Last Updated on September 4, 2023
When people talk about Funchal, Madeira, it’s often referred to in two different ‘districts’. The Old Town, is the main central area of Funchal. This is where the majority of shops and restaurants are, the cable car station, and a lot of the bus lines all connect here. The other side is the ‘hotel zone’ or the ‘Lido end’. This is actually the parish of Sao Martinho and covers the area from approximately the cruise port all the way to Praia Formosa. Here you’ll find most of the large hotel complexes.
Disclosure: I do my best to try and keep information up-to-date but please check direct with businesses for current opening times and prices.
São Martinho Madeira
- São Martinho Madeira
- Things To Do In São Martinho
- Where To Eat & Drink in Sao Martinho
- Port of Funchal
- Where To Stay In Sao Martinho
Things To Do In São Martinho
It’s around a 2.5km walk from the lido end of Funchal to the city centre. It’s quite a distance to walk there and back unless you keep getting the bus (Route 2 or 4 are best, a single ticket bought onboard is €1.95). So here’s a guide to the district of Sao Martinho, the ‘hotel zone’ in Funchal!
Lidos and Beaches
Of course being referred to as ‘the lido end’, there are in fact 6 lidos and beaches in this area: Praia Formosa, Doca do Cavacas, Ponta Gorda, Praia do Gorgulho, Public Lido and Balnear do Lido. I wrote a whole guide to the different lidos and beaches in Funchal, where I breakdown what each location is like in detail.
Praia Formosa is at the far end, furthest from Funchal city centre. This is the largest beach and is mostly rocky with a bit of black sand. Doca do Cavacas natural pools were my personal favourite (and I think it’s better than the Porto Moniz natural pools that I visited on a West Island tour). If you are a strong open water swimmer, the free Public Lido is best. Ponta Gorda and Balnear do Lido are the best options for families with young children.
Promenade do Lido
These are all connected together by Promenade do Lido, a 2km coastal walking path which we ended up walking several times. It’s a nice little paved route with drinking fountains, benches, plenty of bins and even a vending machine at one point! You’ll find a couple of bars and restaurants along here too.
The section of the promenade connecting Doca do Cavacas and Praia Formosa goes through the Túnel das Poças do Gomes. This is a really cool cave like tunnel that passes through the cliff. The length of the tunnel is lit up, however it does shut at night time. About half way along there is a ‘open’ section where you can look down into a sea cave.
From Praia Formosa the promenade continues all the way to the fishing village of Camara de Lobos, which is approximately 2.6km one way. It’s a nice walk and well worth doing if you have some free time. (Free public toilets can be found at Praia Formosa and the public lido).
Public Gardens in Sao Martinho
Away from the beaches and lidos, there are a couple of public gardens in Sao Martinho. The Jardin do Lido is near Balnear do Lido. This is mostly a grass area with a couple of sculptures and benches with paintings on them. The Lido Beach Club has public toilets, souvenir shops, a restaurant and Venezia Gelataria Italiana, which sells really good ice cream. There are also a couple of sports courts including basketball hoops.
Another garden is Jardim Panaramico. This is a split level garden built on the hill side. They have mini golf, padle courts and a playground.
Forum Madeira shopping
If you want to go shopping in Madeira, Forum Madeira is a large multi-level shopping centre. There are a range of big name stores (like H&M and Zara), a food court, supermarket and a cinema. Many of the businesses are open until 11pm.
Levada dos Piornais
Madeira is known for its Levadas. These are water channels that run all over the island and many have small walkways along them, popular with hikers. Levada Dos Piornais cuts right through the middle of Sao Martinho.
You can read the full guide here: Levada dos Piornais Guide: Levada Walks in Funchal Madeira.
It starts near R. Profa. Marita Franco and goes almost the whole way to Camara de Lobos. I walked approximately 1.5km along the Levada to Caminho do Amparo. This is where it reaches ‘A Casa da Levada‘ restaurant/cafe, not far from Praia Formosa. It took around 30 minutes with photo stops.
The Levada is a little more suburban that many of the rural routes. It passes between residential gardens and banana plantations, with views across Sao Martinho with the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.
City Bus Route 4 has stops close to both ends of the Levada.
Where To Eat & Drink in Sao Martinho
*Please note, my hotel board basis was half board, so breakfast and dinner were included within my room rate. For this reason, we only ate outside of the hotel for afternoon snacks and drinks. There are a huge amount of restaurants within Sao Martinho though.
Fortim do Lido Bar
One of my favourite places to go for an afternoon snack/drink was the Fortim do Lido Bar. As the name suggests, it overlooks Balnear do Lido. They have a large drinks menu along with ice creams, cakes (Pastel de Natas!) and hot food.
An interesting drink to try is a ‘Nikita‘. This is a traditional drink that started in Camara de Lobos. It’s pineapple ice cream mixed with beer! It tastes mostly like a pineapple milkshake with just a slight after taste of beer, but it’s very refreshing!
Many of the cafes and bars will serve up a small bowl of a yellow snack that looks a bit like giant pieces of sweetcorn! These are Tremoços or Lupini Beans. We wasn’t sure how to eat them and just munched on them straight out of the bowl. After some research and realising that we were given a second empty bowl, most people tend to bite off the skin, put it in the empty bowl and THEN eat the bean!
Hole In One Bar
A unique bar/restaurant in Sao Martinho is ‘Hole in One‘. It’s an Irish pub with a lovely outside garden area which has a golf theme. I’m not a fan of golf but the decor is very cool, there’s even an old fashioned car! In the evenings they have live music. Hole in One is located along Estrada Monumental, the main road running through Sao Martinho.
They have a wide range of drinks and cocktails (including pina coladas served in tiki head glasses) and hot food. Although it is table service, during my visit you were expected to pay as soon as drinks are delivered to the table. So no rolling tab, you pay after each round.
Reid’s Palace (Afternoon Tea)
I didn’t go to Reid’s Palace but we heard it recommended many times during our stay. This luxury hotel was a favourite of Winston Churchill. Although a stay may be out of a lot of people’s budget, their Afternoon Tea experience is especially popular with non guests. There is a dress code and reservations should be made in advance as it does book out.
My accommodation had a kitchen area, so we went to Pingo Doce supermarkets quite a lot. There are several in Sao Martinho. They sell little bottles of really nice freshly squeezed orange juice, have a bakery (that sell 4 Pastel de Natas for the price of 1 in a cafe) and other typical supermarket items. Some locations also have a takeaway type counter, where you can pay a price to fill up a container with whatever items you wanted.
You do have to pay for bags, so if you plan on buying supplies from the supermarket, throw a reusable shopping bag into your luggage to take with you. You can get some that fold up really small. I actually bought one from a souvenir shop in Malta, so they can be good souvenirs to buy for future travels!
Port of Funchal
As well as the ‘lido end’, Sao Martinho also covers the area around the Port of Funchal.
A famous Maderian is the football player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Funchal airport is even named after him! He also has the CR7 Museum and Hotel located at the cruise port. I don’t want to be mean, but it’s a bit of an ugly looking hotel (with a RED swimming pool) and the statue out the front looks nothing like him.
However there is no denying his success as a footballer. The museum looks at the history of his career and displays all his trophies, medals and football memorabilia.
Underneath the hotel are a couple of other businesses and restaurants. Mercearia da Praça is a nice place to stop for a drink. There’s also a giant fish sculpture made from plastic waste by Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo.
Santa Catarina Gardens
Santa Catarina Park sits on top of the hill above the Funchal cruise terminal. It has a large lake with fountains, green space, flower gardens, a playground, outdoor gym equipment, a coffee kiosk and public toilets.
3D Fun art Museum
Set a little further back away from the waterfront is the 3D Fun Art Museum. It has 2 levels of 3D murals which you can interact with to make it look like you are part of the photo. Some use camera trickery too, so you need to rotate the image once you’ve taken it.
Several of the murals are Madeira themed, such as the one below where it looks like you are on the wing of a plane landing at Madeira Airport!
The museum isn’t really suitable for solo travellers, as you will need a second person to take the photos. Also, if you aren’t prepared to lay on the floor and be silly etc, you probably won’t get much out of visiting. We spent quite a lot of time at the museum and there was only one other couple wandering around at the time of my visit. So we had plenty of time without feeling rushed.
Where To Stay In Sao Martinho
1 Bedroom Apartment
I went to Madeira with Jet2Holidays. I was travelling with my parents and to save money, we opted to stay at Hotel Florasol as we could have an apartment that fit us all in. There is a main double bedroom, then a separate living room with a kitchen (cooker, mircowave, fridge, kettle, utensils etc) and 2 single beds.
The bathroom was between the two areas and we even had two individual balconies and two wardrobes. So even though we had one front door, it felt like we all had our own space. The rooms also have sea views and ours looked over the pool area.
Because the hotel is built on a hill, it’s got quite a strange layout. The entrance and reception is on the ground floor but then the main communal areas and restaurant are on level 4! The bus stop for the bus into Funchal was on this level too!
Other than a grumpy pool cleaning guy, I was quite impressed with the pool. It was a nice depth and a good size. There were no sun bed wars either and you could often find somewhere to sit. Mornings and around lunch tended to be quieter, with late afternoon being the most popular time.
Alternatively it’s a 5-10 minute walk to the Promenade do Lido.
Half Board Basis
I was staying at Hotel Florasol on a half board basis, meaning that a buffet breakfast and dinner was included in our room rate. (It is possible to stay room only or just bed & breakfast too). The restaurant had indoor seating as well as an outdoor area. (I liked the hammock, but I found it in a bit of a strange location surrounded by tables and chairs!).
Breakfast was similar most mornings, with hot items, an omelette/fresh cooked egg station, breads, pastries, crepes and cereals. For fruit they only really had bananas. There was also a selection of juices, tea and coffee.
Dinner was on a 7 day rotation, so with a 10 night stay, the menu repeated itself into the second week. Most nights there were two types of meat or fish, a couple of choices of potato or pasta, vegetables, a cold salad bar, one choice of soup, bread, a selection of desserts and ice cream. Drinks were not included with the evening meal and were added to a room bill to be paid on check out.
One evening we had a group of traditional dancers perform for 30 minutes in the restaurant. This was nice to see some of the Madeiran culture. Other than the dancers, and one other musician on a different night, there was no other entertainment. However we were able to use the facilities and watch the entertainment in the sister hotels, but we personally didn’t get round to doing this.
Ultimately I’m happy that I was staying in the lido end of Funchal. It was definitely quieter and less crowded than the main city centre, but could easily be reached by a short bus ride or on foot. One of my favourite places was the Promenade do Lido, personally I thought it was more scenic than the Funchal Promenade. Doca do Cavacas was also one of my Madeira highlights!
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