Though located just over three hundred miles from the African coast, Madeira is, in every which way, a part of Europe.
A part of Portugal since its rediscovery in the early fifteenth century by the Portuguese sailors, Madeira has become a hot European holiday destination. With great weather all round the year Madeira has several attractions to boast of. Madeira isn’t a beach paradise the way popularly imagined. The regular sandy beaches that dot the French Riviera and other popular European seaside resorts are rare here. But the black volcanic sand and the pebbled beaches of Madeira have their own beauty. The beaches here are extremely popular with bathers, mostly because of the warm and sparkling water. The top five beaches of Madeira all have their own individuality.
1. Porto Santo
Porto Santo is the jewel in the crown of the Madeira coast. Though divided into several small beaches, the nine kilometers of golden sand ending in silver water, seems like one never ending stretch. Snack bars, shades and showers make a day long trip to the beach not seem too long. The sand here is more than just beautiful. Its therapeutic property helps alleviate rheumatic pains and also helps fractures heal faster.
2. Ribeira Brava
Ribeira Brava is a must see for a diametrically different kind of beach. The sand here is black. Warm waters invite those who love a dip in the ocean. A jetty juts a good way into the water and creates an area that is protected from huge waves- a perfect spot for swimming.
Calheta is a manmade beach with sand imported mainly from Morocco though some of it is indigenous to mainland Portugal. Situated on Madeira’s south western shores Calheta is the only real stretch of golden sand, even if not natural, in the main Madeira Island. The beach also offers a lot for those interested in nautical activities like windsurfing and canoing.
Praia Formosa is located in Funchal, the capital of the autonomous region of Maderia. Sandy beaches are comparatively small but there is a large pebble beach here. A walk on the warm rocks is fun but just a little bit dangerous. Around the beach is a vibrant nightlife scene which makes the beach attractive on either side- the water on one and the clubs and restaurants on the other. The beach also offers several sports activities and has a sports practice area too. The Praia Formosa beach is probably one of the few beaches in the world that also has a kindergarten for children between the ages of two and twelve.
5. Jardim do Mar
Jardim do Mar translates into ‘a garden by the sea’ and the name could not have been more apt. The little town sitting on a plateau has quickly gained in popularity. Its three main beaches are the Ponta Jardim, Portinho and the Enseada. Due to the International Surf Competition held here these beaches have become a surfer’s paradise.
The top five beaches of Madeira are only a glimpse into the extensive natural beauty of the place.
Photo of Porto Santo beach, Portugal, by neha.manoka