Madeira Beaches, Coastline and Water Sports
The multitude of Atlantic beaches on Madeira are always something of a summer draw card, and since the island enjoys plentiful sunshine, tourists always flock to the beaches to relax and top up their tan, although do bear in mind that many are pebbled and are not sandy.
Also of note on Madeira are the numerous coastal swimming pools, which are distributed amongst most resorts, particularly on the southerly coastline, and often filled with fresh sea water, such as the pools and bathing complexes of Barreirinha, Canical, Doca do Cavacas, Lido, Ponta Gorda, Porto Moniz, Porto da Cruz and Santa Cruz.
The most popular beaches on Madeira tend to be the biggest and most developed, often being within easy reach of Funchal and are especially tourist friendly, with cafes, bars, changing rooms and showers. However, if you crave something a little quieter and more untouched, you will need to choose a more remote location.
Daily boats connect the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, which has become famous in Portugal for its 9-km / 6-mile sandy beach and beautiful coastal scenery.
The main island beaches are as follows:
- Calhau da Lapa - a stunning beach residing within the Campanário area and accessed by a rather steep slope
- Calhau de Sao Jorge - a charming beach and pool complex, lying at the very mouth of the Sao Jorge River and next to a number of lively bars and nightspots
- Calheta - a notable artificial beach, with soft golden sand, a choice of seafood restaurants and an expansive marina. During the summer, this beach can become a little crowded, so be sure to arrive early and not at the weekend
- Doca do Cavacas - features a small beach, bathing complex and direct access to the sea. The Praia Formosa beach is especially close by
- Galo Mar - within the Canico area of Madeira, reached by a panorama elevator and home to the Manta Diving Centre
- Jardim do Mar - featuring no less than three adjoining beaches, named Enseada, Ponta Jardim and Portinho. The waters in this part of south-westerly Madeira are famed for the strong waves and superb year-round surfing conditions, with its annual International Surf Competition being worth looking out for
- Machico - perfect for both soaking up the sun and taking a dip in the water. With two pools suitable for children, as well as the recent addition of a stretch of golden sand fronting Machico Bay
- Madalena do Mar - a pleasant and natural pebbled beach, sandwiched between Calheta and Ponta do Sol
- Paul do Mar - a very quiet and peaceful natural beach, with no real facilities or car park, sited on the far western side of Madeira and never overcrowded
- Praia da Ribeira Brava - situated within the heart of Ribeira Brava, with good facilities for swimming, sunbathing and beach volleyball, and plenty of eateries close by
- Ponta Delgada - featuring a small, man-made beach and two outdoor seawater pools
- Ponta do Sol - a small pebbly beach on southern Madeira, with clear water which is almost always calm and therefore perfect for swimming
- Porto da Cruz - on the north-easterly coast of Madeira, this beach is known as the Praia da Lagoa and is made up of black sand, also boasting a stunning bathing complex, sun deck and restaurant
- Praia da Jamaica - found on the north-westerly coast of Madeira, Jamaica Beach enjoys a very secluded bay setting, with black sand, clear waters and a profusion of surrounding palm trees
- Praia das Palmeiras - one of the most noteworthy beaches in the Santa Cruz area, with sun beds, a play area for children, small swimming pool, pedalo boats and seafront promenade
- Praia Formosa - located on the southerly outskirts of Funchal and just a short drive from the city centre, the 'Blue Flag' Praia Formosa is amongst Madeira's busiest beaches and comprises a long stretch of pebbles, together with three smaller sandy beaches. During the summer season, lifeguards are usually on hand
- Prainha - a black sandy beach close to the scenic Ponta de Sao Lourenco area, with extensive facilities, including changing rooms, sun beds and parasols
- Reis Magos - Blue Flag beach with inviting turquoise waters, life guards and plenty of parking spaces
- Sao Vicente - a reliable beach on northern Madeira, highly suitable for surfers of all abilities. There is also a superb bathing complex, sun deck and promenade, which leads to both the Baia dos Juncos and Varadouro