While there is plenty to see and do within Funchal, the capital city of Madeira, there’s an entire island to explore outside of the city. Read on to discover some of the best day trips from Funchal that you must make time for during your trip.
After all, many people describe Madeira as the “Hawaii of Europe”, which means breathtaking ocean vistas, lush tropical landscapes and incredible outdoor adventures await. Are you feeling full of dreamy wanderlust already? Let’s continue…
Psst! Our series of Madeira travel blogs is based on the multiple trips I’ve enjoyed to this beautiful island. My mum owns a timeshare out there, so I’ve had the fortune to visit Madeira on and off for the past 20+ years! I love it there!
11 Incredible Day Trips From Funchal in Madeira
1. Porto Moniz
One of my favourite day trips from Funchal is to Porto Moniz on the northwestern side of the island.
Here, you can bathe in volcanic rock pools that were formed by lava many thousands of years ago. The pools naturally fill with clean seawater to offer you a memorable swimming and bathing experience overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Please note that you’ll need to pay a small entrance fee to swim in the rock pools.
While you’re in Porto Moniz, I’d urge you to wander around the town. You may even find hidden coves in the lava rock that were also naturally formed many years ago.
And don’t miss the viewpoint on your way back up the mountains to the main roads. Porto Moniz looks stunning from up here.
You should reach Porto Moniz in a little over an hour if you’re driving straight there from Funchal. However, many visitors see the sights along the way, such as the Valley of the Nuns and the town of São Vicente.
2. Levada Walks
Even though Madeira is small, there are some 200 “Levadas” across the island, which carry water from one part of Madeira to another.
And a hike or walk that follows the curve of a Levada is one of the most popular things to do in Madeira. You’ll have plenty of Levada walks to choose from as a day trip from Funchal.
The following Levada walks are the closest ones to Funchal, although you’d still need a car or day tour to get to them. I’ve listed the approximate driving times next to each of them to give you an idea of their distance from Funchal.
- Levada do Caniço in Camacha (approx 20 minutes east of Funchal)
- Levada do Norte near Quinta Grande (approx 20 minutes west of Funchal)
- Levada do Caniçal near Machico (approx 30 minutes from Funchal)
- Levada dos Maroços near Machico (approx 30 minutes from Funchal)
- Levada do Furado in the Ribeiro Frio National Park (approx 35 minutes north of Funchal)
However, if you feel like going further afield, then my favourite Levada walk is the 25 Fontes (25 Fountains) walk near Rabaçal.
It’s about an hour’s drive away from Funchal and you’ll see lots of pretty waterfalls to admire as you follow the walking route.
3. Best of the East Island Tour
If you have limited time to spend on the island of Madeira, then you might like to see as much of the island as you can in the time you have.
One way to do this would be to enjoy a full-day tour, which you can easily do as a day trip from Funchal because many tour companies offer hotel pickup within the city.
This is also a great option if you don’t wish to drive around Madeira as this can be tricky even for the most experienced drivers.
A “Best of the East” island tour – like this one – enables you to see lots of beautiful spots around the eastern side of the island, such as:
- Pico do Areeiro: One of Madeira’s famous mountain viewpoints.
- Ribeiro Frio: A small village and the start of a Levada walk.
- Santana: Where you can find the traditional and colourful Madeiran houses.
- Ponta de São Lourenço: The most easterly part of the island and home to stunning views.
- Machico: Home to one of Madeira’s man-made sandy beaches.
4. Best of the West Island Tour
You might also like to see all that the west of Madeira has to offer, which you can do as a “Best of the West” island tour.
Tours like this one will likely take you to:
- Câmara de Lobos: A quaint fishing town close to Funchal.
- Cabo Girão: Home to Madeira’s famous clifftop viewpoint.
- Ribeira Brava: Where you can wander along a black sand beach.
- São Vicente: A beautiful and historic town that lies in the shadow of the surrounding mountains.
- Porto Moniz: Where you can find the volcanic rock pools mentioned earlier.
I’d highly recommend both tours so you can see most of what the island has to offer. You should easily fit them both within your Madeira itinerary.
However, if you only have time for one of the tours, then I’d suggest the west tour as I believe it offers more interesting stops than the other one.
5. Porto Santo
Porto Santo is Madeira’s neighbouring island and “sandier cousin”.
You can catch a ferry from Funchal Harbour and be sinking your toes into the golden sandy beaches of Porto Santo in roughly 2.5 hours. So it’s easy to do as a day trip from Funchal if you get up early enough.
Please note that the ferry journey is likely to be fairly rough even in summer, so you may want to take seasickness pills before boarding.
Porto Santo is a small island (even smaller than Madeira), but it’s a popular place with the locals, beachgoers, scuba divers and lovers of food and fine dining.
6. Catamaran Whale & Dolphin Watching Tour
Another popular Funchal Harbour day trip is to board a catamaran and wait for whales and dolphins to make their appearance.
The dolphins are so accustomed to these catamaran tours that they’ll often swim alongside you, rubbing their bellies along the catamaran. It’s a marvel to see!
There are lots of tour options available and most are reasonably priced. Some will even allow you some time to swim or snorkel in the ocean (away from the marine life, of course).
Here are a couple of examples on Get Your Guide, which should come with a 24-cancellation policy should you need it:
7. Santa Maria de Colombo Flagship Tour
Speaking of boat trips, you might also want to hop aboard a replica of Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, and sail along Madeira’s coastline.
This popular day trip from Funchal Harbour lasts for around three hours.
During the boat trip, you’ll enjoy stunning sea views, as well as stories about Christopher Columbus and how he stayed on the island of Madeira for six days during his third voyage to America in 1498.
Here’s a great tour option on Get Your Guide that you might like to have a look at.
8. Valley of the Nuns (Curral das Freiras)
A trip to Curral das Freiras, which roughly translates as the Valley of the Nuns or Nun’s Valley is another popular day trip from Funchal.
Nun’s Valley is about 40 minutes from Funchal by car and it offers you the chance to see breathtaking views, embark on stunning walking trails and take a step back into history.
In 1566, pirates attacked Funchal, so the Santa Clara nuns fled the city and settled in what is now called Valley of the Nuns. Understandably, the nuns took the convent treasure with them.
The Santa Clara convent remained here for several centuries and they played a pivotal role in the lives of the local aristocracy throughout that time.
While Monte is technically a suburb of Funchal, it’s roughly 2 miles north of the Old Town, so most people class Monte as a day trip.
You’ll undoubtedly want to set aside a decent part of your day to explore Monte as there is much to see and do here.
There’s the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, which is home to beautiful areas to walk around at different levels. Some of the palace’s gardens are Japanese-inspired complete with ornate bridges, vermillion torii gates and decorative pagodas.
Many visitors to Monte also like to climb the 50 steps that lead to the striking façade of “The Church of Our Lady of Monte”. This church is a wonder to see inside as well.
There are also a couple of fun ways to leave Monte to get back to Funchal.
If you have a bit of an adrenaline streak, then you might like to zigzag your way down a steep hill inside a traditional wicker toboggan.
Or you might prefer the more tranquil cable cars that enable you to see some of the island’s beautiful landscape.
Alternatively, you might want to wander around the Madeira Botanical Garden before travelling back to Funchal.
These gardens are about a ten-minute drive from Monte and there are 12 acres to explore.
Alongside the impressive landscaped gardens, you’ll find tropical fruit trees, ornamental lakes and an aviary of exotic birds like cockatoos and parakeets.
READ NEXT: One Day in Funchal Itinerary
10. Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo Hike
If you enjoy challenging walks and hikes, as well as stunning mountain-top views, then you’ll love one of Madeira’s most popular hikes: the one from Pico do Areeiro to Pico Ruivo.
This hike is just under 7 miles in total and takes around four hours to complete.
You’ll start at Pico do Areeiro, which is Madeira’s third-highest peak at 1,818 metres, and finish at Pico Ruivo, which is Madeira’s highest peak at 1,861 metres. Pico Ruivo is only accessible on foot.
Along the way, you’ll experience the best of Madeira’s dramatic landscape, and most likely, you’ll find yourself walking above the clouds, which is an unforgettable experience.
You can reach the start of the hike at Pico do Areeiro in around 40 minutes from Funchal, making this an ideal day trip from the city.
11. Ponta de São Lourenço Hike
Speaking of hikes, you might also like another of Madeira’s popular “vista hikes”: the Ponta de São Lourenço hike on the eastern side of the island.
Ponta de São Lourenço is Madeira’s most easterly point and offers breathtaking views across the ocean and surrounding landscape.
This hike is about 4.5 miles long and takes around 3 hours to complete. It’s an easier hike than the one mentioned before, but you’ll still come across several steep inclines.
You can park your car near the start of the hike, which takes around 35 minutes to drive to from Funchal.
From there, you can follow the trail to the main viewpoint at the summit of Pico do Furado.
Discover Even More Day Trips From Funchal
This list of Funchal day trips is by no means exhaustive, so if you’re after even more ideas of what to see and do during your trip, then you might like to check out some of our other Madeira travel blogs:
- 18 Unmissable Things To Do in Madeira
- 20 Best Things To Do in Funchal, Madeira
- 4 Days in Madeira Itinerary
- 7 Days in Madeira Itinerary (No Car Hire Required!)
- Tips & Tricks For Getting Around Madeira
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Madeira?
- How Many Days in Madeira is Ideal (+ Itinerary Suggestions)
- Is Madeira Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons Why My Answer’s Yes!
And there you have it – 11 incredible day trips from Funchal in Madeira. Which one or ones are you most excited to do first? Let us know in the comments down below…
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