We spent an incredible five days on the magical Portuguese Island. So after hitting all of the hot spots, here are our top 13 things to do in Madeira.
Undoubtedly the highlight of this small Portuguese Island are it’s vast amount of Levada walks.
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 that also provides pick up and drop off from hotels, torches (which you will need) and of course all the vital information about the levadas history and how it was built along the way.
We can highly recommend using Adventure Kingdom, who run tours and Levada walks throughout the island on different days of the week, and you can check availability, prices and book in advance with them here.
We took the Madeira Island: Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk and were not disappointed!
Dating back to the sixteenth century, these narrow channels were 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, whilst giving some beautiful scenic walks along the way.
Book your Levada Caldeirao Verde Tour: Madeira Island: Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk
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 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. And you can check availability, prices and book in advance with them here.
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 Whale and Sperm Whales are most commonly seen through the year, but with other species such as Sei Whale, Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Bryde’s Whale, Minke Whale, and even Orcas many more can be found.
All in all it was an incredible experience and one we recommend to anyone visiting the island of Madeira.
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!
Book your Dolphin & Whale Watching Madeira Tour: Madeira Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour from Funchal
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 deeply explore the roots. Not to mention, take it back in time on one of the best Madeira tours – the classic car tour.
In our opinion one of the best things to do in Madeira, the island has to offer!
Book your Classic Car Madeira Tour: Cabo Girão & Poncha Tasting by Classic VW
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 feint hearted, the sheer drop seen directly beneath your feet is definitely a big tick on your things to do in Madeira list!
Water sports are another of the top 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 as we launched off the back of a speedboat and cruised along the harbour front at around 600ft above sea level thanks to Madeira WaterSports.
A truly unique way to see over the island of Madeira from the South coast.
If you’re looking for hiking in Madeira then this is your spot.
The third highest peak on the island, after Pico Ruivo (1862m) and Pico das Torres (1853m), Pico do Arieiro stand at 1818m and gives views of the neighbouring island of Porto Santo on a clear day.
You’ll need some transport to get up there, so we recommend the Madeira: Best of the East Tour from Funchal.
Head into the mountain of the Pico do Arieiro and see emblematic thatch roof houses. Stop for lunch in the town of Santana and continue to the Penha d’Águia in Porto da Cruz.
Unfortunately, we visited for sunrise and took the risk of the clouds not clearing in time. You can see the result in the photo below.
So make sure to check the weather forecast before heading up too early.
Book your Pico Do Arieiro Tour: Madeira: Best of the East Tour from Funchal
Taking a jeep tour around Madeira 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.
You can check out the full range of prebuilt Mountain Expedition Tours here.
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 list!
Click HERE for our full Jeep Safari Madeira Guide – Choosing The Best Madeira Jeep Tour blog.
Book your Jeep Safari Madeira Tour: Mountain Expedition Tours
Fancy seeing Funchal from above without having to parasail?
The cable car journey that starts at the old part of Funchal 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 an experience that MUST be on your list of things to do in Madeira!
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 exotic 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.
Book your Monte Palace Tropical Garden Tour: Madeira Private Half-Day Guided Gardens Tour
To get down from Monte there’s no better way than the traditional Madeira Toboggan Ride.
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.
Book your Madeira Toboggan Ride: Monte Toboggan Experience by Tuk-Tuk
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 insane volcanic rock formations, allowing families to have an awesome day out by the ocean.
Book your Câmara de Lobos Tour: Câmara de Lobos Tour in a Tukxi
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 list of things to do in Madeira.
Book your Poncha Tour: Private Poncha and Nikita Rum Tour
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 here.