Where to swim in Madeira – part I – Beaches in Madeira [2020 update]

UPDATED  04-04-2020   ◊   ZMIEŃ JĘZYK NA: POLSKI

Portugal beaches: Madeira Island Prainha Beach -Praia da Parinha

As you have probably already heard or read – You won’t find beautiful, snow-white, natural sandy beaches in Madeira Island. 

So, where to swim and what are the beaches like in Madeira?

For me personally, despite the lack of snow-white beaches, you can enjoy swimming in Madeira just fine. It is simply different – more interesting, more diverse and much more exciting. Today we will take a look at all sandy beaches, pebble beaches and a couple of unusual gems. Do not forget to check also:

1 Sandy beaches

1.1 Beaches in Porto Santo

The most beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise water, i.e. the view that many of us most often associate with great summer holidays, can be found in Porto Santo – small island belonging to the Madeira Archipelago. Porto Santo is even jokingly called “a beach with an island”. On Porto Santo, we will find about 9 kilometres of golden, beautiful, sandy beaches.

EN: Beautiful beach in Porto Santo, Portugal. ~ PL: Piekna plaża na portugalskiej wyspie Porto Santo
EN: Beautiful beach in Porto Santo, Portugal. ~ PL: Piekna plaża na portugalskiej wyspie Porto Santo
PHOTO: Courtesy of Vila Baleira
Best beaches Portugal - Stunning Porto Santo Island beach
Beautiful beaches - Stunning Porto Santo Island beach, Madeira Archipelago

Porto Santo is located about 50 km from Madeira. You can get there by plane or with the Lobo Marinho ferry (Porto Santo Line). The flight between Madeira and Porto Santo is approx. 25 minutes long, but most of the tourists choose the ferry.

The ferry leaves Funchal usually (in high season) at 8 am and returns in the evening. The cruise takes 2 hours and 20 minutes, so you can enjoy a nice beach day and return on the same day.  To really relax and see other interesting places on the island, I recommend staying in Porto Santo for at least one night.

In 2020, an adult return ticket (tourist class) costs in the high season (from April to September) – 59.44 euro and in the remaining months – 48.60 euro. A child ticket (return ticket; from 5 to 11 years) costs 29.72 euro in the high season and 24.30 euro off-season. Children under 4 years old travel for free.

The price list, schedule, full terms & conditions as well as different ferry+vehicle and ferry+hotel deals can be found [ON THE OFFICIAL SITE]. Check also our detailed post where we review and give some tips for travelling with the Porto Santo ferry:

The beach in Porto Santo is also frequently chosen by eloping couples wishing to be married in Portugal and exchange vows in a beautiful setting. Costs of such a wedding can be surprisingly attractive; please check my other post [Porto Santo Beach Wedding] if you would like to know more.

Beautiful beach wedding in Porto Santo, Portugal. ~ Piekny slub na plaży na portugalskiej wyspie Porto Santo
PHOTO: imart8.pt - @double_imart8

Check also this live camera streaming straight from Vila Baleira in Porto Santo  [ HERE ] 

1.2 Sandy beaches in Madeira

There are a couple of sandy beaches on Madeira, but those on with white sand are artificial beaches made of imported sand from Africa. Not all locals are fond of these artificial beaches and I absolutely agree with them. There are enough places in the world that can offer more when it comes to beautiful snow-white beaches. While in Madeira, it is better to enjoy what the island really has to offer. Instead of spending days on a not-at-all-spectacular beach, I would strongly suggest visiting the natural lava pools or look for other hidden gems.

1.2.1  Machico Beach – Praia Da Banda D’ Alem

Machico is located on the east part of the island; about half an hour by car from Funchal. It is situated next to the Cristiano Ronaldo Airport, which makes this place very attractive for plane spotters.

On one side we can see an artificial, white sand beach, and on the other – a natural beach, partly pebbled and partly covered with black sand. The beach is located right by the centre of Machico town, so there are many bars and restaurants nearby. There is also a tourist infrastructure – bathrooms and showers. Admission to the beach is free.

We have described the Machico Beach in detail in our recent post:

MACHICO BEACH & PICO DO FACHO VIEWPOINT – PHOTO GALLERY

Machico Beach in Madeira is also where many surfing lessons take place and where I myself tried surfing for the first time in my life:

SURFING IN MADEIRA – BEGINNERS LESSONS

Beaches in Madeira - Machico Beach
Beaches Madeira. Pico do Facho viewpoint. Machico Beach

Check also this live camera streaming straight from Machico Beach:  [ HERE ] 

1.2.2 Calheta Beach

Another artificial beach in Madeira is Calheta Beach. Built in 2004 from sand imported from Africa; consists of two beaches facing each other and sheltered by breakwaters. It is a calm beach, without big waves.

The beach in Calheta is free and guarded. There are also lockers, toilets and showers; beach chairs and umbrellas can be rented at very affordable prices.

Madeira Island Beaches: Calheta Beach. Sandy beaches in Madeira, Portugal
Madeira Island Beaches: Calheta Beach. Sandy beaches in Madeira, Portugal
Madeira Island Beaches: Calheta Beach. Sandy beaches in Madeira, Portugal
Swimming and sunbathing on Madeira: Sandy beaches in Madeira, Portugal. Hotels close to sandy beaches Madeira

Calheta is a good place to stay while visiting Madeira. This small tourist town is especially recommended to those who would prefer to avoid busy cities like Funchal, but without compromising on tourist infrastructure and comfort. 

For more information about Calheta, please check my other posts:

[ATTRACTIONS IN CALHETA]  &  [MODERN SAVOY SACCHARUM HOTEL IN CALHETA]

Check also this Calheta Beach live camera:  [ HERE ] 

1.2.3 Prainha Beach (Praia da Prainha) – natural beach

A small, charming, natural beach located in the east of the island, between the city of Caniçal and the beloved by many Ponta de São Lourenço (about 30-40 min by car from Funchal).

The beach is located in a small bay. It is easily accessible by car and free parking is available on top of the small cliff. It is a beach with darker, volcanic sand, and around the beach, you can see dunes with limestone fossils. Admission to Praia da Prainha is free. There is a small bar available on the beach, from which we, by the way, recorded this short time-lapse:

And here are a couple of pictures of the Prainha Beach on a hot, hot September day:

Best time to visit Portugal - September weather in Algarve, Lisbon and Madeira.
Best Madeira Island beaches - Prainha beach. Madeira Island travel guide Say Yes To Madeira
Best Madeira Island beaches - Prainha beach. Madeira Island travel guide Say Yes To Madeira
Portugal beaches: Madeira Island Prainha Beach -Praia da Parinha
Best beaches in Madeira - Prainha Beach - Praia da Parinha
Best Madeira Island beaches - Prainha beach. Madeira Island travel guide Say Yes To Madeira
Best Madeira Island beaches - Prainha beach. Madeira Island travel guide Say Yes To Madeira

1.2.4 Seixal Beach (Praia do Porto do Seixal) – natural beach

Seixal Beach is a beautiful black volcanic sand beach, with an impressive view, not over the ocean, but over Madeira’s north coast.

Thanks to the concrete pier, there are no large waves, and swimming is safe also for children. However, the beach is not guarded. A visit to the Seixal beach should be combined with the visit to the natural volcanic pools located in the same town.

Plaża w Seixal na Maderze (Praia do Porto do Seixal) – naturalna plaża z czarnym piaskiem na północy Madery.
Seixal Beach. PHOTO: @toni150279
Best beaches in Madeira: Seixal Beach. Natural, black sand beach in Madeira
Seixal Beach PHOTO: @anuska.garcia
Best beaches in Madeira: Seixal Beach. Natural, black sand beach in Madeira
Seixal Beach PHOTO: @anuska.garcia

A natural beach in Seixal or Prainha beach would be my choice if I was in Madeira today. The strongest advantage of Prainha beach is that the weather in Madeira is usually better on the southern coast. 

More about the weather in Madeira in the post: WEATHER IN MADEIRA

Seixal also has a life webcam [ HERE ] however, the angle could have been a bit better…

1.2.5 Other sandy beaches in Madeira

  • Alagoa Beach (Praia da Alagoa) in Porto da Cruz;  natural black sand beach located in the North-East of Madeira 
  • Laje Beach (Praia da Laje) in Seixal

2 Pebble beaches in Madeira

Most of the beaches in Madeira are naturally pebble beaches, so to facilitate access to the water, piers, platforms, stairs, and ladders have been constructed.

Some of the most popular pebble beaches in Madeira are:

2.1 Formosa Beach (Praia Formosa) in Funchal

A large beach located in western Funchal, precisely between Funchal and Camara de Lobos, near the most popular hotel street Estrada Monumental. It is mainly a pebble beach, partly covered with black sand. It is almost 2 km long, and it is the largest public beach in Funchal. It consists of four parts: Nova, Formosa, Namorados and Areeiro.

From the city side, you can reach it by a special tunnel (Túnel das Poças do Gomes), entrance to which is located at the Doca do Cavacas bathing complex, described in PART II. This beach is also part of the promenade leading from Funchal to the colourful fishing village of Camara de Lobos. Thanks to the promenade, you are able to walk from and to Camara de Lobos in around one hour.

Plaża Praia Formosa w Funchal na Maderze

[ HERE ] in the foreground we can see the Vigário Beach in Câmara de Lobos, and a bit further in the background Praia Formosa in Funchal. 

Vigário Beach in Câmara de Lobos

Camara de Lobos, Madeira Island. View on Cabo Girao Cliff. Recommended places in Camara de Lobos. #madeira #portugal #europetravel #portugaltravel Wioska rybacka Camara de Lobos na Maderze. Widok na klif Cabo Girao #madera

2.2 Anjos Beach

A pebble beach in the south of Madeira, between Ponta do Sol and Madalena do Mar. 

Swimming in Madeira: Swimming complexes, lava pools and beaches in Madeira
PHOTO CREDITS: @skolskypt

2.3 Gorgulho Beach in Funchal 

Called also Gavinas Beach. A free, public beach in Funchal.

A small, very rocky beach, its advantage is the location in the very centre of the city, in the popular hotel/restaurant/bar area, right on the Lido promenade and close to the Lido Bathing Complex. There is a concrete sunbathing platform by the beach.

Nearby there are many restaurants and bars, i.e. our favourite Qasbah bar, which is especially great for getting a drink while observing the sunset.

Beaches in Madeira: Gorgulho - Gavinas Beach in Funchal
Gorgulho - Gavinas Beach PHOTO: Say Yes To Madeira

Check also the live webcam streaming from Gorgulho – Gavinas Beach:  [ HERE ] 

2.4 Garajau Beach (Praia do Garajau)

Ideal for diving, located at the foot of the Garajau Cliff, next to the statue of Christ (Cristo Rei). The beach can be accessed via a winding path (on foot or by car) or by a cable car (3 euro per person / both ways). There is a bar on the beach.

While on Garajau you cannot miss the amazing rock formation. During low tide, it is also possible to walk along a path over the water, under the cliff (which can be nicely seen on the last picture below).

Swimming in Madeira: Swimming complexes, lava pools and beaches in Madeira
Garajau Beach PHOTO: @skolskypt
Plaże na Maderze: Kamienista plaża w Garajau na południu Madery. W oddali- Funchal Fot.: Say Yes to Madeira
Garajau Beach and view on Funchal PHOTO: Say Yes to Madeira
Statek wycieczkowy, replika łodzi Krzysztofa Kolumba - Santa Maria de Colombo - przepływająca obok plaży w Garajau na Maderze.

2.5 Other pebble/rocky beaches 

North and north-east of Madeira:

Southeastern Madeira: 

  • Palmeiras Beach (Praia das Palmeiras) in Santa Cruz
  • Caniçal Beach: Praia da Ribeira de Natal (see photos in 4.3)

Southern Madeira:

  • Vigário Beach in Camara de Lobos [webcam]
  • São Tiago Beach (Praia de São Tiago) in the Old Town of Funchal (by the yellow fort with the same name)
  • Ponta do Sol Beach (ideal during sunsets)
  • Madalena do Mar Beach (partly stones, partly black sand)
  • Reis Magos Beach (Praia dos Reis Magos) in Caniço

Western and Southwestern Madeira:

  • Beaches: Enseada and Portinho in Jardim do Mar
  • Beaches: Ribeira das Galinhas and Porto in Paul do Mar [webcam]

3 (Pebble) Beaches on a fajã

An interesting subcategory of the pebble beaches in Madeira are beaches under a fajã.

What is a fajã …? An English equivalent of that word does not exist. It is a piece of flat, very fertile and secluded land built by flowing lava; located at the foot of the cliff. 

One of my favourite places to visit and swim on Madeira I have already described Fajã dos Padres in detail in our post:

BEST OF MADEIRA – FAJA DOS PADRES 

Access to the fajã beach is free, but if you want to get there from the top of the cliff, you will need to buy the cable car tickers – 5 euros. Next to the pebble beach, you will find a small platform and a nice restaurant. I frequently visit the fajã, but I prefer to swim and snorkel around the pier.

Faja dos padres, Madera. Jak wygląda plaża na Fajã dos Padres?
Faja dos Padres beach.
Must See in Madeira Island - Faja dos Padres beach Madeira Island
Must See in Madeira - Faja dos Padres beach. Faja dos Padres cliff. Faja dos Padres cable car. Faja dos Padres restaurant

3.2 Fajã do Rancho Beach 

This beach lies next to one of the highest cliff of Europe Cabo Girao (580 m). Similar to Faja dos Padres, you can get there only by waterway or cable car, but unlike Faja dos Padres, there are no restaurants or bathrooms on Fajã do Rancho, so it is worth taking your own food.

The restaurant (with a spectacular view!) is located on the top of the cliff, right next to the cable car station.

Note: The cable car station to Faja do Rancho is not located anywhere near the glass deck on Cabo Girao, but in a slightly different location to the east. The address is: Estrada Santa Clara Sítio do Rancho, Câmara De Lobos

Lokalizacja stacji kolejki linowej na Fajã do Rancho (Faja do Cabo Girao) na Maderze versus punkt widokowy Cabo Girao - Warto pamiętać, że kolejka na Faja do Cabo Girao nie startuje przy szklanym tarasie.

From the left: Restaurant Teleferico do Rancho, in the middle: an observation deck and on the right (a bit hidden it is easy to miss it) the cable car station. 

Cable car station to Fajã do Rancho PHOTO: Google Maps

4 .. and last but not least: “Something different” & “Hidden gems”

4.1 Calhau da Lapa Beach in Campanário

Calhau da Lapa is a pebble beach neighbouring with Fajã dos Padres from the west.

This place is, not at all easily, but accessible from the land. There is no cable car there. There is a hiking path, but the walk is neither fast nor easy (about 1.5 km and very steep). It is much easier to get there by sea.

This hardly accessible, but a fascinating place with the cleanest water in Madeira and a beautiful view on the waterfall is not as popular as other attractions. Private boat trips sail there from the fishing village of Camara de Lobos. I also heard that when booking the trip you can also book a meal – freshly caught fish grilled on-site.

I have not had a chance to visit Calhau da Lapa yet, but I fell in love with it after seeing this short video:

Or maybe it is because of the name? Calhau da Lapa means “Limpet’s Rock” and you know how much I love limpets… The beautiful Calhau da Lapa in Campanário is definitely on my list for the next summer holiday in Madeira.

4.2 Poço dos Chefes

 

Poço dos Chefes is a popular place among locals: a natural reservoir/well where bathing and diving is possible.

Poço dos Chefes is located in one of the most beautiful areas of Madeira- the Nun’s Valley. A visit to Poço dos Chefes can be combined with a visit/lunch in the town of Curral das Freiras and the beautiful observation deck Curral das Freiras/Eira do Serrado.

Day trips from Funchal: Eira do Serrado – Nun’s Valley – Poco dos Chefes. Hidden gems of Madeira Island. #madeira #portugal
Must see on Madeira Island: Poco dos Chefes. Hidden gems of Madeira #madeira #portugal #hiking #mountains #beautiful Najpiekniejsze miejsca na Maderze: Poco dos Chefes w Dolinie Zakonnic. Co trzeba zobaczyć na Maderze #madera

SEE ALSO OUR DETAILED ARTICLE: VISITING NUN’S VALLEY AND POCO DOS CHEFES

4.3 Pedra d ‘Eira (Pedradeira) in Caniçal

 It is a small platform between rocks, with direct access to the ocean. Pedra d ‘Eira is appreciated by many for the beautiful view, and very very clean water. It attracts mostly fans of diving.

Pedra d ‘Eira is located in Caniçal, between the pebble beach Praia da Ribeira Natal and the Caniçal Bathing Complex.

Gdzie się kąpać na Maderze: Kąpielisko/plaża Pedra d ‘Eira, położona w Caniçal, pomiędzy plażą Praia da Ribeira Natal a kompleksem kąpielowym Caniçal Bathing Complex
Pedra d ‘Eira in Canical; In the background Praia da Ribeira Natal PHOTO: @marcopmor

And You? Which Madeira Island beach did you like the most?

 

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Beaches in Madeira ~ Plaże na Maderze
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