, the winery is surrounded by stunning terraces filled with vines growing on pergolas. We booked a six-wine tasting and were shocked when after our tour and guided tasting we were told we could sit and enjoy whatever was left in the bottle. Unfortunately, as we were driving we couldn’t drink all six bottles, but we did stay for an extra hour enjoying the views, eating cheese, and sipping on their refreshing wines.
➡️ Pro Tip: Stay safe on your trip to Madeira by knowing these Travel Safety Tips You Should Always Use.
Visit Santana And See Thatches Houses
While road-tripping around Madeira, a stop in Santana to see their traditional triangular-shaped houses with thatched roots makes for the perfect rest stop. After taking some photos at the unique houses, head to the Madeira Theme Park (Parque Temático da Madeira) to learn more about the traditions and crafts commonly produced in Madeira.
Wander Through The Jardim Botanico da Madeira
While exploring Funchal, a visit to the Botanical Gardens is a must. With bold colors and a wide range of flowers, the Jardim Botanico da Madeira is the perfect place to wander about and enjoy the outdoors.
Go Swimming In The Piscinas Naturais de Porto Moniz and Piscinas Naturais Velhas
If you’re looking for a unique experience you are sure to never forget, a swim in the Porto Moniz Natural Pools is a must! These pools were created from lava and are naturally heated. Spend some time exploring the charming town of Porto Moniz before relaxing in the Natural Pools. If you’re looking for a more rugged, less man-made experience, Piscinas Naturais Velhas is the choice for you. However, if you want a little more luxurious experience, the developed Piscinas Naturais de Porto Moniz will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Enjoy A Picnic On Praia de Seixal Beach
This black sand beach makes for the perfect picnic spot while road-tripping around Madeira. Don’t go to Seixal Beach expecting powdery white sand. Instead, due to the volcanic nature of the island, the beach is coated in rocks and black sand. Seixal Beach also boasts a scenic waterfall that crashes down right along the main beach point. Pack a picnic and plan to spend a few hours swimming in the warm waters of Seixal Beach and soaking up the stunning views.
Explore The Tunnels of Levada do Caldeirão Verde
For avid hikers, trekking through the stunning tunnels of Lavada do Caldeirão Verde is a must. The 7.3 mile/12 km hike is relatively easy (don’t mind what AllTrails says!) with many flat moments, making it perfect for all levels of hikers. The hike is well worth it to see the stunning tunnels you will encounter along the way and the epic waterfall at the end of the trail.
A trip to Madeira is like no other. From epic views to delicious wines, there is something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation, you can find beaches to snooze away your days. For the more adventurous traveler, Madeira’s hiking trails will have you marveling over the natural beauty. Bon voyage!
Is Madeira on your bucket list? Tell us in the comments!