Is Madeira worth visiting? Some honest pros and cons


Our blog is reader-supported, so no banner ads 🙌 Affiliate links may earn us a commission.

We must admit that we may be a bit biased in answering this question. After all, we’ve dedicated an entire blog to Madeira and clearly think that it is, well… marvellous.

But even though we love Madeira, we’ll be the first to admit that the island is not ideally suited to every visitor or every type of trip.

If you’re wondering if Madeira is worth visiting for you, here are a few pros and cons to consider.


Madeira is perfect forMadeira is not ideal for
Nature & hiking Beach holidays (see comments below)
Road trips through epic landscapesPartying
Exotic gardens and parks‘Off the beaten track’
Local cuisine & produce
Ecotourism (e.g. whale watching)
Adventure sports (e.g. canyoning)
Visiting coastal villages
Working remotely

Madeira is NOT worth visiting if…

You’re looking for buzzing nightlife

Although there is sporadic nightlife in Madeira, mainly in the capital Funchal, this is usually focused on the local residents rather than tourists. The island is a rather quiet place overall. 

Madeira cannot be compared at all with the kind of boozy holiday destinations that are more common along the Spanish coasts. (If you don’t like such nightlife-centric destinations anyway, then this may well be music to your ears.)

There are some bars and clubs available, but the island’s nightlife is quite sedate compared to other European hotspots. If you’ve come to party, then Madeira is probably not the right destination for you. 

There are mostly small beaches in Madeira and only a few of them are sandy

You’re mainly focused on beaches

Madeira is perfect for spending time in nature — including in and around the water, such as on whale- or dolphin-watching trips or surfing. However, it does not boast an abundance of sandy beaches. 

There are only a few small beaches in Madeira, which inevitably get crowded during peak season. You will not find vast stretches of sand in Madeira (the only exception being the small island of Porto Santo). Instead, the beaches are typically small, rocky coves. There are also some natural swimming pools, formed by volcanic activity. 

If beach lounging is the main purpose of your trip, then there are different destinations to consider, such as the other Macronesian islands of the Canaries or Cape Verde

That said, small man-made sandy beaches such as those in Calheta or Machico offer opportunities for some sunbathing on a sandy beach. Personally, although we come to Madeira for activities such as hiking or road tripping, we often like to spend an afternoon at a beach or jump into the water at one of the small harbours. Just think of these more as add-ons than the main attraction. For a better idea, you can check the best beaches and natural pools in Madeira.

If you enjoy a swim, you can also simply book a hotel with a swimming pool, of which there are numerous to choose from. The south side of the island has the best weather, so you may want to stay here if you’re looking for the most sunshine. 

You want perfectly consistent weather

Speaking of the weather, since the island experiences various microclimates, Madeira’s weather can be somewhat unpredictable. While one area may be sunny, another could be cloudy or rainy, all just a short distance apart. 

This doesn’t really have to be a negative; it’s just something to expect. Due to its mountainous topography and exposure to the Atlantic ocean, you can experience sunshine, rain, and misty conditions all on the same day. 

However, its sub-tropical climate ensures that Madeira has a pleasantly mild temperature year-round, which is definitely one of the amazing aspects of the island. Madeira is a great destination even in winter!

You long to go somewhere completely undiscovered

Exploring Madeira can be quite a thrill, but if you’re the kind of traveller who dreams of hitchhiking through Transnistria or living with llama herders in Bolivia, then you’ll probably find Madeira “too touristy”.

Fair enough. Madeira is a bit of a holiday resort island, with almost a third of Madeira’s GDP relying on tourism. 

That said, we think tourism has been developed in Madeira in mostly a tasteful way, avoiding the kind of brash large-scale development you can find in the Canaries, for example. And if you want to stay somewhere charming or quiet there are many options, particularly in the more remote west or north sides of the island.

Okay, enough with the downsides! Here’s why Madeira is actually an amazing travel destination.

Madeira IS worth visiting for…

Its epic landscapes and lush nature

The island’s terrain is mostly mountainous… in fact, it’s difficult to find almost any flat land in Madeira! This makes it incredibly scenic and an amazing island for outdoor activities. 

When you’re driving around Madeira, you will never be bored, as the landscapes are just so dynamic. 

The geography and the various microclimates make Madeira a hiking paradise. The island is famous for its lush laurel forests, which provide a haven for countless species of plants, animals, and birds. 

It should be said that the terrain is often steep and rugged, making some activities challenging for people with limited mobility or fitness levels.

The island’s narrow roads and steep cliffs can also make driving a bit daunting for inexperienced or nervous drivers. In our opinion, the difficulty level of driving in Madeira often gets exaggerated, but you should still know what to expect from the roads in Madeira

However, Madeira wouldn’t be Madeira without its stunning and dramatic landscapes.

Start planning your Madeira trip!

The incredibly varied hiking trails

The island is home to numerous levada hikes, which are irrigation channels offering various trails suitable for different fitness levels. The levada hikes often have many interesting features, such as tunnels or hidden waterfalls.

Besides the levadas, there are hikes in the high mountains of Madeira, along the dry and rocky eastern extreme, and along the coastlines, allowing for lots of varied hikes within a relatively small region.

Check out the different types of hikes you can experience in Madeira.

Its wonderfully mild climate

Madeira’s sub-tropical climate and mild temperatures make it very much a year-round travel destination. It’s sometimes even called the “island of eternal spring”.

The months from October to April see more rainfall than summer, though the temperatures still hover around 20/21 degrees Celsius (68/70 °F) even during the winter months. From July until September, expect temperatures reaching up to 26/27 °C (79/81 °F).

It’s never too hot, never too cold. Whenever you’re thinking of going to Madeira, you can probably just go ahead and book those flights, because there isn’t a truly wrong time to visit. (Though it does rain more often from November to January.)

The local cuisine 

For food enthusiasts, Madeira offers many delicious local dishes that combine traditional Portuguese flavors with fresh, local ingredients. 

One local speciality is the espetada (grilled meat skewers). You should also definitely try the scabbardfish fillet served with fried bananas!

As you might expect, the fish and sea food on the island are generally great — in the high-rated restaurants of course, but even in local budget-friendly eateries known as tascas you can have some wonderfully fresh fish.

There are unique drinks in Madeira as well, as as poncha (made with sugar cane spirit, honey and orange juice) and its famous fortified wine, which is similar to Port and has been produced on the island for centuries.

Its compactness 

Being relatively small, the driving distances in Madeira are very manageable, with few trips ever being more than an hour or so. We love this about Madeira as you get to spend more time doing activities and less time wasted in transit.

The manageable distances make it easier to plan your sightseeing and make pretty much all areas of the island easily accessible no matter where you choose to be based.

If you travel around by public transportation, do keep in mind that it can be a lot slower. Getting around Madeira with your own rental car or using organized tours will be the most convenient options for seeing the island.

Its affordability

Another pro for visiting Madeira is its affordability, especially when compared with other European travel destinations. 

The island is somewhat less expensive than the Canary Islands and a lot cheaper than many popular Mediterranean islands (e.g. Corsica, Ibiza, the famous Greek islands, etc.). By some northern European standards, you could even consider Madeira cheap. 

For reference, a typical meal in a local restaurant in a village will cost about 12 euros for a main dish. In a more trendy or international restaurant in the capital, this will be closer to 20 Euros. 

That said, to get the most out of your time in Madeira, it’s best to have a comfortable travel budget to spend. Around €100 per person per day is a good basic budget to consider, which includes accommodation, meals, activities, and either car rental or tours to explore around the island.

The excellent accommodation 

Unlike some more remote islands around the world, Madeira has accommodations in pretty much any size or shape you want. We love the charming B&Bs and holiday homes you can find in particular in the smaller villages.

However, if you prefer to stay in a resort hotel, you can find many high-quality options around Funchal (especially in the hotel district of Lido). Anything from boutique hotels to budget backpacker hostels can also be found in Funchal and other areas. 

Because of the varied accommodation, there is really something for everyone, so Madeira attracts various types of travellers and ages.

Its digital nomad scene

Finally, Madeira has been very much discovered in recent years as a remote working location. It all started with the ‘digital nomad village’, an initiative in Ponta do Sol launched during the pandemic, but now there are multiple locations on the island where you can find co-working facilities as well as medium or long stay accommodation. There is a vibrant digital nomad community in Madeira, with many events, networking opportunities, and even a Slack channel where you can find all kinds of support and information.

Staying for a few months in Madeira while working remotely is the perfect way to experience the island. The manageable distances to the sights makes it easy to plan weekend activities while you can enjoy wonderful ocean views during your work days.

If you sign up at the digital nomads in Madeira site, they’ll send you a starter pack with more information. 

All in all, Madeira is an island with many faces and with so many great reasons to visit. Whether you’re interested in hiking, the sports or water activities, or just want to spend a while in a sunny island, marvellous Madeira has got it all!

Don’t miss our 3-day itinerary or 1-week Madeira itinerary, or check out our step-by-step Madeira travel guide to help you decide where to stay or when to travel.

Last Updated:

Recommended Tours