Madeira island has some beautiful beaches to explore. Most of them are pebbled beaches or covered with huge rocks, but Calheta beach is the first imported sandy beach in Madeira. Located in some of the sunniest parts of the island on the south coast, this place is the perfect spot to relax for a day. Calheta beach, also known as Praia da Calheta in Portuguese, consists of two beach areas. The sea walls protect the swim area from waves or sea currents, making it a safe place for children to go into the ocean water. With some restaurants and bars along the promenade, a supermarket across the street and public showers and toilets, Calheta beach has all the ingredients for a relaxing beach day. We’ve stayed for 5 weeks in Calheta and visited the beach a few times. So here’s the complete guide you need!
How to get to Calheta beach
Calheta beach is located on the south coast of Madeira about a 30 minute drive from Funchal away. The beach is very accessible and easy to find on Google Maps and is located a little below street level. There are enough parking spots on the street, but you have to pay a little fee per hour for the parking. So make sure to bring some Euro coins for the parking as you can’t pay by card. If you want to park in a parking garage you can enter the one at Pingo Doce, which is the local supermarket. If you buy something at the Pingo Doce supermarket, you will get a 1 hour free parking ticket.
You can also get to Calheta by bus. But the bus has limited services from Funchal to Calheta. Rodo Este bus company provides the public transport on Madeira Island and the routes you can take from Funchal are 80, 107 and 142. Expect it to be a long journey with stops along the way. The bus routes and latest timetable can be seen on the Rodo Este website.
What to expect at Calheta beach
Calheta beach is an artificial yellow sand beach in the village of Calheta with beautiful mountain view. It was openend in 2004 and was made by imported sand from Morocco. Calheta was with this project the first town in Madeira to import sand from Morocco.
Calheta Beach consists of two sides of sandy beach. The sea walls around both sides of the beach have formed a double sided bay. If you look from above, or fly the drone, the shape of Calheta Beach actually looks like a huge ship!
Both sides of Calheta Beach are about 100 meters long and the two sea walls give protection of waves and the current. But the sea walls also protect the sandy beach from being washed away by the ocean.
There is an option to rent sunbeds and umbrellas at the beach, but you can also just lay on your towel on the sand. You won’t feel any pressure to pay for something at the beach. But it’s nice to know that if you want a drink or lunch, the closest restaurants are only a few meters away!
Public toilets, showers and changing rooms are also available at the beach which makes it very convenient after swimming in the salty water. Calheta Beach is with all these facilities a safe and family friendly beach.
The two different sides of Calheta Beach
As mentioned before, Calheta Beach consists of two sides. The side of Savoy Calheta Beach Hotel has the biggest surface, but it can also be a bit busier. This huge property is one of the few Calheta Beach hotels with direct acces to the beach. The other facilities of the hotel are an outdoor pool, room service, private parking, the option for airport shuttle, a fitness center and an indoor pool. We haven’t stayed here, but based on the guests reviews about the super friendly staff it is worth to check out! For sure some of the best Calheta hotels located along the beach.
The other side of Calheta Beach is only accompanied by a beach bar called ‘Bar de Praia’. They serve great and affordable coffee, lunch and other dishes. On some days they have live music, and the free Wifi is a huge plus! It reaches all the way to the beach, ideal to stay connected during your time here!
Via the promenade you can walk along the Marina where you can also book all sorts of boat trips such as whale watching or fishing trips. And in the afternoon and during sunset the restaurants come to life giving this part of Calheta a vibrant vibe. Absolutely recommendable to visit this part of Madeira Calheta during your stay!
Swimming at Calheta beach
It is safe and very pleasant to swim at Calheta Beach with the calm and refreshing ocean water. You don’t have to worry here about being washed away by the waves or current. In between the two outer sea walls there are even nets attached to keep (big) fish away from the swimmers area. Lifeguards are also on duty, so if you’re for whatever reason in trouble during swimming, there is help close by.
There are actually three different ways to enter the ocean water. Of course via the two different beach sides, but you can also jump directly into the water from the promenade. Here you are immediately in a deeper area which makes swimming easier than the shallow water near the beach. The distance between the two beaches is long enough to swim hundreds of meters of laps in this protected area of water which makes it an ideal place for fanatic swimmers.
Facilities at Calheta beach
Besides relaxing and swimming at Calheta Beach, there are more activities to do around. There is a temporary massage tent, so if you’re in need you can ask for the options inside. As said before, the public toilets, showers and changing rooms are a huge plus! There is also a playground for children above the beach and ‘Bar de Praia’.
If you want to be active at Calheta Beach, it also offers a wide variety of nautical activities. You can go canoeing, windsurfing and there are catamaran rental services. For the scuba dive fanatics there is Calheta Diving Centre located along the promenade. Ask for the possibilities inside!
Walking along the promenade and Marina is a fun thing to do. At some of the shops you can book a whale watching tour and other boat trips. The restaurants are facilitated along the promenade and serve nice seafood and other options. They have a great view on the marina and a side view on the sunset! A perfect environment for dinner or a sunset stroll with your date or family!
Weather in Calheta
Calheta is known to be the sunniest part of Madeira. While some of the other parts of the island are battling the clouds, wind or even rain, in Calheta the sun is more often shining. We stayed in this part of the island for 5 weeks at the amazing Calheta Boutique Houses (adults only) and only had a few days of overast or rain. So be prepared for sunny days if you’re planning to stay in Calheta or spend a day at the beach.
Madeira webcam to check the weather
The weather varies a lot on Madeira, but luckily there is a website to check the current weather circumstances per section of the island. Go to the NetMadeira website and search for the place you want to have the live view from. Although not all spots on Madeira Island have a webcam, just like Calheta, you can always have a look at the closest village. For example, to know the most accurate weather for Calheta, check the webcams of either Paul do Mar or Ponta do Sol as those are the closest villages. Make sure to be prepared for four seasons in one day on Madeira. Due to the height difference on the island the weather can change quickly. So always bring a jacket or sweater in the car and short pants. Be prepared for everything!
Where to stay in Madeira
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about Calheta beach Madeira! For more travel tips about Madeira, read our other blog posts.