Some of the best beaches in Madeira include the sandy beaches of Calheta, Seixal, Prainha, and Machico, whilst Praia Formosa is a popular pebbly beach in Funchal!
When we first moved to Portugal we decided to spend some time travelling to some of the countries most beautiful destinations. This of course meant ticking off some major Portugal sights, stunning Portuguese hikes, and not to forget some of the best beaches found across the country.
This included us spending two full weeks on the Portuguese island of Madeira and boy were we blown away by the natural beauty that Madeira is so well known for. From the architecture, stunning greenery, the mountain hikes and walks, and not to forget the beautiful beaches in Madeira which needs to be on your top things to do in Madeira list! We certainly were not disappointed.
In this guide, I’ve decided to share a few of these awesome Madeira beaches to hopefully inspire you to visit and explore them too!
Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Portugal Travel Essentials:
- Search & Book flights here on Skyscanner
- Book your car rental through AutoEurope
- Search hotels here on Booking.com, or on VRBO for apartment-style stays
- Click here to browse & book bus and train tickets
- Lastly, don’t forget about travel insurance for your trip!
Pssst…Don’t forget to read our Portugal packing list post to ensure you’ve got all your travel essentials packed and ready for your holiday to Portugal!
Getting to, and Getting Around on Madeira
Madeira is easily accessible by plane air from both Lisbon and Porto on mainland Portugal, as well as being connected to several other European cities. Flight time on flights from Lisbon to Funchal, as well as from Porto to Funchal is just under 2 hours and is operated by airlines such as TAP (Portugal’s national carrier) and EasyJet.
Click here to search and book your flights to Funchal on Skyscanner.
Once you’ve arrived in Madeira you can certainly get around by using public transport if you prefer to not drive yourself. Madeira’s airport is located roughly 45-mins from the capital Funchal and there is a bus service that we made use of that cost around €5.00 per adult one-way. You can also consider booking a private transfer through Suntransfers, which should cost roughly €20 for two adults on a one-way trip.
Last but not least, to make the most of the island, I would highly recommend hiring a car in order to better explore this incredible island. We opted to do just that and picked our car rental up in downtown Funchal so we could travel at free will throughout Madeira.
As a side note, due to the islands steep mountain ways and winding roads, many are scared of driving, which is why I suggest reading this guide on driving in Madeira so you are perfectly prepared for this adventure!
Click here to search for and book your Madeira car rental through AutoEurope.
Best Sandy Beaches in Madeira
Many of Madeira’s best beaches are not particularly sandy but are lined with grey pebbles and black volcanic rocks. To help improve tourism, sand was imported resulting in a number of beautiful man-made sandy havens.
With warm weather almost year-round and some of the best beaches in Portugal, Madeira is a great destination for anyone looking for a sandy beach holiday. Here is a list to help you find the best Madeira sandy beach.
Porto Santo – Madeira Portugal Beaches
Porto Santo is a small island in the Madeira archipelago and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe and boasts some of the best beaches in Madeira. It is known as the “Golden Isle” due to the 9 kilometres of golden sand that stretch along most of the island’s southern coastline.
Rich in calcium, iodine and magnesium, many believe that the island’s sand bears therapeutic properties allowing it to alleviate aches and pains, as well as provide mineral replenishment. Hotels and spas in Porto Santo often leverage this unique feature to offer thalassotherapy spa treatments.
In addition to hotels and resorts, the island’s coastline is flagged with a wide selection of lovely restaurants, bars and shops. Moreover, with its beautiful shores met by shimmering turquoise waters and beautiful weather year-round, Porto Santo is the perfect European beach destination.
Porto Santo is easily accessible by ferry. The ferry travels daily between Funchal, the capital of Madeira, and Porto Santo. There is also a small airport in Porto Santo, however, flights to the island are limited depending on the time of year.
Calheta Beach Madeira
Calheta beach, considered one of the best Madeira island beaches, is a favourite amongst the locals. The man-made beach, with golden sand imported from Morocco and mainland Portugal, sits comfortably between two sea walls resulting in a double bay perfect for swimming. The beach’s calm turquoise waters make it an ideal spot for families with children.
In addition to being rather safe, the beach’s waters are also remarkably clean, earning its prestigious Blue Flag status. Calheta beach also offers numerous amenities such as restrooms, changing rooms, sunbeds, umbrellas, volleyball courts and an inflatable play area in the sea.
Located in the Calheta Village, Calheta beach is in close proximity to the marina where you will find a number of restaurants and snack bars, perfect for sipping a glass of Poncha, a traditional Madeira alcoholic drink you simply have to try out. There are also many tours and activities offered here, such as water sports, fishing, whale watching and dolphin watching.
Machico Beach in Madeira
On Madeira’s east-coast is the historic seaside town of Machico which is where the island’s discoverers, Tristão Vas Teixeira and João Gonçalves Zarco, first landed. The beach they arrived at looks remarkably different now, as most of the pebbles and stones were replaced with soft golden sand.
Similar to Calheta beach, Machico beach is made up of sand imported from Morocco. Moreover, the crescent-shaped bay lies between two breakwaters resulting in calm waters, perfect for swimming. Nearby this artificially made shorefront is a natural beach with pebbles and volcanic black sand, typical of the island.
Beside the bay, along the promenade, you will find an assortment of restaurants, bars and ice-cream stands. Regarding activities, the beach has plenty to offer like volleyball, football, pedal boats and jet skis.
Machico beach is easily accessible via public transport from Funchal. Alternatively, you can rent a car and have more freedom and flexibility to explore the island at your own will, which is exactly what we did on our visit!
Prainha is a cosy little beach with soft black sand located next to Ponta de São Lourenço, on the southeastern coast of Madeira. Nestled away between the picturesque Piedade Dunes, this beautiful natural beach truly feels like a secret island getaway.
Although the bay is mostly secluded, there is still a number of facilities available on the beach including restrooms, showers and sun loungers. There is also a beach bar, as well as a restaurant with a terrace, where you can enjoy some tasty Mediterranean seafood.
The landscape surrounding Prainha beach provides a lovely contrast against the landscapes commonly seen on the rest of the island. While most of Madeira is covered in shades of green, Ponta de São Lourenço is characterized by its desert-like views and brown, orange and red tones.
Prainha is easily accessible from the main road via a pedestrian trail that leads down to the beach. This hidden gem, with its limpid waters and breathtaking scenery, is a must for anyone looking for a day of tranquillity.
Seixal Beach Madeira
Located on the north coast of Madeira is Seixal, a stunning natural sandy beach and possibly the most beautiful on the island. The beach’s thin, volcanic black sand contrasts beautifully against the verdant mountain backdrop and waterfalls which pour into the ocean. With its unique scenery, it’s no wonder that Seixal is one of the most photographed beaches in Madeira.
As the beach is located near Seixal port, there are a number of facilities available to its visitors like street parking, restrooms, showers, restaurants and cafés.
Around the backside of the beach are the natural pools of Seixal. Combining a trip to the beach with a visit to the Seixal Natural Pools or the Porto Moniz Natural Pools is highly recommended as these protected saltwater pools are perfect for swimming.
Another fun attraction at Seixal beach is the pier. Walk along the pier and watch the waves crash up against the lava rocks. The 3-metre high pier is also a great spot to jump off of into the clear ocean water below.
Moreover, surf lessons are provided on the beach by the Seixal surf club. So take in the breathtaking scenery, soak up the sun or try your hand at surfing. With so much to offer, this might just be the best beach in Madeira.
Best Pebble Beaches in Madeira
While Madeira has many natural and artificial sand beaches, pebble beaches are predominant throughout the island. The shiny black pebble shore contrasting against the white foam of the sea is typical of the Madeira landscape.
These beautiful volcanic beaches are not to be overlooked on your trip to Madeira. Here are two of the island’s best pebble and natural rocky beaches.
For those looking for an adventure, Madeira is also home to some of the best hiking trails in Portugal.
Praia Formosa Beach in Madeira – Madeira Beaches Funchal
Praia Formosa is located in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, just 10-minutes away from the city centre. It is the island’s largest free public beach comprising a mix of sandy and pebble beaches, as well as a wide selection of terraced restaurants and bars. From beautiful beaches to vibrant nightlife, this popular spot has plenty to offer.
The four beaches which make up the island’s largest beach area include the Praia Formosa, Praia Nova, Praia do Arieiro and Praia dos Namorados Madeira beaches. Each of these beaches is Blue Flag certified, offering excellent water quality and lifeguard surveillance, as well as great facilities.
Moreover, there are plenty of fun activities available on these beaches like sports, skateboard ramps and a children’s play area. Around the back end of the beaches are saltwater pools, perfect for swimming.
Jardim do Mar Beach
Jardim do Mar is a locality comprising three smaller pebble beaches, namely Enseada, Ponta Jardim and Portinho. The name “Jardim do Mar” fittingly translates to “a garden by the sea” as the beach finds itself among steep green slopes cloaked with a rich tapestry of wildflowers.
These picturesque beaches may not be the perfect spot for those looking to swim, but it’s a lovely place for a stroll. Jardim do Mar is also the optimal location for surfing and serves as a meeting point for the island’s international surfing community.
On the beach, you will find a number of facilities including restrooms, showers and restaurants. If you’re looking for lovely beachfront accommodation, take a look at this wonderful vacation home, Casa do Mar.