Where to stay in Madeira — tips & best areas


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Deciding where to stay in Madeira doesn’t have to be too agonizing. It’s a small island, so you can always get everywhere from anywhere (especially if you have your own vehicle). It’s also a safe island overall without any ‘bad areas’. This means your location is more of a matter of personal preference.

Given the manageable distances, you could just focus on finding accommodation you love, wherever it may be on the island. However, your location could still be an important factor, especially when choosing between more urbanized and rural locations. 

Whichever side of the island you stay on surely also becomes a focal point for your trip, based on what’s conveniently located nearby. For example, when we stayed in the northeast on one of our trips, we saw relatively little of the southwest. For this reason, it’s worth giving some thought to where you’ll be based in Madeira.

North vs. south side

Madeira can be roughly divided between the north and south. The south side tends to be sunnier and, in the southeast, the most urbanized.

The north side faces the prevailing trade winds, so it’s usually this side that makes first contact with any incoming clouds. As a result, the north is somewhat greener and is sometimes rainier or mistier. It’s also less developed overall, with no motorways/highways in the north.

We shouldn’t caricaturize the two sides too much though. It’s not like the north is a constant monsoon while it never rains in the south. But, in general, the north is wetter, which is actually why the famous levadas (irrigation channels) were constructed to carry water to the drier south. In any case, you can always drive to where the best weather is, which is often highly localized in Madeira. 

We like the north side because it’s greener and a bit more ‘wild’. However, the south has more accommodation options and is more accessible, so many visitors may feel more drawn to these parts.

Urban vs. rural

Unsurprisingly, the most urbanized area is the capital, Funchal. The areas between Funchal and the airport in the east are also quite built-up, with a 2-lane expressway running through this region. Along the coast here, you’ll find some larger clusters of development.

All the way in the east you can find Madeira’s only other city, Machico — though it feels more like a large town, so it’s somewhere in between rural and urban.

If you want to stay in a convenient location with everything at your doorstep, or if you’re looking to stay in a larger hotel, then Funchal is the place to look. Elsewhere you can find accommodation with a more nature- or rural atmosphere. 

One location vs. multiple

If you’re staying in Madeira for at least a week, you could split your time between, say, two locations.

Since the driving distances are quite manageable, this would be just to add some variety to your surroundings, rather than being a practical necessity if you want to see the whole island.

Ready to book? Check our hand-picked accommodations:

Where to stay with a car

If you’re renting a car in Madeira then you will not have to stress too much about where you’re staying. Since most places will be within an hour’s drive from anywhere, you won’t have to be in a perfectly strategic location. Our suggestion is to simply find a hotel and/or area that catches your attention.

But if you have a car, we suggest that you should look outside of Funchal first. While you can stay inside the capital, parking may be limited there, and you can use your chance to stay in more scenic or rural locations.

You can consider villages on the south coast, such as Ponta do Sol, Calheta, or Paul do Mar. The north coast is wonderful as well, especially in scenic cliffside villages such as São Jorge, Seixal, and Porto da Cruz. São Vicente is in a particularly good location for reaching both sides of the island: it’s in the center of the north coast but also right by the island’s central tunnel, ensuring it’s an easy 30 minute drive to Funchal.

Where to stay without a car

Exploring Madeira without a car is a little awkward but not impossible. The public transport is not amazing to say the least, but you’ll still have a decent number of accessible places to fill up your itinerary.

We suggest favoring a stay in the capital, Funchal. It has all the transport connections and it’s also where many tours offer free pick-up from your hotel. As a bonus, you can also reach many sights on foot in Funchal (or by cable car to get up to Monte).

In Funchal you can stay in:

  1. The old town. Here you’ll find the most boutique hotels, local apartments, and hostels, and you’ll be located among cobbled streets and public squares.
  2. Lido. This is where the cruise ship terminal and most of the large-scale resort hotels are located. It’s roughly a 10-minute taxi ride from the old town. 

From Funchal, you can take buses to Curral das Freiras (a mountain town), São Lourenco (the eastern headland and home to one of the best hikes), and a few other cool areas.

For more in-depth sightseeing, it’s best to book a tour (such as this tour of the western parts of the island), which can pick you up in Funchal. A tourist shuttle service can take you from Funchal to the highest peaks of the island if you want to hike there.

Staying in Funchal is especially recommended if you don’t have a car or if you’re planning a shorter stay.

Accommodation types

Depending on what type of lodging you prefer, you can narrow your search to a specific area:

  • Large resort hotels with swimming pools. Start by looking in Lido, the hotel district just west of Funchal’s old town. We have some hotel suggestions in Lido.
  • Modern oceanview apartments. There seem to be especially a lot of these in the southeast, such as in/near Caniço, Santa Cruz, and Machico.
  • Eco-lodges and glamping. The southwest, particularly around Calheta, is a prime hunting ground for this type of accommodation. Don’t miss these recommendations.
  • Cute cottages and holiday homes. You can find these really all over the place, though the southwest coast, and all the north coast, are good areas to search. We’ve listed our favorites here.
  • Hostels. Almost all backpacker hostels are in the capital. There is one hostel outside of Funchal, in Porto da Cruz. You can view all hostels in Madeira.

Charming villages to stay

Funchal may be the obvious place to stay in Madeira, but if you are looking for a cute local village, we have a few suggestions for you.

  • São Vicente. Tucked in a valley on the north coast, it’s wonderfully green and has some gorgeous mountain views. It’s easy to get around the island from here.
  • Jardim do Mar. A gorgeous little hidden gem on the southwestern coast. It’s a cute traffic-free village with just a few hundred inhabitants.
  • Porto da Cruz. A small village at the base of a rocky mountain known as Penha d’Águia (the Eagle’s Nest). It has a welcoming vibe with several surf camps in town, a hostel, many nice B&Bs, and A Pipa, a cozy tavern/restaurant where you can get a fantastic plate of scabbardfish.
  • São Jorge. A pleasant rural village close to some tall cliffs and with numerous great viewpoints nearby. There are also great hikes nearby (e.g. Levada do Rei) and you can relax by the ocean at Calhau de São Jorge.
  • Seixal. There’s not much accommodation to choose from here, but we really like this charming village with a strong local feel. Grab some limpets or grilled fish at Bar da Ribeira da Laje with a gorgeous view of the coast. There is also a lovely small beach with dark volcanic sand.
  • Ponta do Sol. Squeezed between two cliffs, this village with a small harbor and pebble beach rose to fame as the ‘digital nomad village’ during the pandemic, but you certainly don’t need to be a remote worker to stay here. It has lots of sunshine (as the name implies) and it’s not far from Funchal.

One village we think is a bit less enticing is Santana, which is famous for having several straw-roofed traditional houses. It gets a lot of tour buses all day making it feel a bit tourist-trappy. The village itself is fine, nothing terrible, but there are some better options to look at.

The village of Caniçal is fairly industrial near its commercial port. It’s actually known for having great fish restaurants and it’s an authentic place, but we imagine for most people it’s not top of the list for accommodation.


What’s the best area to stay in Madeira?

The capital Funchal is the most convenient location due to being centrally located, well-connected, and having many attractions. To be closer to nature, consider the southwest or north coast of Madeira.

Which part of Madeira is most beautiful? 

This is subjective, but the lush green north coast is extremely picturesque. The southwest also has a beautiful dramatic coastline. The central peaks of Pico Ruivo and the Valley of the Nuns are also amazing to visit, but these are not areas with much (or any) accommodation.

Which side of Madeira is sunnier?

The south is typically the sunnier side, while the north is wetter and cloudier on average. However, due to the mountains and many microclimates, the weather can be highly localized.

What are the nicest villages in Madeira?

We really like São Jorge, Seixal, Ponta do Sol, Porto da Cruz, Jardim do Mar, and São Vicente — among others.

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