10 of the best beaches & natural pools in Madeira 


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Being closer to Morocco than to mainland Portugal, Madeira’s sub-tropical climate lends itself well to some beach time. However, there are some important limitations to the beach options available that you should know about.

Here, we’ll explain exactly what to expect of the beaches in Madeira. We’ll also share some of our favourite swimming spots on the island, which range from wild undeveloped beaches to safe swimming areas equipped with just about all the facilities you might want.

Is Madeira a beach destination?

First, some bad news. If you come to Madeira expecting vast stretches of sand, you will be disappointed. If white sandy beaches are a must for you, then you may wish to consider a trip to other Macronesian islands such as the Canaries or Cape Verde.

Madeira is highly mountainous and has relatively few beaches. The ones it does have tend to be in small, rocky coves and covered with pebbles, rocks, or black sand.

While Madeira is not typically thought of as a beach destination, the good news is that you can still spend time in- and around the water. There are a decent number of small beaches and natural pools to enjoy. While we don’t think beaches are the main reason to visit Madeira, they can still be fun diversions during a sightseeing or hiking trip.

Your options include:

  • Rocky or pebble beaches such as Praia Formosa, São Jorge Beach, or Ponta do Sol Beach
  • Dark sand beaches such as the one in Seixal
  • Yellow sand beaches that were artificially created using imported sand. There are two small such beaches in Calheta and Machico.
  • Natural pools made of volcanic rock where you can bathe in seawater while sheltered from the waves. You’ll find such pools in Porto Moniz and Seixal.
  • Finally there is the smaller island of Porto Santo, which is the only place in the Madeiran archipelago where you’ll find a large natural sandy beach. Visiting it requires a separate trip by plane or boat.

In this article, we’ll give you an idea of some of the best beaches and pools in Madeira. You can also search in your map app for praia (beach), zona balnear (bathing area), or piscinas naturais (natural pools). You may just find a hidden one near where you’re staying!

Water temperatures

The water temperatures are quite mild throughout the year, though they never quite reach tropical levels, nor does Madeira benefit from being in a warmer sheltered sea such as the Meditterean.

To Northern Europeans, the waters will probably be very much agreeable, especially in summer. Then again, we’ve had Brazilian friends comment on the ‘icy’ temperatures compared to the tropical waters on the Brazilian coast. As always, things can be quite subjective!

Min °C17.816.916.617.317.818.820.621.622.822.220.119
Max °C19.919.31919.
Min °F64.863.462.863.96567.27072.173.872.769.366.9
Max °F66.965.865.265.767.470.672.575.275.774.672.268.8

Beach safety in Madeira

Madeira has quite a wild coast, so some of the more remote or hidden beaches may not always be the safest choice for a swim. For example, the off-the-beaten-path Praia da Maiata near Porto da Cruz has all sorts of warnings against rip currents and rocks.

However, most of the main beaches listed here are sheltered and have calm waters. This will usually be thanks to either being in a cove or being beside a pier or sea wall.

Some of the beaches have lifeguards on duty during the bathing season. This is generally from June to September, but it can be longer at some beaches.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly beach, then Machico and Calheta are two top choices.

Best beaches and pools

Seixal Beach

Porto do Seixal Beach is one of our favorite beaches in Madeira. Its black volcanic sand and big cliffs with lush vegetation in the background create a stunning environment.

Located on the northwestern side of the island, Porto do Seixal Beach can be reached within a 45-minute drive from Funchal, but it is not so easily accessible by public transport.  

Seixal Beach is free, so you won’t find umbrellas and sun loungers; however, there are some facilities, including showers, restrooms, and a lifeguard service.

Not far from the beach, you will also find a cafè, free parking, and shops to rent water sports equipment, like kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.

Some photos we’ve seen online crop the sides off, making this beach seem huge and in the middle of nowhere. However, it’s right beside a village and flanked by a fishing pier. The photo above shows its full extent.

Porto Moniz Natural Pools

Located on the northwestern tip of the island, this place used to be highly isolated from the rest of Madeira through much of its history, with the village surviving as a fishing port by specializing in whaling.

Today, the area is frequented by tourists drawn by its two clusters of natural pools, which are among the most iconic swimming and photographic spots in Madeira.

Of volcanic origin, these natural pools formed over millennia by the cooling of lava. They are filled with shallow seawater while keeping the crushing waves at bay, making them a safe and family-friendly option.

These pools feature a solarium area where you can rent umbrellas and sun loungers and access changing rooms and restrooms. You will also find a children’s pool, a playground, and lifeguards on constant duty. There is a small entrance fee of a few Euros. 

To get to Porto Moniz Pools, it’s ideal to have a car. The bus from Funchal operates only four times a day and can take almost 2 hours. By car, it’s about 1 hour from Funchal.

Right next to the Porto Moniz pools is an oceanfront bar and restaurant where you can enjoy refreshing cocktails and local dishes. There is also an Aquarium in Porto Moniz.

Machico Beach

Stretching for several hundred meters, here you will find a section with pebbles and another with golden sand imported from North Africa. You get some nice views of the marina and the green-with-vegetation mountains descending towards the azure sea. 

The beach itself may not look so impressive, but it’s actually one of the most suitable for sunbathing and swimming in Madeira. During the summer season, there is also a lifeguard service.

The soft seabed and the absence of strong currents and big waves make Machico Beach particularly frequented by families with children. We loved taking our daughter here, who exploded with joy while running around in the shallow waters.

Machico Beach is located on the east side of Madeira. Being within easy reach from Funchal both by car (30 minutes) and public transport (45 minutes), Machico Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island. 

The beach’s facilities include showers, changing rooms, restrooms, and volleyball courts. The seaside promenade behind Machico Beach boasts many cafès, restaurants, ice cream parlors, and shops to rent water sports equipment. 

Calhau de São Jorge Beach

Calhau de São Jorge has fairly rough waves and large rocks and pebbles cover the beach. Nevertheless, we think it’s a lovely place to go, as the views are excellent and there are several other places to swim beside the sea.

If the cauldron of ocean waves seems a bit much, you can take a dip in the small river that reaches the ocean here, or you can swim in the outdoor swimming pool that’s just behind it.

On the edge of the beach there are several stone ruins, one of which has an archway that has become a popular spot for taking self-portraits. You can capture your silhouette with the waves visible in the background. We did a rather slapdash version of this photo here, but you get the idea. (We’re not the best at doing social media poses!).

You can each Calhau de São Jorge by car via a road that goes through a small gorge.

For lunch or dinner, simply pop over to the village of São Jorge that’s just up the mountain from here. We highly recommend a place that’s housed at a former cable car station called the Cabo Aéreo Café. It overlooks the beach and serves delicious meat skewers that come right off a wood-fired grill.

Ponta do Sol Beach

This picturesque beach is located right in the center of Ponta do Sol. The village’s name means “sun point”, because it receives more sunshine throughout the year than other parts of Madeira.

So imagine our surprise when we visited Ponta do Sol Beach and found it partially in the shade! Sheltered by two high cliffs, the beach and the town don’t have direct sunlight all day long, so consider it when planning your visit.

Covered with rocks, this beach has a breakwater built to create a safe area for swimming. There are several facilities at Ponta do Sol Beach, such as changing rooms, restrooms, and lifeguards in the summer. 

What’s great about this beach is that you have a beach bar right beside it. Also, in the street that’s hidden just behind the facades lining the boulevard, you can find a cute cobbled street with several restaurants and cafes.

Ponta do Sol Beach is about a 30-minute drive from Funchal, so it’s pretty straightforward to reach. A good number of buses also go here, so it’s not so bad to reach it by public transport.

Seixal Natural Pools

There are several natural swimming pools in Seixal, on the northern coast of Madeira. With just a 45-minute drive from Funchal, this area has a lovely collection of volcanic, lava-rock tidal pools. 

While somewhat similar to Porto Moniz, the pools in Seixal receive far fewer visitors, so they can be a great alternative choice.

A cool feature of the Seixal Natural Pools is the huge rock archway at the entrance of one of the pools.

With a mix of bigger and smaller rock pools, you will be spoiled with choices for wonderful swimming spots. However, there is no lifeguard service here, so you may want to be careful if visiting with kids.

The Seixal Natural Pools are free to visit and have good facilities, including restrooms, changing rooms, and a small snack stand.

The main downside of these pools is that to get to them from the street you will need to walk steep stairs, so it is unsuitable for people with reduced mobility or kids in strollers. 

Calheta Beach

The double-ended man-made sandy inlets of Calheta create one of the most family-friendly beaches in Madeira. Opened in 2004 on the island’s southwestern side, Calheta Beach is a half-an-hour drive from Funchal. It can be reached by public bus by taking the Funchal to Porto Moniz service, but the timetable is very sparse, so it makes it harder to reach without a car.

Set inside a barrier-protected, oblong-shaped bay, this beach has calm, shallow waters perfect for leisurely swims. You can also spend some hours sunbathing and relaxing by renting umbrellas and sun loungers or having fun at the beach’s volleyball court.

The two connected beaches are technically part of a resort, but you can access it for free if you are not interested in renting amenities. Other facilities include showers, restrooms, changing rooms, and the rescue service. 

There is a small palm-fringed boulevard between the beaches where you will find cafés and restaurants. Plus, you can rent water sports equipment at the pier near the beach.

Ilhéus da Ribeira da Janela Beach

If you want to visit a beach with pretty much no one else there, and that is also the perfect photoshoot spot, then you need to go to Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela Beach. 

Located right next to the namesake town, at a 1-hour drive from Funchal, what makes this beach a must-see are the three skeletons, aka soaring rocks protruding from the ocean, against which the waves crash.

While this beach is outstanding for its views, it has large rocks, so walking on it or lying down to sunbathe is challenging. But if you don’t mind staying a bit uncomfortable, then the panorama here is incredibly rewarding!

You can access the Ilhéus da Ribeira da Janela Beach without a fee. You will find a large car park nearby and free-of-charge restrooms.

Foz da Ribeira do Faial Beach

Located on the north coast of Madeira, Foz da Ribeira do Faial Beach is a C-shaped bay perfect for those seeking leisure time in the water surrounded by tall mountains, on which one of them sits the village of Faial. 

The beach is more developed than some others, with a dedicated seawall leading down small, dark pebbles to a sheltered swimming area. The above photo was taken in winter — during the bathing season you can of course expect more of a crowd gathered here.

The Complexo Balnear da Foz da Ribeira do Faial boasts many facilities, being next to a multi-sports pavilion and a children’s playground. Next to the beach is also a restaurant with a large sunbathing area and a go-kart track.

Foz da Ribeira do Faial Beach is free to access, and it is easy to get here from Funchal by car.

While you’re here, don’t miss the Miradouro do Guindaste, an epic viewing point overlooking the beach. It has a glass observation deck hanging over the cliffs and a path leading to a clifftop with some spellbinding views (and some vertigo-inducing drops!).

Porto Santo

And finally, we must mention Porto Santo, the smaller sister island to the main Madeira. If you’re coming for beaches with plenty of sand and plenty of space, then this is honestly the best place to go.

Its 9-kilometer beach covered in soft sand provides the best opportunity in Madeira for a true beach escape. Keep in mind that it does take a 2,5 ferry ride from the main island to reach, or you need to catch a domestic flight from Funchal’s airport. A few flights also go direct to Porto Santo from Lisbon (such as a connection provided by Easyjet).

Given the time involved to reach Porto Santo, we suggest staying at least a couple of nights here if you want to fully enjoy the beach!

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