Searching for what to do in Madeira? These 8 exciting Madeira outdoor activities will definitely tick all the right boxes!
Madeira was made for outdoor activities. If you love an active holiday, you won’t be disappointed by the choice of adventures this island has on offer. Thanks to its mild climate, volcanic soil, and serene waters of the Atlantic, it’s a true paradise for anyone who wants to have some fun in the fresh air.
Best of all, it’s in the middle of the ocean, so it doesn’t get as much love from tourists as the rest of Portugal. This means it’s a true little gem unspoiled by hordes of visitors.
If you’re wondering what to see in Madeira, then don’t worry, we’ve got you convered! Here are some of the best outdoor things to do in Madeira.
- How to Get to Madeira & Getting Around
- Where to Stay in Madeira
- 8 Best Things to do in Madeira – Madeira Outdoor Activities
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!
How to Get to Madeira & Getting Around
Madeira Island is easily accessible by air in just under two hours from both Lisbon and Porto. Having said that, many airlines fly to Funchal, Madeira’s capital, from all over Europe too. If you’re travelling during the busier summer months, it’s definitely advisable to book your flight in advance as Madeira can get busier over this period.
The island’s airport, the Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, is located roughly 30-minutes by car from the Funchal city centre. Whilst there is an inexpensive bus service that will take you from the airport to the city, I would highly recommend booking a car rental instead.
The island itself is quite large and if you plan on making the most of these top things to do in Madeira as listed on this post, then you’ll most likely need a rental car to get around.
Of course, this is not an absolute must. There are several great tour operators that offer many of the activities listed in this post and also include transport too.
Where to Stay in Madeira
For first-time visitors to Madeira, I would highly recommend a stay in the capital Funchal. The city centre is small, compact, and very charming to explore. Most tour operators will also likely depart from Funchal, in the event that you’re planning an exciting excursion.
Given Madeira’s astonishing natural beauty, it’s no surprise then that you’ll also find some awesome Madeira glamping options to consider too!
8 Best Things to do in Madeira – Madeira Outdoor Activities
Nature and outdoor lovers will no doubt be in heaven the moment they step foot on Madeira. The island is known for its lush, rugged beauty from mountain ranges to dramatic cliff edges, waterfalls, and beautiful beaches too! Here are our 8 favourite things to do on Madeira!
Probably the most iconic thing you can do in Madeira is take one of the famous Levada walks. There are 2,500km of levadas, and you can choose your adventure depending on where you’re staying on the island.
These walks got their name after the unique waterways of the island built in the 16th century to bring water from the rainy north to the sun-soaked south of Madeira. By following these canals, you get to explore the lush nature, as well as the history of the island in an intimate way.
Many of the parts of the island you get to see following levadas are unavailable by car or other transport. What’s more, some of these walks will take you to a UNESCO World Natural Heritage, such as the enchanting Laurisilva Forest.
Camping in Madeira
Madeira has such ravishing and diverse nature that it’s a shame not to enjoy it by pitching your tent under the clear blue sky. There are many different Madeira camping options when it comes to the choice of terrain, including beaches, forests, and more. Some of the most popular campsites are Porto Muniz at the north coast of Madeira and Boca Das Voltas in the middle of Laurisilva.
You can also choose to wild camp outside of the established campsites. However, bear in mind that, for primitive camping, you have to apply for a permit with the Regional Forest Directorate.
If you’ve come to the island unprepared for camping, don’t worry — there are various camping hacks that can help you get ready for your stay in nature.
Canyoning is an exciting water-based activity, and Madeira is one of the best places on the planet to try it. You get special equipment and explore mountainous watercourses by overcoming obstacles, swimming, jumping, and rappelling down the rocky terrain.
If you’re not in the best physical shape and are worried you’re not fit enough to try this sport, there’s no need to worry: you can choose your adventure based on your fitness level, for instance on this Level-1 Madeira Canyoning Adventure tour, or on this easy Half-Day Canyoning Experience.
Canyoning in Madeira is available in Ribeiro Frio, Lajeado, Ribeira das Cales, and other rivers. It’s a truly unique experience that you may not have the opportunity to try elsewhere.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
So you’re on an island surrounded by the pristine water of the great Atlantic Ocean — that’s a perfect opportunity to see some of the most exciting marine life up close! There are several types of whales around, depending on the time of the year, most notably Sperm and Pilot whales. The best time of the year for whale watching is April through October.
On the other hand, dolphins are around all year round, and there are twenty types of them to see! You’ll board a catamaran or another type of small boat and embark on an eco-friendly Dolphin and Whale watching tour where you’ll see some of the most magnificent sea creatures.
Kayaking – Madeira Activities
Madeira provides a lot of amazing water-based activities, and kayaking or canoeing is a perfect option for people of all levels of fitness. Even though there are no rivers suitable for this type of activity, the ocean is there to welcome every adventurer who wants to glide through its magnificent water.
Depending on whether you’ve tried this activity before, you can choose to do it on your own or with a guide. There are many agencies offering these services across the island and the entire archipelago.
Diving and Snorkeling
If you’re looking for something a bit more adrenaline-inducing, you can go on a diving or snorkelling adventure in the Atlantic. This is a great opportunity to explore the depths of the ocean like never before.
Madeira is perfect for these two types of activities because the ocean is warm enough year-round. Even in winter, the temperature doesn’t drop below 18 degrees celsius. The water is crystal clear, and you’ll be able to see all kinds of beauties in the water, such as various migratory species and a shipwreck covered in coral.
The Garajau area, for example, is the first Marine Reserve in Portugal, and the waters hold a wealth of life and diversity that divers can truly appreciate.
Wine Walking Tour – What to do in Madeira
For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think about Madeira is the famous fortified wine produced here. If you’re a wine enthusiast, you’ll love the fact that you can enjoy a walking tour that’s also a wine-tasting tour.
You get the opportunity to explore the city of Funchal and its history through its wine tradition and gastronomic delicacies on a guided tour.
If wine-tasting is your thing and you’re passing through Spain on your way to Madeira, you may want to extend your wine tour to Spain too, as wine is a top-ten thing Spain is famous for.
Get to grips with all there is to learn about Madeira’s wine production on this brilliant Madeira 4×4 Wine & Nature tour that departs from Funchal or Caniço.
Madeira Biking – Madeira Outdoor Activities
Finally, you can enjoy the wonders of this beautiful island on two wheels. There are numerous biking tours available, and you don’t have to be a pro athlete to try one. If you’re looking for a more laid-back ride, you can tour Funchal and enjoy the city.
However, if you want something more challenging, you can bike the mountainous terrain of Madeira. Fresh air, nature, gorgeous views, and great company — what more could a biker want?
This is just the best of the best of what this Atlantic gem can offer its visitors. No matter what activities you decide to try, you’ll love every part of the experience.
Want to give biking in Madeira a try? Then this 5-Hour Guided Mountain Bike Tour in Madeira may be just the excursion you need!
Contribution By: Rebecca Brown
I’m Rebecca, a translator, avid traveller, and bookworm. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.