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Where to stay in Madeira – Introduction
Before you travel to the island of Madeira and embark on the time-consuming process of searching for accommodation, it is definitely worth checking a few things. The Madeira Islands, belong to Portugal and consist of two larger and several smaller islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 978 km from Lisbon. From the two inhabited islands, the eponymous Madeira is significantly larger than Porto Santo, located 37 km from each other.
When searching for accommodation, there are many options to choose from, such as resort towns, charming seaside villages or more remote picturesque locations. It is not recommended to book accommodation in the north and in the mountains, even in the summer months, due to the unpredictable weather conditions. Cheaper accommodation should be treated with caution, as there may be some hidden disadvantages.
The northern coast: wilder, more picturesque, less crowded, but the weather is much unfavorable
The south coast: more options, livelier cities, much sunnier
Pro tip: if you’re traveling in winter, definitely choose the south coast!
Where to stay in Madeira
Table of contents
Accomodations by location
There are no big distances on the island of Madeira, but the steep mountain roads and serpentines slow down traffic considerably. That is why, even if you have a rental car, you should think carefully about your choice of accommodation. I especially enjoy driving in such beautiful surroundings, but those who fear from winding roads should try to spend as little time as possible in the car.
The best areas – Overview
- Without a car – central Funchal or nearby São Martinho
- Luxury hotels and resorts – Funchal and Funchal Lido
- Central location for exploring the island – Funchal, São Martinho or Ribeira Brava
- Sandy beaches – Machico or Calheta
- Natural pools – Porto Moniz
- Cozy and charming villages – Camara dos Lobos or Ponta do Sol
- Stunning mountain views – Eira do Serrado (Valley of the Nuns)
- Surfing – Jardim do Mar
- With children – Santa Cruz or Machino
- Authentic accommodations – Soul Glamping luxury tent or ancient cave dwellings
- Porto Santo Island – relaxation and bathing
If you want to rent a car for the entire duration of your vacation, you have several options:
- you can book one central accommodation and explore the island from there
- or you can choose multiple accommodations in different parts of Madeira
- in the case of a longer trip and warm weather seasons, it is worth considering the island of Porto Santo.
Without a car:
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to explore the island without a car. It is not impossible, but also take into account that different bus companies operate in different areas of the island and that several popular attractions and hiking routes cannot be reached by public transport. So, without a rental car, choose Funchal or its narrow catchment area, because the buses depart from here and you can choose from most of the optional programs here.
Did you know?
Madeira is one of the best canyoning destinations in the world!
Madeira is one of the best canyoning destinations in the world, as deep valleys, waterfalls, natural pools and huge rocks mark the landscape of many areas.
There are extremely difficult routes on the north side of the island, but most visitors go along the river Ribeira das Cales (Parque Ecológico do Funchal), Ribeiro Frio (Parque Natural do Ribeiro Frio) or Ribeira do Lajeado.
Boost your adrenaline level with Canyoning!
Where to Stay in Madeira?
Centrally located accommodation
The capital city
Madeira’s old town has charming streets, cathedrals, chapels and museums. It is also close to the beach and the port. Public transport is good and there are plenty of program options. You have to pay for parking, so if you rent a car, check if the hotel offers any parking options. Without a car, Funchal is undoubtedly the best choice to get around in the island.
Location: South coast
Popularity: very busy as it is the capital
Beaches: there is a small pebble beach near the yellow fort
Hostel: 29 Madeira Hostel
Apartman: Good Memories Lodge
Funchal Lido and São Martinho
The resort area next to Funchal
If you go west from the center of Funchal, you will find almost only hotels and resorts. The hotel quarter starts from the casino and goes all the way to the end of the Lido promenade. It is also recommended in case of using public transport, because it is not far from Funchal, even on foot. In my opinion, it is also one of the best choices if renting a car.
Location: 10-30 minutes walk from west of Funchal
Popularity: popular among tourists, also an excellent choice for a central location
Beaches: there are only a few beaches, but most hotels have a pools. Beyond the Lido promenade is Praia Formosa, a pebble beach
Guesthouse: GuestHouse Vila Lusitania
Apartmanhotel: Dorisol Buganvilia Studio Hotel***
Apartman: FLH Casa Branca Madeira
Central small town
Ribeira Brava is a charming little town with a really great location in the middle of the south coast. From here, we can also easily reach the north coast on the way to Sao Vicente. Parking fee must be paid in some places, but parking is still easier here, than in other cities. When making a reservation, keep in mind to check, whether your accommodation provides free parking.
Location: south coast, west of Funchal, 25 minutes by car
Popularity: Not as busy as other places on the south coast
Beaches: pebble beach with a small sandy section
Holiday home with pool for 6-8 people: Sonho do Oceano
Hostel (standard room): VALE MAR Guest
Where to stay in Madeira - recommended by Egyéni Utazó!
I recommend the Dorisol Buganvilia Studio Hotel in São Martinho, a Clean & Safe certified hotel.
Since most people come to the island for hiking and excursions, they don’t necessarily want to bother with cooking. But in case you prefer to cook for yourself during your stay, and you book your accommodation in time, Dorisol Hotel offers rooms with a small kitchenette and half-board at a very reasonable price.
It’s worth making a quick price comparison (half-board vs self-catering) and making a decision based on your budget.
Turismo de Portugal created the „Clean & Safe” certificate to distinguish tourism operators that meet hygiene and cleanliness requirements.
Where to stay near by a sandy beach in Madeira
Machico’s popularity is due to its easy access and its golden sand beach. It is great place to explore the eastern part of Madeira. Due to its sandy beach, it is also a popular choice among families.
Location: east coast, 30 minutes by car from the old town of Funchal
Popularity: this is one of the biggest cities on the island, even so not many tourists come here
Beaches: sandy beach, child-friendly
Hostel: Modern & Recycled Guest House
Apartment for 6 people: V.I.P. Baia
Calheta, which lies under high volcanic rocks, is also famous for its sandy beaches. It is located in one of the sunniest parts of the island and is a great choice for those who want to spend more time on the beach. However, it is more difficult to access than Machico.
Location: south coast, 40 minutes drive west of Funchal
Popularity: a busy area as it has one of the most popular sandy beaches on the island
Beaches: golden sand beach
Beachfront guest house: Marina Rooms
Glamping: Calheta Glamping Pods – Nature Retreat
Hotel: Socalco Nature Calheta
Thanks to its natural pools, Porto Moniz is a popular destination, but the city always gets empty in the evening. If you want to stay at multiple accommodations, it is worth spending a night or two here.
Location: west of the north coast, 55 minutes drive from Funchal
Popularity: crowded with tourist at daytime, but quiet in the morning and evening
Beaches: there is no real beach, but Seixal’s black sand beach is only a 10-minute drive away. However, there are 2 areas with natural pools – one is free (rocky) and the other is man-made and can be used for a charge (please see picture).
Holiday home for 6 people: Casa da Grota
Hotel: Hotel Euro Moniz***
Luxury hotel: Aqua Natura Madeira****
Cozy and charming villages
Câmara de Lobos
Cozy fishing village
Câmara de Lobos is considered the most charming village on the island. The reason for this is the harbor full of colorful ships, which Churchill also painted, when he was on the island. Very cozy fishing village with old houses, coastal promenade and terrace plantations. In addition, it can be easily explored on foot.
Location: south coast, 15 minutes drive west of Funchal
Popularity: very busy during the day, especially because it is easily accessible from Funchal (also by taxi or hop on hop off bus)
Beaches: it has two pebble beaches, one in front of the harbor and one on the west side of the town
Apartment for 2-6 people: Villas Quinta da Lapa by AnaLodges
Hotel: Pestana Churchill Bay****
Ponta do Sol
The island’s sunniest village
Ponta do Sol is known as one of the sunniest places on the island. A charming little town with crystal clear water, colorful buildings and a palm-lined beach promenade. Its historical and cultural attractions are the Nossa Senhora da Luz church and the romantic-style Lugar de Baixo palace (1905 Zino’s Palace), which runs as a hotel. Not far away is the very popular Anjos waterfall, and its water falls directly onto the road.
Location: south coast, west of Funchal – 30 minutes by car
Popularity: a popular destination, so you have to pay for parking. When booking, it is recommended to check, whether parking is available at your accommodation.
Beaches: the beach is pebbly, but well equipped
Magnificent mountain view
Eira do Serrado – Valley of the Nuns
In the heart of Madeira lies the „Valley of the Nuns”, where you can see wonderful geological formations. High mountains and small villages mark the breathtaking landscape. Located at the Eira do Serrado viewpoint, the hotel offers a fabulous view of the Valley of the Nuns. Curral das Freiras is now a popular tourist destination where visitors can admire the dramatic scenery from one of the many viewpoints.
Location: In the heart of Madeira, 30 minutes by car from Funchal
Popularity: as it is far from most attractions, it is not recommended for longer stays
Beaches: there are none, because it is in the middle of the island
In Santa Cruz, apart from the famous Palmeiras beach, there is also a slide park and a new bathing complex here.
Location: south coast, 20 minutes drive from Funchal
Popularity: especially popular among families with children
Beaches: pebble beach and pools
Santa Cruz – accommodation search and booking
Hotel: Hotel Solar Bom Jesus
Jardim do Mar
It is less known, is that Madeira is a great place for both beginners and experienced surfers.
Location: south coast, 1 hour drive from Funchal
Popularity: especially popular among surfers
Beaches: pebble beach
Jardim do Mar – accommodation search and booking
Ancient cave dwelling in Calhau da Lapa
If you want a unique experience, then the cave apartment in Calhau da Lapa is the perfect choice. The more than 300-year-old caves can be reached on foot with 700 steps or by boat. Funchal is 20 minutes away and Ribeira Brava is only a few kilometers away.
Cave dwelling – booking
Soul Glamping with amazing views
The atmosphere of the luxury tent and the view of the sea offer visitors a truly unique experience. Glamping is located on the south coast of the island, close to the town of Calheta, where the island’s most beautiful golden sand beach is located.
Soul Glamping – booking
Are you looking for a 4- or 5-star hotel with an excellent rating?
Pestana, the Portuguese hotel chain!
With five decades of history, the Pestana Hotel Group is the largest Portuguese multinational group in the tourism industry. The hotel chain opened its first hotel in Madeira in 1972, the Pestana Carlton Madeira.
Currently it also offers accommodation in other the European countries, as well as in America and Africa, with more than 100 hotels and 12,000 rooms.
Pestana has 18 hotels on the archipelago, of which 15 are located in Madeira and 3 in Porto Santo.
Most popular and atmospheric hotels:
Island of Porto Santo
You need at least 10 days to explore Madeira, but if you stay here for a longer time, it is worth visiting Porto Santo, the other inhabited island of the archipelago. The main attraction of Porto Santo is the beautiful sandy beach, so it is not recommended to travel there in rainy weather. If the weather is great, it’s definitely a good idea to spend at least one night in Porto Santo. But if you prefer a day trip, it is also possible to return to Madeira in the evening.
Access: The island can be reached from Madeira by ferry or plane.
Porto Santo – accommodation search and booking
Hotel: Hotel Porto Santo & Spa****
Where to stay in Madeira - Summary
For central accommodation, I strongly recommend São Martinho near the capital. In the case of two accommodations, the main base should definitely be the Funchal area, which can be supplemented with 1-2 nights in Porto Moniz.
For a family vacation in the summer, I would book accommodation near one of the sandy beaches. Without a car, I would look for a good-value accommodation in the old town of Fuchal, or within walking distance from there, as the buses depart from here and the biggest variety of programs are offered here as well.
If you want to get away for a few days, you can still choose from a number of options. The Valley of the Nuns and Soul Glamping are perfect locations for this.