Top 10 beaches in Madeira

The island’s unmissable, photogenic swimming spots

For nature lovers seeking a tranquil retreat, holidays to Madeira offer a perfect escape. This volcanic island captivates with its lush, forested interior and the unique experience of exploring its levada walks. Springtime is especially magical, as the island blooms with a vibrant display of flowers, transforming Madeira into a colourful paradise. Ideal for those wanting to immerse themselves in natural beauty, Madeira promises a rejuvenating holiday experience.

  1. Prainha Beach, Caniçal
  2. Praia da Laje, Seixal
  3. Calheta Beach, Calheta
  4. Garajau Beach, Caniço
  5. Praia dos Reis Magos, Caniço
  6. Piscinas Naturais da Doca do Cavacas, Funchal
  7. Porto Moniz, Porto Moniz
  8. Machico Beach, Machico
  9. Ribeira do Natal, Caniçal
  10. Praia Formosa, Funchal

While beaches may not be the island’s primary draw, they’re certainly worth a look. You’ll find natural infinity pools and manmade swimming basins in the black rock with sensational views, as well as secluded, barely visited coves. Read on to discover the best beaches in Madeira.

1. Prainha Beach, Caniçal

This semi-secret stretch of shoreline – not visible from the road, at least – is one of the best Madeira beaches. When you park up at the side of the road, it’s not immediately obvious how to get down. Look carefully and you’ll find a rustic, winding path via several viewpoints until you reach the uncrowded volcanic sand shore, tucked in a dip between two wild green hillsides. The vibe is relaxed, with toilets, some sunbeds to rent, and a colourful beach bar which is (usually) open in high season, serving food and cold drinks.

Facilities: Simple – loungers, beach bar, toilets

Beach type: Laid-back and local

2. Praia da Laje, Seixal

Those looking to escape the crowds in Madeira will find the tranquillity they crave at Praia da Laje. The volcanic, black-sand beach is nestled between rocky headlands, and although there are toilets and a small kiosk, it’s otherwise totally unspoilt. Visitors will feel truly at one with nature, swimming in clear, deep waters against a backdrop of emerald-green cliffs speckled with just a few red-roofed buildings.

Facilities: Simple – toilets and kiosk

Beach type: Tranquil yet wild

3. Calheta Beach, Calheta

A golden-sand beach is a rarity on this volcanic island, so it’s no wonder Praia da Calheta is so popular. The bay is sheltered from the temperamental Atlantic by a manmade sea wall, making the water significantly warmer and calmer than many spots on the island – perfect for children. With restaurants and bars along the promenade, shops nearby and public showers and toilets, it’s the ideal set-up for a relaxing beach day. There’s ample parking and even a scuba diving centre if you’re planning an adventure further afield in Madeira’s waters.

Facilities: Plenty – shops, cafés, showers & toilets

Beach type: Family-friendly

4. Garajau Beach, Caniço

Nestled at the base of the cliffs in the heart of the Garajau Nature Reserve, Garajau Beach is one of the best beaches in Madeira for divers. Visitors must first take a cable car down past the steep cliffs to reach a sand-and-stone shore flanked by stunning red rock cliffs. There’s a small changing area and a restaurant with a terrace, but the real draw is the crystal-clear water, making for fabulous shallow-water snorkelling and deeper diving, with plenty of facilities nearby to book scuba courses and excursions.

Facilities: Restaurants/cafés

Beach type: Dramatic scenery, great swimming

5. Praia dos Reis Magos, Caniço

Praia dos Reis Magos is a small, pebbly beach with a genuinely local atmosphere. Here you can swim in the ocean or take a dip in the natural pool, sheltered from the wild waves of the Atlantic. This little suntrap is Blue Flag certified and backed by handy facilities such as showers, bars and restaurants, while there are also several hotels close by. The popular diving centre offers excursions for all abilities, from qualified diving enthusiasts to total amateurs in search of a trial dive in Madeira’s wildlife-rich waters.

Facilities: Restaurants/cafés/hotels nearby

Beach type: Local, laid-back

6. Piscinas Naturais da Doca do Cavacas, Funchal

This isn’t your typical beach. The Doca do Cavacas are actually spectacular swimming pools hewn out of natural rock on the clifftop – an absolute must-visit while in Funchal. This lido-meets-rockpool has a retro vibe, with bathers strolling between the naturally filled pools on smooth walkways, descending for a dip via the stairs. Snorkelling is blissful as the water is still and there’s plenty of sea life living on the rocks, and you also get a fabulous view out to the wonderfully wild Atlantic from your calm basin of water.

Facilities: Changing, toilets, staff & restaurant

Beach type: Chic and retro but family-friendly

7. Porto Moniz, Porto Moniz

In Porto Moniz you’re spoilt with two fantastic swimming options. The best for families are the Piscinas Naturais, where the natural rock has been adapted to make it safer for swimming, with smooth, foot-friendly paths and ample facilities, but still with the charm of the original volcanic rocks. Others prefer the Piscinas Naturais Velhas, a labyrinth of natural pools, hewn into the jagged rocks by the Atlantic and semi-sheltered from the waves. The colours are vivid and the scenery epic, but you might want swimming shoes for the sharp rocks.

Facilities: Plenty – toilets, changing, food & drink

Beach type: A truly unique and beautiful natural pool

8. Machico Beach, Machico

On the volcanic island of Madeira, you’re hard pushed to find a naturally occurring golden-sand beach. That explains why this partially artificial, super-soft sandy beach is a big hit with locals and tourists alike. Situated in the sleepy, red-roofed town of Machico, it’s a blissfully sheltered spot for swimming thanks to the sea wall. There’s a volleyball court, plenty of space, and a great view of Madeira’s unspoilt green hillsides. Just steps from the sand you’ll find plenty of ice-cream joints, bars and restaurants to keep you refreshed too.

Facilities: Showers and toilets

Beach type: Sporty, local & swimmer-friendly

9. Ribeira do Natal, Caniçal

The beach of Ribeira do Natal, like many spots in Madeira, is a narrow strip of rocks backed by steep cliffs, but that’s not what draws people here. The calm and crystal-clear waters are fantastic for snorkelling or just swimming, and the beach has a very au naturel charm to it. Walk along the back of the beach on the promenade heading east (towards Caniçal) to find a jutting stone jetty where locals like to hang out, using steps to descend directly into the deep, limpid sea.

Facilities: Small beach bar

Beach type: Spacious, rocky, local

10. Praia Formosa, Funchal

Praia Formosa is the capital’s primary public beach, about a ten-minute drive from the heart of the city. Here, a black-sand and stony shore stretches between Funchal’s residential buildings and the Atlantic Ocean. The beach has received awards for its accessibility adaptations, meaning everyone can enjoy a day on the shore here. You’ll find plenty of facilities like public toilets, showers and changing rooms as well as lifeguards. It’s lined with a long promenade for a delightful walk, and you’ll find bars and restaurants near the back of the beach.

Facilities: Toilets, showers, changing, lifeguards

Beach type: Spacious, accessible

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