Isolated in the Atlantic Ocean, the Portuguese island of Madeira is a wonderland of jagged peaks, age-old traditions, and shaded levada walking trails that follow the contours of the hills. But when you’re living that island life, the beach is usually calling—and Madeira’s beaches certainly don’t disappoint.
While the archipelago’s longest stretch of golden sand is found on the neighboring isle of Porto Santo, the beaches of Madeira promise a little bit of everything, from dark black pebble bays framed by verdant cliffs and tumbling waterfalls to golden coves and rocky natural swimming pools.
Whether you want to sip a Poncha (the local sugarcane-based cocktail) and admire the sun sparkling on the Atlantic or top up your tan lounging on warm black sands, the perfect praia (beach) is never far away on Madeira.
Here are 13 Madeira beaches to explore.
Praia do Porto do Seixal
Situated on the northern coast of Madeira, around a 40-minute drive from Funchal, this pocket-sized beach in Seixal is a dreamy bay of black volcanic sand.
Flanked by lush, fern-coated cliffs and cascading waterfalls, it’s perhaps the most visually spectacular of Madeira’s beaches on which to bathe, lounge on the warm sand, and spend a lazy afternoon unwinding to the sounds of the Atlantic waves.
Once you’ve paddled in the clear, cerulean waters and marveled at the magnificent backdrop which encaptures the magic of the island’s north, relish the opportunity to swim in one of Madeira’s famed natural pools.
Just moments from Seixal beach, the calm bay in front of the nearby Naval Club lounge bar—perfect for enjoying a snack or refreshing drink—is a beautiful place to soothe your senses while swimming in the Atlantic.
On the other side of the pretty village, you’ll find a few more handkerchief-sized pockets of sand and the impressive rock-carved sea-water pools of Poça das Lesmas.
Porto Moniz Bathing Pools
When pondering the perfect ocean bathing location, your mind might conjure up long sandy stretches of lapping waves. However, the most breathtaking places to swim on Madeira are often in salt-water-filled natural pools, either carved by untamed Atlantic waves over thousands of years or artificially crafted to make the most of the impressive natural setting.
The Porto Moniz natural swimming pools, slightly further west from Seixal, are the island’s most emblematic. When you first set eyes on the crystal-clear cyan pools, where crashing tides splash over the edge, and jagged rocks rise from the ocean backdrop, you’ll be captivated by this spectacular location’s charm and magnificence.
Porto Moniz itself is awash with oceanfront bars where you can sip cocktails and restaurants to enjoy lunch; the local octopus, simply cooked with olive oil, is a delicious treat.
You’ll also find more raw and rugged swimming spots carved into the surrounding volcanic black rocks, making Porto Moniz a fantastic day trip from Funchal.
Ribeira Brava Beach
Set in the south of Madeira, just a 20-minute drive from Funchal, the municipality of Ribeira Brava is home to one of the best beaches in Madeira. The laid-back village is nestled at the end of a striking valley, where the island’s towering, verdant-clad mountains taper down towards the ocean.
Protected by a breakwater, the pebble and volcanic sand beach is particularly inviting for swimming. Those who prefer an enclosed option can instead dive into the municipal pool, sitting alongside the shoreline.
A short stroll back from the beach in the laid-back village, the island’s Ethnographic Museum provides an overview of Madeira’s heritage—an informative place to take a pause from the midday sun. The white-washed Church of São Bento is another of the village’s treasures worth a visit.
A dazzling crescent-shaped bay, Machico Beach (also known as Praia da Banda d’Além) is one of the few golden-sand spots on the island. Just east of the airport, this easy-to-access beach is the perfect place to soak in some rays and swim in the calm and protected azure waters.
During the bathing seasons, lifeguards, shower facilities, and ample parking make Machico a great choice to enjoy an afternoon beachside. With plenty of delicious ice cream parlors and cafés along the promenade and within the historic city, you’ll have plenty of tasty treats to tempt you.
For the best sweeping vistas over the bay, head up to the Miradouro do Pico do Facho, a breathtaking viewpoint from which to marvel at Machico and spot planes coming into land on the airport runway, which stands above the ocean.
Machico is also the starting point for many whale watching tours, providing the perfect chance to combine a beach day with spotting some of the ocean’s most magnificent species.
The double-ended sandy inlets of Calheta create one of the most attractive of all Madeira beaches. Set inside a barrier-protected, oblong-shaped bay, the calm azure waters and imported golden sands invite you to unwind to gently lapping waves while basking in the southern coast’s glorious weather.
Connected by a palm-fringed boulevard, both of the beaches offer cafés or restaurants just back from the shorefront, ensuring a fresh seafood lunch or sandwich served on the delicious local Bolo do Caco bread won’t interrupt your oceanfront views.
Sunlounger and parasol rental, alongside the numerous facilities (including showers), make Calheta one of the most enjoyable beachfront bays on the whole island.
Ponta do Sol Beach
Set inside a sheltered cove flanked by sea cliffs, Ponta do Sol beach is about 30 minutes’ drive from Funchal.
This is the perfect place to admire the Atlantic while sipping a Poncha (made from sugar cane spirit, sugar and lemon juice) at the decked beachfront bar or dining on seafood at Restaurante Sol Pointe, where the yellow fronted terrace overhangs the ocean.
Although the beach itself is rocky, the sheltered bay and (usually) ample sunshine make it one of the best beaches in Madeira to swim at, either from the pebble shore or climbing down the ladders on the sea bridge, which provides spectacular views.
Be sure to set aside some time to wander the small white-washed streets and explore the charm of this quaint village.
An afternoon on Prainha Beach, also known as Prainha do Caniçal, is the perfect reward after spending a morning on the São Lourenço peninsula trail.
In distinct contrast to the lush green landscapes that usually backdrop Madeira’s beaches, Prainha is tucked away in a bay shrouded by the arid and rugged headland which leads to Ponta de São Lourenço, the island’s most eastern point, just 30 minutes from Funchal.
Allow around three hours for a leisurely stroll, which takes you through the nature reserves’ native flora and past impressive viewpoints of dramatic Atlantic waves. From the higher points, you can glimpse the other isles of the archipelago; the Desertas and Porto Santo.
Once back at the beach, settle into the volcanic copper sands, or hire a sun lounger, to enjoy the slight breeze of this shaded bay. When you’re ready to dine, you can sample the fresh catch of the day at the beachside restaurant just seconds away.
Praia do Vigário
After exploring the street-art-filled alleys and traditional fishing port of Câmara de Lobos, Praia do Vigário, close to Funchal, provides a refreshing and dramatic spot to paddle in tumbling waves.
Although the beach is black shingle and rock, this certainly doesn’t detract from its beauty. In fact, with the towering Cabo Girão sea cliff, the highest in Europe, rising some 1,900 feet in the background, it’s one of the most stunning places to cool down in the Atlantic waters.
The overhanging glass viewing platform at the top provides a spectacular panorama across Funchal and the surrounding bays for those without vertigo.
If you prefer to admire the views with a glass of Madeira wine or the local Coral beer in hand, the restaurant sharing the beach’s name is the perfect place to take it all in while sampling petiscos (small plates) of local delicacies.
Praia do Garajau
Best accessed by one of Madeira’s seven scenic, and often very steep, cable cars, the dramatic arrival at Garajau beach, just outside Funchal, is all part of the experience.
At the cliff base, shimmering crystal-clear waters await you—perfect for scuba diving or snorkeling, which you can arrange at the beachside dive center.
Once underwater, try to spot the island’s marine life, such as octopus, barracuda, and schools of colorful fish—be sure to bring water shoes due to the rocky shore. On-site showers and a refreshing drink at O Mero Bar & Restaurant await your return to land.
At Ponta do Garajau, high above the beach, a short scenic walking trail will take you to one of the best coastal viewpoints on the island, with a giant statue of Christ watching over the Atlantic.
While Praia do Almirante Reis is the closest beach to Funchal’s historic old town, Praia Formosa, a 12-minute drive to the west, is the capital’s principal public beach.
Stretching out for just over a mile and actually comprising four different beaches, the Formosa shorefront is the largest of the beaches in the region. A mix of dark pebbles and volcanic sand, like many of Madeira’s beaches, it’s a popular swimming locale thanks to the seasonal lifeguards and ample facilities.
If you’re feeling active, you can walk from Funchal to Praia Formosa, taking in the city’s port and resort area and oceanfront swimming pools. Alternatively, the coastal path from Formosa to the town of Cámara de Lobos is a leisurely one-hour stroll with some fantastic vantage points.
On the dramatic northeast coast, around 35 minutes from Funchal, Alagoa is one of the best beaches in Madeira for combining sandy days, surfing, and scenic viewpoints.
This rocky bay with black sand spots is a popular swimming destination, although the oceanfront lido on Praia da Maiata, just to the east, promises a calmer bathing experience.
Separated by a small yet lofty headland from Alagoa Beach, Praia da Maiata is a haven for experienced surfers. Although the Atlantic’s tumbling waves are much more active on the island’s north coast, a handful of local surf schools also provide lessons for less experienced adventurers.
Aside from the beach, the surrounding parish of Porto da Cruz is a quaint location to spend a few hours exploring. Whether you opt to take in the dramatic views from the Miradouro (lookout point) or tour the North Mills Distillery to witness the island’s signature rum production, heading to the rugged northeast of Madeira will reward you with a more raw experience than the more built-up south.
A C-shaped pebble bay, Faial Beach and bathing complex are nestled between picturesque mountains and panoramic miradouros, providing some of the best vistas on the island’s north.
Alongside ocean swimming, you can enjoy a small pool on the deck of the bathing complex, complemented by a beach club, open to the public and serving up international and locally-inspired snacks and refreshments.
A surprising addition to the beachside complex is the go-kart track just back from the beach, allowing for a pre-tan adrenaline rush.
Santana, a charming historic village, is just a 10-minute drive away from Faial Beach. Here you can still admire and stroll through some of the traditional triangle thatched-roof houses (Casas Típicas de Santana) and visit the Parque Temático da Madeira, which shares the island’s culture through exhibitions and activities.
Reis Magos Beach
Like many other Madeira beaches, Reis Magos, to the east of Funchal, is Blue Flag-awarded for its water quality, making it an ideal bathing point close to the small coastal city of Caniço.
Couple this with seasonal lifeguards and a boulder-protected swimming zone, and this petite rocky beach is a great place to cool off—especially following a morning hike on one of the island’s infamous Levada trails, such as the nearby Levada do Caniço.
Despite its relatively small size, Reis Magos has a couple of beachside cafés and restaurants, and there are plentiful dining options and parking a short walk away in Caniço.
Ready to relax on the best beaches in Madeira and explore the island’s verdant rugged peaks? Start exploring Celebrity Cruises’ luxury cruises to Madeira today.