Villages of Madeira: Rum & surf in Porto da Cruz


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Tucked beside the impressive mountain known as the Eagle’s Nest (Penha de Águia) and situated at the end of a long volcanic black sand beach, Porto da Cruz is a village that’s immediately striking.

With just over 3000 inhabitants, it’s a wonderfully unhurried and welcoming place. It’s also a short drive away from some of Madeira’s most dramatic landscapes and most popular hikes, such as Levada do Caldeirão Verde and Levada do Rei, making it perhaps our favourite base in the north of Madeira.

The views in Porto da Cruz are a constant reward, from the sun rising over the bay to a mist-shrouded Eagle’s Nest looming over the village on a cloudy day.

Something else to appreciate about Porto da Cruz is its outdoors-focused scene, with lots of opportunities for surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, and more.

If you like to stay somewhere quiet and authentic, then Porto da Cruz is an amazing choice. Here’s everything you need to know for your visit or stay.

Things to do

Being a small village, Porto da Cruz is not necessarily a place with dozens of things to do. But there are still enough sights to keep you busy within the local area.

Sample local rum at the North Mills Distillery

This working rum factory is well worth a visit, especially from March until May when sugarcane is harvested and delivered for processing here. During this time you’ll surely see the trucks bringing heaps of sugarcane while steam billows from the kettles inside the factory.

Organized tours often stop here, during which the tour guides provide some helpful context. If you’re a walk-in, don’t expect much in the way of information apart from a couple of panels. However, since you are already in Porto da Cruz, it’s worth checking out in any case.

The adjacent cafe offers coffee with rum and you can buy bottles of the local spirit as well.

Relax at the beach or swimming pool

The beach in Porto da Cruz is covered in large rocks and can be a little rough, but it’s nevertheless a nice spot to spend some time.

For calmer waters, you can take a dip in the public pool right beside it. There, you can relax with views of the ocean and mountains.

Discover the wild beach of Praia da Maiata

For another small secluded beach, drive just 5 minutes or so south to Praia da Maiata.

This is a natural beach with fairly big waves, lots of rocks, and some currents to be aware of. There are some warning signs stating that this is an unguarded beach. If not for a swim, then it’s simply an amazingly scenic place to catch some sun rays and watch the waves.

The only issue is that there is barely any parking, with just three spots at the end of a narrow rural road. Either park before the end of the road or consider a little hike to Praia da Maiata from Porto da Cruz, which should take about 20 minutes.

Go surfing or stand-up paddling

Porto da Cruz has several surf schools providing beginner surfing classes, surf gear rental, bodyboarding sessions, and SUP tours.

Although surfing can be quite difficult in Madeira due to its rocky coastline, Porto da Cruz is known for being a chill spot that’s beginner-friendly.

Surfing takes place at Alagoa Beach (opposite the rum factory), where the water is funnelled into a narrow bay, often creating perfect waves. Locals tell us that the waves in Porto da Cruz are fun and uncrowded compared to Seixal.

You can check with these surf schools in Porto da Cruz:

Walk the seaside path and get splashed

A small seaside promenade circles around the hill next to the town. It’s a lovely walk that can get a bit exciting at times, as the waves crash against the rocky cliffs.

The path has some warning signs for falling rocks. Judging by the rock-strewn path we saw after a storm, it’s probably best to avoid during adverse weather.

Hike up the Eagle’s Nest

If you were looking at the mountain looming dramatically over the village and wondering if you can hike it — yes, you can! At the top, you’ll get sweeping vistas of Porto da Cruz as well as Faial on the other side.

Because the hike is notorious for its steepness we haven’t yet done this, choosing to prioritise some levada hikes instead. But if you’re up for the challenge, it’s right here in Porto da Cruz. The starting point for the hike is here, a short drive up the mountain to the edge of the village.

This blog has an excellent description of the 400-meter climb and where to find the trailhead.

Go offroading in a 4×4 buggy

We noticed that the local tour company Trail4fun is based in Porto da Cruz, which is unique for offering several exciting off-road buggy rides. They start at the Portela viewpoint that looks out over Porto da Cruz, or in Santana, a village not that far to the west.

Check out the Cabo de Larano viewpoint

The Cabo de Larano viewpoint gives some incredible vistas of Madeira’s rugged northern coast, as well as the village on the way up. It’s about a 15-minute drive or you could potentially hike there.

The viewpoint is actually the end point of the unofficial Vereda do Larano hike that begins near Machico, but if you’re not doing the 3-hour hike, you can also drive to the viewpoint for a taste of what the beautiful coast here offers.

Drive to the Portela viewpoint

This isn’t really in Porto da Cruz, but since it offers such an epic view of it, we feel that we should include it here. This viewpoint is among the most spectacular on the island and is only a 10-minute drive away.

Where to stay

Even though it’s a small village, you have some great choices for where to stay. Due to the local surf schools, there are also some accommodation types in Porto da Cruz you won’t usually find elsewhere in Madeira.


Jaca Hostel is a very high-rated and popular spot for surfers and backpackers. If you want to stay here be sure to book ahead, as it is usually full even in low season. This is the only hostel in Madeira we know of that’s not in Funchal!


If you’re looking for a regular hotel, we suggest Hotel Villa Bella. This small-scale 12-room 2-star hotel is located right on the oceanfront, offering spectacular views from the rooms with balconies. The beach and public swimming pool are right at your doorstep, and at night, you can fall asleep to the sound of the waves.


We stumbled upon quite a few charming and high-rated B&Bs in our research. Be sure to check Ricardo’s Village, Domus Dino, or Sea Breeze Boutique House.

Where we stayed

Because other options were booked out on one of our last-minute Madeira trips, we opted to stay at Madeira Surf Camp, which has several private rooms with shared facilities. Even though we weren’t surfing during our visit, we loved Surf Camp and would happily recommend it to anyone.

The rooms are casual but very nice, with a lovely view of some banana trees and the village church. The kitchen in the basement is fully equipped including a toaster and oven, which made it easy to cook a few meals for ourselves. Upstairs is a fantastic viewing deck and dining area with views of the ocean and the Eagle’s Nest mountain.

You’ll get the most out of your stay at Surf Camp if you do indeed surf. Lessons cost €50 per session of several hours and are offered by the owners who surf almost every day. However, it was also fine if you didn’t surf. We loved having our breakfast on the viewing deck.

Eat & drink

Several restaurants along the beachfront offer outdoor seating and amazing views of the ocean and the green mountains of Cabo de Larano.

Praça Velha is probably the best of the bunch. Its menu includes various fish and seafood dishes, including fresh limpets and Arroz de Tamaboril (Portuguese monkfish rice).

However, if you’re in Porto da Cruz between Tuesday and Saturday, the one place we highly recommend is A Pipa. This tavern may lack ocean views but is super cozy and the food is truly top-notch. All the typical Madeiran dishes, including espetadas (meat skewers) and espada (Scabberfish), are on the menu and extremely delicious.

For drinks, there are two bars/cafeterias: Dino’s Bar and Snack Bar Fragateira. You can also get local rum straight from the source by visiting the North Mills Distillery where it is produced.

How to get to Porto da Cruz

By car: You probably know how to put Porto da Cruz into your GPS. There’s just one thing to know: the fastest road from Funchal is via Machico, which is a route mostly following the expressway.

If you’d prefer to take a more scenic route through the mountains, you have two roads you can follow. Take a look at the second driving route we’ve described here for some ideas on how to get to Porto da Cruz on a more leisurely drive.

By bus: The bus company SAM offers connections from Funchal to Porto da Cruz, but they are infrequent and a bit slow. Check the timetables and plan carefully to catch one of the few services.

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