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Transportation and Accommodations

Getting There

Madeira is a Portuguese island near the equator and is actually closer to Africa than Europe. From mainland Europe, it is a 3+ hour flight to reach the Funchal airport in Madeira. The airport has daily flights from a variety of European destinations including London, Lisbon, Lyon, Amsterdam, and more. We had direct flights from London on British Airways and into Lyon on Transavia. The flight times were approx 3.5 - 4 hours so be prepared for a longer European flight on this journey! Check your route to see if there are direct flights from your location.


One thing to note about flying into Madeira is the airport is actually known to be one of the more dangerous airports to land in. That being said, it just means there are more precautions in place which need to be met in order for planes to be able to land, and pilots generally tend to be more experienced as well. The airport is challenging due to changing weather and winds, as well as its location between mountains and the coast. The short runway makes it imperative to have certain standards on wind and visibility to land. As this is a known factor, planes often over fuel to enable time to circle until it is safe to land.

When I traveled to Madeira, we had to spend some time circling due to weather around the airport, but then were able to land without issues. The pilot does warn that it can be a bumpier ride in as well, but notes this is normal for those who have not traveled to Madeira before.

Getting Around

The island of Madeira is best visited at your own pace with a car. Plan to pick-up and drop off your car rental at the airport to provide immediate flexibility on your visit to Madeira. There are numerous car rental companies available to rent from directly at the airport. It would be best to book in advance to ensure you have access to the type of car you need.


A few considerations when booking a rental car:

  • Automatic vs manual: opt for automatic as Madeira has a LOT of steeper roads, which can make using manual more challenging. Automatic will remove any additional stress caused by these hills knowing you do not have to focus on changing gears
  • Size of vehicle: opt for smaller vehicles to help navigate leaner roads and tighter parking places. We had a Ford focus which was perfect for our adventures. It enabled us enough space for luggage and comfortably would've held 3-4 without luggage.


General notes about driving in Madeira:

Road quality:

The roads are very well kept in Madeira, to a point I was very impressed with limited potholes and very new surfaces on many of the major roads.

Lane width:

On the major roads, most roads will be clearly marked for 2-way traffic and have sufficient space for 2 cars. That being said, there will be smaller backroads where it is tighter for two cars and therefore there will be pull-out points for cars to leverage if traffic is passing through in both directions. In these areas, drive with more caution and be aware there could be oncoming traffic. Additionally, there are often cars parked on the road which will impact the lane space.


The central and northern parts of the island are very mountainous. In some instances, you will take winding roads up and around the mountains. However, Madeira does have a lot of tunnels created through the mountains which cuts down commute time significantly on some journeys and can be easier to drive straight through as opposed to winding backroads. Tunnels can be as long as a few kilometers, meaning they get dark toward the middle, but there is always some sort of overhead lighting so you can see comfortably throughout the tunnel.

Speed limit:

The speed permitted changes with weather, as you'll see signs noting a reduction in speed allowed with rain. This is just one to keep an eye on. The speed limit also may be higher in areas than you are comfortable driving. Locals will take the liberty to pass you, just go your speed and enjoy your holiday.

Merging onto highways:

For us, this was a very interesting one. Rather than there being a long entrance ramp to then merge onto the highway on, the entrance is very short and cars merging will need to wait until it is clear to merge. This means you will see cars stopped on the entrance, waiting to merge onto the highway until it is safe to do so.


Most parking in Madeira is free, with the exception of a few places (generally the very touristy spots, but even many of these do not come with a fee). Street parking in the towns usually as a small fee, so keep an eye out for a parking meter. Often you'll need to pay with coins so it is handy to have some change on you.

Parking lots:

In the small towns and cities, it's helpful to look for paved parking lots to park for ease. In contrast, some of the parking lots at the beginning of hikes are on gravel. While most of the gravel sections are okay for parking, keep in mind there may be some areas that have larger rocks or bigger holes in the ground that may be difficult to get your car out of without damaging the car (especially if lower to the ground).

Street parking:

Where parking in a lot is not feasible, there's often street parking available. There are areas where clear spots are designated, and then many places where people will just pull over on the side of the road and park.

Plan your routes / long vs short options:

When driving to specific locations, consider looking up your route in advance. It may be beneficial to choose a slightly longer option than the most direct route. This is because sometimes the map will take you on very winding roads and / or small roads which do not end up necessarily being faster than the slightly longer looking routes on larger roads. In fact, sometimes it is longer as you'll need to go slower and prepare for oncoming traffic on narrow roads. Needless to say, it can also be more stressful with narrower streets, steep hills, and tight turns so we often preferred the slightly longer route on larger roads.


When picking where to stay, it's helpful to think about what you would like to do on your trip to Madeira. Generally, the island is quite small. You could drive around the entire perimeter in about 3-4 hours. Some routes through the middle will take longer as you'll have to go through the mountains, but these are still not significantly long drives. Depending on your trip length, I'd recommend staying in 1-2 places. If staying for 5+ days, it is nice to split up where you stay into two locations to have a change and experience different spots on the island as a home base.



The capital of the island, this is very much a city. With a population of 100,000 it is the hub in Madeira. Funchal is located right on the water just 20 minutes from the airport on the southeastern side of the island. Staying in Funchal is great for visiting areas on the eastern side of the island and the city itself. It also has tons of food options for meals, making it easy to come back to Funchal at the end of a day exploring and find dinner in town.


Ponta do Sol

The opposite of Funchal, this is a tiny town on the southern coast, west of Funchal. Sitting right on the water as well, this little town is known for being the sunniest place on the island as is inferred by its name "sun point". The town has its own beach, a few restaurants, and a church, but not much else. We opted to stay here and loved this town. It was charming and pretty, with beautiful sunsets from the beach and easy sea access to get out into the ocean for a dip.


Enotel Sunset Bay - hotel right on the coast in Ponta da Sol, with parking available and perfect spot to stay for a few nights here.


Camara de Lobos

If you prefer smaller towns to city, this is a good option over Funchal. Camara de Lobos is a quaint fishing village just 10 minutes west of Funchal. The village definitely has some tourist traps, but generally is a cute town and would be an easy and nice home base if not interested in staying in the larger city of Funchal.


Ribeira Brava

Also on the southern coast, Ribeira Brava is another local town to stay in. Ribeira Brava has slightly more going on than Ponta do Sol, but is not as charming as Ponta do Sol. This can be a good option for those not wanting to stay in Funchal but also not wanting to move around between stays as it is a good central (based on roads) point to use as a home base and visit different parts of the island.


Porto Moniz

Found on the northwest corner of the island, Porto Moniz is nice for a day trip, but not somewhere I'd recommend staying. It feels commercialized and due to its locations, leaves you more isolated. It also requires longer drives to see other points of interest.



Small town in the north, another that is nice for a stop, but not one I'd recommend staying in. When we were looking for accommodations, we thought we wanted to stay somewhere in the north to help with accessing specific activities we wanted to do. However, as Santana is also very small touristy town with not much on, it's not the best base location. Because of tunnels that allow you to cut through the center of the island, the northern part of the island is still very accessible if you are staying on the southern coast.

Things to do and see


The capital city in Madeira is large considering the size of the island. There are a number of places to see in the city when visiting. We found we were able to explore Funchal in the afternoons and evenings after our days out and about, and did not feel like we needed to dedicate a full day to Funchal. However, for those who are intrigued by the city, you can easily dedicate a full day to exploring the city. Below are a few of the spots to check out in Funchal.

Monte Cable Car (Teleferico do Funchal)

 The island has lots of cable cars and the capital city has two you can use. The Monte Cable Car departs from the base of the town, just off the beach, and then travels up to an area where Jardin Tropical Monte Palace sits. At this level, there is also the opportunity to ride in a typical toboggan sleds which people used as a form of transport in past times. The ride up on the cable car is nice, and has a nice view over the city. Aside from the gardens and toboggan ride, there is not much else to do at this level.

Botanical Garden Cable Car (Teleferico do Jardim Botanico)

This cable car starts at the Monte level and then carries riders up higher to the botanical gardens.

Lido Promenada

Walkway running along the water which is nice for an evening stroll

Formosa Beach

Beach in town if you feel like going for a dip in the ocean. Keep in mind this is a pebble beach so may not be the most comfortable to lie on.

Old Town

This part of town has more pedestrian only streets and is bustling with restaurants, shops and cafes. It's a nice area to wander around, grab a coffee or bite to eat and stop in some shops.

Mercado dos Lavradores

This lovely food market is full of fresh produce, local goods, and even an extravagant fish market. Stop in here after wandering through the Old Town to see what catches your eye.

Santa Maria Street

Famous street with cafes and shops along the way



Madeira is known for having nice hiking trails throughout the island. Many of the hikes are numbered with PR, making it easy to find information about the various hikes, and generally the hikes have good signage. You'll notice some of the walks have "Levada" in the name. A Levada is a system of channels built to move water throughout the island. These walks will run along the water trails and therefore are often in covered, very green, areas.

When planning your hikes in Madeira, be sure to check the weather and the webcams as these are a huge help in deciding which hike you will do each day based on weather and visibility.

Ponta de Sao Lourenco

Route: PR8

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 4.6 miles / 7.5 km

Elevation change: approx. 400 - 500 meters

Estimated time: 3 - 4 hours (including breaks)

Rating: 8.5 / 10

Type of trail: Out and Back + loop

Location: 35 minute drive from Funchal

Parking: There is a paved parking lot at the trailhead with a decent amount of space BUT nowhere near enough now that the hike is quite popular. The lot had space when we arrived around 8:30, but filled up quickly throughout the morning and was completely full with people parking on the side of the road when we finished the hike at 11:30 am. With this in mind, it's best to arrive by 9 am.

This hike is different from many other walks on Madeira as it sits on the eastern coast of the island and bakes in sunlight. The hike is like a lollipop shape with the beginning and end being the same out and back path and the middle portion being a small loop. The path is largely along the water and therefore has lots of coastal, open views. The path is rolling, meaning there are ups and downs throughout the entire hike rather than climbing to a summit or trekking down to a canyon. This helps keep the hike at a moderate level of difficulty.

There is a little bar around the halfway point, which opens late morning and offers some snacks. This is the only spot along the way where a bathroom is found, but note it is only open when the bar is also open so not guaranteed to be available (opens around 10 / 10:30 am). Keep in mind the hike is very popular and therefore gets very busy after 9am, especially once the tour groups have arrived. To enjoy a quieter walk, consider getting an earlier start. This also helps guarantee parking and makes for a more enjoyable hike. Note that upon arrival there is a sign which informs you that you need to pay 1 euro to enter. This can be done online.

Note when we visited, a small portion of the trail was closed. On the portion of the trail that was a loop, there was also a small out and back piece. Many ignored the closed trail, but good to be aware of as it was likely closed due to strong winds and uneven ground.

Vereda dos Balcoes

Route: PR11

Difficulty: very easy

Distance: 1.8 miles / 3 km

Elevation change: minimal

Estimated time: 1 hour

Rating: 6 / 10

Type of trail: Out and Back

Location: 35 minute drive from Funchal

Parking: Very limited parking at the trailhead so many cars will park on the side of the road. This seems to be OK. As this is a very quick hike, I'd actually recommend coming here in the late afternoon. Parking should turnover quickly since it does not take too long to complete the walk.

This short walk is very easy. In fact, we saw families walking in sandals and pushing a stroller. This is definitely not recommended as it can be quite muddy on this path. Most of the path is covered by tress, so it is ok to do if it is a bit wet. The path heads out to a beautiful viewpoint of the mountains and the ocean. Be sure to check the webcam before going to see how clear the view will be.

 Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo

Route: PR1

Difficulty: challenging

Distance: 10 miles / 14 - 16 km (counting the walk from the further parking lot)

Elevation change: 1300 meters

Estimated time: 8 hours (watching the sunrise and breaks)

Rating: 10 / 10

Type of trail: Out and Back

Location: 40 minute drive from Funchal

Parking: arrive by around 6:15 to get parking ahead of the sunrise. In late May, we arrived just around 6:20 and there was still decent space (probably for about 10 - 15 minutes more) but definitely was filling up. There are TWO parking lots. The lower parking lot is for hikers and where you need to park if you plan on adventuring for more than just the sunrise. The upper parking lot is for the observatory and you are only permitted to park here for 1 hour so this is no good for anyone looking to hike.

Getting there: if traveling from the south part of the island, consider driving via Camacha rather than via Monte. The road via Monte is quite steep and narrow turns, while the road via Camacha is less steep and a easier drive. If going for sunrise, it may be very dark in the morning. The towns and large roads have good street lights, but as you climb up in the mountains, there are no street lights so take the drive slow. When you get about 5-10 minutes out from the destination, there is only one road you can take so there will be other cars with you. If there is a low cloud ceiling you may have to drive through the cloud at one point and then you may peak above it like we did.

This is an early wake-up, but it is highly recommended to get up early for this one to see sunrise and ensure you can find parking. The trail will be busy regardless of when you go. We found the hike was very busy for the first portion, and crowds stay quite tight still at the beginning as it is a lot of up and down stairs initially. As the path starts to move away from consistent elevation change, groups tend to spread out and even more so in the gradual inclined approach to Pico Ruivo.

Another benefit of getting an early morning start is to avoid dealing with as much two way traffic of oncoming hikers; this will be unavoidable in the second half of the hike when you return in the late morning to early afternoon. The tour groups will start between 9 and 11 am, and thus you will run into a lot of these on your return journey (if doing an out and back route like us). This can be a bit annoying in some areas where it is more challenging to pass with two-way traffic, but hopefully is only on the return journey.

Recommendations for sunrise: There are two main options for where to watch the sunrise.

Option 1: watch from the observatory where there are a few different spots where people gather to enjoy the sunrise

Option 2: start the hike and watch the sunrise as you are walking or at a viewpoint along the route

We watched from a viewpoint by the observatory and then started hiking about 20 mins later. You can try to wait for a less busy time to start the hike, but there will be a good bit of people regardless and thus recommend just getting on your way when you're ready. That being said, do not rush to leave from the sunrise early to avoid the crowds. If it is a nice day and in the busier season, you will not be able to avoid the crowds so better to just enjoy the magnificent views and be patient throughout the adventure.

And a final point on bathrooms. Unfortunately, at sunrise, there are no facilities open at the observatory. As it is such a popular hike, there is also limited privacy along much of the journey. Upon nearly reaching Pico Ruivo, just before the final ascent, there’s a small bathroom that hikers will use. It is free, but can be very busy and a long wait time if you are later in the day when crowds have grown.

All in all, this is a fabulous hike and great adventure. As this was a "must do" for us, we looked at the weather forecast at the beginning of our trip to identify the first day the weather looked promising for the hike. We used the apple Madeira weather application and the webcams to gage if we should set our alarms early to try the hike. As the clouds often hover under the summit, it sometimes can be a nice sunrise while still having clouds in the forecast (this was the case for us!) but it of course can be hard to tell.

 Levada das 25 Fontes + Levada do Risco

Route: PR6 / 6.1

Difficulty: moderate

Distance: approx. 11 km

Elevation change: approx 800 meters

Estimated time: 3 - 4 hours (breaks)

Rating: 8 / 10

Type of trail: Out and Back

Location: 40 minute drive from Ponta do Sol

Parking: while there is a pretty large dirt parking lot near the trailhead, this hike is incredibly popular and the parking situation becomes crazy by late morning and even worse by midday. We arrived shortly after 8 am and had tons of spaces to choose from. However, we were a bit concerned we may get blocked in by other cars coming later. Additionally, much of the ground is quite rocky which can be bad for cars low to the ground. Upon our departure, the parking lot was absolutely rammed, and cars were parked along the shoulder of the road for quite a distance.

The first (and last mile) of the hike will take you on a paved road from the parking lot to a small cafe at the trail head. The road is an easy descent, but means you will end in a climb back to the parking lot. There is a van which goes up and down this road which you can pay to take one or both ways to help shorten the route. The van was not running when we arrived (and not something we were looking to take advantage of) but it is great to know for those who may have more challenges with the distance or ascent.

Note, the cafe around where the van drops people off is the last spot where there will be bathrooms available before heading onto the proper trail and there is limited privacy on the hike as this is another highly trafficked path by visitors. This hike through the forest brings you to two beautiful waterfalls and runs along a Levada for a good portion of the trail. Route 6 is the trail to 25 Fontes and Route 6.1 is the trail to Risco waterfall. The path to Risco waterfall is just an out and back off the main trail and therefore a very easy addition. After visiting both falls and making our way back towards the start, we stopped at the little cafe area where there are also restrooms.

The all trails hike may be a bit inaccurate based on trail maintenance and closures. Be sure to follow signs for PR 6 and PR 6.1 during this hike. There was also a portion that was one way during this hike due to the narrow nature of the trail, so keep your eye out for these signs as it will be very difficult to pass if you are going in the wrong direction on these parts

Porto da Cruz

Tiny town on the north side of the island. It is about a 10 minute drive from the Sao Lourenco hike and is a common spot for surfers so you may see some out in the water if you stop in this town. We made a quick stop here for a cup of coffee and a short walk before continuing onto Santana which is just another 10 - 15 minutes west.


This little town is found on the northern part of the island and is known for its triangular shape houses with thatched roofs (covered in straw). These are quite unique and cool to see so plan a short stop here, but again note it will be a bit touristy.


Eira do Serrado Viewpoint

Beautiful backdrop of mountains from this viewpoint. It is a bit out of the way to get to, but is a really nice viewpoint of the mountains on a clear day. It also looks down on the town of Curral das Freiras. You can drive down to the town, but should be prepared for some very windy roads as you descend towards the base from above.


Camara de Lobos

Quaint fishing village just 10 minutes west of Funchal. Head down to the bay as there is a parking lot right in the bay. You'll need to pay a few euros at a machine to park here, but it is a convenient and easy spot to park. Plan to spend a little time walking around the small town and along the promenade. It's a nice stop for a coffee or bite to eat, but will not need a long stop here. The town is quite cute, but does feel a bit touristy near the bay. That being said, it's still worth a stop!


Cabo Girao

Skywalk on the southern coast of the island, between Funchal and Ponta do Sol. This is a touristy stop as you have to pay to visit the large skywalk which hangs over the edge of the cliff. The view is nice from here, but you will find other viewpoints just as nice. I'd say it is worth a short stop if on your way, but no need to venture far out of your way to visit.


Ribeira Brava

This town is about 20 minutes west of Funchal. Although not many points of interest in the town, its a nice stop for lunch. We parked the car and grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant overlooking the ocean. There's also a beach here for swimming if you feel like getting in the water!


Ponta do Sol

Quaint coastal town known for being the sunniest point on the island (true to its name)! There's not much to the town aside from a rocky beach, nice spot to jump into the water for those who like a bit of a ledge to jump from (up near Restaurante Sol Poente), a few restaurants and a hotel. That being said, it's lovely for a beach stop or evening dinner and sunset view. It's a generally peaceful and cute town.

Cascata dos Anjos

Waterfall over the road on the southern coast, about 10 minutes from Ponta do Sol. It falls over the ER101, the oldest road in Madeira. Over time and with natural weathering, the road is not open all the way around the island anymore. However, there are parts of it which you can still drive on, you'll just notice the road is not in as good of condition and therefore can often tell it's an aged road. The portion where you'll find Cascata dos Anjos will note it is closed for normal traffic, and intended for locals only. We ended up parking up the road and checking out the falls, but saw many driving through the falls and continuing onward.


Seixal is on the northern coast of Madeira. It's known for its beach (Praia da Seixal) and natural pools. There's two sets of pools in Seixal; one is near Praia da Seixal and the other is just up the road called Piscinas Naturais do Seixal. Both are free to visit. There is parking right next to the beach (Praia da Seixal) that you can drive down towards, or up on the main road there are also some parking spots. If heading to Piscinas Naturais do Seixal, park at the top and walk down. There is a VERY steep descent which would've been quite challenging to drive down (at least not one we wanted to attempt with a rental car). We only saw some of the tour jeeps drive down here and some scooters.


Ribeira da Janela

 Viewpoint near the beach out onto the large rock structures sitting just off the shoreline (quick stop here)

Porto Moniz

Town at the northwest point of the island. The town is a bit touristy, as it has two sets of natural pools inviting visitors in to swim in the sea! There's the Piscinas Naturais do Aquario which are less aesthetically pleasing than the fancier Piscinas Naturais do Porto Moniz just up the road. Both look quite nice for a swim in the sea, just depends what vibe you are going for as you'll notice a difference between the two.

Teleferico das Achadas da Cruz

Steep cable car down to the coastline and the TINY village of Achadas da Cruz. There are just two cable cars, and it takes 5 minutes to travel from the top to the bottom, with each car fitting approx. 6 people. The cable car closes at lunch (12 - 1pm) so there will be a queue after 1pm at both ends of the cable car. You purchase tickets right before boarding the cable car so you can decide if you want to wait in line or not to travel down. We decided to wait after lunch and waited about 30 - 40 minutes. We then spent a similar amount of time in the town at the bottom. It was a bit windy and chilly the day we visited so did not want to spend too long, but had a nice walk and it was an interesting spot to visit.


Sao Vicente

Town on the northern coast in just about the center of the island from east to west. There are some dramatic cliffs here with beautiful views. It's a good spot to stop for a morning coffee or afternoon snack when passing through the area.

Farol da Ponta da Pargo

A lighthouse out on the west coast with a great view of the ocean and surroundings. Although very nice, there is not much out around here and cannot say we felt driving this direction was worth it. It was a nice stop, but a quick one, and we only really drove and stopped at viewpoints on the far western part of the island so one which could easily be skipped.

Fanal Forest

Found in the middle of the western half of the island, this area is known for being a bit spooky on cloudy days. It gives off fairytale vibes with fog hanging around the tress in the area. We saw it in a very sunny day so did not have the same experience. We decided to park and have our packed lunches in the Fanal Forest Picnic area after we had done the 25 Levants hike nearby in the morning. Although it was nice to see, this is another spot I wouldn't go out of my way to see. We had considered doing a hike around here and as we drove through the area, we were very glad we opted not to do PR13 as we did not see the appeal to a walk in the blazing sun without any real viewpoints and some road crossing points.

Food and Drinks


O. Giro Churros & Paninis


Perfect lunch spot in the capital city. They have great sandwiches and salads, at an incredibly reasonable price, and delicious. They're also known for their churros so be sure to save some room for dessert.

Cabo Aereo Café Restaurant

Sao Jorge

This hidden gem is great for a lunch spot when traveling in the north of Madeira. We had not planned originally to stop in Sao Jorge, but it was the perfect afternoon stop. The location has lovely outdoor seating with a stunning view over the coast. The restaurant serves a lot of traditional dishes. Don't miss the chicken or beef roasted on the stick in the fire. You'll see the oven when you approach! We shared steak, chicken, a salad, fries and Bolo do Caco, a delicious local bread.


Talho Santa 

Santa Maria Madalena

Found between Porto Moniz and Achadas da Cruz, this spot is both a butcher and a quick stop restaurant. With a very small menu, you do not have to think too long. They serve grilled meat on the stick and offer bread or fries to go along with it. The meat makes for a heavier lunch, but was a great option between the more touristy town of Porto Moniz and Achadas da Cruz.

Restaurant & Grill Muralha Terrace

Ribeira Brava

Restaurant overlooking the ocean with nice outdoor seating, traditional Madeira menu, and good variety of options. Great spot for lunch in a quieter location overlooking the water.

Dinner Restaurants

5 Sentidos


Nice restaurant in the town of Funchal. It is quite small so make sure to make a reservation if you'd like to dine here. They offer a nice local menu and the atmosphere inside is very cozy.



Outstanding restaurant in the heart of Funchal. Be sure to make reservations here for one of your nights in Funchal. The food is delicious, with a variety of options to choose from. They also have a variety of cocktails to spice up the evening and some intriguing dessert options. This was my favorite dinner in Funchal so do not miss it!

Restaurant La ao Fundo


Sitting on one of the pedestrian only streets in Funchal, just one block in from the ocean, this restaurant has top-level service. With outdoor tables along the pedestrian street, and a nice interior, the restaurant is very nice. The food is a bit different, with an Indian spin on Portuguese food. Many of the dishes had curry flavors or other unique flavors to differentiate it from the normal cuisine. Personally, this restaurant was not for me, but my sister loved the food and enjoyed a change in the cuisine.

Restaurante Sol Poente

Ponta do Sol

Without a doubt, this restaurant is the spot to watch the sunset in Ponta do Sol. The restaurant is perched on a cliffside and looks right out over the ocean where the sun sets in the evening. Call to make a reservation to try to solidify a prime table for sunset. As for the food, the menu includes a va