Despite of the lack of white sandy beaches, swimming in Madeira Island’s crystalline water is simply unmissable. From natural volcanic swimming pools to serene saltwater bathing areas, swimming in Madeira Island is definitely more interesting, more diverse and much more exciting!
The Portuguese Island of Madeira is a perfect year-round holiday destination that is full of culture, hiking trails and delicious seafood! Rocky terrains and rampant greenery has attracted many active adventure-seekers to this mountainous island, known also as the Pearl of the Atlantic.
Madeira Island is a perfect destination for those who love swimming and diving, but are not particularly fond of the crowded sandy beaches found across Europe. With approximately 160kms of coastline, you’d be surprised to know that the shoreline consists mostly of rocks and cliffs. The beaches in Madeira, with some small exceptions, are pebbled beaches. There are two artificial white sand beaches made of sand imported from Africa, as well as some beautiful natural black sand beaches. Read more below on some of the more interesting spots to swim in while in Madeira.
5 UNUSUAL SPOTS FOR SWIMMING IN MADEIRA ISLAND
1. LAVA POOLS
Madeira’s lava pools are cherry on top of the cake when it comes to swimming in Madeira Island. These pools are formed by volcanic lava, naturally filled with crystal-clear sea water.
The most famous lava pools are located in the north of the island in a city called Porto Moniz. There are two complexes (or some could say, one complex consisting of two parts), which are slightly different: Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools, located on the western part of the bay, and Cachalote Natural Swimming Pools, located on the eastern part of the bay. These two complexes are situated next to one another and is just a 5-minute walk between them both.
Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools (Piscinas Naturais de Porto Moniz) is a popular and very picturesque natural swimming pool. Concrete walls, stairs and platforms have been constructed to make it a safer environment for swimming. This makes Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools a suitable place for families with small children. There is a bar, changing rooms, playground, first aid facility and sun loungers/umbrellas for rent.
Cachalote Natural Swimming Pools (Aquarium Natural Swimming Pools) are more natural and are less child-friendly compared to Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools. Despite having no supporting infrastructure or toilet facilities, there are outside showers and lifeguards on duty during the bathing season.
Seixal Natural Swimming Pools located in the northern part of the island is also known for its lava pools. The Seixal Natural Swimming Pools, found close to the Laje beach in Seixal, can be accessed free of charge. The beach has a kiosk and toilet facilities with showers, but is not manned by lifeguards.
In the south of Madeira Island, there are smaller lava pools in a swimming complex at Doca do Cavacas in Funchal. It is conveniently located next to one of the most popular hotel areas. Doca do Cavacas is a very interesting place with a great view of Praia Formosa and the spectacular Cabo Girao cliff. Doca de Cavacas swimming complex is a place where the natural swimming pools are combined with the comfort of a swimming complex with stairs, concrete platforms for sunbathing and even a restaurant and bar on-site.
There are also some hotels in Madeira, as well as public swimming complexes, which have small lava pools within their premises.
2. FAJÃ DOS PADRES
“Fajã” is a Portuguese word that does not really have an English equivalent. It describes a piece of flat, very fertile land, created by a flowing lava. This is usually found at the bottom of the cliff , cut off on one side by a cliff, on the other by water. This indirectly means that it is a harder to reach, more secluded place.
The most popular Fajã in Madeira is Fajã dos Padres (Fajã of the Fathers), located not far from Funchal, the biggest city in Madeira. There are two ways to get to Fajã dos Padres. One is by water with a rented boat or kayak, and the second option is by a special cable car, which you board from the 300-meter high cliff.
The beach at Fajã dos Padres is a pebble beach, however, with easy access to the sea in the area that goes from the pier up to the end of the bay, and the mild temperature of the water all year round, it makes up for its lack in sand.
A spacious solarium has been created near the pier for those who wish to soak up the sun. There is also a nice restaurant which serves you fresh food: local produce vegetables and fruit, as well as freshly caught fish.
3 POÇO DOS CHEFES
A true hidden gem in Madeira is Poço dos Chefes. Situated in Curral das Freiras, this pool is becoming very popular with locals from the island to cool off in the summer heat.
Poço dos Chefes is a natural reservoir where swimming and diving into its refreshing waters are allowed. It was created by locals who built a dam around the sides of the river to create a deeper pool. Poço dos Chefes is located in one of the most beautiful areas of Madeira in the Valley of the Nuns (Curral das Freiras) and can be accessed by public buses directly from Funcha in under an hour.
4. SEIXAL BEACH
One of the most beautiful beaches in Madeira can be found in Seixal Beach, north of Madeira. Seixal Beach is a picturesque black volcanic sand beach with an impressive view, not over the ocean, but over Madeira’s northern coast with its green cliffs and mountains. Swimming out in the ocean and turning back to enjoy the magnificent views are clearly a must-do.
Seixal Beach is located right next to Seixal Harbour. This unsupervised beach is safe to swim in thanks to the concrete pier blocking out the dangerous waves. There are also toilet and shower facilities which can be accessed at the next-door Clube Naval do Seixal Pools.
5. SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS
And… last but not least!
Swimming in Madeira Island is incomplete without swimming with dolphins in their natural surroundings. Being in the ocean is the best way to see and interact with these friendly dolphins as they are not held captive against their will nor fed by humans.
Swimming with these beautiful creatures, in crystal clear, open waters not far from the shores of Madeira, and under the watchful eye of a specialist guide is an unforgettable experience for the entire family. When you submerge under water and see the dolphins swimming in front and next to you, you feel like you are in a different universe. If you are lucky, you can even hear the animals communicating with each other.
You’ll get to know a lot about cetaceans, about the ones around Madeira and about the Island itself on a comprehensive guided tour by a marine biologist. Just so you are aware, throughout the entire trip, participants must hold onto a short rope attached to the boat. The boat does not stop, but tries to keep up with the dolphins. That might make this tour a bit challenging for weak swimmers and people with poor coordination. To read more about dolphin watching and swimming with dolphins tours, check out this article from Say Yes To Madeira
ABOUT MADEIRA ISLAND
Location & Climate
Madeira is a Portuguese island group located just off the west coast of Africa. This 741 km2 archipelago is blessed by the warm breezes of the Gulf Stream and has pleasant weather all-year long. Madeira’s temperatures are quite predictable with an average of 24 degrees Celcius in summer with little to no rain. March to May, during the spring season, is the most popular time to visit Madeira.
Getting to Madeira Island
As Madeira is an island, the best way to get there is either by boat or by flight.
There are a number of domestic and international flights that fly in to Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira Airport Funchal (FNC) in Madeira Island. Find the best flights below:
Getting Around Madeira Island
Travelling from the airport to your destination by Bus
Bus transportation from the airport is provided by SAM. As you leave the arrivals hall, head towards the main road and keep to the right side until you see the bus stop. This is the stop for bus lines No. 20, 23, 53, 113 and 208. Tickets can be purchased on the bus.
Travelling from the airport to your destination by Aerobus
The Aerobus is an express bus service connecting the airport and Funchal city and costs €5 per adult one-way or €8 roundtrip and €2.50 for children.
Travelling from the airport to your destination by Taxi
Taxis are available outside the arrivals hall.
Renting a car is one of the best ways to get around the island at your own leisure. Book online here for the best car rental rates in Madeira.
Booking a tour online is highly recommended. From hop-on-hop-off buses to coastal tours, find the best tour to suit yout budget here.
Known as the “island of eternal spring”, “the paradise garden of the Atlantic” and even the “Hawaii of Europe”, Madeira Island is definitely a great place for your next holidays. Curious to know more about Madeira, Portugal? Say Yes to Madeira provides you with all the travel tips and information about Madeira Island including honeymoon and wedding ideas. Follow SayYesToMadeira on Instagram.
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