There is no doubt that Portugal’s best kept secrets are its stunning islands. Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, is an archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa. It’s one of Europe’s most beautiful travel destinations with year-round sun, lava pools, friendly locals and breathtaking scenery.
During the summer months, you can find direct flights to Madeira from the East Coast, huge parenting win when bringing small children! Pay attention when the plane is landing- the airport appears out of nowhere, and is an incredible to watch. Once you land, people on the plane start clapping – yes, that actually happens! There is something mystical about being on the island, it relaxes you – forces you to live in the moment and truly appreciate the nature around you.
Sunny weather, botanicals in bloom, and dramatic landscapes along the cliff-lined coast of this volcanic island set you up for a memorable visit. Depending on your mood, you can relax or seek adventure, perfect for families, couples, solo travelers and everything in between. We rented a car for our time here, the roads are well maintained and though some are steep, it is very safe. Wait until you see the highways, the design is unreal.
I have compiled a list of the three A’s: Accommodations, Adventures, and Appetite! If you have any questions about Madeira or our trip please send me an email!
Located by the sea in the picturesque village of Caniço, the Four Views Oásis Hotel is hands down the best hotel for families visiting Madeira. The check-in counter has a kids stool with lolly pops, immediately showing you that children are welcome and appreciated.
We stayed in a family room with incredible pool and ocean views. There were two twin beds in the front room, and a king size bed in a second room. Two spacious balconies were the perfect place to unwind after a fun-filled day. The room also had a refrigerator, bonus!
Four Views Oásis has a multitude of benefits for traveling with young ones – from the playground with trampoline, swing sets, and more to the free pedal carts kids can take off the premises and cruise along the boardwalk. There are children’s activities set up throughout the day (while we were there they had an entire Flintstones themed day and showed the movie at night), a large saltwater pool with children’s area, and games/puzzles for the kids to play with.
Now, I struggled with deciding which was the best feature of this hotel – and I could not decide… that being said it is a tie between the location and the breakfast buffet! Imagine a breakfast buffet, now triple it… if not quadruple the size. No one will leave hungry from this offering – there is literally something for everyone and I appreciate the thought behind incorporating many cultures. Oh and did I mention there is champagne on the buffet?! Go ahead… you are on vacation!
The location of Four Views Oasis is second to none – oceanfront within walking distance to many restaurants and Reis Magos Beach (a locals spot with a great place to dive and watch others jump). We loved walking along the waterway each night listening to the water hit the stones.
Porto Moniz Lava Pools – Porto Moniz is a charming town on the Northwestern tip of Madeira, surrounded by towering mountains and the powerful Atlantic Ocean. The lava pools here are unique and breathtaking, beautiful to look at and refreshing to dive into. Best part is… they are FREE! We loved this spot, but take note the water was pretty cold when we went (in July), but after a few minutes you got used to it!
Whale/Dolphin Watching Tour – We took a 3 hour catamaran tour with VMT Madeira to try and find some dolphins and whales! Madeira is one of the best places to see whales in Southern Europe – and we were very lucky with many dolphin sightings, but unfortunately no whales. The catamaran was very pleasant, we loved the ride (not choppy). The first half of the trip was spent looking for sea life and the second part was anchoring in the waters below Cabo Girao to swim. The water was crystal clear and many fish to be seen – a fun trip for the family!
Cabo Girão – This incredible lookout point is home to one of the highest sea cliffs in the world. Walk out onto a clear glass floor looking 580 meters down and marvel at the views. We drove up here in our rental and it is not for the faint of heart. The roads are very well maintained, but narrow and steep at times. My husband navigated it very well – but I may or may not have been white knuckling my door handle the whole time (haha!).
Funchal – The largest city and capital of Madeira, Funchal has it all. Rua da Santa Maria is a narrow street with over 200 works of art, mostly painted on doors, and is worth walking through. It is also lined with restaurants and shops. The Mercado dos Lavradores is a farmers market with flowers, fruits, vegetables, shopping, fish, and cafes – this was a highlight for us (and the only reason we were happy our plane got canceled ha!). Sample the wine that put Madeira on the map – you can find many places here to try the famous Madeira wine. Visit the statue of Cristiano Ronaldo, a soccer legend from the island (there is also a museum). Grab a beer and sit by the waterfront, relaxing and enjoying the views. Either way, you will fall in love with Funchal.
Teleférico do Funchal – From the cable car, hovering over the city, this is well worth your time. You get a bird’s eye view of blended beautiful colors, the orange from the clay roofs to the greens of the intricate gardens to the deep blues of the Atlantic Ocean. We had a great time on this cable car, lasting about 15 minutes. It is very peaceful and quiet on the way up and takes you to Monte Palace.
Monte Palace Madeira – At the top of the island you can find Monte Palace, a big, multi-level garden with exotic trees & flowers, ponds, African sculptures and a mineral museum. There were so many flowers in bloom, this was a photographers dream. You start at the top and walk downhill, so be prepared that if you are taking the cable car back down to Funchal, you will need to walk uphill to get there (or pay a golf cart to drive you up!). At the end of the gardens you get a sample of Madeira wine with your ticket.
Igreja de São Bento – The church is located at Rua Camachos, in Ribeira Brava , Madeira Island. We stumbled upon this while looking for breakfast and are glad we did – the interior is beautiful!
Sao Joao do Pico Fortress – The Pico or Saint John the Baptist Fort was built in the early 17th century, and was part of the city’s defense system against the frequent attacks by corsairs. This is free to enter and explore, and you can feel the history. There are great views of the Atlantic from the top!
Before I start, I just want to recommend that you always order the bolo do caco with every meal (or get it as an appetizer as a garlic bread), it is true Portuguese bread and you don’t want to miss it!
Nova Onda – Just a short walk from our hotel, Nova Onda is a pure locals joint. Here you will find bare feet and smiling faces, a restaurant just steps from the beach with delicious fresh food at low prices. We really enjoyed ourselves here, and the food was great!
A Traineira – Another restaurant within walking distance of the hotel, this A Traineira is an upscale seafood restaurant that will blow you away. The staff here was above and beyond accommodating, and the food was *chef’s kiss* delicious. Get some wine with your meal, the cellar has an amazing selection. Oh and they have a live seafood tank, which was fascinating to my kids.
Bolo do Caco – My favorite bread on the face of the earth is the name of this tiny hole in the wall attached to the Farmer’s Market. Stop here for cold beer and mouthwatering sandwiches. I could seriously eat those sandwiches every day… so yeah, stop there!
Theo’s Bazar Café – This restaurant exceeded any expectations we could have had, both with the staff and the food. Our flight had been canceled so we had a rough day and stumbled upon Theo’s. The staff helped fold and stow our stroller and brought us upstairs where there was live music on the piano. We ordered our food, and the pianist started playing children’s music just for my girls. He also let them play the piano and was very kind. The food here was also outstanding, I look forward to returning here!
Beerhouse – The first micro-brewery in Portugal is located in Funchal! A German themed restaurant has delicious food, great beer – and free tours of their small scale brewery! We had a great time at this water-front restaurant for lunch.
Penha D’Aguia – We stopped here for breakfast one morning on the recommendation of some local policemen. I am glad we did – this place has been around for a while and you can see why. They have a fantastic breakfast selection (you can also order off menu – making any of the bread or crescents into a unique sandwich) and an incredible dessert selection… drool!
Until next time…
So many fun things to do! It seems like you really enjoyed staying in the place 🙂
Oh yes very much!
That is such a gorgeous place! I love the mountains against the water.
Me too, such a vibrant color scheme there!
Yep, this will go on my family travel bucket list. Madeira looks like such an awesome place to visit.
It is incredible!
These are all stunning places. A perfect place for a family vacation. Madeira is also famous for producing wine.
Oh yes, we had some – it is so unique & very tasty!
Awesome! The place is great and marvelously stunning! Every photo is just so perfect. Plus the food here sure looks so yummy!
The food is SOOO good! haha
This is awesome, it’s something I would love to visit and enjoy going to. Thank you for sharing!
You are so welcome 🙂
What a really wonderful and amazing place! I’m surely gonna add this on our family’s bucket list!
I love to hear that! Have fun!! 🙂
I call that paradise! I’d love to take my family there someday, that would be a welcome break after two years of not traveling.
It would be a great place to start for sure!
Thanks for sharing this! I didnt know anything about Madeira. Great destination to visit with children. I would love to add this my bucket list
Yes! You will LOVE it!
This evening, my husband and I mapped out our trips for the next 2-3 years based on the best time to visit each place. We look at weather and crowds as determinants.
That is a great way to do it! Way to plan ahead!
Wow, I will surely add this to my bucket list too. It is an amazing place to visit!
It really is!