This magical Portuguese Island is one of the most underrated destinations in Europe. Here’s a bucket list of best things to do in Madeira.
Undoubtedly the highlight of this small Portuguese Island are its vast amount of Levada walks. A definite for the Madeira bucket list!
There are so many to choose from. We spent 4 hours exploring the source of Levada do Caldeirao Verde, or Green Cauldron as it translates to.
If you are planning on taking part in a Levada walk, you should really book onto a guided tour.
That way you have an expert guide with pick up and drop off from hotels. As well as torches (which you will need) and of course all the vital information about the levadas history.
We can highly recommend using Adventure Kingdom. They run tours and Levada walks throughout the island on different days of the week.
We took the Madeira Island: Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk and were not disappointed!
Dating back to the sixteenth century, these narrow channels were originally built to distribute water from the most northern parts of the island to the south.
The most recent were built in the 1940’s and Madeira is famous for being home to more than 200 levadas. Stretching an impressive 1864 miles, they offer some beautiful scenic walks along the way.
Madeira prides itself on its marine life!
With several types of whale known to hover around the coastline all year round, jumping on a boat and catching a glimpse of them is a must on your bucket list of things to do in Madeira list.
We took to the ocean on a Madeira Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour from Funchal and it was incredible!
With so many companies to choose from, we opted for VMT Madeira, one of the highest rated companies in Funchal.
The duration of the trip was 3 hours long, and ‘’with a strong possibility of spotting whales and dolphins in their natural habitat’’ promised, we weren’t disappointed.
During the trip we stopped on a couple of occasions as pods of dolphins and several types of whales passed by.
Pilot Whales and Sperm Whales are most commonly seen throughout the year. However, other species such as Sei Whale, Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Minke Whale, and even Orcas have been spotted.
All in all it was an incredible experience and we recommend whale watching in Madeira to anyone visiting the island.
Towards the end of the trip there was also a stop for swimming/snorkelling below the cliffs of Cabo Giro. These are some of the highest sea cliffs in the world!
One of our favourite things to do in Madeira, was cruising along the coast at sunset in our 1973 Daimler Sovereign.
With plenty of classic car tours available you may want to check out the Cabo Girão & Poncha Tasting by Classic VW.
Our guide couldn’t have been friendlier, and it was as if we’d arrived on the set of an old Portuguese movie.
We took a cruise through the mountains and around the vineyards before ending up at our restaurant for dinner.
We stopped in all the passing old towns and our guide even taught us a little about the farming and agriculture!
Madeira is a really fascinating island, so it would be a shame not to delve into its roots. Not to mention, take it back in time on one of the best Madeira tours – the classic car tour.
In our opinion, another one of the best bucket list things to do in Madeira, the island has to offer!
The highest cape in Europe, at an elevation of 580m, Cabo Girao Skywalk is famous for its suspended glass platform.
There are a few ways to reach Cabo Giro, the easiest being by renting a car, taking a tour, or hailing a taxi.
If you have a rental car, then at the entrance to the top of the cliffs there is a large, free car park available.
For tours we recommend the Madeira: Best of the West Tour from Funchal, which is one of the highest rated tours in Madeira.
On this popular tour you discover the best of the west of Madeira on an 8-hour tour from Funchal, which includes a stop off at Cabo Giro Skywalk.
This popular stopping point on many island tours gives magnificent panoramic views over the ocean and a fantastic look back at Funchal.
Not for the faint hearted, the sheer drop seen directly beneath your feet is definitely a big tick on your things to do in Madeira bucket list!
Water sports are another of the top bucket list things to do in Madeira seeing as there’s so much coast.
We ventured out early one morning and jumped on SUP’s (or Stand Up Paddle boards) to test our balance in the ocean. Fair to say Lauren was much better than Charlie.
Honestly standing out in the ocean looking back at the island was an incredible memory we’ll always carry with us.
The freedom that comes with stand up paddle boarding is something we’d never experienced. It was literally like walking on water!
We can highly recommend the guys at Madeira Native Motion for SUP.
Another ocean activity, and this time you can fly high above it!
Our first experience at parasailing was a hit. We launched off the back of a speedboat and cruised along the harbour front at around 600ft above sea level thanks to Madeira WaterSports.
Flying along under a huge parachute, enjoying the beautiful scenery of the south coast of Madeira was truly exhilarating and breathtaking.
Prices range from – one person flying €60, two people flying €80 or three people flying €100. If you would rather stay on the boat, passengers pay €15.
A spectacular and unique way to see over the Island of Madeira from the south coast. Definitely one for the bucket list of best things to do in Madeira.
7. Jeep Safari
Taking a Madeira jeep safari was one of the highlights of our trip to the island.
With so many mountains and off roading opportunities, it makes complete sense to jump in a 4×4 and take off early one morning.
There are so many options when booking a Madeira jeep safari tour, that it can be a little overwhelming. However we opted to go with Mountain Expeditions and cannot recommend them enough!
With full day or half day tours available, you can even completely customise your own tour with an experienced professional driver.
From ‘the best of the South’, to ‘the enchanting North’, you can contact the qualified drivers and give them a breakdown of exactly what you’d like to see.
We chose the Madeira: Full-Day South Coast Jeep Tour and our day with Mountain Expeditions was incredible. The guide was on time, spoke great english an catered to our every need.
We spent a full 8 hours exploring every corner of Madeira we hadn’t yet touched. João our driver couldn’t have been more helpful!
For a completely unique experience, adding a jeep tour is a MUST on your things to do in Madeira bucket list!
8. Ride The Funchal Cable Car
Fancy seeing Funchal from above without having to parasail?
The Funchal cable car journey starts at the old part of Funchal, and transcends up into the small suburb of Monte.
The Quinta Jardins do Imperador, Monte Palace Tropical Garden, the Church and the view over the bay are a handful of reasons to ride the cable car to the top.
And after all of that, coming back down in a basket car is another experience that MUST be on your bucket list of things to do in Madeira!
9. Monte Palace Tropical Garden
From the top of the cable car experience, the natural first stop is Monte Palace Tropical Garden.
If you have a fear of heights, or just do not fancy the cable car trip, you can get a private tour to the top.
We can recommend the Madeira Private Half-Day Guided Gardens Tour, which includes hotel pickup and drop-off, a local guide, and entrance fees to both the Botanical Garden and Monte Palace Garden.
Covering over 70,000 square meters and home to a huge collection of plants, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden is an exhibition of worldly nature.
With sections such as water features, a Japanese garden and African art there is plenty to entertain culture lovers within the grounds.
Don’t forget to check out the exhibition of gems and stones, and the indoor African sculptures.
To get down from Monte there’s no better way than the traditional Madeira Toboggan Ride. This one is on everybody’s Madeira bucket list!
Again, if you have a fear of heights, or just do not fancy the cable car trip, you can get a private tour to the top.
You can take the Monte Toboggan Experience by Tuk-Tuk. Which includes hotel pickup and drop-off, a trip to the starting point via tuk-tuk, and your Madeira Toboggan Ride ticket.
Another option is to take the Nuns Valley, Monte and Sleigh Ride Tour. A 4 hour tour, where you discover 3 different points of interest on the island of Madeira, before riding the Madeira Toboggan back down to Funchal.
Made from wicker and wood, these two seated sledges cruise down the narrow streets of Monte all the way back down to Funchal.
Powered by two carreiros, or sledge drivers, wearing white uniforms and straw hats, the 2km journey takes roughly 10 minutes as they use only their boots as brakes.
But don’t worry, it’s completely safe, and a great form on income for locals thanks to tourism.
The amazing natural swimming pools at Doca Do Cavacas have been formed by volcanic lava, and they are now filled with sea water.
The naturally created pools are definitely a highlight of the Madeira coast, and one of the best ways to visit them is via a Câmara de Lobos Tour.
With your personal local guide at the steering wheel take a scenic drive along the west coast to the famous fishing village of Câmara de Lobos.
At the Doca Do Cavacas, there is a car park, changing rooms and bathrooms with lockers. There is also a snack bar open during the summer months along with first aid, sun loungers and sunshades for hire.
The sea flows naturally into these volcanic rock formations, allowing families to have an awesome day out by the ocean.
The most traditional drink of Madeira and one that can be found in almost every shop around the island, all year round.
The original recipe reads something like:
1/4L of brandy cane sugar
3-5 tablespoons of honey
Juice of 2 lemons
Although it has been adapted and mixed over the years to suit different tastes, and the locals will argue which is the TRUE Poncha mix!
One thing’s for sure though, it’s said that ‘You haven’t truly been to Madeira, if you haven’t tried Poncha!’ So be sure to add this to your bucket list of things to do in Madeira.
13. Sunrise At Praia Da Ribeira Da Janela
Praia Da Ribeira Da Janela is a small beach located along the north west corner of the Island between Porto Moniz and Seixal.
The main attraction here is a series of dramatic rock formations that jut out of the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast.
Covered by pebbles and rocks and surrounded by some uniquely structured cliffs, this is not the best beach for sunbathing or a typical beach day.
However, the wild and spectacular scenery is the perfect spot for exploring and getting some great photos, especially at sunrise.
14. CR7 Museum
The CR7 Museum in Funchal, opened in 2013, is dedicated to the famous Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.
The museum is located at Praca do Mar, in the main port in Funchal, the capital of Madeira. Funchal being where Ronaldo was born on 5th February 1985.
Costing just €5, it takes about an hour to get round and see all the exhibits. Including club trophies, individual honours and trophies, match balls, signed football shirts and more.
If you are a real Ronaldo fan the Private Cristiano Ronaldo Tour with CR7 Museum visits the museum as well as the area where Ronaldo grew up, his first club and all things Ronaldo!
This is a great little museum and has to be on the bucket list of things to do in Madeira, especially for all football fans.
15. Visit A Banana Plantation
Madeira’s sun filled days and year long mild climate, along with fertile soil and meticulous farming helps the island to produce some delicious bananas.
A subspecies of the original banana and smaller that the South American banana, the Madeira banana is famous for its intense flavour and aroma.
Most of the banana plantations are small in size and terraced with stone walls, however, together they form a considerable part of all the cultivated land on Madeira.
A visit to a banana plantation is a great way to learn about the farming techniques of this popular fruit. As well as getting to taste some of the delicious produce.
If you want to book a tour the Private Banana Farm Tour with Pickup is highly recommended.
16. Anjos Waterfall
Anjos Waterfall is about a 30 minute drive west of the capital city of Funchal. It is also known as Cascata dos Anjos, meaning Waterfall of Angels.
It’s actually the outflow of a Levada, cascading down a sheer rock face onto the old highway ER 101 road. From here it continues on down to the sea below.
The road is quite narrow where the waterfall is and there is not anywhere to stop if there is other traffic. Therefore, you may just want to drive through the waterfall and get a free, natural car wash!
Alternatively, you can park a little way back from the falls and walk up and enjoy a unique, refreshing shower!
This spectacular water fall is one of the most photographed waterfalls on the island and definitely has to be one of the best things to do in Madeira.
17. Capelinha De Nossa Senhora De Fatima
The pretty little white chapel, Capelhina De Nossa Senhora De Fatima can be found on the north west coast of Madeira.
Built in 1948 to celebrate the end of World War II, this small chapel stands on its own on a hill. Sitting proudly on this high point, it is visible from the entire valley.
Atop the chapel is a beautiful clock tower with clock faces set into all four sides of the tower.
Once you reach the chapel you have stunning panoramic views. They stretch out across the valleys of terraced fields and little white houses and as far as the ocean.
This historic little chapel, with its amazing views is certainly worth the climb!
18. Porto Moniz Natural Pools
Situated on the far north west of the island, Porto Moniz Natural Pools are the most famous volcanic pools on the island.
Made up of Atlantic sea water, the Natural Pools stretch over quite a large area. All of which is kept clean and well maintained, with an entry charge of just €3.
Furthermore, the rocks have been smoothed and shallow areas created to ensure a safe swimming environment.
Platforms and steps have also been added around the complex. Allowing for visitors to be able to enjoy the different areas of this naturally created complex.
With their lovely relaxed vibe and beautiful setting, Porto Moniz Natural Pools are definitely worth visiting. Especially if you have children.
If you prefer everything arranged for you, the From Funchal: Best of Madeira’s West Tour is a great day trip. Visiting all the best spots on the west side of the island, including the Porto Moniz Natural Pools.
19. Seixal Beach & Natural Pools
Sitting on the stunning north coast of Madeira, Seixal Beach & Natural Pools are just off the main VE2 road and are free to visit.
Heading down the main stairs you’re greeted by a unique and beautiful black sand beach. Backed by rugged green cliffs with views of mountains beyond.
Special to this part of the island, the lush green cliffs that drop away into the ocean are certainly impressive. This could be why Madeira has sometimes been called ‘Europe’s Hawaii’.
This is a stunningly scenic spot and definitely has to be on the bucket list of things to do in Madeira.
If you are staying in Funchal and prefer everything arranged for you the Private Transfer to Seixal Black Sand Beach is a good option.
20. Juncal Viewpoint At Pico Do Arieiro
Situated on Madeira’s third highest peak, Juncal viewpoint at Pico do Arieiro is famous for being the best sunrise viewpoint in Madeira.
Part of the dramatic mountain scenery of the interior of Madeira, it is just a 19km drive from the city of Funchal.
On a clear day, from Juncal viewpoint you will have stunning panoramic views across the island’s Central Mountain Range. With jagged peaks and lush green valleys, as well as views of the ocean to both sides.
Also, this sunrise spot is famous as being one of the best viewpoints in Madeira. Consequently many tourists flock here to stand above the blanket of clouds to watch the first rays of sunlight on the horizon.
This has to be on the bucket list of best things to do in Madeira, especially if you love a good sunrise!
21. Fajas Dos Padres
An organic farm and resort on the south coast, Faja Dos Padres is a hidden gem. Just a 20 minute drive from Funchal, it is only accessible by cable car or boat.
As you descend slowly down the cliff side towards the farm you have the most amazing views over the south coast of Madeira and the small bay below.
Faja dos Padres is an organic working farm that produces fabulous fruit and vegetables as well as wine.
They also offer a restaurant serving their fresh produce, swimming and fishing facilities, tourist cottages and the most amazing sea and mountain views.
So, from breathtaking views from the cable car, to amazing views from the farm, Faja dos Padres is well worth being on your list of things to do in Madeira.
If you like everything arranged for you, the Private Guided Cabo Girão Tour offers the option of visiting Faja Dos Padres.
22. PR11 Levada Dos Balcoes Viewpoint
The trail to get to the PR11 Levada dos Balcoes viewpoint starts from the village of Ribeiro Frio, 17km inland from the city of Funchal.
At the end of the trail you reach the platform of the PR11 Levada dos Balcoes, one of the best viewpoints in Madeira. From here you have breathtaking views across the lush green Ribeira da Metade valley.
As well as the beautiful valley, you are also able to see the island’s Central Mountain Range, including the two highest peaks, Pico do Areeiro and Pico Ruivo.
In addition, this area is also home to a huge variety of birds including chaffinches, blackbirds, robins, buzzards. As well as the rare trocaz pigeon, only found on the island of Madeira.
So make sure to put the PR11 Levada dos Balcoes on you bucket list of things to do in Madeira The vistas and wildlife are amazing!
The Madeira: Private 1.5-Kilometer Levada dos Balcões Hike PR11 is great if you don’t want the hassle of arranging everything yourself.
23. Camara de Lobos Fishing Village
The picturesque fishing village of Camara de Lobos is located on the outskirts of Funchal.
The fishermen here specialise in night fishing for the Scabbard fish. Consequently, during the day, you will see their colourful fishing boats pulled up onto the grey pebble beach in the heart of the village.
Surrounded by some of the highest cliffs in Europe, the small bay is surrounded by shops and restaurants and these charming views have inspired many artists over the years.
Probably one of the most famous being Sir Winston Churchill. As a result, Camara de Lobos have proudly erected a life-size bronze statue of him overlooking his favourite bay.
To learn about the history and culture of Camara de Lobos the Camara de Lobos: 1.5-Hour Tour in a Tuk Tuk is a great option. You also get to try some local delicacies, like fish, Poncha and Nikita!
24. Traditional Santana Houses
Santana is a pretty village on the north coast of Madeira, characterised by its small, triangular houses.
Dating back to the discovery of Madeira, these colourful houses are a popular tourist attraction. They also represent an important part of Madeira’s heritage.
Built of natural stone and thatched with straw, the houses comprise of a ground floor divided into a kitchen and bedroom. With an attic above where animals and agricultural products would be kept.
Santana village centre is probably the best place to see some of these traditional houses, along with some beautiful gardens.
If you fancy a full day tour that includes visiting Santana and these unique houses, the Best of the East Tour from Funchal is a good choice.
25. Eat Local
I love trying out different foods when I visit somewhere new. Here are some of the popular and traditional foods of Madeira.
Bolo de caco is a staple food in Madeira. It’s a flat, round bread made with sweet potato, flour, salt, sugar and yeast, then baked on a flat stone. It’s often served as an accompaniment to meals with garlic butter or cheese. Alternatively it is used as a sandwich bread with fillings such as ham, tuna cheese etc.
Pastel de nata is a traditional Portuguese pastry filled with a smooth egg custard. The beautifully creamy filling has a slightly burned top and a layered, light and crisp puff pastry base.
Lapas or limpets are very popular on Madeira as light snack or as appetizer. Being an island, nearly all menus on Madeira serve seafood. Lapas are served grilled with garlic and butter, then just add a zest of lemon and enjoy.
Where To Stay In Madeira
Luxury – The Vine Hotel
Recently awarded as Europe’s Leading Design Hotel, the luxurious Vine Hotel is located in Funchal.
It offers a fusion restaurant with stunning views, a Wine Therapy Spa, access to the fitness centre and a rooftop infinity pool.
Each room features an LCD TV with in-room movies, free WiFi and a laptop-size safe.
The roof terrace sports a heated infinity pool, massage facilities as well as a 20 yard hot tub, with views of Fort São João and the mountains.
Mid-Budget – Hotel Baia Azul
The newly renovated 4-star Hotel Baía Azul is ideally situated a 4-minute walk from Funchal’s beachfront.
It offers 3 swimming pools, 3 restaurants, a Spa and a sun deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the gardens.
The hotel has a total of 215 bedrooms with sea-inspired decor. All rooms come with an en suite bathroom, bath amenities and a hairdryer.
Not only that, but a flat-screen cable TV, a minibar, a kettle and a safe deposit box too.
Free WiFi access is provided in all rooms and common areas.
Budget – Funchal Apartments – City View
Funchal Apartments – City View is venue is set in Se district, around a 10 minute walk from Funchal center, and features a terrace with the cathedral view.
The property includes free WiFi, plus express check-in and check-out.
There is also a shared kitchen, ATM and currency exchange for guests.
All rooms include a wardrobe, a desk and a shared bathroom.
For more places to stay in Madeira, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.