The Bica da Cana hike was definitely one of our favourite hikes on Madeira island. The PR 17 trail follows along the levadas of Serra and Norte with beautiful views on the Sao Vicente valley on a clear day. But when we did the Bica da Cana hike there was a sea of clouds. So we were literally walking above the clouds during the whole hike! A very spectacular sight!
Along the hike you will pass some of the high-altitude vegetation and the native UNESCO protected Laurisilva forest of Madeira. You will also walk under a small waterfall, so you might get a little bit wet. When you reach the end of the footpath at the Pináculo, you’ll have an outstanding view of the Ribeira Brava Valley. But you can also see the two highest peaks of the island, Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo. Read in this blog post everything you need to know about the Bica da Cana hike!
Bica da Cana PR17 hike key facts
Before you decide to do the Bica da Cana hike, below some key facts!
Bica da Cana hike distance and duration: Starting on the plateau of Paúl da Serra the total distance of this circular hike is 4.5km which will take you about 1,5 hours. The most scenic route is in our opinion the one along the valley. So you can choose to hike the same way back. The other trail goes a bit through the forest and ends on the plateau which is less spectacular. Some of the parts of the Bica da Cana hike are a bit slippery, so pay attention while walking!
Bica da Cana hike difficulty and incline: The Bica da Cana trail is not too hard as it’s almost flat all the way to the pinnacle along the valley. However, if you decide to take the route through the forest back to the car park, be prepared to have a 150m of incline. When we did this hike, the thorny bushes at the plateau were a bit overgrown. So long pants are recommend to wear on this hike.
How to get to the start point of Bica da Cana hike PR17
The Bica da Cana hike is located on the Paul da Serra plateau in the municipal county of Ponta do Sol. The Paul da Serra is the largest and most extensive plateau of Madeira of about 24 square kilometres. It connects to Rabaçal as well via the ER110 road.
The parking lot of Bica da Cana is small, but a bit further up is an abandoned house with some more parking spots. Right at the start you will see the map of the hike on a board. Don’t get discouraged by all the windmills, because during the hike to the pinnacle you nearly won’t see them anymore.
If you want to be sure to follow the right directions during hiking in Madeira, I recommend you to download the (payed) app of WalkmeGuide Madeira. In this app you can find all the best Madeira hiking trails offline so you always have a reliable navigation!
Parking at the start of Bica da Cana
What to expect during the Bica da Cana hike PR17
The start of Bica da Cana hike PR17 is easy to find. The trail starts directly from the small parking lot along the road. You will see the sign and a map of the trail right at the beginning of the path. But don’t be confused by the name ‘Caminho do Pinaculo e Folhadel’ on the board, because this is the right trail! Head down on the dirt path where you will be immediately surrounded by dense bushes and forest. You will see the windmills of Rabaçal on the hills, but don’t worry because they won’t be in sight for too long. You will be immersed in Madeira’s beautiful nature soon after this first part.
The signs on the trail don’t refer to Bica da Cana which might be a bit confusing. But if you follow the red and yellow sign of ‘Lombo do Mouro’ you’re on the right trail towards the pinnacle.
Almost at the pinnacle, you can see it sticking out above the landscape
During the hike towards the pinnacle you will have a beautiful view on the Sao Vicente valley. When we did the hike, the valley was covered in a sea of clouds which made the experience even more special. It really felt the whole way as if we were walking above the clouds. We did miss the view on the valley that time. But that’s why we came back another day to see what was going on underneath the layer of clouds.
The waterfalls of Bica da Cana hike PR17
The trail is pretty flat the whole way through without too much incline, but there are some irregular muddy and rocky parts. Especially when you arrive at the section where two waterfalls pour onto the trail from the cliffs above you. This gives a nice little refreshment during the hike, but be prepared to get a little bit wet. I can imagine that during rainy season the waterfalls are more powerful and you might need a raincoat, dry bag or even an umbrella. We were okay by just rushing underneath the waterfalls without getting drenched. After passing these waterfalls you’re almost at the pinnacle, just about 10 more minutes of walking along the levada until you’re at the end point of the hike.
The pinnacle of Bica da Cana hike PR17
Once arrived at the base of the pinnacle, you will see some benches where you can have a sit. Eat and drink something and take some rest before you make the way back to the parking lot. It’s not a real viewpoint at the endpoint of the hike as the view is on the actual pinnacle. But if you fly the drone you can see the spectacular views as you can see on our picture below.
Besides the wonderful views you can also see many different wildflowers along this hike. So make sure to enjoy not only the view, but also it’s flora and fauna!
If you’re a real adrenaline junky, you might love the adventure Jackson Groves did. We traveled with him through Madeira and also did this hike together. When we got to the pinnacle, he decided to climb the pinnacle to get an even better view from the top! We definitely don’t recommend to do this. Except when you have some serious climb experience and you’re very sure of your capabilities.
Watch the video we made of his adventure climbing the pinnacle below.
This video was a combination of the Bica da Cana viewpoint and the pinnacle at the end of the Bica da Cana hike. Below more pictures of the pinnacle at the end of the hike.
When you’ve finished your break it’s time to get back to the parking lot. You can choose to walk the same way back or take a different route to see another section of the trail. We choose the different route for the way back. However, this part was a bit overgrown with sometimes prickly bushes. The first part of this trail goes up, so make sure to have enough energy if you choose this way back. When you’ve reached the flat part again it’s only a short walk back to the car through low bushes and dry grass.
What is a Levada?
If you’re coming to Madeira for the first time, you might question what the word ‘Levada’ actually means. This word is used a lot to specify the different Madeira hiking trails because they follow a levada. But what is the origin of these Levadas and what is their purpose?
Levadas are little canals of water that wind through the mountains and translates as “carriageway”. These water canals are irrigation systems developed to distribute water from the wetter regions in north Madeira to the drier and sunnier parts in the south where lots of plantations are located. The levadas cover a total distance of about 2500 kilometer from the heart of the Laurissilva forest to the most rocky slopes.
The origin of the levadas goes back to the 15th century when the first canals were created to irrigate the sugarcane plantations. Back then sugar was also known as the “white gold” because it was considered as the main engine of Madeira’s economy in the 15th & 16th century. The narrow water canals have ever since the important task to deliver precious water along far distances to banana plantations, vineyards, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, as well as to hydro-electric power stations on the island.
But nowadays, the levadas are also a great way to discover Madeira’s stunning nature with landscapes and species of flora and fauna that are unique in the world.
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 viewpoints 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Scuba diving Madeira. Explore the underwater world of Madeira island. A theory lesson and practice in swimming pool is included. This before you will dive about 12 meters for 45 meters in the Atlantic Ocean.
- 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).
General travel must haves for Madeira
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?
- Check out this great tool to compare prices of hotels on different platforms from around the world and book your favorite hotel
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.
More Madeira travel inspiration
We hope you enjoyed this blog post about the Bica da Cana hike on Madeira island.
This is definitely some of the most beautiful hikes on the island! For more inspiration about the best things to do in Madeira, head over to our other blog posts.