Madeira hikes: The stunning cliffs of São Lourenço (PR8)

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The Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço Hike (PR8) is one of the most popular trails in Madeira, undulating through stark volcanic terrain and past dramatic rock formations to the island’s easternmost point.

We think this is for sure one of the must-do hikes in Madeira, given that it offers some of the most stunning panoramic views. The arid volcanic landscapes are very different from the rest of the island, contrasting in particular with the lush green Laurisilvva forests found in wetter areas.

The trail is of moderate difficulty, being 7.4 km (4.6 miles) long roundtrip and taking about 3 hours out and back.

Tip: The area is highly exposed to the wind and sun, with almost no shade anywhere along the trail. Be sure to bring the appropriate gear depending on the season (e.g. sun protection, windbreaker, etc.).

3 ways to get to the trail

São Lourenço is at the extreme eastern point of the island, but it is not difficult to reach. You have a couple of different options for getting to the trailhead.

By tour: while not strictly necessary, you may prefer doing this hike as part of an organized group tour with local guide, which will include transportation from Funchal to the trailhead. Your ride to Ponta de São Lourenço will be much faster than taking the public bus, so this can be a good argument for taking a tour if you don’t have a car.

By car: simply put “Ponta de São Lourenço” into your navigation system and drive there. From Funchal, it takes about 40 minutes and you’ll find plenty of parking spaces when you arrive. On your way, you can also drive to the Caniçal viewpoint for some more excellent views.

By public transport: this is one of the few hikes in Madeira you can do without needing a car. Just take the SAM bus 113 in Funchal (such as here) and get off at the final stop. You’ll see a lot of car parking and the road ending in a small roundabout where the bus turns back, so it will be obvious where to get out. Sadly, the buses are not so frequent and are very slow, as the route mostly avoids the motorway/highway. Incredibly, it takes about 90 minutes one way from Funchal. Tickets are around €3 – €4 one-way.

Tips for the São Lourenço hike

As mentioned earlier, this hiking area is highly exposed to the wind and sun, so be sure to gear up appropriately.

This just bears repeating as some tourists in Madeira seem to attempt even the most difficult hikes with flop-flops and t-shirts, neglecting to bring any appropriate gear or even water, which isn’t a good idea.

The São Lourenço hike is not overly challenging, mostly just following rocky paths with a few sections of paved steps, with a few hundred meters of elevation changes along the way. But it’s still a good idea to be at least reasonably prepared for a proper hike.

Sunset and sundown are great times to be here, though honestly any time of day can be highly rewarding. If you truly want the ‘best’ time to hike here, you could choose to avoid the midday sun and plan a morning hike when there are fewer people.

The hike is popular so you’ll likely see quite a few other people traversing the trail. This can make it a good choice for a hike if you’re travelling solo in Madeira, as you won’t be totally alone.

The weather can be different every day at São Lourenço as it’s a very open space without mountains that trap the clouds. You can check this live webcam before you go to see the conditions in the eastern part of the island. (This webcam is not exactly in São Lourenço, but in Caniçal, the nearest village.)

The final view with the São Lourenço lighthouse at the back

Hiking the whole way

The official details for the PR8 trail state that it is 6km roundtrip (3.7 miles), ending at Casa do Sardinha. However, it’s worth taking the hike just a bit further.

If you do the shorter loop as the official information suggests, you will actually miss some of the best views!

From the Casa do Sardinha, you can get up to a higher viewing point. It’s a somewhat stiff climb, but it’s worth it. From here, you can see a beautiful scattering of rocky islets, the lighthouse at the furthest point, and even the uninhabited Islas Desertas in the distance.

We’ve heard that since we did the hike, this final section is now technically closed for maintenance, but you can check the current situation when you’re visiting Madeira.

This complete loop is about 7.4km or 4.6 miles. Since there is a café, you can stop for drinks or food and have a rest before heading back.

Head to the palm trees for Casa do Sardinha

The café midway

Although the peninsular headland is unpopulated, it is not quite completely deserted, for there is one small café located close to the final viewpoints.

The Casa do Sardinha is open every day from 10.00 am – 6.00 pm. Note that these times are different from those listed on some other blogs, as they’ve now extended their opening hours.

There is a simple toilet at the café should you need to make a pitstop.

Drone use

As far as we’re aware, there are no restrictions on drone use here beyond the normal drone regulations that apply in Portugal. It’s an epic spot for drone photography, so be sure to pack your drone so you can get those gorgeous shots of Madeira!

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