An article about awesome things to do in Madeira, Portugal, and how to make the most of 3 days in Madeira if you love a bit of adventure. If you are planning a trip to Madeira in Portugal, check out my recommendations for what to do in Madeira, including where to stay and when to visit.
As an adventure lover, this Portuguese archipelago has always been on my radar, so I was thrilled when the opportunity to visit Madeira on a Jet2 flight came up.
Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira often gets forgotten as a destination for people travelling to Portugal. This is, in a way, a good thing for people like me, as it keeps it relatively off the beaten path so you feel like you’re discovering something unique. And I mean it when I say unique. The Madeira archipelago is a set of four subtropical islands that include Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens – all of them with breathtaking landscapes. The island of Madeira looks more like Hawaii than anywhere else. Add the Portuguese element to it and you’ll end up with a remarkable place. You won’t find anywhere else like it in the world.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best time to visit Madeira
- 2 Awesome adventurous things to do in Madeira
- 3 Other adventurous activities in Madeira
- 4 Where to stay in Madeira
- 5 How to get to Madeira
- 6 Planning your trip to Madeira
- 7 Like this post? Pin and save for later
Best time to visit Madeira
The weather in Madeira is consistently warm and sunny all year round, so any time of the year is a good time to visit Madeira. However, if you want to maximise your chances of getting hot and dry weather, the best time to visit is between May and August. Average temperatures tend to be around the mid-20s and it hardly ever rains that time of the year.
Awesome adventurous things to do in Madeira
One of the things that really surprised me about Madeira was that for such a small island, there are tons of things to do here. If you are a lover of adventure, then Madeira is certainly a destination for you!
If you’ve never tried canyoning before, Madeira has plenty of spots to try this exhilarating sport. Canyoning consists of descending the course of a river or any other water courses by overcoming a series of obstacles such as abseiling down waterfalls, jumping in the water from cliffs or swimming or floating down the water.
I did half a day with Epic Madeira Tours and it was my favourite activity to do in the island. Some of you may know that I am scared of water, so I was really nervous about doing it before we started, but as soon as we got going I absolutely loved it!
There are different levels of difficulties, so you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy this. I did a beginner level course down Ribeiro Frio (literally translated as Cold River – and I can vouch for its name!) and had tons of fun!
Here is a similar canyoning adventure in Madeira that you can book.
If you are looking for something a bit more peaceful, a levada walk is a very relaxing way to explore the mountains of Madeira.
A levada is a man-made irrigation channel that can only be found in Madeira. They were built hundreds of years ago to transport water from the north of the island to the south, where it doesn’t rain as much. Walking along the levadas is one of the most traditional outdoor activities you can do in the island. The levadas have paths alongside that follow the contours of the landscape, giving you the opportunity to find some spots with spectacular views over the mountains. A lot of the levadas will take you into the Laurissilva Forest, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and the only forest of its type in Portugal. In fact, this kind of forest is very rare across the world and can only be found in locations such as the Canary Islands, Hawaii and Japan.
I did the Levada do Rei with Adventure Kingdom, which starts at the Quebradas water treatment plant in São Jorge and ends at the source of Ribeiro Bonito. This walk is just over 10km long return and the final section goes through the Laurissilva forest, although it feels like you are in the middle of the rainforest.
If you find yourself in the north of the island, the spectacular Levada Caldeirao Verde is another beautiful levada walk.
If you are looking for something a little bit more challenging, mountain biking is another popular outdoor activity in Madeira.
Ok… confession time. I did try to do a little mountain biking but I have to admit that I gave up 10 minutes into the route. I am not the most confident of bikers and the bike I was given was too big for me so I didn’t really feel in control. So after I fell off the bike and acquired a few splinters in my mouth (I still don’t know how that even happened!), I decided to sit this activity out.
Saying this, the group of friends I was with continued on and had such a great time that they wanted to extend the ride a bit longer, so it’s definitely worth a go! The only thing I would say is that if you are not confident on two wheels and of small proportions like me, check with the tour company if they have a bike frame that will fit your size to give you the best chances to enjoy the ride.
Here is a similar mountain biking tour to what my friends did.
Dolphin and whale watching (ethically)
Ok, second confession time… Initially I was a little bit cynical and concerned about this activity for a couple of reasons.
First, I thought we were never going to see any dolphins or whales and it was going to end up being a ride on a catamaran, which would have been fun too. I was wrong. I was also a bit nervous about how close we were going to get to the dolphins or whales if we were to see any. My worries were totally unfounded.
This activity turned out to be an amazing thing to do in Madeira. We got to see lots of pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins, who were all very happy to give us a bit of a show. But what I was most impressed with (and relieved) was the consideration that VMT Catamaran Madeira, the company I went with, had for the wellbeing of the wildlife. They explained that we could only observe each group of animals for a maximum of 10 minutes, allowing them plenty of space to do their own thing without getting too close. They were very keen to observe these rules and that really put my mind at rest and was able to enjoy the show that the dolphins and whales put up for us.
Other adventurous activities in Madeira
There really is no end to what to do in Madeira if you love a bit of adventure or the outdoors, so here are a few more ideas to get you inspired:
- Full-Day Ponta de São Lourenço Natural Reserve
- Hiking Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
- Northwestern Madeira Full Day 4×4 Tour
- Madeira Peaks Full Day Tour by Open 4×4
- Half-Day São Vicente Caves and Volcano Center Tour
Where to stay in Madeira
Madeira has a wide range of accommodation choices, from rural houses to seafront retreats, and hotels. I stayed in The Vine Hotel, one of Jet2Holidays properties, in the centre of Funchal, which was super convenient to travel around the island, with it being centrally located but also really close to the seafront.
The Vine is a boutique hotel located within historic Funchal. With a strong focus on modern design, it has striking harbour views and a spectacular rooftop swimming pool and hot tub with views over both the city and the sea. I stayed in a Grande Deluxe Double Room, with a sleek open design, which included an inviting bath tub in the room, a separate shower and restroom, a study area and a sitting corner. I particularly loved the art installation in the ceiling above the bed.
You can read what other people are saying about The Vine Hotel on Tripadvisor.
How to get to Madeira
Even though Madeira is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it is very well connected and very easy to get to. Jet2 offer direct flights from Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands. Jet2 has some great deals and their prices include a 22kg baggage allowance, so you don’t have to worry about taking your luggage as carry on.
Planning your trip to Madeira
What would be your favourite adventure thing to do in Madeira?
Let me know in the comments!
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Disclosure: A big thank you to Jet2 who hosted me on this trip. As always, all views are my own.
Teresa is an award-winning travel blogger based in London. She’s on a mission to explore the world through responsible cultural and adventure travel, and through deeper, more meaningful local experiences. She’s a lover of adventure, the outdoors and everything food related, and she’s always looking for ways to make a positive impact through sustainable travel.