We visited Madeira back in 2014, and I always had a feeling that one day I would return to this beautiful island. For many years, this gorgeous, green, and friendly place stayed in my mind, even though we lived in Bali for a while – the Island of Gods!
During our first visit to Hawaii of Europe (yes, that’s how people refer to Madeira!), we decided to allocate a significant part of our budget for trips and walks offered throughout the island. We thought it would be a great idea to explore with a guide who could show us the best the island has to offer, and it turned out to be the best decision.
Booking these trips is pretty easy, as they are available around every corner in the most touristy places of Madeira, such as Funchal, where our hotel was located.
If you are not a person that needs luxuries, a 3-star hotel is not a bad option to book- they are inexpensive, you do not have the desire to stay at the hotel all the time and are free to explore, walk and eat in local places.
During our two-week stay, we managed to do around 8 trips, including a dolphin-watching experience aboard a catamaran, floating through the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.
This time, we extended our stay a bit longer to escape the chilly winter in Poland. We arrived in December 2022 and plan to leave at the end of March 2023, swapping -8ish temperatures for a more pleasant +20 (not bad, huh?).
Given the amount of time on this beautiful island, we’ve indulged in both solo adventures and organized walks. We believe there’s something special about exploring a place on your own whenever it’s safe and possible.
Now, the focus of this article is a recent trip along the south coast of the island, featuring stops at some beautiful villages, which I’ll share more about in the section below 😊
Firstly, we were warmly greeted by our driver/tour guide, Bruno. Right on time, he picked us up at the designated stop in Funchal, where we joined some other delightful people already in the van. Soon, we set off to pick up the remaining members of our crew.
Our first destination on the list was Ponta do Sol, which translates to ‘tip of the sun.’ Ironically, heavy rain welcomed us, limiting our exploration. Even umbrellas were no match for the strong winds. Nevertheless, seeing the place during the day brought a new perspective, especially since our previous visit was in the evening right before Christmas. We couldn’t resist admiring the beautiful and famous Madeiran Christmas decorations. Ponta do Sol is also home to the Cascata dos Anjos, the Angels Waterfall. Picture this: water gracefully falls to the middle of the road, creating a passage you can drive through, or if you’re feeling brave, take a cold, refreshing shower 😊
Continuing our adventure, we get to villages renowned for their large-scale production of sugar cane and bananas – Madalena do Mar and Paul do Mar. If you’re on the lookout for kid-friendly hiking trails with historic sights, don’t miss the trails in Madalena do Mar.
Our stay was extended a bit longer in Paul do Mar, as our scheduled lunch and break were interrupted by heavy rain. Seeking cover, we came across a small local bar. Initially considering The Beach Bar Paul do Mar, with its enticing vegan options advertised, a menu review made me doubt its value – salad Buddha bowl or vegan bolo do caco (delicious local bread) with hummus for a minimum of 10 euros! So, we opted for a charming local spot Bar O Ideal offering delightful poncha and amazing sumo de laranja (freshly squeezed orange juice), along with some vegetarian burgers that could easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese and garlic butter. The skin on the fries sprinkled with herbs, was a tasty delight. After this feast, we were happily stuffed, sipping good drinks, and munching on peanuts they generously provided. All of this came at very affordable prices, reinforcing the wisdom of seeking out local gems rather than pricier restaurants, especially if you’re on a budget 😊
We then continued our journey to Ponta do Pargo, known for its iconic lighthouse and a cliff-top ridge extending into the North Atlantic Ocean. Standing there gave me chills – although magnificent, looking down was quite unsettling😉
Moving on, we reached the village of Calheta, meaning ‘small bay,’ home to one of the two man-made sandy beaches in Madeira! Calheta is on the radar for many visitors due to its countless hiking trails, diverse beaches, and cultural/historical spaces. With one of the lowest rainfall rates on the island and a mild climate year-round, it’s a haven for those who can’t resist constant movement and offers everything from surfing activities, hiking, bird watching, and bike tours, to boat trips!
After a bunch of attractions packed into around 7 hours, we were safely taken back to Funchal.
Despite the less-than-ideal weather, getting up in the morning for this trip was surely worth it. Sharing this experience with friends added an extra layer of joy, confirming that there’s nothing better than spending the day outside, fully present, and enjoying every moment.