Things To Do In Santa Cruz Madeira | The Best Place To Plane Spot In Madeira!

Last Updated on October 26, 2023

Madeira’s International Airport is known for having a tricky approach due to its short runway and unpredictable crosswinds. The runway is perched on top of a cliff, above the municipality of Santa Cruz. It’s a lovely little town that is an easy day trip from Funchal. In this guide you can find things in do in Santa Cruz Madeira!

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.

Things To Do In Santa Cruz Madeira

  1. Things To Do In Santa Cruz Madeira
    1. Plane Spot/Madeira International Airport
    2. Santa Cruz Promenade
      1. Beaches in Santa Cruz
      2. Municipal Pool
      3. Mercado de Santa Cruz
      4. Jardim da Alameda
      5. Pizza Cafe
      6. Alameda Beach Club
      7. Ritual of Passage
    3. Santa Cruz Town
      1. Priest Gabriel Olavo Garcês Square
      2. Jardim Municipal & the Church of São Salvador
    4. Santa Cruz Madeira FAQs

Plane Spot/Madeira International Airport

During my visit to Santa Cruz, there was an obvious mix of locals and those that were mainly there to plane spot! Typically the planes into FNC airport fly over Santa Cruz and then take off over Machico.

FlightRadar24 is a great app that you can use to see the direction of air traffic, along with scheduled arrivals. We were keeping track of them during our stay and it seems that there is a chunk of arrivals in the morning and then again in the afternoon, with some quiet spots in-between. We timed our visit with the afternoon arrivals.

Ryanair plane coming into land at Madeira Airport from Santa Cruz beach
Ryanair plane landing at Madeira Airport

There are a couple of observation platforms parallel to the airport, as well as an outside terrace at the airport, if you are serious about specifically seeing touchdowns. However we enjoyed sitting on the beach and watching from along Santa Cruz Promenade. This was we could see the low approach to the end of the runway over the ocean.

Santa Cruz Promenade

Santa Cruz Promenade is a pedestrian area that spans the full length of the beach. It even goes right up to the end of the runway, so you can stand directly below the planes as they reach the runway!

Santa Cruz promenade in Madeira
Santa Cruz Promenade

At the far end is the ‘Memorial às Vítimas do Acidente Aéreo TP425 – 19/11/1977‘. Translated into English it is a memorial for the victims of a TAP airplane accident that happened in 1977. The memorial is in the shape of a cactus.

Beaches in Santa Cruz

Praia Santa Cruz Beach and Praia das Palmeiras make up the main beach area in Santa Cruz. The beach is made up of large grey pebbles, so not particularly a beach good for sunbathing. I also discovered that there were hundreds of lizards living under the rocks! There were however some wooden pallets under permanent umbrellas, where people had laid down towels.

Santa Cruz Beach Madeira
Santa Cruz Beach Madeira

One pier had ladders down into the sea where people could swim out to a floating pontoon anchored out in the water. It was quite a distance from the pier and beach and the water was quite choppy during my visit. For this, I would recommend that only strong swimmers attempt to swim out to the pontoon.

Municipal Pool

Alternatively, along the promenade are a children’s splash pool and a deeper swimming pool. They are both free to use, which is great compared to the lidos and beaches in Funchal, which have entrance fees.

Santa Cruz Municipal Pool Madeira
Santa Cruz Municipal Pool

There are also changing facilities and free public toilets. Similar to the Funchal lidos, most people just put towels down and were sunbathing on the concrete areas.

Mercado de Santa Cruz

Also located on the promenade is the Mercado de Santa Cruz. This is a little market building that first opened in 1962. It is divided into an area for a fish market (which was empty mid-afternoon) and a few local shops selling drinks, snacks, fruit and vegetables and alcohol. Bottled water is reasonably priced from here.

Mercado de Santa Cruz Madeira
Mercado de Santa Cruz

Jardim da Alameda

Jardim da Alameda is a little garden with flowers, palm trees and benches. There’s also a fenced area with children’s playground equipment. Just a short walk away, on the other side of Hotel Vila Galé Santa Cruz, you’ll find outdoor gym equipment. (A free gym with a runway and sea view!)

Santa Cruz Promenade park
Park along Santa Cruz Promenade Madeira

pizza cafe

There are a couple of places to eat on the Santa Cruz Promenade, either Alameda Beach Club or the Pizza Cafe. The Pizza Cafe is closer to the swimming pool and mainly sells pizzas and pasta. It felt a little more ‘restaurant like’ and so the prices are a bit higher. They have a couple of locations in Madeira.

Alameda Beach Club

We opted for the Alameda Beach Club instead. It has a decent sized menu with main meals, as well as smaller dishes such as pregos (Portuguese sandwiches), cakes, waffles and drinks (hot, alcoholic, juices and milkshakes). They also gave us a complimentary bowl of lupini beans. The menu is very reasonably priced.

Milkshake at Alameda Beach Club Santa Cruz Madeira
Passionfruit milkshake at Alameda Beach Club in Santa Cruz Madeira

Ritual of Passage

At the far end of the Santa Cruz Promenade, at the opposite end to where the airport is, is a tunnel leading under the 18th century Forte de São Fernando. The tunnel is painted with a neon coloured mural named ‘Ritual of Passage’. It is based on Madeiran plants that are used in folk medicine.

Santa Cruz Ritual of Passage tunnel
Ritual of Passage mural

Passing through the tunnel is a boating club and the Piscinas de Ribeira da Boaventura. These outdoor pools are similar to the free municipal pool, but are a little larger and have a small entrance fee.

On the opposite side of the road, heading in land, is the Santa Cruz Aquaparque. This is a small water park open from the middle of June until mid September. There are a couple of swimming pools, a lazy river and a few water slides.

As well as purchasing tickets directly at the waterpark, they can also be bought from the SAM bus ticket offices. When bought from here, return travel on the SAM bus is included in the price.

Santa Cruz Town

Priest Gabriel Olavo Garcês Square

Set back from Santa Cruz Promenade is Priest Gabriel Olavo Garcês Square. This colourful little square has an ‘Echium candicans’ flower sculpture in the centre with a range of restaurants, bakeries and cafes around it.

Sculpture in Santa Cruz Madeira
Pride of Madeira flower sculpture in Santa Cruz Madeira

Echium candicans (also know as Pride of Madeira) are flowers native to Madeira and grow at altitude in the central parts of the island.

Jardim Municipal & the Church of São Salvador

Close to Priest Gabriel Olavo Garcês Square is Jardim Municipal park. This is a good place to go if you want to sit somewhere out of the sun. There are lots of benches under the shade of trees in the park.

Santa Cruz Jardim Municipal park
Santa Cruz Jardim Municipal

Next to the park is the parish church of Santa Cruz, the Church of São Salvador. This church dates back to the 17th century. (Feature image)

The SAM bus stops are along the main road behind the church and park.

Santa Cruz Madeira FAQs

What is Santa Cruz like in Madeira?

Santa Cruz is a quiet coastal town in Madeira. There’s a pebble beach and pedestrian promenade situated at the end of the Madeira International Airport runway. You’ll also find a market, a small waterpark and a 17th century church.

Is Santa Cruz worth visiting?

If you want to get away from the crowds of Funchal, Santa Cruz makes for a nice half-day day trip. It’s also fun to see the airplanes flying low over the ocean on their approach into Madeira Airport!

How to get to Funchal from Santa Cruz

SAM buses leave from Santa Cruz to Funchal approximately every 30 minutes. Tickets can be purchased from the driver. During my visit a single ticket was €2.50 one way or €5 return. Journey time is around 30 minutes. Buses also depart from Madeira International Airport.

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About the Author – Kylie

My travels have taken me to over 40 countries worldwide (& I lived in USA for 4yrs). I hold a BTEC National Diploma in Travel & Tourism (triple distinction) and have been writing on Between England & Everywhere since 2015.

Expert in: Adventure travel🎢, beach destinations🏖️, and packing light (mid-budget backpacker)🎒

Things to do in Santa Cruz Madeira

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