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Relax in the quiet paradise island of Porto Santo

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Our Editorial team's advice

Porto Santo is famous for its long beach stretching 4 miles to the south of the island. The 'little sister' of Madeira, this island is located 23 miles to its north-east. A well-kept secret, Porto Santo offers a landscape that is as flat as Madeira's is hilly. The island culminates at just 1,696ft at Pico do Facho. Nothing compared to the 6105 ft of Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on Madeira. Still largely well-preserved, Porto Santo has only one city, Vila Baleira, nestled in the south of the island, and only a handful of hotels that are dotted discreetly along the beautiful beach. Lovers of authentic, natural environments will particularly appreciate the atmosphere found in Porto Santo. Pleasant in the south, the seaside becomes wilder to the north, with impressive limestone cliffs that fall very steeply into the ocean. On the island, you should stay on the seafront as the hotels situated at the heart of Vila Baleira are less comfortable,with no views to the beach. To get around without constraints, the ideal option is to rent a car or a moped.Be aware that most hotels on the seafront offer a free shuttle service by boat to Vila Baleira.

To see

The house of Christopher Columbus in Vila Baleira. The Genoese navigator lived in Porto Santo for a year before leaving for the Americas. The house, which is located on the Travessa da Sacristia, not far from the church, has been converted into a museum. You can find navigation charts from the time, scale models of caravels, and various objects from everyday life on the island.

To do

Laze on the beach or jog along the four mile stretch of fine sand. Take a bicycle excursion to the north of the island, where the jagged, rocky coast makes you think of Madeira. Take a good map on your journey and go to see Portela, the site of many windmills, where there are some wonderful views.


  • +  The beautiful beach.
  • +  Well preserved natural surroundings.


  • -  The limited number of hotels.
  • -  Few shops and facilities.

To think about

To practise water sports, as the hotels do not have any special equipment, there is only one solution: the water sports club located next to the port. It offers windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving.

To avoid

You can't stay at Porto Santo without visiting Madeira; the two islands can be visited on a combined stay. Avoid going to Porto Santo from November to April as it is very windy and there is a higher risk of rain.

To try

From swordfish to rabbit, octopus or cod - this is all typically Portugal. The corossols (cinammon apples), mangoes, papayas, passion fruit are a delight. For dessert or tea time, have a snack in one of the bakery-cafés in the centre of town with small cream cakes or cinnamon doughnuts. As for the restaurants, try Por do Sol on Calheta beach.

To bring back

In Porto Santo you will find the same products as on the rest of Madeira but with less choice so wait to return to Funchal to do your souvenir shopping. Stock up on local Madeira wine, gingerbread cakes (which keep for several months), hand embroidered fabrics in the form of tablecloths, towels, table napkins, handkerchiefs and shirts and basket items. To buy wine from Madeira, start by trying some in a factory. Visit the embroidery museum in Funchal to learn how to distinguish the authentic hand made product from the rest.
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