Praia Formosa is located in Funchal, the main capital of Madeira, and is the largest free public beach on the island. Praia Formosa actually consists of four beaches from which three are mixed with sand and pebbles. There are lots of facilities around such as restaurants, public toilets and showers, changing rooms and a lifeguard. A long promenade connects all the beaches and offers a great walk along the ocean without getting wet feet. Praia Formosa and its promenade are a lovely spot to spend some relax time or to do a little sunset walk. Find in this blog post all the things you need to know about Praia Formosa and the three other beaches!
How to get to Praia Formosa
Praia Formosa is just a ten minutes drive away with the car from the city centre of Funchal. With public transport or bike it is also easy to reach the beach with a bus stop on a few meters away. There are several parts of Praia Formosa so it depends to which parking lot you have to go for the part you have in mind to go to. The ‘Parque de Estacionamento’ is the main parking lot and is closest to all the restaurants and snack bars. You can also park one road further which gives you access to a more quiet area of the beach and closer to the tunnel. The parking at Beira Calhau is closest to the promenade and Praia Arieiro.
Below I’ve attached a map with the different parking spots to the several parts of the beach.
What to expect at Praia Formosa
Praia Formosa Beach is about 2 kilometres long and is mixture between pebble beach and black lava sand. The location is on the edge of the main city of Madeira, Funchal. Therefore it might not feel as the most secluded nature beach in Madeira. For an experience like that, you have to go to Seixal beach along the north coast of the island. There you’ll find a naturally soft black sand beach.
In the backdrop of Praia Formosa you will see apartment complexes and hotels. A lot of concrete, and just a few palm trees. There are some spots along the beach where sand overrules the pebbles. But most of it is covered in pebbles.
The ocean water is from a very good quality but the waves can be rough sometimes. So in terms of the most comfortable and beautiful beach in Madeira, Praia Formosa might not be THE very best option. But for a sunset walk along the promenade it is a great city beach. Or when you can get used to lying on pebbles, then there’s no reason to drive further for a quick ocean dip or sunbathing session.
Different parts of Praia Formosa
Praia Formosa is actually divided in four separate beach areas. Known as Praia Nova, Praia Formosa, Praia dos Namorados and Praia do Arieiro. At the last named beach is the Hotel Orca located. This small black sand beach is separated from the other beach areas and gives a bit of a more secluded feel. This is also the only part of this beach area with comfortable sand. The other parts mainly have pebbles.
Another fun part along the beach is the huge rock that sticks out like a V shape. You can climb this rock to watch the sunset from for example. It’s a fun photo spot and a lovely place to get a bit more quality time.
Facilities at Praia Formosa
Maybe it’s because Praia Formosa is located in the city centre of Funchal, but the beach has many great facilities to make your experience as good as possible. You will find changing rooms, showers and public toilets. But also a medical centre, a kindergarten for children between 2 and 12 years old, several snack bars and restaurants, and a few dedicated areas for sports practice. Not to forget about the beautiful promenade that connects Funchal all the way to Câmara de Lobos. More about that later in this blog post.
Restaurants at Praia Formosa
If you’re in for a sunset dinner or lunch along the beach, then there are some great options along Praia Formosa. You can find Beira Calhau and Barra Azul but also Praia Formosa restaurante which offers a wide variety of local dishes and a lovely setting. A bit further towards the east side of Praia Formosa is Docas cafe located. If you want to dine on the cliffs above the beach, then I can definitely recommend you to try Aconchego. With amazing views on the Atlantic Ocean and sunset, this is a perfect bar to drink a sunset cocktail if you’re not particularly fancy to sit right on the beach.
Tunnel of Praia Formosa
Located on the east side of the beach there is tunnel that connects this last part of Praia Formosa to Poças do Gomes (Doca do Cavacas) which is a small bathing complex. The tunnel is open every day from 8 AM to 10 PM. But due to storms or heavy rain damage can occur which can lead to closing the tunnel. If it’s open then it’s a fun activity to walk through if you’re close by anyway.
If you want to experience the Poças do Gomes (Doca do Cavacas) natural pools you have to pay the entrance of €2,60. Here you can rent sun beds and parasols or lay your towel on the concrete ground. The pools might feel a bit outdated, but it still is a fun way to experience one of the many natural pools on Madeira island. But if I would recommend you some of the best natural pools of Madeira island, then you have to visit the Porto Moniz natural Pools and Seixal Natural Pools.
Praia Formosa Promenade from Funchal to Câmara de Lobos
On the most western side of Praia Formosa the promenade to Câmara de Lobos finds it way. Here you can walk on concrete and on the walkway along the ocean. It’s a perfect sunset walk route which is why you’ll see many locals strolling along, doing their daily walk with the dog or enjoying the last rays of sunlight. If you’re based in Funchal this is definitely a must do!
More beaches in Madeira
Madeira might not be the perfect beach destination as most of the beaches on the island are pebbled beaches. So where to find the best beaches in Madeira? If you want to have an extended review and tips about where to find the best beaches in Madeira, then head over to this complete guide – Best beaches in Madeira.
For a quick overview, have a look at our following suggestions.
Calheta beach is located on the sunny south western side of Madeira Island in the town Calheta. It is the first imported sandy beach in Madeira and has a few nice bars and restaurants along its promenade. The waters of Calheta beach are protected by sea walls which creates a safe swim area for all ages away from waves or sea currents.
Read more about Calheta beach here
Located along the north coast of Madeira, Seixal beach is a beautiful black sand beach accompanied by high green cliffs. Because the beach is facing north east, it is also a perfect spot to watch the sunrise in summer season. Other great activities to do here are surfing, sunbathing or swimming in the natural pools behind Seixal beach. Close to Seixal beach you’ll also find the Veu da Noiva waterfall which is a must visit!
Read more about Seixal beach here
Prainha beach is one of the few (natural!) sandy beaches in Madeira. It is located in the eastern tail of the island and is surrounded by interesting orange rock walls and the Piedade Dunes. The incredible textures and many caves and holes to explore are some of the fun things to do here. The landscape here is in such a big contrast of green Seixal beach! Although Prainha beach is not the biggest beach, it does have a very cosy feel with its secluded bay and fun beach club.
Read more about Prainha beach here
Machico beach is another man made sandy beach in Madeira. The golden sandy beach is a beautiful stretch of soft sand created with imported sand from the Sahara desert. The beach has changing rooms, showers, football and volley ball areas, pedal boats, jet skis, sun beds, parasols and enough parking spots. It’s a great spot for a swim as the waters of Machico beach are protected by sea walls, just like Calheta beach. This gives beach goers a safe swim experience without the hassle of waves and the current.
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.
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.
More Madeira travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about Praia Formosa Funchal, in Madeira.
For more Madeira travel inspiration and the must visit destinations, head over to our other blog posts about Madeira island.