Last Updated on September 4, 2023
When visiting Madeira you should definitely make time to explore the island. There are hundreds of day trips you can do, from walks and hikes, boat trips, viewpoints and more! In this post I share 5 awesome day trips from Funchal that I personally did during my time in Madeira.
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Day Trips From Funchal
One of the easiest day trips from Funchal is to Monte, which sits up the mountain above Funchal. To reach it, take the cable car from close to the waterfront. I purchased a one way ticket. It’s best to visit as early as possible, when queues are their smallest and you may be able to get a gondola by yourself!
Monte Palace Gardens
Once you reach the first cable car station, jump off and visit the Monte Palace Gardens. These giant gardens have African and Asian influence and offer some amazing views across the city.
The most impressive section is located in the centre of the gardens. Here you’ll find a large lake with a waterfall, flamingos and a castle like structure. One of my favourite views is of the red Japanese style Pagoda with Funchal in the distance.
There’s also a vendor that sell Pina Coladas (with or without the rum) in pineapple ‘cups’. The juice is blended from the fruit part so it’s similar to a smoothie. They are expensive though, with both the alcohol and non alcohol version costing the same. But it’s very refreshing on a warm day!
We spent around 3 hours in the gardens in total. Because they are on a hill, they do offer a shuttle ride back to the top for €5 per person. The carts are built to look like an old fashioned Ford car and honestly, they do give your legs a bit of a rest!
Alternatively you can reach the Monte Palace Tropical Garden via Tuk Tuk.
Once we finished in the gardens, one of our Madeira bucket list activities was to ride on the Monte Toboggan (Carreiros do Monte). It’s a short walk from the Monte Palace Gardens entrance. Tickets are bought from a booth on the side of the road.
These wicker basket sleds have been carrying people down the hill for over 100 years! They are controlled by 2 ‘Carreiros‘ who steer and brake the sleds using special shoes that have a rubber sole, similar to that on a car tyre!
The sleds can seat between 1 to 3 people. We were able to fit 3 adults into one sled without feeling too squashed together. The route doesn’t go the full way back to Funchal, it is approximately 2km and takes around 10 minutes.
I quite liked the way that a bunch of the sleds go down altogether, like a train. If you’re closer to the back, it’s fun to watch the others go down in front! This does also mean that the line can build up between ‘trains’, but then it disappears in chunks when a new group of drivers come back to the top.
Returning to Funchal
Once you reach the station at the end of the route, drivers will ask for a tip and try to sell you photos. There’s also a gift shop and a cafe. Taxi drivers will do everything in their power to convince you that you need to take a taxi back to Funchal. They often over-charge too as you’re a ‘captive’ market.
However, there is a bus stop right around the corner and tickets purchased from the driver cost €1.95 to get back into the city. (The Monte Toboggan does NOT finish near the cable car station).
Alternatively this Tuk Tuk Tour takes you to both the Monte Palace Gardens and the Monte Toboggan and then back to Funchal. (Entrance to the gardens and sled ride are not included in the price).
Funchal to Camara de Lobos
Another day trip from Funchal is to walk to the nearby fishing village of Camara de Lobos along the coast path. Sao Martinho is the main ‘hotel district’ in Funchal and this is where the Promenade do Lido begins.
Promenado do Lido
The first part is 2km coastal walking path between Complexo Balnear do Lido and Doca do Cavacas. It is 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. Doca do Cavacas is well worth a stop if you are wanting to visit a natural pool.
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).
Camara de Lobos
Once you reach Camara de Lobos, have a wander around the little village and see the colourful fishing boats in the harbour. There are plenty of cafes to stop for a drink and during my visit the whole village was decorated with artwork made from recycled materials.
Camara de Lobos was a favourite of Winston Churchill, who would paint scenes from the village. There’s even a statue of him outside the Church Bay Hotel. One of the traditional Madeiran drinks, the ‘Nikita‘ also started in Camara de Lobos. It combines pineapple ice cream and juice with beer and is actually really tasty!
Once you have finished in Camara de Lobos, you can walk along the Promenade back to Funchal (which is what we did, we just took our time and stopped every now and then) or you can get a local bus. An alternative option would be to follow Levada do Piornais which is a slightly higher route, passing above Sao Martinho.
This Funchal day trip may be a bit niche but we really loved it! It can also be done in just a morning or afternoon rather than a full day. We took a SAM bus from Funchal to Santa Cruz for €5 return. The buses left every 30 minutes from Av. do Mar (near Praça do Povo) and took approximately 30 minutes.
Santa Cruz is where Madeira International Airport is located, however at the end of the runway is a lovely part of the town. It has a promenade with a rocky beach, a municipal pool (which is free), a market and several cafes and restaurants.
During my visit it was quite obvious that people were either locals or tourists there to plane spot! Madeira Airport is known for its tricky approach and short runway, with pilots needing additional training to fly there.
Alameda Beach Club is a great place to stop along the promenade for a drink and food. It also gives you a great view of the end of the runway. I used FlightRadar24 to time my visit with a bunch of arrivals and to check that they were actually landing over Santa Cruz, rather than over Machico (although Machico does have a sandy beach!).
Madeira East Island Tour
To get further away from Funchal, I recommend going on a full day jeep tour of the island. Even then they are split into East or West tours. I wrote a full review and comparison of the two island tours here: Jeep Safari Madeira East or West Tour? Which 4×4 Tour Is Best?
I prefer doing jeep tours or small group tours, compared to coach trips. It gives you the opportunity to get to know your driver and fellow travellers and the smaller vehicles can get to places that the larger buses can’t reach.
Highlights of the East Island tour include:
- Pico do Arieiro
- Levada Da Serra Do Faial
- Vereda Dos Balcoes
- Cascata da Aguage
- Miradouro do Guindaste
- North Mills Distillery – Rum Tasting
- Miradouro do Canical
There is a little more walking involved on the East Island tour compared to the West Island. Such as up to the Pico do Arieiro viewpoint and a 45 minute walk along the Levada Da Serra Do Faial to the Vereda Dos Balcoes.
I also preferred the glass floor observation platform at Miradouro do Guindaste. Comparing it to the more well known Cabo Girao Skywalk on the West Island tour, even though it wasn’t as high, it was free and uncrowded.
The main stop on the East tour was in Santana, famous for the traditional triangle shaped houses that can be seen in the village. We could have a 3 course lunch arranged by Safari Madeira but we chose just to stop in a cafe for a drink and snack, rather than a full meal.
Rum tasting at the North Mills Distillery was also included in the price of the East Island tour. We could sample two different rums that were distilled in Madeira.
Madeira West Island Tour
The West Island Tour covers locations on both of the south coast and the north coast, west of Funchal. Compared to the East Island tour which stops more at inland points of interest, the west is more coastal and there is more driving to get between locations.
Highlights of the West Island tour include:
- Camara de Lobos
- Cabo Girao Skywalk
- Porto Moniz
- Miradouro Galhano Fajã da Ovelha Calheta
- Estreito da Calheta Pico da Montanha
- Bar Rochao
As mentioned above I really liked Camara de Lobos. We first visited as part of the West Island tour. But because we only had a 30 minute stop, we decided to return on another day so we could have a little longer.
There were a couple of additional extras that were not included in the cost of the West Tour. Such as entrance to Cabo Giro Skywalk, the Porto Moniz pools and Poncha at Bar Rochao. I was disappointed with the Cabo Giro Skywalk. Yes it’s one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, but it was VERY crowded.
I loved Seixal with the black sand beach, I wish we could have stayed longer. Plus the off-loading on the West Tour was AMAZING (but we did have a guide that purposely took us along an extreme route!).
We had 90 minutes in Porto Moniz, but this is also the lunch stop. The people that opted to have the organised meal didn’t really have time to then swim in the Porto Moniz pools. I just took snacks, so I was able to swim, as it was something I did want to experience.
Other Funchal Day Trips
Of course there are many other day trips from Funchal but sometimes budget and time can only stretch so far! Here are some other popular Funchal day trips including some that I would like to do on a return visit one day!
Flag Ship Tour of Santa Maria de Colombo
The Santa Maria de Colombo is a replica of Christopher Colombus’ flagship and offers a 3 hour boat cruise from Funchal to Cabo Girao and back. The replica boat was built in Camara de Lobos in 1998. It’s said to be the most photographed ship in Madeira! The tour includes a swimming stop and an opportunity to maybe spot dolphins.
💻More information: Flag Ship Tour of Santa Maria de Colombo
Canyoning is an adventure activity that is still on my bucket list! It’s an extreme water activity that involves abseiling down waterfalls, cliff jumping and going down natural water slides! There are several different levels of canyoning and it’s recommended to start on a ‘lower’ level if you are new to the sport.
💻More information: Madeira: Level-1 Canyoning Adventure
Levada Das 25 Fontes
One of the most popular walks in Madeira is the Levada das 25 Fontes (25 Fountains) in the Rabaçal reserve. It’s approximately an 8.6km round trip that takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete. The route passes 25 natural springs and is rated moderate difficulty. Due to its popularity it is a high traffic route.
💻More information: Rabaçal and the 25 Fountains
Sunrise Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
The Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike is 10km in length and takes approximately 5 hours to complete. Several people I spoke to said it’s a pretty hard hike but worth doing at least once. (So a level of fitness is required for this particular route). Apparently it’s even better seeing it at sunrise!
💻More infomation: Sunrise Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo