Eat, Stay, Hike…Madeira

Eat, Stay, Hike…Madeira

Madeira is definitely up there as one of the best hiking destinations in Europe. As well as amazing hiking, it’s got sun, fantastic natural swimming pools and great food and night-life in Funchal. I did a 14-day trip and still feel like there is more I want to see and do!


Madeira is beautiful island that is part of an archipelago located in the Atlantic, about 500km north of the Canary Islands. Its location makes it the most westerly part of the European Union. I visited the main Island of Madeira, it is home to the region’s capital Funchal, and offers so much to see and do. Madeira, like the Azores, is an autonomous region of Portugal.


I travelled to Madeira at Christmas time, and it was surprisingly mild, unusually mild according to some of the locals! Madeira could make a good alternative European winter destination to the Canary Islands, however given its isolated location in the Atlantic the weather can be unpredictable.


In general, the best time of year to go for hiking is May-October.


The Basics 


Flights: Ryanair offers direct flights from Dublin to Madeira, twice a week. Alternatively, you can take one of the many flights from Ireland to Faro or Lisbon and then on to Madeira.

Car Hire:  If you’re planning to hike I would recommend renting a car. The roads around the island are pretty good, however you would need to be fairly competent driving in Funchal city centre and in some of the smaller towns as the roads are very steep and narrow. I rented from Sixt who were really efficient and available at Funchal airport. 

If you don’t want to rent a car but want to hike some of the below trails there is an amazing company called Do it Madeira who offer self guided hiking transfers.

As well as a company called Pico Transfers who offer a similar service for hiking the island. 

If you’re a solo traveller and looking to hike in a group check out Up Mountain Madeira Tours, which came highly recommended to me by other tourists while visiting the island. 


Time Difference: None

Currency: Euro



The food was surprisingly good and most places were very accommodating for veggie/ vegans. I ate out for every meal for the two weeks I was there so I have a comprehensive list below of the best places in Funchal, Monte and Calheta.



Gavinos - Slow service, but great food 

Prima Caju – I recommend the salad bowls, smoothies and wraps

Lume pizzeria – Amazing!

Vegan Mundo – A vegan restaurant that even non-vegans would love

Three house hotel – Lovely hotel with good food.



Land Food and Coffee – great location by the botanical gardens, really good for breakfast/ lunch and coffee 

Greenhouse Café and Roastery – another great location inside Monte Palace, amazing for coffee and cake

Local shop – Great for coffee and juice with a view



XS Café - Great coffee and toasties 



Calheta Green – Great for breakfast

Rabacal Nature Spot Café – Ideal spot for lunch and cake

Achada do Teixeira Mountain Spot Café – Definitely worth a stop for coffee and cake



As I was in Madeira for two weeks, a holiday rental made the most sense, and they are definitely the best bet price wise. We stayed in an Air B&B near the Marina in Funchal, you will see lots of cool options, around this area. Funchal is the best place to base yourself even for the majority of your trip as you can be within walking distance of some of the best food spots as well as great sites to visit. 


Apps and things:

There is a fantastic web cam for Madeira here which allows you to see the live weather in different parts of the Island. It was very handy to check the weather, before heading to hike.


I also used;

YR weather for hourly weather breakdowns

Komoot app for hiking routes

 madeira hiking


As I said, I was in Madeira for two weeks, so I got in a LOT of hiking. I will go through my top 10 hikes, which you could pick and choose from, based on the length of your stay and the difficulty level of the hike. I’ve also put these in order of my preference, which might help you decide which hikes to do. All of the hikes have parking facilities, with no charges.


Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo

Start: Parque de Estacionamento Pico do Arieiro

Distance: 12km

Difficulty: Hard

Route Type: Out and Back

Terrain: Mixed


There is a large tourist centre at the start point (it won’t be open if you do the hike at sunrise), and there is a small cafe on top of Ruivo. 


For me this is the best hike on the island. 

I recommend starting the hike at sunrise, watching the sun rise and then setting off. The trail is very well marked and distinctive. The trail consists of lots of very narrow sections along cliff edges, metal ladders and steps. The trail is undulating, and if you’re used to hiking you shouldn’t find it too difficult. 


To note: There is a good chance you may get to see a cloud inversion, especially if it’s cloudy down in Funchal! We went here most days for sunrise and sunset to see the amazing light show above the clouds.


Achada do Teixeira to Pico Ruivo

Start: Parking PR1.2 Achada do Teixeira

Distance: 6km

Difficulty: Easy

Route Type: Out and Back


There is a lovely cafe at the start point. It was one of my favourite hiking cafes!

This trail reaches Pico Ruivo from the opposite direction of the hike above, giving another perspective and a shorter option for anyone wanted to get to Madeiras highest point. 

This is a well-marked and easy to follow trail which offers out standing views all along the route. 

I did both of these trails at sunset which was incredible. 

You also have the option to combine both, hiking from Pico Arieiro to Ruivo and on to Achada, it is 9km one way and get a taxi back to your car. 


Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco

Start: PR8 Verada da Ponta de São Lourenço Ponta de São Lourenço

Distance: 9km

Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Out and Back

Parking Fee: No


Tip: Make sure to get here very early as it gets very busy. 


This is a very popular hike for tourists, it offers an incredible marked trail on a narrow cliff edge at the very Eastern point of the island. This trail is marked as moderate and I saw a lot of families take this hike on, however be aware that there are very steep drops off the trail in parts.  We did this trail for sunrise and it is one of the best sunrise locations on the island. So, it’s worth being there early to catch the incredible light hitting of the cliffs. 


Pico Grande (out & back 9.4km from Boca da Corrida) 

Start: Miradouro Boca da Corrida

Distance: 9.4km

Difficulty: Challenging

Route Type: Out and Back

Parking: Very small car park only 8-9 spaces so start early 


This is a great hike, it is very well marked. Just to note however it has narrow section along the cliff edge with no railing. The last part of the trail to get on the peak is a scramble along a rock face, with some chain railings to help. The terrain may not be for everyone! 


Fanal Forest Trail

Start: Fanal- Car Park

Distance: 10.8km

Difficulty: Easy- Moderate.

Route Type: This trail is incredible especially on a misty cloudy day. Fanal forest actually looks more magical when its over cast or foggy, so it’s the perfect one to do on a rainy or grey day. 

First off there are a few trails around fanal forest however you dont need to be going off for a long hike to enjoy this incredible spot, from the car park it’s a short walk to some of the most fascinating views of Fanal forest, as an option for anyone on a rest day or just not into hiking. 

However if you're here to hike I recommend taking on the Vereda do Fanal ( PR13) which is an easy to moderate trail which brings you through the best parts of the forest and you get to experience some fo Madeiras best valley views. 

Parking: The parking lot is medium size, fitting about 20 cars. 

Madeira hiking 

Vereda do Larano 

Start: Levada do Caniçal ( this start point is very random it’s right beside a bus stop and tunnel) 

Distance: 26km (can be broken into sections of different lengths)

Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Out and Back

Parking: some parking available (if you plan to tan on the entire route it’s best for this hike to take public transport or a taxi to the start point). If you want to only tackle the best section of this trail (10km) find information below for this. 

This is a very long trail but you can hike out and organise a taxi back to your start point to avoid coming back on yourself and cutting the trail down to 13km, or you could simply just take on one of the best sections of this trail. 

My favourite section was from Miradouro do Cabo de Larano to Boca do Risco. You can park at this start point (very limited parking) and follow the cliff path to this view point and back which will be 10 km of the best coastal views. This is the section I would concentrate on and recommend if you’re only visiting Madeira for a week or so.
The trail is well maintained, fairly flat along this section and even though very close to the edge has a hand rail for the majority of the route. 

Waterfall hikes 

Madeira is full of hikes with wonderful waterfalls. These hikes are fantastic for an overcast or rainy day as you will be sheltered in the forest. 



Lagoa do Vento

Start: PR6 Levada das 25 Fontes / Levada do Risco

Distance: 7km

Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Out and Back

Parking: This is a very busy spot as many hike trails start from here – so arrive early.

This is a great marked trail offering lots of different terrain and a chance to take a dip in the pool under the falls. 

This waterfall feeds into the Risco Waterfalls (see below) 

Note: There is an amazing viewpoint over the Risco Waterfalls, however you would want to be comfortable with heights and the rocks can be slippy.

 madeira waterfalls

25 Fontes and Risco (out & back 9km) 

Start: PR6 Levada das 25 Fontes / Levada do Risco

Distance: 9km

Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Out and Back

Parking: This is a very busy spot as many hike trails start from here – so arrive early.


I would recommend doing this hike with the one above, as you only have to detour 2km to see Risco which is well worth it. Unlike most other hikes, you will be going downhill to the waterfalls and climbing on route back up. There is an amazing cafe/ hotel near the start point so you can enjoy some incredible cake in the forest, Rabacal Nature Spot Café.


Levada do Caldeirão Verde e Caldeirão do Inferno

Start: Parque Florestal das Queimadas

Distance: 16km

Difficulty: Moderate

Route Type: Out and Back


This was one of the coolest Waterfall trails I did. It is very well marked it’s not as busy as the other trails. The hike passes by numerous waterfalls along Levadas. You also hike through some big tunnels, so bring a torch. Some of the trail is very high up but there are railings in place. 


Waters Kiss and The 4 Streams

Distance: 9km

Difficulty: Very Difficult

Route Type: Looped

Recommend guide: @jaoa_lets_hike 


I organised a guide for this hike as it is not marked and would be almost impossible & unsafe to self-guide especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. This is a real challenge, and would only be suitable for those with a head for heights and go off grid. It was great having a local guide, Jaoa was a wealth of knowledge and wasn’t afraid to test our limits. I found our guide on a Madeira Tourism site. The secret waterfall was magical for a dip and to Jaoa’s horror I informed him it’s not as cold as the Irish Sea! 

 maderia swim


Some of these natural pools can be closed off during swells or bad weather. Please be mindful of water conditions before swimming in these rock pools and beaches. 


Seixual natural pools 

Seixual beach – it is a chocolate brown colour, and there’s also a small waterfall on this beach. 

Porto moniz natural pools – these were my favourite 

Doca do cavacas 

Prainha do Caniçal




View points & Places to visit 

When travelling around the island to go on a hike or swim make sure you stop off at some of the viewpoints below which offer some of the best views and photo spots. 

Praia da Ribeira da Janela (Seixual)

Miradouro do Guindaste

Miradouro de São Lourenço

Ponta do Rosto

Miradouro do Pico Redondo (by Achada) 

Miradouro do Ninho da Manta (on Pico do Arieiro) is amazing for sunset. 

Miradouro Balcões



Monte Palace Madeira (you can get the cable car up to this location which is good fun unless you’re afraid of heights, all of the food spots in Monte are near this location so worth planning to tick them off while you’re up here.)


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