Did you know that Europe has its own Hawaii?
Madeira, a Portuguese archipelago nestled in waters of the Atlantic Ocean few hundred kilometres from the West Africa coast, could easily be mistaken for its Pacific sibling.
Seriously, I've been both to Hawaii and Madeira and the similarities of these two places are just mind blowing! You wouldn't believe, how many times a day I screamed something like 'Oh my! I can't believe I am not not in Hawaii!' Sometimes I thought, how much I must have been annoying to my friend and a travel companion for a week, Michala.
I've heard of Madeira as of an island of eternal spring a few years back from one of my good friends who spent here almost a month. He fell in love with the lush green forests, colourful flowers, dramatic mountains and cliffs towering above blue ocean with dolphins jumping high above the waves. In that moment I was hooked and it was just the matter of time when I will catch a plane and travel to Madeira myself.
I spent in Madeira one week in May 2018 and wanted to share my experience and a little bit of knowledge, so let's take a look on this very detailed guide, where I share with you some of the best places to see, adventures to enjoy, how to travel around the island, where to stay, what to pack, what to eat and a few more handy tips. Are you ready with a big bowl of popcorn?
When is the best time to go to Madeira
If you want to avoid crowds
When I was searching for the best time to visit Madeira, many people were talking about how busy Madeira is at any time of the year. Honestly, that scared me a bit because as you might already know, I don't like crowded places. In fact, I love exactly the opposite. I am not looking for parties or any Eiffel Towers, or Niagara Falls, or Hollywood signs where I have to deal with too many people.
But my fear melted really quickly when we arrived to Madeira. Of course, there are crowded places like almost in any other destination, but it's very easy to avoid them if you want to. I am talking now especially about Funchal and some other places in the southern island. But nothing crazy - and that means a lot coming from someone like me :)) Northern and Eastern part of Madeira is less crowded in general.
When you want to avoid crowds and book the best hotels without any problem, try to avoid summer holidays. In fact, try to avoid any kind of holidays in general, like Christmas or Eastern. But that's a tip for visiting almost any destination, right?
If you want the best weather... hmmm, what's the best weather?
Good news! Weather in Madeira doesn't have to play a big part in vacation planning. The temperatures are nicely stable throughout the year which makes Madeira a dream destination! Although winter can be slightly more rainy with lower temperatures in the night and early mornings.
Do you want to come when there's the most sunny and dry weather? Then June is your best bet, but anything between March to September will work too
Are you planning to do lots of hiking and walking? Then April and May are the best months to visit. Any later might get a bit hot for walking, and winter/early spring can be rainy (can be, but not talking about rainy season like they have in Asia ,)
April and May are also the best months to go to Madeira for enjoying all the beautiful flowers? So if you're keen to visit one of the world's most beautiful garden which is in Funchal, if you want to those iconic sceneries with flowers in the foreground, or rather flowers everywhere, April and May it is.
Madeira is also famous for swimming with whales and dolphins. If you are planning to do anything like this, then the best time to come is between April and October. That's when the highest number of mammal species are in waters of Madeira.
How to get to Madeira
Although, from one quick look at the map, it may seems that getting to Madeira is long and pricey journey, it's not really true.
Nowadays there are many direct flight from Europe which can cost you under 200 dollars return. Those flights can take only about three four hours. You can try connections from London, Amsterdam or Lisboa. But there are many more cities you can fly to Madeira. See them all here.
My go to website to find the cheapest flights possible is Momondo, so definitely check that one first and go from there. If you have any doubts and questions about how to reach Madeira, feel free to send me a message and I'll be happy to help you.
How long should I plan my vacation for?
I only had a spare week and even before I went to Madeira, I had a feeling that it won't be enough. And I was more than right. Yes, you can see the most beautiful/popular places in Madeira in just a week, but hands down, you will be rushing.
If you can, I would recommend you to stay at least 10 days! And if you have three weeks, then fine, take it slowly and soak all the relaxing vibes in!
I know, I know, Madeira seems like a tiny island, so you are probably asking now, holly molly, what would I do there for three weeks?! But trust me, there are so many hikes, adventures, culture, and beautiful viewpoints to enjoy, that you will be thanking me for those three weeks :)
What to pack?
When packing for your holidays, please remember that it's not a tropical island you're going to. Frankly, if you are looking for a tropical vacation, white sand beaches and hot hot air, then Madeira is probably not the best pick. There are not so many beaches, all of them (on the main island) are black because of their volcanic origin and water for swimming is quite cold as well.
Madeira is a diverse island and even though at the beach is 25°C or more, within half an hour driving up to 1800 meters above sea lever, temperatures can drop down to zero and wind will be so strong that you will have troubles to stand straight.
Before I will write more detailed post on what to pack and what to leave behind, here is the quick sum up (linked products are the ones I have an experience with and that I am genuinely recommending):
- day backpack
- water bottle
- comfortable walking / hiking shoes
- flip flops / sandals
- warm hoodie / sweater (some days and places are cooler than others)
- softshell jacket (you can thank me later)
- rain jacket
- headlamp (if you plant to hike some of the trails with long dark tunnels)
- waterproof camera/phone case (if you are going to do canyoning / coasteering / swimming with dolphins and whales)
How to get around
When in Madeira you will have have pretty much four options to explore this green island:
- Rent a car
- Base yourself in Funchal and hire a taxi driver
- Base yourself in Funchal and book day tours
- Base yourself in Funchal and get around by bus
1. RENT A CAR
Definitely the most convenient way how to explore the island. I probably don't have to name all the reason why renting your own car is the best. It will save you time, nerves and very probably lots of money as well.
- The best deal we found was via rentalcars.com and we only paid around $250 USD for an economy class car for the whole week!!
- I recommend to pay extra for a full insurance, especially if you are not use to drive tight roads. I've been travelling and driving a lot in my life, but nothing was as crazy as Madeira's roads.
- Also, try to avoid renting mini cars. You will need a strong car to get you up the steep hills with no big issues. And make sure you get the most compact car possible. Especially in towns, parking spots are not very spacious and you will be sweating (at least if you're not a parking master just as me, haha).
- Over a week we drove around the island, and criss crossed it many times and one tank of gas was sufficient. We paid 75 EUR for a full tank.
2. BASE YOURSELF IN FUNCHAL AND HIRE A TAXI DRIVER
If you don't want to/ can't drive yourself, but still you want to stay as independent as possible, you can hire a taxi driver.
In Madeira there are plenty of taxi operators who are offering a various taxi excursions. It will cost you around 100-120 EUR per day (60 EUR / half day) per car (4 people). If you're a bigger group of people (up to 8), it's also possible for an additional cost.
Some of the taxi companies/drivers you can look into:
3. BASE YOURSELF IN FUNCHAL AND BOOK DAY TOURS
If you like things nicely organized and don't plan to rent a car, this could be a perfect option for you.
You can book some great tours in Madeira with Get Your Guide. They offer a wide variety of activities suitable for anyone.
4. BASE YOURSELF IN FUNCHAL AND GET AROUND MADEIRA BY BUS
Exploring Madeira is definitely the best option for those who seek the cheapest vacation possible. But it sure comes at a cost - you will spend lots of time waiting for buses, trying to figure out schedules and places, you won't afford to be flexible and free and most likely you will miss plenty of breathtaking places that are not on the route of the public buses.
Yes, public transport in Madeira works well, but frankly, I don't recommend it.
There are three kinds of buses:
- orange buses - operate only within Funchal city and its surroundings, you can buy one week unlimited bus ticket for 15 Euros (buses routes and schedules Horários do Funchal)
- red buses - operate in the western part of Madeira (buses routes and schedules Rodoeste bus service)
- green buses - operate in the eastern part of Madeira (buses routes and schedules SAM bus service)
Tickets for all bus services can be purchased onboard.
Driving those crazy roads
I am not a scared driver and I've been driving many insane roads around the world, but Madeira is special. Please note, that the last thing I want to do is to scare you. I am writing this so you know what to expect and so you can be more conscious. And I am convinced that driving Madeira roads is part of the travel experience.
Madeira is full of long tunnels, steep driveways and sharp curves above the cliffs. Nothing for faint hearted. Roads are often not very specious, which is something you might won't be adjusted to when coming from North Americas or so. But again, you got this! Just drive slowly and you'll be sweet.
As I mentioned above, I recommend you to rent a more powerful car and get a car insurance.
Also it can take really long time to ge from point A to B. Sometimes we were driving 15 kilometres in 17 minutes. Why? Imagine rain, thick fog, steep and curvy roads and there you go. Always count with some extra time for driving in Madeira. Especially in the mountains and on the west and north coast.
Where to stay
Since Madeira is such a small island, you can get around the island in a day. That's the reason why most of the tourists stay in Funchal and do day trips from there. I did it differently which I will describe soon.
Advantages of having an accommodation in Funchal:
- you can choose from many delicious restaurants and vibrant bars
- you can do shopping if that's something you like to do on your vacation
- you can choose the accommodation that suits the best to your budget and other preferences
- most of tour operators are offering tours from Funchal
Disadvantages of having and accommodation in Funchal:
- because most of tourists stay there when visiting Madeira, city centre can get crowded
- since the tourism boomed, Funchal centre is less authentic than other parts of Madeira
- obviously, you will always have to drive back to Funchal after long day of touring to other sides of the island
What's my recommendation?
Two each their own, but here's what I did during my one week in Madeira:
I am not a huge fan of cities and crowded in generally, but I still wanted to explore around beautiful and historical Funchal. Therefore I decided to stay in Funchal for one night. After that I moved for three days to Ponta do Sol in the south coast of the island and last three days I was in Ponta Delgada at the north.
After our trip, me and my friend we agreed that it was the greatest plan for a week in Madeira we could have ever had. It was never too far to any places we planned to visit, therefore never too tiring to be coming back to our accommodation.
If you only have a week I wouldn't recommend to stay in more than 2-3 places as you will feel like always packing and unpacking.
Here is an interactive map of places where I stayed, so you can imagine the distances of places I stayed (and the airport) a little better:
Accommodation in Funchal
If you decide to stay in Funchal, you can choose from hundreds of different types of accommodation that suits your budget. As always, I recommend my favourite search engine Booking.com to find the best deals.
Since we were looking for a place just for one night, we had only a few conditions. It had to be a private room with bathroom, within a short walk to the city centre with free parking and under 50 EUR / night per room.
Free parking combined with the city centre of Funchal was the hardest one to find, but Pensao Residencial Mirasol seemed had it all. Free parking, in the city centre, with a private bathroom and also a cute little balcony with mountain views. We only paid 38 EUR / night per room including continental breakfast!! The owners and staff here are really friendly, so there's no wonder that budget travellers keep staying here for weeks.
Various high rated places to stay in Funchal:
Accommodation in Ponta do Sol
Ponta do Sol is a lovely little coastal town and probably the sunniest place on the whole island. During our three days in Ponta do Sol it was really ALWAYS sunny although there was rain or overcast in other parts of Madeira.
We were invited to stay in Estalagem do Ponta do Sol and gosh! We've never stayed in any similar place to this. It was like another world!
Since this hotel is built on the high cliff, you need to take multiple elevators to get to the reception and your roomviews from our room and basically from anywhere within the hotel were nothing short of spectacular and you could watch both sunrise and sunsite from the infinite pool. Estalagem is a peaceful complex with beautiful gardens and modern exteriors and interiors. You can relax in a hot tub with sunset views, can get your favourite coctail bar with crazy views or play a table pool in one of the public spaces. Oh, and did I mention breakfasts? Bufet breakfast is included in the price of the room and something we looked forward to each morning. D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!
During our stay there was a lack of parking spots below the hotel, but it's because there was a festival and parking spots were precious. The staff of the hotel were super helpful and when we brought our car keys to them, they were more than happy to park our car for us.
Accommodation in Ponta Delgada
Our accommoddation for last three days was up in the north coast in Ponta Delgada. North was a completely different experience than the south. There was way less tourists, and moutains forests and cute vineyards were everywhere.
We stayed in Casa do Miradouro and if you are looking for a place to find the peace, this magical villa has it all. Mountains and vineyards behind the house and amazing ocean views in front. From the photos I knew, that sunrises and sunsets from this place are incredible. Unfortunately we did not see the sun at all during our stay, but the rainy mood was suiting this place just as much plus it was a perfect for soak in the hot tub. The villa consist of only three apartments, so we have had plenty of privacy. And I can't imagine better place for my yoga practise and everyday meditation.
We loved the design of the villa, but even more we loved that it is enviromentally sustainable building (for example cork insulation, natural materials used in interior, solar water heating, no chemicals in the garden).
If you stay in Casa do Miradouro, please ask Zelio to cook for you! Zelio not only takes care of the villa but he's also amazing cook and a lovely company. We spent last evening with him and he cooked the best food we've tried in Madeira. Fresh fish and limpets with a light cheese dessert were amazing and he deserves nothing less than a Michelin star! So please please please, don't miss out this once in a lifetime opportunity! :)
Live like a local
Are you looking to live like a local or always keen to have unique accommodation experience? Then definitely check AirBnB in Madeira (if you register through this link, you will get up to 35 dollars to spend for your first stay.)
AirBnB in Madeira is very popular and the list of accommodations is full of design villas, cottages on the clifs or luxurious tents in forests. Just hop on the AirBnB website and explore. The prices are really friendly!
Live with the locals
If you are outgoing and want to meet and live with locals and also if you are a lowcost traveller, you can also try Couchsurfing.
Tip: Please don't do couchsurfing just for sake of free accommodation. That's not what this wonderful community is about. It's about sharing. Sharing time, sharing experience and making each others life richer. If you don't feel like talking to someone when travelling, but don't have money for hotels, please look for different options like hostels :) I barely do couchsurfing lately, because after long day of travelling or exploring, I am just happy to sit on my bed and don't talk to anyone, but if I want to talk to someone I can always get out of the hotel and go exploring.
What to see?
So much to see and so much to do in Madeira, that one month wouldn't be enough to explore it all throughout. (I am working on detailed itineraries, so feel free to subscribe to my newsletter. Once it's ready I can send it to you directly into your mailbox).
Here's an interactive map of interesting places, photography spots, view points, activities and restaurants I created for my trip. Of course I didn't have time to do and see everything in a week, but thought it could help you to create your own trip :)
Tropical Garden Monte Palace
Madeira is a paradise for flora lovers. So many flowers and trees, so many colours and heavenly smells.
One of the places you can admire flora the most is Jardim Tropical Monte Palace in Funchal. You will find there some rare flora species both from Madeira and the rest of the world. The entrance fee is 12,50 EUR.
The most popular way to get to the gardens is to take a cable car from the city center. Return ticket is 16 EUR (11 for one way). If you buy just one way ticket, you can experience something truly unique and something what only in Madeira can be experienced :) You can do tobogganing in a wicker basket mounted on wooden runners. It was invented by Madeirans already in 1850 as a form of transportation down the steep hills (did they have to drag it back after?). When you are at the top nearby tropical garden, look for handsome guys in white shirts holding onto the big basket sled.
Sunrise at Pico do Arieiro
Please, make yourself a favour, get up early and drive about 30 minutes from Funchal up to about 1800 metres above the sea level. Most likely you will be driving through the rain and clouds and will be cursing me why would I recommend you such a crazy thing. But hold on and you will eventually get above the clouds and experience one of the most beautiful sunrises of your life. And all without any huge effort - you can get all the way to the top of the Pico do Arieiro just by your car.
Tip: Get ready for strong winds and cold temperatures especially early in the morning. I was so happy I've had my icelandic sweater and softshell jacket with me. Wished to have a hat as well. Just be prepared, so you can enjoy the beautiful views.
This is a must stop when you are in Madeira. I won't be taking it away from you, because with its 580m it's the tenth highest cliff that is above the sea (the highest one is Mitre Peak in New Zealand) and so the views are truly amazing. It's usually packed with lots of tourist and honestly, I enjoyed some of the views in Madeira way better. So, at the end of the day, I don't think I would miss much if I wouldn't go there. But if you are curious and have enough time, definitely give it a go.
Sugar Cane Factory Museum
In Calheta you will find this very unique exhibition, which can make a nice stop when you are driving on the south coast. You can see here how the rum is made from start to finish.
The admission is free and for a small fee you can try different rums.
Ponta do Pargo
To me, this was one of the most beautiful spots I've seen during a week of travelling in Madeira. It's the most western point in Madeira with a lovely lighthouse and absolutely gorgeous cliff views. I could have been sitting there for hours, watching the waves crashing along the shore!
This place is a perfect spot for watching sunset and you won't be sharing it with many. Very likely you'll be here alone when coming later in the evening.
Achadas da Cruz
This place must be on of the best kept secrets in Madeir! By taking a 3 EUR (return) cable car ride off the cliff, you'll get to in Fajã da Quebrada Nova. It somewhat looks like a tiny village but in real, nobody lives there. Some farmers come down from time to time and take care of their land. You can only get there by a boat or a cable car, or hike a steep trail down and back up. It's so beautiful, colourful, remote and looks like a scene from a historic/fantasy movie. It's easy and worthy to spend there at least two hours. Just so you know :)
The cable car operates from 10am to 6pm every day unless the weather conditions like strong winds won't allow it. It happened to us, so we called them and came back two days afterwards.
The phone number is +351 291 852 951.
(During this trip, my fog was foggy inside, hens this dreamy effect on the photos bellow).
On the western part of the island you find something unique, something you might have never seen before. Beautiful lava pools filled with turquoise clear water from the ocean were converted into something we can call a spa. For a small fee 1,50 EUR (free for children under 3yrs) you can go and have a swim in several pools of different depth while enjoying waves crashing against the beautiful cliffs.
The pools are the most popular between July to September when the air temperature is around sweet 25°C and water is bearable 21°C.
Tip: If you will walk in Porto Moniz towards the eastern part of the town, where is the Cachalote restaurant, you will find there similar lava pools. They are a bit smaller, but they are free and usually with less people.
Sao Vicente Caves
If you are a fan of geology, then you shouldn't miss these volcanic caves Sao Vicente.
A walk through the lava tubes takes about 30 minutes and admission is 8 EUR.
Traditional houses in Santana
Traditional Madeira houses are amongst the most popular attractions and nobody seems to be leaving Madeira without visiting them. It can be a nice short stop, but frankly, don't you expect more than seeing a few iconic houses that you know from the postcards and magazines. I know some people came from there disappointed and gave it bad ratings on Tripadvisor. It is nice, it is traditional and highly photogenic, so come without any expectations and enjoy.
Ponta de São Lourenço
Situated on the eastern tip of the island Ponta de São Lourenço is a great place for sunrise. This place is quite unreal and looking totally different than the rest of Madeira. You can easily spend here the whole day, walking about 8 km of trails with spectacular coastal views. I recommend to stay reserve at least two hours, so you can enjoy a bit of this place without rushing.
Tip: Ponta de São Lourenço is a popular place and also it is very easy to reach from Funchal and other nearby towns. Hence the parking lot starts to fill up early in the morning. After 11 am the line of the cars is really long and there is quite a bit of tourists and hikers on the trail. So, wake up early, enjoy the sunrise and disappear before the crowds arrive.
Things to do
For such a small island, Madeira has so much to offer in terms of adventuring and activites. Just find something that suits you the best.
Swim with whales and dolphins
There are not so many places where you can swim both with dolphins and whales in one day. But did I already said that Madeira has it all?
If you only want to do dolphin and whale watching, I highly recommend to go with Lobosonda. They are environmentally responsible family owned company and I really liked that they always put animals on first place. On our complimentary trip with Lobosonda we had an amazing guide Fatima, a very kind lady with a great knowledge of the ocean mammals and also marine ecology.
We started at 10am and boarded Ribeira Brava, the traditional fishing boat and launched towards the open ocean. After some time Fatime has pointed her finger towards the ocean where a school of dolphins appeared. Since then we saw more and more dolphins and I am sure we saw more than a hundred that day. And four different species! The water surface literally looked like a one big marine party!
When to go? The best time to watch or swim with dolphins and whales is summer. That's when the highest amount of marine mammals species are gathering in waters of Madeira. Also the waves are more gentle and water warmer. But like any other tours and activities, you can also do this at any time of the year.
Now, canyoning is a big thing in Madeira. I didn't know much about canyoning before I arrived. And surprisingly, it became a highlight of my trip.
Did you know that Madeira is one of the world's prime locations for canyoning (and there are not as many as you might would think)? Well, then put one and one together and you know you can't leave this island without trying canyoning at least once.
I did a wonderful tour with Francisco and Joao from Epic Madeira and it was absolutely fabulous. Our Intermediate tour included rappelling down the 50m waterfall (you can try a beginner tour for the beginning if you are new to any kind of hiking or climbing). The tour took us almost five hours and I couldn't stop smiling of joy!
Have you heard about coasteering? No? Then it's two of us. Till now tho :)
Coasteering is basically walking along the coastline in the wetsuit and the helmet and jumping to the ocean whenever it's possible and also includes snorkelling in crystal clear waters.
Yes, you hear me right! Doesn't it sound great? I was a little sad that we didn't have more days in Madeira as it sounds like a lots of fun (you know I love to dive to water from high cliffs :) ). I save it for the next time then!
You can do coasteering also with my friends from Epic Madeira.
Day boat trips to nearby islands
Madeira archipelago consists of four islands. If you have a little bit more time, you will love exploring some of them as they are so different from what you will see on the main island.
Porto Santo - once you start to miss sandy beaches, hop on the boat and enjoy a day on the small island of Porto Santo where you will find 9 km beach of golden sand and breath taking views
Deserta Island and Farol Island (by a catamaran) - while Madeira has black sand beaches and Porto Santo which beaches, Deserta and Farol islands are having white sand beaches, so it's a completely different world again
Kayak / SUP
You can take lessons or tours to breathtaking sea caves with Azul Diving Center.
Let's fly over the mountains, over the ocean with Madeira Paragliding.
You can also see the island from the horseback if you want to! Check guys at Quinta do Riacho.
Scuba diving and Snorkelling
Madeira is an outstanding scuba diving destination. And together with Azores it makes the largest whale sanctuary in the world! Scuba diving here is so diverse as you can spot anything from ship wrecks, manta rays, dolphins or the whales. Also the water visibility is amazing (talking about 20m!)
Surfing and bodyboarding
There are some wonderful breaks for surfing. In fact Madeira is one of the best surfing locations in Europe. All the breaks are in the west part of the island. For a beginner, there is only one sand beach to learn and it's in Porto do Cruz. Rest of the spots are quite rocky. If you want to learn surf in Madeira, then the best time is summer. In summer the waves are coming not so quickly, so you will struggle less.
If fishing is something you enjoy, then you are in the right place! Madeira has some of best fishing areas in the world. Fish for Tuna and Blue Marlins! You can choose between half-day and full day fishing boat tours.
All around the island is about 2000 km of trails, many of them being popular levadas - irrigation channels. Various trails will take you along the coast, accross the mountains and through the valleys full of waterfalls and beautiful forests. Some of them are easy walks and some of them require certain level of hiking experience. But there is something for everyone.
There is a phone app for hiking in Madeira that is called WalkMe. It includes navigation, offline maps and more than 50 hikes and is definitely worth the 5 Euros!
Some of the most beautiful and popular hikes are:
- Vereda do Arieiro (PR 1) - Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo route is considered to be the hardest but also the most beautiful on the island. I would say it's not as hard if you are use to do some walking and hiking. Reconsider to go if you are too scared of heights tho :). To truly enjoy this hike without unnecessary rushing, allow yourself a full day.
- Levada do 25 Fontes (PR 6) - Probably the most famous levada, so early morning or late afternoon start is necessary if you want to avoid crowds.
- Levada do Caldeirao Verde (PR 9) - Very fun hike going through a couple of long tunnels (take a headlamp with you) and it ends with fantastic 100m waterfall
- Vereda do Larano - This hike starting at Machico will allow you to see absolutely amazing ocean views. It is recommended for experienced hikers with sturdy boots as there are some sketchy parts. And if you are unsure, you can always do the guided tour.
- Vereda da Ponta do Sao Lourenco (PR 8) - this very east part of the island looks like another world. There are no trees, the rock formations you will see have incredible colours and the ocean and cliff views are nothing short of spectacular!
Seriously, who would voluntarily go and ride those crazy hills of Madeira? Haha, I wouldn't, but I know some of my friends would love that! Again, you can go with the epic team from Epic Madeira.
Explore secret and hidden places in the valleys and mountains with jeep tours. This way you will get the chance to also explore famous laurissilva forests, the evergreen and believed to be primary forests on Madeira. Definitely something you should see.
Catamaran Sunset Tours
Sunsets in Madeira are absolutely spectacular and to watch them from the boat will take your breath away!
What to eat and drink
Fish and seafood is very popular food of locals and tourist. Amongst the typical fish and seafoodd that you can try in Madeira is:
- Codfish (Bacalhau)
- Tuna fish (Atum)
- Black swordfish (Espada) - my personal favourite, it has a fery soft meat which taste is very close to lobster
- Octopus (Polvo)
- Limpets (Lapas)
Important note: Before ordering a fish in restaurant, please ask them whether is the fish from a fish farm of from the ocean. Recently, in Madeira they are dealing with an ecologic disaster that are fish farms. For one kilogram of fish from the farm is needed about 12 kg of fish from the ocean - crazy, huh? Plus fish from the farm is treated with antibiotics, so not only you eat something you really don't want to eat, but also all the antibiotics go into the ocean, causing fatal problem in the ecosystem
Espetada Madeirense is another favourite meal in Madeira. It's beef cubes on skewer grilled on wood or charcoal.
Honey cake (bolo de mel de cana) is one of the main desserts and you will be able to buy it in almost any souvenir shop. It's not made from honey but dark sugar cane molasses with nuts and sultanas in it. It is very rich, and should last long months after it's baked. Well, we ate it in two days because it was so delicious!
Probably the most popular drink on the island is wine which is world famous. Beautiful vineyards are all around the island! Also it's very cheap, be ready to pay for a bottle of wine in the store 2 - 3 euros, yay!
The most traditional drink of Madeira is poncha and unless you are a person who never touches the alcohol, you shouldn't leave Madeira without trying it. It's made from brandy cane sugar, honey bee and lemon juice. I am a baby drinker and can't even smell rum without instantly feeling like throwing out, but surprisingly I really enjoyed drinking poncha. But be careful, it's as strong as it is delicious :) They say that the best poncha is to be found in Taberna da Poncha in Serra de Água.
Useful resources whilst you are in Madeira
Accommodation - www.booking.com
Live webcams all around the island - www.netmadeira.com
Weather updates - www.vedur.is
Flight connections to Madeira (from Europe) - Airlines & Airports
Phone app for hiking in Madeira - WalkMe (available for Android and iOS)
Have a question? Feel free to ask in the comments below.
**Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a booking using the link. It won't cost you a penny but it will help me to maintain this website and write more helpful articles in future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Oh hello! Welcome to my page where we all are allowed to Dream Big and we all are encouraged to Wander Far. My name is Marti and here you can read more about me. I am originally from Czech Republic and my story isn't different from stories of many other travellers - in 2011 I quit my well-paid job in film industry to travel the world which was always my dream. I visited 70+ countries and you can find me exploring deserted islands in South Pacific or diving with whale sharks in Philippines, prospecting for gold in New Zealand or building an igloo above the Polar Circle. Let's join me on my journey around the globe!