Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities

Jan 23, 2017 BY Luke Rees

Officially part of Portugal but sitting in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, Madeira combines the best of European culture with African conditions. Which is why Madeira adventure holidays offer a unique combination of land, wind and water activities. But what are the best Madeiran activities?

Canyoning Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities (C) Madeira Regional Tourism Board

Why choose Madeira adventure holidays

The archipelago consists of two main islands and two island groups – Madeira, Porto Santo, the Desertas and the Selvagens. Blessed with a mild climate, stunning beaches and majestic land and seascapes, the potential for adventure here is huge.

Explore crystal clear waters, rugged mountains and vast stretches of coastline to discover high energy thrills and experiences. And your trip is all rounded off by charming Portuguese style towns and villages, plus superb cuisine.

You can learn more about the unique appeal of Madeira by getting your hands on Madeira Now, your guide to ‘What’s on and Where’ in the islands. Discover the best places to visit, things to do and what’s going on throughout the year. With over 300 discount vouchers in the guide you can save money on all of the adventures featured below.

Hiking Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities (C) Madeira Regional Tourism Board

10 best Madeiran activities

Still need convincing? Then check out these ten best Madeiran activities below to see why Madeira is becoming a leading adventure holiday destination.

Kitesurfing and windsurfing

The archipelago’s location in the mid-Atlantic means it gets a healthy battering from the wind. With excellent beach access on the southern side of the islands, there are plenty of top spots to ride the waves and the wind.

Funchal, Porto da Cruz, Achadas da Cruz and Porto Santo are just a few of the locations where you can windsurf all year round. With Funchal Bay and Praia Formosa offering superb kiting conditions. It’s no surprise that these small islands have produced some of the world’s best riders.

Windsurfing Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities (c) J H G Turismo da Madeira


Explore more of the rugged coast with paddle power. Conditions for kayaking are frequently perfect, with numerous bays and coves to visit around the islands. Spot seabirds nesting in the cliffs and paddle into marine caves only accessible by boat – undoubtedly one of the best Madeiran activities.

Go with a guide to enhance your experience, with top spots like the reserve at Ponta de Sao Lourenco offering incredible natural experiences.

Surfing and SUP

Known as the Hawaii of the Atlantic, you should get some idea of what surfing is like here. Big swells come in from the North Atlantic, producing all kinds of waves. Check out point and reef breaks and the challenging waves at Paul do Mar, Porto da Cruz and São Vicente.

Surfing Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities (C) Madeira Regional Tourism Board

There are plenty of surf schools where beginners can learn the basics in smaller waves too. And if you’re looking for a calmer experience on the water, then try SUP (stand up paddleboarding) at a number of spots around the islands’ coastlines.

Scuba diving and snorkelling

One of the top diving locations in Europe, Madeira is home to warm clear waters and excellent diving opportunities. Feast your eyes on enigmatic black corals and anemones, plus numerous fish species including morays and mantas. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot a monk seal, one of the rarest seal species in the world.

Check out the dive spots at Calheta, Caniço, Garajau and Santa Cruz where you can dive to between 21 and 30 metres. Or simply strap on a snorkel and explore the underwater world all the way along the coast.

Scuba Diving Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities (C) Madeira Regional Tourism Board

Hiking and walking

The islands might only be a few small specks on the map in the Atlantic but there’s a huge amount and variety of hiking terrain. Essentially the peak of a vast undersea mountain, the islands still rise up to nearly 2,000 metres above sea level.

Follow hiking trails, many or which run alongside the islands’ famed ‘levadas’ – long channels cut into the mountain to carry water to farm land. Some of these levadas seem to defy gravity, clinging to cliff sides, so it’s not surprising there are some stunning views to enjoy during Madeira adventure holidays.

MTB and cycling

With plenty of rugged, rocky terrain, mountain biking is very popular in Madeira, and now attracts some international events. Cycle alongside levadas and on forest trails on an all terrain ride.

Mountain Biking Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities (C) MAD Productions

The islands’ quiet paved roads are also great for road biking, especially if you love the ups and downs of hill riding. Discover charming villages as you explore the islands under your own steam.


Get off the beaten track and explore Madeira in an exhilarating way. There’s no boring coach tours or waiting at bus stops on a 4×4 experience. Climb steep mountain tracks to enjoy incredible views over the archipelago in a rugged off road vehicle – a must on during Madeira adventure holidays.

Travel with a guide or in a convoy and visit some of the islands’ most remote and hard to reach places. Enjoy forests, peaks and coastal trails, stopping off for a traditional lunch along the way.

4x4 Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities (C) Madeira Regional Tourism Board


See more of the island on two wheels with a rented motorbike. Whether it’s a scooter or something a little more powerful (such as a Harley Davidson), this is a great way to get up close and personal with Madeira.

There are plenty of rental shops in the capital Funchal, so head out and explore. Visit places where steep cliffs plunge down into the ocean, climb high mountains for stunning views and make the most of the islands’ quiet roads


The sky is literally the limit on a paragliding trip high above the islands. Beginners can jump in tandem with instructors, with more experienced fliers going solo.

Paragliding Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities (C) Madeira Regional Tourism Board

Soaring high above beauty spots and viewpoints like the Porto da Cruz and Prazeres this is one of the best Madeiran activities. It’s an adrenaline-fuelled adventure above some of the most beautiful islands on the planet.

Fishing and marine safari

Madeira won the Big Game Fishing world championship for the second year in a row in 2016, which tells you something about the quality of the fishing. Take a fishing tour of the island, catch of the day could be tuna, swordfish, barracuda and much more.

If you want to get close to the marine life but fishing is not your thing, then join a safari boat tour. There are 15 types of marine mammal regularly spotted including Blue Whale, Pilot Whale, Sperm Whale, various dolphin species, and the rare Monk Seal. You’ll also see many birds, all while learning about the marine life that call the archipelago home.

Marine safari Madeira adventure holidays: 10 best Madeiran activities flickr image by liber

As well as the above, you can also try canyoning, sailing, coasteering, bodyboarding and plenty more on Madeira adventure holidays.

We hope the 10 best Madeiran activities has inspired you to visit. To find out more about Madeira check out the tourist boards website: And be sure to pick up a copy of Madeira Now for event information and over 300 discounts including all of the activities above:


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