The rugged island of Madeira is famous for its breathtaking vistas of ragged mountain landscapes, lush valleys and crystal clear waters that are perfect for swimming, surfing, scuba diving and game fishing.
With year-round sunshine, numerous hiking trails, championship golf courses, fine local cuisine and luxury accommodation, Madeira offers all the ingredients you need for a relaxing or active honeymoon at anytime of the year.
Head to the popular south coast beach resort of Calheta or the east coast resort of Canico for a choice of luxury hotels, good swimming beaches and informal restaurants serving fresh seafood.
Or remain in the capital, Funchal, with its selection of large seafront lidos – man-made swimming areas often artfully positioned around nature-sculpted rock pools of calm seawater.
A day trip to the nearby island of Porto Santo offers the chance to unwind on the golden sands of Praia do Porto Santo – Madeira’s best beach.
Discover Funchal’s rich heritage in the numerous 15th and 16th century churches, museums and mansions that line the narrow winding alleyways of the city’s historic heart.
Elsewhere, explore Funchal’s attractive tree-lined streets that crisscross lush green hillsides dotted with luxuriant plants, manicured gardens and red-roofed whitewashed villas.
Madeira’s colourful and lush landscape is often referred to as the ‘Floating Garden of the Atlantic’ and an abundance of colourful flora lies everywhere: look out for jacaranda, bougainvillea, poinsettias, cannas, frangipani, birds of paradise, orchids, geraniums, whortleberry, prickly pear and wisteria, among others.
Beyond the capital, explore on foot, by hire car or tour bus the dramatic cliff-encircled coastline and rugged mountainous interior dotted with cultivated terraced slopes of custard apples, avocados, mangoes, oranges, bananas and grape vines.
Here roads cling to the tops of plunging rock-strewn ravines and twist though hairpin bends to volcanic mountain peaks and picturesque mountain villages.
Stroll the cobblestone streets of Santana in the northern highlands and historic Machico on the east coast, where Portuguese explorers landed in 1419.
At Camara De Lobos on the south coast, discover spectacular coastal views from the sea-swept cliffs of Cabo Girao – the world's second highest ocean cliffs (the highest is in Norway), at 580m above sea level. Just inland is Madeira’s famous wine growing region of Estreito.
Madeira offers wonderful hiking opportunities: follow ancient hand-hewn stone trails and old man-made levadas (water courses) through flower-strewn meadows and primeval laurel forests. Hike lush ravines past tumbling waterfalls and along precipitous mountain ledges.
Take the long but scenic three-hour trek to the summit of Pico Ruivo, the highest point on the island at 1860m above sea level. Alternatively, enjoy panoramic views from the easy to reach belvederes of Pico Dos Barcelos on the south coast and Camoe Pequeno on the east coast.
Along the way, look out for bird life such as the Maderia Firecrest, Zino’s petrel and the long toed pigeon.
Go surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing at Jardim do Mar, Paul do Mar and Sao Vicente. Hook up a fishing charter from Calheta and Funchal and reel in long tail tuna, blue marlin, barracuda and swordfish.
Scuba dive or snorkel the Reserva Natural do Garajau and Baixa da Cruz to see dolphins, turtles, amberjack, whiting, damselfish, rays, moray ells, wrasse and barracuda, and swim among sea wolves at Desertas.
Whale watching tours allow you to get up close to humpback, beaked, pilot and killer whales during their annual migration past the island in April, May, September and October.
Tee-off from the Clube de Golf at Santo da Serra, a Robert Trent Jones-designed 27-hole golf course set in a spectacular landscape. Alternatively, try the fairways that wind through steep rocky terrain at the 18-hole Clube de Palheiro at São Gonçalo, around 5km north of Funchal.
Read more about the sights and attractions of Madeira…
With the sole exception of Praia da Calheta’s imported golden sand, Madeira’s beaches consist mainly of volcanic black sand and smooth pebbles periodically indenting the towering cliffs that almost encircle the island.
In addition, nature-sculpted rock swimming pools and man-made lidos edged with a variety of holiday amenities allow easy access to Madeira’s crystal clear waters.
The best beaches and bathing areas in Madeira, include…
Relax on either one of Calheta’s two man-made golden-sand beaches, which face each other across a calm lagoon protected by two long rock breakwaters.
Facilities include parasols and sun loungers for hire, toilets, showers, a first aid centre and changing rooms.
The adjacent marine boasts a range of water sport activities, including canoes, catamarans and windsurfing boards for hire. Bars and seafood restaurants are a short stroll away along a palm-fringed promenade.
Although less than 100m wide, both beaches provide soft golden sand imported mainly from Morocco and Figueira da Foz in Portugal.
Nestled beneath a dramatic vegetation-clad mountain range dotted with red-roofed villas, Calheta is one of Madeira's top beach holiday destinations. Come on a day trip from Funchal or stay longer at the luxurious 4-star Hotel Calheta Beach.
Praia da Calheta in located on the southwest coast around 26km east of Funchal.
Surfers will appreciate the three adjoining black-pebble beaches of Enseada, Ponta Jardim and Portinho. The waters here are famous for strong waves and excellent year-round wind surfing and surfing conditions.
The beach nestles beneath a massive mountain range near the small village of Jardim do Mar, which sits on a small plateau jutting into sea on the southwest coast of Madeira, around 10km west of Calheta.
Enjoy a refreshing dip in these picture-perfect, naturally formed volcanic rock pools that fill at high tide with crystal clear turquoise seawater and are overlooked by the steep slopes of a verdant mountain range.
Facilities include parasols and sun loungers for hire, toilets, showers, lifeguards, a first aid centre, a kindergarten, changing rooms with lockers, a dive centre and facilities for the disabled. Ladders attached to immense lava rocks provide easy access to and from the sea for those who prefer to swim in the open ocean.
A selection of cafés, bars, restaurants and shops are just a short stroll away. Come for a day or stay longer at the nearby Hotel Euro Moniz.
Port Moniz is located on the northwest coast around 48km from Funchal.
Unwind on this black-sand beach or swim in natural rock pools surrounded by towering black lava cliffs and green mountains in a setting of stunning natural beauty.
Facilities include changing rooms, lifeguards and nearby restaurants. Praia da Jamaica is located between Seixal and Porto Moniz on the north coast.
Choose from two swimming pools at this man-made lido just minutes away from the capital, Funchal, on the south coast.
Facilities include parasols and sun loungers for hire, toilets, showers, lifeguards, a first aid centre, a kindergarten, changing rooms with lockers and a children’s pool with a sandy play area.
A cliff-face promenade leads to a choice of nearby cafés, bars, restaurants and several hotels with spectacular views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Pick a spot to sunbathe on this 1.2km-long black sand and pebble beach that nestles beneath lava cliffs overlooking Pestana Bay, just 10 minutes drive from Funchal city centre.
Facilities include parasols and sun loungers for hire, toilets, showers, lifeguards, a first aid centre, a kindergarten and changing rooms with lockers.
Water sports include windsurfing and kite surfing. A seafront promenade leads to a selection of snack bars, restaurants and nearby hotels including the Hotel Regency Palace.
This small, 150m-long black-sand beach offers swimming in crystalline water and a choice of restaurants and bars.
Facilities include parasols and sun loungers for hire, toilets, showers and lifeguards. Go swimming or join the locals in a game of beach volleyball or soccer.
Ribeira Brava is just 15 minutes drive along the south coast from Funchal.
Choose to sunbathe and swim from either a black-pebble beach or man-made golden-sand beach that sits on the eastern side of a rock breakwater facing mountain-framed Machico Bay.
Facilities include parasols and sun loungers for hire, showers, changing rooms, toilets, a children’s swimming pool, a first aid centre and lifeguards.
An area is reserved for soccer and beach volleyball. Water sports include pedal boats, sailing, jet skis and fishing trips. A promenade leads to several cafés, bars and restaurants in the historic red-roofed village of Machico.
Beyond the beach, play a round of golf at the Campo de Golfe or follow hiking trails along the coast – try the popular trail from Largo dos Milagros to the Pico do Facho cliffs, which offers stunning coastal views.
Machico is located on the east coast close to Madeira Airport, around 30km from Funchal.
Swim in the crystal clear waters that lap this narrow, 20m-long stretch of black sand and stone beach surrounded by green hills and soaring cliffs.
Facilities include parasols and sun loungers for hire, toilets, showers, changing rooms, a first aid centre and lifeguards.
A beachfront promenade leads to a selection of bars, restaurants and hotels, including the luxurious beachfront Hotel Riu Palace and Four Views Oasis.
Praia de Reis Magos is located in Canico, along the southeast coast.
Madeira offers an excellent choice of accommodation options to suit all honeymoon budgets, as well as great value pousadas (government-sponsored inns).
Belmond Reid's Palace
Location: Sao Martinho, Funchal, Madeira
Ave nightly price: AUD810 per room
Description: Set on a cliff in 10 acres of subtropical grounds overlooking the Atlantic, this 5-star resort features an oceanfront spa, 3 swimming pools and direct access to oceanic waters. All rooms at Reid's Palace are elegantly furnished and include a balcony and marble bathroom with amenities. A minibar with complimentary drinks and free in-room movies are available to each room. Reid’s Palace Spa features indoor and outdoor therapy suites with a private whirlpool. It offers an indulgent menu of treatments using world-class spa brands. Dry and wet saunas are also on site. Active guests can play a match on the tennis courts, or get energized with cardio equipment at the modern gym. Al fresco dining is offered by the French-inspired Brisa Do Mar, while the Villa Cipriani serves classic Italian dishes. The Dining Room organizes elegant soirees in Edwardian atmosphere. The Reid’s is 2 miles from Praia Formosa Beach and 15 minutes’ walk to Funchal city center with plenty of nightlife. It provides free private parking.
Quinta da Casa Branca
Location: Sao Martinho, Funchal, Madeira
Ave nightly price: AUD630 per room
Description: Set within extensive gardens of various subtropical trees and a banana plantation, Quinta da Casa Branca features a boutique hotel and an elegant manor house and offers a heated pool and rooms with garden views. There is a spa room and two restaurants at the property. Free WiFi access, tea and coffee making facilities and a private balcony or terrace overlooking the gardens are available in all accommodations. Each of the private bathrooms is comfortably equipped with a hairdryer, bathrobe and slippers. The Health Club is equipped with a fitness training room, sauna, steam bath, hot tub and a relaxation room. The Phytocéane Spa room offers massages and beauty treatments. An outdoor heated swimming pool and communal relaxation spaces in the gardens are also provided, offering guests peaceful settings to relax or peruse a book. et in the Manor House, “The Dining Room” Restaurant has an al fresco dining terrace and offers fine Mediterranean cuisine, à la carte or table d’hôte. Amongst the gardens, the “Garden Pavilion” Restaurant is set in a modern wooden glass building with a terrace and offers buffet breakfast, lunch and snacks. Quinta da Casa Branca's 24-hour reception staff can arrange private jeep tours around the Island, Levada walks, sailing trips, car and bike rentals and airport private transfers. Madeira Airport is 20 km away from Quinta da Casa Branca and Funchal city centre is 2 km away.
Quinta Jardins do Lago
Location: Funchal, Madeira
Ave nightly price: AUD289 per room
Description: In the hills surrounding Funchal, this 18th-century mansion sits in an extensive botanical gardens with 500 different plant species. All rooms have balconies overlooking the gardens or the Atlantic. Quinta Jardins do Lago's spacious rooms are elegantly furnished and include a sitting area, a marble bathroom and a large balcony. Each room features air conditioning, cable TV and free Wi-Fi. The Beresford restaurant serves a fusion of Madeiran and international cuisine, and has tables both indoors and out on the terrace. There are 2 bars, one of which is a poolside bar surrounded by mango trees and flowers. Quinta Jardins do Lago has a large lagoon-style swimming pool surrounded by sun terraces with lounge chairs. Guests can work out in the gym or spend the afternoon in the sauna, Turkish bath and hot tub. This luxurious boutique hotel is just over 1 mile from the center of Funchal. Free parking is available, and a free shuttle service to and from the center of the city is available upon request.
The Cliff Bay - PortoBay
Location: Sao Martinho, Funchal, Madeira
Ave nightly price: AUD289 per room
Description: Situated atop a natural peninsula, The Cliff Bay provides panoramic Atlantic Ocean views and private sea access. There are indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a Michelin-starred restaurant and free Wi-Fi. All guest rooms have twin queen-size beds, an en suite marble bathroom and an LCD cable TV with DVD/CD player. In addition, all rooms feature a veranda with table and chairs, giving views of the hotel's gardens or the Bay of Funchal. Cliff Bay features 3 restaurants, including Il Gallo d'Oro, which serves aromatic Mediterranean and Iberian cuisine. Guests can also relax in any of the on-site cafés and bars. Cliff Bay features top-of-the-range spa and wellness facilities. There is direct, private access to the sea as well as tennis courts, a games room and a library. The hotel is located within a 5-minute drive from the Funchal centre, just 20 minutes’ drive from Madeira Airport. An airport shuttle is available upon request.
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The best time to visit Madeira is between May and September when the rainfall is low and temperatures average 25°C (77°F).
Temperatures on Madeira rarely fall below 20°C (68°F); even December has sunny days with a high of 22°C (71°F).
Madeira’s crystalline waters are perfect for diving and snorkelling, with water temperatures averaging 18°C (64°F) in January and 22°C (71°F) in August.
Find more climate info: Madeira Weather Guide…
The island of Madeira is located around 850km southwest of Portugal and 565km west of the African coastline.
Madeira receives direct flights daily from London and Lisbon.
Latest update: Madeira Honeymoon: 20 February, 2019
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