Madeira, Portugal | Adventure Travel Guide
Madeira is the secret adventure paradise which won't be secret for long
Madeira is an adventure paradise that still doesn’t cross a whole lot of traveller’s minds when they’re planning their holidays.
The Portuguese island has a consistently warm temperature year-round and has become known as somewhat of a retirement home for the old, though that’s been changing in recent years for very good reason.
Mountain bikers have begun to add Madeira to their hit-list after the efforts of the Freeride Madeira crew and the impressive network of trails they maintain on the island started garnering attention from top professionals.
Brendan Fairclough calls Madeira one of the best places to ride a mountain bike in the world and the island cemented its status in the minds of many when it hosted a stage of the Enduro World Series for the first time in May 2017.
The beauty of Madeira is in its diversity though. Travelling through the small island is like travelling between continents. The mountain biking and hiking trails will take you through all varieties of forests and greenery and the canyoning in the national parks is some of the best we’ve been through. It’s like a miniature New Zealand – but far more accessible for those in Europe.
Turn your eyes to the coastlines and you’ll find another world of opportunities. ‘Madeira Native Motion’ is run by six-time Portuguese surfing champion Orlando Pereira. Orlando is the perfect guide to anything from a paddleboard tour of the coastlines to a beginner surf lesson to a trip to the big-wave surf the island has to spare.
The main city Funchal is the perfect base from which to explore all of this. It’s got views for days, stunning sunsets which illuminate the rows of roads and houses and the beautiful old town isn’t too bad for a party either.
Madeira is going to lose its tag as an undiscovered gem one of these days and become a certified adventure mecca. Make sure you can say you got there first.
Where to Stay
If you’re after some ultimate relaxation then the four-star Porto Mare Hotel is a terrific bet. The rooms are slick and spacious and the views are incredible. Balconies look out over the city while the outdoor pool boasts views of the entire Madeiran coastline. It’s an incredible place to watch the sun set.
For a truly immersive experience though, you’re going to want to stay with ‘Nature in Madeira’, a glamping set up located in the Seixal part of the island in an area so beautiful it’s been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. You won’t be forgetting this view anytime soon.
Nuno who runs ‘Nature in Madeira’ also offers great canyoning and hiking opportunities which start just a few hundred metres away from the tents.
Where to Eat
Arnazen do Sal often confuses visitors because it looks a little like a tourist trap on the outside. Inside though you'll find a great dining space in a spot which was once a salt store. This is a great option for traditional Madeiran food. Try the filet mignon and chocolate volcano (separately)!
Grab lunch at A Bica. It's a small, cheap place in Funchal offering great sea food and homemade ice cream. It doesn't look much from the outside, but the scabbard fish and tuna steak will blow you away.
Where to Drink
Poncha! When you go to Madeira, you have to drink – or at least try – Poncha. It’s the traditional alcoholic drink of the island made from 20cl of Aguardente de cana and five spoons of honey, sugar, lemon and lemon juice. It’s sweet!
The best poncha in Madeira is hands down at Taberna da Poncha in Ribeira Brava, twenty minutes drive from Funchal. It’s a tiny, unpretentiously quirky tavern where you’re given free monkey nuts and encouraged to drop the broken shells on the ground. This is a real local secret. Our mountain guide refused to buy Poncha from anywhere else.
Keep your holiday vibes going at the Pukiki Bar, a tiki joint serving up great cocktails. The owners are lovely and great for recommendations and the homemade syrups make for a great drink.
What The Locals Say:
“The great thing about Madeira is how quickly the scenery changes. You can go from mountain biking up a mountain in the morning to surfing or stand-up paddling in the evening, so don’t limit yourself to one thing a day"
Orlando Pereira, six-time Portuguese surf champion and local tour guide.
For further information on visiting Madeira, check out the official website.