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For a quick dip in the ocean, there are plenty of options in and around Funchal. The biggest public beach of Madeira is Praia Formosa which is a 10 minute drive from the city centre of Funchal. This beach is divided in three other beaches, from which one is a sandy beach. The other beaches in Funchal are pebbled beaches but serve great for a dip in the ocean or to enjoy the sunshine. In Funchal you can also find some outdoor swimming complexes from which a few are natural lava rock pools. Find in this blog post all the best Funchal beaches for a walk, swim or snorkel. 

General travel must haves for Madeira

Before we dive into the best things to do in Madeira, let’s check a few things to make your travels in Madeira easy and safe.

Have you thought about how to get around in Madeira? A car is the easiest way to drive around the island.

  • Book your rental car here and compare the providers to get the best deal.
  • Book your scooter or motorbike here to get around in Madeira. Most of the scooters you can drive with driving license (A1/A2/A) from 18 years old, or from 25 years old with a car (B) license. The motorbikes have a minimum age of 20 or 21 with A (moto) license.

Do you prefer a private driver for the day and the freedom to create your own itinerary?

Did you already book your accommodation? 

Are you insured during your travels?

  • Buy your travel insurance here. Safetywing not only includes coverage for travel delay, lost checked luggage, emergency response, natural disasters and personal liability. But also covers all your medical expenses for hospitalisation.
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Best Madeira island tours

If you want to explore the best of Madeira with a guide then here some great tours I recommend. During these tours you will pass by some of the best photo spots which I share in this complete guide. All of these tours include transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes the entrance fees if applicable. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

  • Customized 6 hour Madeira tour. On this six-hour tour you can choose the different areas you want to visit on Madeira island. Pick the landmarks and iconic places to make your own itinerary with the help of your local guide/driver.
  • West Madeira private tour. Starting in the fishing town of Câmara de Lobos you will drive via Cabo Girao, the highest cape in Europe, to the beautiful view of Serra d’Agua valley. From there you will head to São Vicente to explore the Laurisilva forest. Continuing north, you will visit Porto Moniz, known for its natural lava pools where you can swim. As last stop you will visit the famous rocks at Ribeira da Janela.
  • East Madeira tour. Visit Pico do Arieiro viewpoint, make pictures at the Santana houses and the beautiful viewpoints at Porto da Cruz to finish the day at the impressive volcanic landscape of Ponta de São Lourenço.
  • Canyoning adventure with transfer from Funchal. Get the thrill of canyoneering and explore Madeira’s untouched nature. follow a river as you walk, rappel, slide and jump through hidden waterfalls with streams that cross endemic forests. A super fun and adventurous day!
  • Funchal 48-hour hop-on hop off bus tour. Explore the lush landscape of Madeira and the sights of Funchal at your own pace with a 2 or 5 day ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus.
  • Dolphin & Whale watching Luxury Catamaran Cruise from Funchal. Enjoy the views of Funchal from a luxury catamaran. Look out for whales and dolphins in their natural habitat as your relax on board and explore the underwater world with a snorkel.
  • Ponta de São Lourenço hike with pick up in Funchal. Explore the most eastern tail of Madeira island with its unique volcanic rock formations to understand how the island was created.
  • Scuba diving Madeira. Explore the underwater world of Madeira island. A theory lesson and practice in swimming pool is included before you will dive about 12 meters for 45 meters in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Funchal Old Town walking tour. Learn about the history of Funchal and Madeira on a guided walk through the city’s medieval center. Visit the farmer’s market, the Campo Almirante Reis, the Fortress of St. James, and a number of other sites as your guide provides commentary.
  • Sunset tour from Funchal by Catamaran. Watch the sunset off the coast of Madeira on a 3-hour evening catamaran cruise from Funchal and spot dolphins (guaranteed, or you get a 2nd trip for free).
  • Tuk-Tuk tour to Monte Tropical Garden with Toboggan ride from Funchal. Explore Funchal Old Town with a Tuk Tuk before making your way to the mountains to the stunning Monte Tropical Garden. There you will explore over 70,000 square meters of exotic plants. At the end of the tour you will enjoy the thrilling ride down the hill with a Toboggan ride.

THE BEST FUNCHAL BEACHES

& SWIMMING COMPLEXES

Praia Formosa

Praia Formosa is the biggest public beach of Madeira and actually consists of three other beaches, known as Praia Nova, Praia dos Namorados and Praia do Arieiro from which the last mentioned has a mix of sand and pebbles. The other beaches are mainly covered in pebbles which might be less comfortable for some people.

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Praia Formosa – Best Funchal beaches

There are lots of facilities around such as restaurants, public toilets and showers, changing rooms and a lifeguard. From the part where the restaurants are located along Praia Formosa is a great spot to watch the sunset with a glass of wine or dinner. 

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The long promenade connects all the beaches and is a great walk along the ocean without getting wet feet. Praia Formosa and its promenade are great features for Funchal and therefore this place is definitely belongs to the best Funchal beaches!

Read in this complete guide everything about Praia Formosa

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Praia Arieero

Praia Arieero is below Hotel Orca located and is a small black sand beach, separated from the other beach areas of Praia Formosa. Therefore it gives a bit of a more secluded feel, and it is the only beach in Funchal with black sand! You can enter it from the most western access point of Praia Formosa after passing the restaurants and promenade for a little part. 

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Gorgulho beach

This small pebbled beach is located in the tourist area Lido close to Praia Formosa and Lido swimming complex. The crystal clear waters offer a great environment to swim, snorkel and enjoy the sunshine. You can enter Gorgulho beach for free from the promenade.

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Praia do Almirante Reis

Almirante Reis beach is an artificial beach in the centre of Funchal close to the old town. Located in between the Teleférico and São Tiago fortress is this pebbled beach with a concrete promenade that connects the old town all the way to the harbour. At Almirante Reis beach you can enjoy the Atlantic Ocean and sunshine while being closely to the city centre of Funchal. The little bay is protected by sea walls so you won’t feel the current too much or have big waves coming in here.

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Doca do Cavacas swimming complex

The Doca do Cavacas Swimming Complex is only a few metres away from the well known Praia Formosa. This guarded beach complex with natural tidal lava pools offers sunbeds, parasols and a bar is a great way to spend a sunny day. There applies an entrance fee which is about €2,60.

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São Tiago beach 

São Tiago beach is located in front of the same called fortress São Tiago. This a pebble beach has free public access and has shallow, quiet water to take a swim. It is locally known as “Fisherman’s Beach” because often many fishermans boats are scattered around. Here you can lay down on concrete ground and sheltered by the old walls of the yellow fortress. 

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Barreirhina swimming complex 

Just around the corner of Fort São Tiago fortress is the Barreirinha swimming complex located. This man made swimming complex provides changing rooms, lockers, parasols, sun beds, a snack bar, first aid services and a car park in front. It has just like the other swimming complexes direct access to the ocean with stairs to help you come out. There applies a small entrance fee for  the Barreirhina swimming complex.

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Lido swimming complex 

The Lido complex is a symbol of Funchal being the most popular pool with access to the sea. This part also has a long promenade that connects Praia Formosa all the way to Câmara de Lobos. In the Lido swimming complex you will find seawater pools and lots of facilities nearby such as restaurants, a playground for children, tennis courts and many other activities. The access to the Lido Complex is a small fee.

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Poças do Governador swimming complex

The Poças do Governador swimming complex, also known as Ponta Gorda has two salt water pools and a 690m2 sunbathing area. With direct access to the ocean and lots of other facilities available, this is a great spot to spend a relaxing summer day. The two salt water pools are for adult and children so that every age has its designated pool. The swimming complex even has a mobile lift that allows disabled users to have easier access to one of the pools. 

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Conclusion about the best Funchal beaches

Relaxing on one of the Funchal beaches is a great idea if you just want to enjoy the ocean water and sunshine for a few hours. But if you really want to spend a chill day at a sandy beach, there are better options in Madeira. Most of the beaches in Madeira are pebbled, but there are a few exemptions from which Seixal beach our favourite is. The other man made sandy beaches in Madeira are Calheta beach or Machico beach. Two other beautiful sandy beaches in Madeira are Prainha beach and Porto da Cruz beach.

For the best things to do in Funchal, read this post!

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Where to stay in Madeira

Funchal

There are several towns in Madeira that are great to stay while exploring the island. Funchal is the capital town of the island with the most restaurants around. It has a charming old town and all sorts of facilities you might look for such as a boulevard, shopping centre, cafe’s and nightlife. It is a great place to base yourself with plenty of culture and beautiful old buildings and charming streets to explore. There are also a few beaches in Funchal to enjoy the ocean. However these beaches are from pebble stones.

Check out this great tool to compare prices on hotels around the world and book your favorite hotel!

We have stayed in The Vine hotel and Okulus villa which are both beautiful locations. The Vine has the comforts of a hotel including breakfast and is located right in the city centre. Okulus villa is located in the Old Town with the most amazing ocean and city view.

Book your stay at Okulus villa here

Book your stay at The Vine hotel here

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Calheta

If you want to be based near a sandy beach in Madeira, then Calheta is a great place. While Funchal is more to the east of the island located, Calheta is more to the west of the island located. So eventually you can also stay a few days in both towns depending the total length of your stay in Madeira. Calheta has an atmospheric marine with restaurants offering great spots to watch the sunset and enjoy a meal.

We have stayed a few weeks at Calheta Boutique Houses during our 7 months living in Madeira. Highly recommend these private villa’s as you have all the amenities you have at home as well. The modern design and amazing ocean views makes it a perfect vacation home.

Book your stay at Calheta Boutique Houses here

Small villages in nature

If you want to experience really small towns to stay in Madeira, then check out the accommodations in Seixal, Porto da Cruz, Sao Vicente or Ribeiro Frio. Take into account that there will be less restaurants around but you will be completely immersed in the local life and nature.

Check here the available accommodations in Seixal, Porto da Cruz, Sao Vicente or Ribeiro Frio

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