Epic 4 Days in Madeira Itinerary [2024]

Lush greenery blankets the steep slopes of Madeira, with cultivated terraces and a small cluster of houses nestled near the coastline. The expansive blue Atlantic Ocean extends to the horizon, enhancing the scenic charm of a Madeira itinerary.

Spending 4 days in Madeira and looking for the best itinerary?  I got you! 

I have visited over 30 countries in the world, and the Portuguese island of Madeira remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.   

From stunning landscapes to delicious food, there is something for everyone in Madeira.

The island’s rich tapestry of culture, history, and nature unfolds in an explosion of colors and sensations, capturing the heart of all who set foot on its shores. Its natural beauty is an often overlooked gem of the Atlantic Ocean. 

There is a reason it’s known as the “Hawaii of Europe”.

It’s also super easy to get to.  There are tons of direct flights out of both Lisbon and Porto

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or culinary delights, Madeira’s warm hospitality and vibrant atmosphere are sure to make your visit unforgettable.

This itinerary has a mix of public transportation, tours, and rental cars.  If you are planning on renting a car for the entire trip, you may choose to spend longer in each part of the island instead of returning to Funchal for the evening. 

Day 1: Sao Lourenco and Funchal

São Lourenço

To maximize your time, I highly recommend beginning your day by catching the public bus from Lido Promenade in Funchal to São Lourenço. 

As you embark on your journey from Funchal, take the number 113 bus, which will lead you directly to São Lourenço’s starting point.

The ride itself is scenic and provides a glimpse into the island’s diverse landscapes.

Be sure to check the latest bus timetable as the schedules can change with the seasons, and plan to arrive early to avoid the midday heat.

The bus ride is not only economical but also allows travelers to immerse themselves in the local way of life.

São Lourenço is known as one of the best hikes in Madeira

Lido Promenade

After your visit to São Lourenço, the public bus will drop you back off at the Lido Promenade in Funchal. 

Unwind by treating yourself to dinner with a view at seafront cafes and restaurants.  Take into consideration that prices will be higher here. 

Other things to do on Lido Promenade:

  • Lido Pool Complex: Saltwater pools above the Atlantic Ocean
  • Sunset Cruise: Join a guided cruise experiencing sunset on the water

Day 2: West Island with Rental Car

Madeira is a small island, but also a HUGE island!  What I mean by this is that technically, you can drive to one end of the island to another in 4 hours. 

However, there are limitless lush things to see and do along that drive.  I only wish I had time to see and do all of them!

I recommend researching the Best of the West tours, choosing the stops that look most interesting to you on these tours, and taking your planning from there. 

The hard work is laid out for you!  Then, take your time going through each spot and spending as long as you like.

Tip: I do NOT recommend driving through Laurel Forest on your own. 

At the top of the mountain, we were driving through thick, white fog.  It felt very dangerous, and I would not recommend someone do this on their own! 

Check with hotel staff for help with weather conditions on particular days to ensure you plan your activities as safely as possible. 

Cabo Girao

Cabo Girao is an incredibly beautiful, scenic overlook platform just 20 minutes outside of Funchal.  It’s an amazing way to catch some views without hiking!

Standing on a glass platform nearly 2,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean is an adventure in itself, and a must-visit activity even if you only have 2 days in Madeira

Its proximity to Funchal makes it an ideal stop no matter how much time you have. 

It is one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe.  (Standing here makes me think of standing on top of the glass Skybox in one of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers). 

Time: 30 minutes ⏐ 🕑 Hours: 8:30-20:00 (Summer) or 8:30-19:00 (winter)  ⏐💲Price: Free ⏐ 

Serra de Agua: Eira do Serrado Viewpoint

Framed by rugged peaks high in the mountains, the Eira do Serrado viewpoint offers a majestic overlook of the Curral das Freiras, or the ‘Valley of the Nuns’.

This was one of my favorite viewpoints in Madeira, and that’s hard to beat because the entire island is a panoramic painting. 

This is a common stop on “Best of the West” tours.  The vibrant, purple hydrangea flowers in front of towering, green mountains make for a photo out of my wildest dreams. 

Tip: Hydrangeas are in full bloom during summer months

Time: 30 minutes ⏐ 🕑 Hours: 24 hours  ⏐💲Price: Free ⏐ 

Seixal Beach

Seixal Beach is one of the most popular black sand beaches, celebrated for its striking dark sands formed from volcanic activity that contrast sharply with the azure waters of the Atlantic.

The dramatic scenery is further complimented by the lush greenery of the surrounding cliffs, creating an almost otherworldly beauty that has become a favorite among photographers and nature lovers alike.

Not only is the beach a visual marvel, but it also offers rich, therapeutic mud baths.  I didn’t have a chance to stop here, but hopefully next time.  My most recent black sand beach experience was in Iceland). 

Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz is one of the most beautiful, natural saltwater pools I have ever experienced. 

Pools were naturally formed from hardened volcanic water and have filled with the natural waters of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean. 

For those who prefer a more relaxed experience, the many cafes and eateries dotting the promenade provide the perfect vantage point to take in the mesmerizing ocean views with a refreshing drink in hand.

Almost all Best of the West tours stopped here, but this was an experience I really wished I had rented a car here so I could have more than an hour. 

You can easily spend an entire day lounging on the beaches with unreal views, and relishing the natural swimming experience. 

There is even a hotel along the Porto Moniz boardwalk, Hotel Aqua Natura Madeira. 

You can choose from two pools at Porto Moniz: The free pool or the paid pool.

Free Pool

The free pool at Porto Moniz is stunning.  It does not have a lifeguard on duty and there may be some jagged edges.  

Paid Pool: Piscinas Naturais

Piscinas Naturais is a paid pool at Porto Moniz that offers amenities like beach lounge chairs, changing rooms, bathrooms, and a lifeguard on duty.  As of February 2024, the small entrance cost is: €1.50.

Tip: There is also an Atlantic saltwater pool in Matosinhos if you happen to find yourself in the Porto area).  

Day 3: Pico do Ariero

Yesterday was full of viewpoints, so today it’s time to hike again.  Plan to wake up early for one of the most beautiful hikes on all of the island:

Pico do Ariero is truly the experience of a lifetime! 

Perched majestically at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet into the clouds, Pico do Arieiro offers breathtaking panoramic views that are arguably the best on the island.

Embarking on a hike through this region reveals a dramatic landscape of rugged peaks and deep valleys that truly make you feel on top of the world.

Tip: Weather can be unpredictable here, so dressing in layers and being prepared for swift changes is advisable.

Day 4: Free Day

You scratched the surface of most of the top popular spots on the island, so the choice for your final day is yours.

…However, if you happened to ask me my recommendation, I would say Fanal Forest is a MUST visit. 

Tip: If you rent a car any day, I recommend it today!  This will provide you with the flexibility to experience the island on your own schedule and terms for the day.

Did you love the pools of Porto Moniz and want to head back for the day?  Go for it! 

Or how about the luxurious, resort beach town of Ponta do Sol?  Or maybe, a combination of both of these things… and more? 

East Island Tour

Hop on a tour experiencing the best of the East Island is a seamless way to spend your final day in Madeira. 

All of the activities are already organized, and you’re ready to go.  And no need to rent a car if you happen to hop on a day tour! 

Fanal Forest

Yeah, so back to this being my top priority for the final day. 

Maybe it’s because I felt like a fairy princess frolicking through a mystical forest of fog and vibrant mossy trees. 

(The ONLY other thing I have ever experienced remotely like this was Hoh Forest in Olympic National Park, Washington). 

Time: 1-2 hours ⏐ 🕑 Hours: 24 hours  ⏐💲Price: Free ⏐ Location: West Island

Levada Walks

Taking Levada walks around Madeira is by far one of the most popular things to do on the island. 

Consider taking different levada walks today, or combining them with stops like Fanal Forest. 

Valley of Nuns

Legs ready for another hike?  Honestly, mine wouldn’t be after Pico de Ariero yesterday! 

But Valley of Nuns is one of the top things on my list for a return trip to Madeira. 

The Valley of Nuns, or ‘Curral das Freiras,’ is nestled among the mountains in the heart of Madeira, offering stunning panoramic views.

Getting there is easiest by car or by taking one of the frequent tours that include it in their itinerary.

Time: Varies based on which hike you select ⏐ 🕑 Hours: 24 hours  ⏐💲Price: Free ⏐ Location: West Island

Ponta do Sol

This beach paradise town of Ponta do Sol is quite popular and, therefore quite crowded. 

Ponta do Sol offers an inviting promenade lined with local eateries and a picturesque beach perfect for sunbathing and swimming.

The clear waters and pebble-lined shore create a tranquil retreat for those looking to unwind.

For a more active experience, take advantage of the water sports available or explore the historic streets and architecture of the town.

It was the most resort-like place I visited in all of Madeira.  It’s absolutely stunning, but it was near impossible to find a parking space around 2:00pm. 

Time: Varies ⏐ 🕑 Hours: 24 hours  ⏐💲Price: Free ⏐ Location: West Island


Consider spending more time in the main city of Funchal itself! 

It’s a popular spot for free walking tours of the old town, or visiting its beloved Botanic Gardens. 

The Botanic Gardens are a horticultural haven, featuring a kaleidoscope of flora from around the world, which makes it a perfect place for nature lovers to capture beautiful photographs or simply enjoy a peaceful walk.


Madeira is an island of enchanting landscapes, ready to wear out the soles of your hiking boots and refill your soul with awe.

Whether getting lost in the fairytale mists of Fanal Forest, pacing through the levada walks, braving another leg-day in the Valley of Nuns, or lounging on the sandy shores of Ponta do Sol, you’re in for a memorable mosaic of experiences.

Consider this a challenge: wear enough sunscreen for the beach, but bring enough stamina for the mountains.

Madeira won’t just capture your imagination—it might just claim a chunk of your heart (and calves). Safe travels!

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