A Locals Ultimate Guide to the Beaches of Madeira

So imagine you, sunbathing on the beaches of Madeira with an open view of the blue water of the Atlantic Ocean with the emerald green mountains behind you… Tempting, right? 

The Madeira Archipelago is famous for its beautiful beaches, pretty waterfalls, and wonderful year-round spring-like climate.

Madeira beaches are renowned not only for their beauty (think of crystalline water, and beautiful volcanic cliffs or lush green mountains in the background) but also for their diversity and variety. From saltwater natural pools to pebble beaches, to golden sandy beaches, there is a beach in Madeira for everyone: surfers, families, couples, or just for relaxing.  

The Portuguese word for beach is Praia

Another thing worth looking forward to in Madeira is the beaches that have been awarded a Blue Flag. The Flag is a symbol of environmental quality that is given to both beaches and marinas for the quality of their tourist information and services such as water quality, environmental education information and services, environmental management and equipment, and safety.

It is hard to choose the best spots since there are so many, however, here are some suggestions of the best beaches in Madeira so to get you started.

Beach on Machico bay, Madeira Island, Portugal

Porto Santo Beaches

If you are staying on Madeira Island, you must try to fit in a side trip to Porto Santo Island. The south coast of the island has 9 kilometers of golden sand and crystalline calm waters, earning the nickname ‘Golden Island’.

Porto Santo beach Madeira Portugal Filippe
Porto Santo Beach

This is one of the best beaches in Madeira because of its soft, fine sand. The uninterrupted 9km has several designations along its length:

  • Penedo beach (At the far southeast and less frequented)
  • Cabeço da Ponta beach (Blue Flag beach)
  • Calheta beach (In the far west of the island)
  • Fontinha beach (Blue Flag beach)
  • Pedras Pretas beach
  • Ribeiro Salgado (Blue Flag beach)

Where: Porto Santo Island is 2.5 hours by ferry from Funchal or 15 minutes by plane.

Nearby facilities:

  • Praia do Penedo: Far away from the city and local commerce, this is a quiet beach that doesn’t have a lot of bars. It has restrooms, a first aid station, restaurants, several bars, and parking.
  • Praia do Cabeço da Ponta: Near the hotels and 4km away from Vila Baleira, this beach has a restaurant, bars, a children’s playground, a team of lifeguards, a first aid station, and a lifeguard boat. There is no public parking space, only hotel clients’ private parking spaces. 
  • Praia da Calheta: The entrance to the water is through rocks where puddles form and where the sea is almost transparent, it is so clear it is called “Paradise beach.” There are changing rooms, lockers, restaurants and bars, a lifeguard, and a first aid station.
  • Praia da Fontinha: Calm and tranquil, this is the first choice for locals and tourists alike. It has parking, restrooms, changing rooms, restaurants and bars, a first aid station, a lifeguard team, beach umbrellas, and sun loungers. A camping area is also available nearby.
  • Praia das Pedras Pretas: Preferred by residents, this beach doesn’t have much in the way of infrastructure, but it is sought out because of its clear water. It has a first aid station, a lifeguard, a small bar, an esplanade with outdoor showers, and a few sun umbrellas. 
  • Praia do Ribeiro Salgado: Located in front of Hotel Pestana Porto Santo, it has restrooms, bars, an esplanade and a lifeguard. 

Best for: 

  • Families
  • Hikers (the wild trails of Porto Santo Island are a hiker’s dream) 
  • Sea adventurers (check out the boat, such as snorkeling tours available, and peek at the beautiful marine life)

Formosa Beach/ Praia Formosa

Praia Formosa is one of the most photographed beaches in Portugal. They have also awarded it Blue Flag status.

Praia Formosa

With its black volcanic sand and rolled pebbles, is the largest public beach in the region and comprises four dark sandy beaches: 

  • Praia Nova
  • Praia Formosa
  • Praia dos Namorados
  • Praia do Arieiro

Close to Funchal, the largest city on the island, this free public beach is patrolled and offers good facilities, including beach wheelchairs and braille information boards.

A pathway runs along the beach all the way to Câmara de Lobos, where you will find bars, restaurants, and other attractions.

This is a brilliant spot to grab an afternoon drink and take in the sunset before you head out for dinner.

Where: In the western part of Funchal, near the Lido promenade and reaching the promenade deck of Câmara de Lobos.


Facilitie available:

  • Team of lifeguards
  • Parking
  • Change Rooms / Showers
  • First aid station
  • Braille information boards
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Children’s Playground
  • Sports Center
  • Restaurants and bars


Best for: 

  • Families
  • Anyone staying in Funchal/Lido/Câmara de Lobos
  • Whoever wants to party after the beach or grab a meal/drink nearby

Calheta Beach

Located on the southwestern side of Madeira Island, Calheta Beach is made of golden sand imported mainly from Morocco, but also from Figueira da Foz (mainland Portugal). This beach offers a wide variety of nautical activities (canoeing, windsurf boards, and catamaran rental services) and crystal clear waters.

Calheta, “Paradise” Beach

On the main avenue leading to the beach, you will find some excellent seafood restaurants serving fish ‘cataplanas’ and other delicious typical Portuguese seafood dishes and local specialties.

Where: In the western region of Madeira and is about a 30 minute drive from Funchal.

Nearby facilities:

  • Beach bar and Restaurants
  • Change rooms / showers
  • Sun loungers and sun umbrellas
  • First Aid Services
  • Lifeguard
  • Boat Marina

Best for: 

  • Families
  • Boat Owners

Machico Beach (Praia Banda D´Além)

Machico Beach is a beautiful crescent-shaped beach and one of the other beaches in Madeira made from imported golden sand from Morocco. At Machico Beach, you will find a variety of water sports, from diving to kayaking or jet ski riding.

Machico Beach with the airport runway in the distance

There is a very nice bar surrounded by beautiful palm trees. Sea walls protect the beach from strong currents, making it a pleasant and safe area to swim. This beach is located just after the small runway of the Madeira Airport, so you will be watching some sad faces lifting off. 

Where: Located in the bay Machico at 17 km northeast of Funchal and nearby Porto da Cruz.

Nearby facilities:

  • Beach bar and restaurants
  • Showers and change rooms 
  • Sun loungers and sun umbrellas
  • First Aid Services
  • Lifeguard
  • Parking

Best for: 

  • Families
  • Groups of friends

Prainha Beach

Prainha Beach is a naturally sandy beach in a very small cove near Caniçal. This Beach, near the tip of São Lourenço, is the only natural copper-colored sand beach of volcanic origin, a naturally sandy beach in a tiny cove near Caniçal.

Prainha Beach, Madeira

Explore the caves that exist in the rock formations that make Prainha Beach so secluded.

A favorite of the locals, Prainha gets busy on the weekends, but during the week you can be lucky and find you have much of the beach to yourself. You can also explore the caves called Dunas da Piedade, which are limestone fossils of geomorphological interest, and beautiful rock formations that make Prainha Beach so secluded. The landscape that surrounds this beach contrasts with that found on most of the island. Here, the usual green is replaced by an arid landscape, painted in yellows, browns, and oranges.

Weak points? Mainly the difficult beach access (and especially the return) and the lack of surveillance.

Where: Prainha is in Caniçal municipality, near Ponta de Sao Lourenco.

Nearby available facilities:

  • Restaurant
  • Showers and change rooms 
  • Sun loungers and umbrellas
  • Parking

Best for: 

  • Couples
  • Groups of friends
  • Hikers and adventurers

Porto do Seixal Beach

If you enjoy volcanic rocks, you will love Porto do Seixal Beach! Right next to Seixal harbor, and with black sand, a superb landscape of green cliffs, and the mountains of the north coast of the island of Madeira surrounds Porto Do Seixal.

Porto do Seixal

This is one of the most beautiful black sand beaches on this wonderful island and you can not pass on the opportunity to stay to enjoy a mesmerizing sunset. The contrast of the ocean, vegetation, and sand at Porto do Seixal Beach will blow your mind!

Where: On the stunning northern coast of Madeira Island near Porto do Moniz.

Nearby available facilities (all available at Clube Naval do Seixal Pools):

  • Change rooms / showers
  • Bar
  • Kayak rental
  • Diving equipment rentals

Best for: 

  • Couples
  • Groups of friends
  • Hikers and adventurers
  • Nautic sports lovers
  • Photography lovers

Seixal Natural Pools

These beautiful natural swimming pools are of volcanic origin and won’t leave anyone indifferent to Poças das Lesmas – natural pools of volcanic origin with crystal-clear waters and rock formations.

Perfect for an Instagram moment with its natural lava rock archway, they are close to Porto do Seixal Beach.

natural pools of Seixal in Madeira Island, Portugal
The pools of Seixal

Even though the water can be quite cold and entering the pools might prove slippery, when the water is perfectly still the clouds are reflected perfectly on the surface.

A perfect romantic place to watch the sunrise or sunset, you won’t regret coming here to admire the sights.

Where: Near Porto do Seixal beach.

Nearby available facilities:

  • Kiosk
  • Restrooms and showers

Best for: 

  • Couples
  • Groups of friends
  • Adventurers
  • Photography lovers

Porto Moniz Natural Pools

If you don’t want to swim in the open ocean, you can’t miss the Porto Moniz Natural Pools. The 3800 m2 natural saltwater pools are located on the north coast at Porto Moniz.

Porto-Moniz-Natural-Swimming-Pools-Madeira
Porto Moniz natural swimming pools

Formed by volcanic lava, the pools are naturally filled with the ocean water that flows inside of the formations. The pool’s water is tranquil and crystal-clear and the space is completely protected from waves due to its natural volcanic rock walls.

You get a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean from your tranquil swimming space. 

Where: In between Calheta and the hiking trail da Ribeira da Janela.

Nearby available facilities:

  • Children’s Playground and Swimming Pool
  • Disabled Access
  • Showers and change rooms with lockers
  • Snack Bar
  • First Aid Services
  • Parking
  • Lifeguard
  • Sun Lounge and sun shades 

Best for:

  • Families
  • Couples
  • Groups of friends
  • People with reduced mobility

Ponta do Sol Beach

Ponta do Sol is a beach located at Madalena do Mar, south coast of Madeira, and it is one of the best pebble beaches on the island.

Paul Mannix, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hidden away in a small cove in the village of Ponta do Sol, between the slopes of the valley, is just 160 meters long and although it doesn’t bear a blue flag, fortnightly results from this pebble beach show that the water is high quality. Just opposite the beach, you can find rows of colorful houses and hotels, so it is super accessible!

As the name implies, Ponta do Sol (sun point) has lots of sunshine all year round and it’s famous for its fabulous weather.

Where: Is a municipality on the southwestern coast of the island of Madeira and nearby the Levada Nova and Moinho Waterfall.

Nearby available facilities:

  • Change Rooms
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Showers and restrooms
  • Accessible for people with reduced mobility
  • Games Area and summer library
  • Snack Bar
  • Parking

Best for:

  • Families
  • Couples
  • Groups of Friends
  • People with reduced mobility

Fajã dos Padres Beach

Who doesn’t love small pebble beaches under steep cliffs? Open from 10h to 19h, you can’t miss another small pebble beach at Fajã dos Padres which is located just under the highest cliff in Europe, Cabo Girão, “only” 580 meters high!

Miguel Monteiro, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This area was a Jesuit priest retreat for 150 years. Alongside the beach, you can walk through banana plantations, vegetable gardens, and fruit orchards, and after a day of sunbathing, have dinner at the beach restaurant that cooks organic only.  

This is an attractive beach, with easy access to the sea, in the area from the pier to the end of the bay, and the mild temperature of the sea all year round. They created a spacious sunbathing area next to the pier. 

The transparency of the water and the variety of species along the coast also attract diving and fishing enthusiasts.

If you’re up to it, you can even have a tour at the local vineyard and wine cellar or even sleep on one of the small cabins built with stones picked from the beach itself!

To get to Fajã dos Padres Beach you can either arrive by boat or ride a cable car straight up to the viewpoint on top of Cabo Girão where you can enjoy the Atlantic ocean beneath your feet through the sky glass walk. 

Where: In the Câmara de Lobos municipality and near Funchal.

Nearby available facilities:

  • Restaurant
  • Showers and restrooms
  • Cabins
  • Sun Umbrellas and loungers

Best for:

  • Couples
  • Groups of Friends
  • Wine lovers
  • Photography lovers

Garajau Beach

Nestling at the base of the Garajau cliffs, this beautiful small pebble beach is located inside the Garajau Natural Partial Reserve on the southeastern coast of Madeira Island. The star attraction of this beach is its calm and crystal clear waters, highly prized among scuba divers.

Garajau Beach

As such, it is known for its excellent scuba diving conditions and the possibility of finding the best aquatic fauna since the beach is inside a marine reserve. The beach can be accessed by paying for a ride on the cable car. 

Not far from Garajau beach, you can walk to Ponta do Garajau headland, from where you have a spectacular view over the Desertas Islands. 

Where: About 13 km from Funchal and nearby the Cristo Rei of Madeira.

Nearby facilities:

  • Café 
  • Scuba Diving Centre + scuba diving rental equipment 
  • Restrooms and changing rooms
  • Picnic Area
  • First Aid Post
  • Cabins
  • Sun Umbrellas and loungeess

Best for:

  • Couples
  • Groups of Friends
  • Scuba divers

Doca do Cavacas Bathing Complex

Better known as Doca do Cavacas, this complex used to be called Poça do Gomes (meaning Gomes’ puddle). It is a small beach complex with a natural swimming pool of volcanic origin and direct access to the sea.

The Doca do Cavacas, this small beach complex is located between the Lido and Formosa beach. It can be accessed from the Lido Promenade, a popular area with lots of recreational activities, from restaurants, bars, and shopping malls.

In Lido, you can also find four to five-star hotels and an aquatic park. To the west of this beach, bracing views can be enjoyed over the highest cape in Europe (Cape Girão) and Formosa Beach.

Where: In between Funchal’s Formosa Beach and Lido Promenade.

Nearby facilities:

  • Direct Access to Sea
  • Changing rooms
  • Lifeguard
  • Restaurant
  • Bar

Best for:

  • Couples
  • Groups of Friends
  • Families

Jardim do Mar Beach

Isolated and beautiful, Jardim do Mar (Garden by the Sea), also known as the surfers’ and bodyboarder’s paradise, is actually the name for three different beaches: Portinho, Enseada, and Ponta Jardim.

With the open Atlantic beach view at the front and the beautiful mountains in the background, Jardim do Mar is a welcome venture for those who want to distance themselves from the hustle and bustle of Funchal.

Where: Near the Levada Paul do Mar in the southwest of Madeira.

Nearby facilities:

  • Bar and restaurant (Portinho pebble beach)
  • Restaurant (Portinho pebble beach)
  • Parking
  • Showers (Portinho pebble beach)
  • Portinho beach is a small popular pebble beach, with no lifeguard, where you will find showers and parking, as well as a bar and restaurant nearby.

Best for:

  • Couples
  • Groups of friends
  • Surfers and bodyboarders
  • Hikers and adventurers 

Porto da Cruz

Don’t pass on the opportunity of visiting this village on the northeast of the island. Great waves for surfing, a beautiful beach, and a swimming complex named Praia da Alagoa.

Inaugurated in June 2004, this bathing complex known for its grandiose mountain overlooking the sea was built to improve on the already existing black-sand beach, granting it two swimming pools (one for children and one for adults), and a sun deck.

You can’t beat the views from the pools and promenade where you can taste the famous sugar cane rum produced locally at Porto da Cruz.

Where: In the northeast of Madeira and not far from Caniçal.

Nearby facilities:

  • Solarium with good access to the sea
  • Showers
  • Playground
  • Snack Bars and restaurants
  • Kiosk
  • Sun Loungers and sunshades
  • Sunbathing area
  • Picnic Zone
  • Changing Rooms and restrooms

Best for:

  • Families
  • Groups of friends
  • Surfers
  • Lovers of convenience 

Which do we think is the best beaches of Madeira

In a hurry – Here are our quick picks, of course we can’t pick just one! Of all the beaches in the Madeira Islands, we think:

  • Porto Moniz is one of the best beaches for families.
  • Faja dos Padres is a great choice for romance.
  • Praia da Formosa is the beach to head for a party atmosphere.
  • And the best choice, if you want to surf, is Jardim do Mar.