Did you know that Europe has its own Hawaï?
Yes! You heard that right! The Portuguese archipelago Madeira is often referred to as the European Hawaï and honestly, it’s not hard to see why!
The island of Madeira will leave you breathless from the moment you arrive. Through the plane window you can already admire the highest peaks peeping through the clouds and you’ll make a landing on one of the shortest landing streaks in Europe.
Madeira is the perfect place in Europe to escape the cold winter temperatures and it’s a wonderful destination year round.
First of all, Madeira is a true hiker’s paradise! There are over 450 hiking trails on this little island. That means that there’s over 3000km for you to explore. Some hikes you can do by yourself, for other ones it’s advised to hire a local guide.
But Madeira isn’t just a dream destination for adventure seekers. It’s also the perfect place for a family vacation or a romantic honeymoon. There’s a ton of fun activities for everyone and you can even go dolphin and whale watching in Funchal!
The best way to explore the island is to rent a car and to simply drive through it. Driving in Madeira isn’t for the faint of heart and highly recommend booking a car with an automatic transmission. But the drive itself is actually one of the most fun activities on the island.
Madeira is a wonderful destination to visit year round. But depending on the activities that you want to do some months will be better than others!
Go from March until October if you love hiking and you want an adventurous trip! Just be aware of July and August. During these two months it can get incredibly hot and some of the most popular and beautiful hikes provide zero coverage. You would burn to a crisp and the hikes will be all the more difficult.
During the winter the temperatures are still stable and favorable but there will be higher chances of rain.
But the two most beautiful months to visit Madeira? That’s in April and May when all of the flowers on the island are in full bloom. This is also one of the most popular times so expect hotels to fill up quickly and places to be more crowded. So if you’re keen to visit one of the world’s most beautiful gardens which is in Funchal then these two months are it for you.
Besides all of the hiking and sunbathing, Madeira is also known for swimming with whales and dolphins. If this is something that you want to tick off your bucket list then go from April to October. That’s when the highest number of mammal species are in the waters of Madeira.
Language – The main language spoken is Portuguese but you’re fine with English in the touristy places.
Currency – As a territory of Portugal, Madeira is part of the European Union. With this in mind, you might guess that the official Madeira currency is the Euro (€), and there are many ways to buy either before you leave for your holiday, or even while you’re out there.
Credit Cards & ATM’s – In Madeira debit and credit cards are widely accepted. The most commonly used credit cards are Visa, American Express and Master Card. As for ATM’s, most of the banks simply have them outside so you can take out cash during any time of the day. I did find that smaller shops up in the north only accept local cards so it’s still best to keep some cash on hand!
Safety – Madeira experiences very little crime, and what there is does not usually target visitors.e levels are very low. But still, keep your valuables close by and/or hidden, especially at night. The only real scam concern in Madeira (specifically in the capital Funchal) is the possibility of being overcharged by a taxi driver. To avoid this, always insist on using the meter, or better yet, grab an Uber.
Do your research – There’s a ton to see and do on Madeira and you’ll probably only have 1 or 2 weeks to discover the island so planning ahead is a must! Some hikes are also point to point hikes which means you either hike all the way back or you find a transportation mode at the end of the hike.
Bring your hiking boots – Please, please don’t go hiking in your sneakers! Come to Madeira prepared! Bring sturdy hiking boots that are water proof and you’ll be able to enjoy this island to the fullest!
Don’t trust the weather forecast – In Madeira there are what they call microclimates! It could be sunny in one location, then drive through one tunnel and you could end up in a the middle of a rainstorm. There’s literally no way of knowing what will happen so the best thing is to always come prepared and bring your raincoat and sunscreen!
Don’t expect sandy beaches – Madeira is not the place to go for a beach holiday. Most beaches here are pebble beaches or in Seixal you have one black sand beach.
Rent a car – Madeira is an island that’s made for an epic road trip! It’s the best way to discover the beauty of the island and this will you’ll also get to discover some of its hidden gems. When I go to Madeira I always book with SunnyCars!
Ride a cable car – There are a lot of cable cars in Madeira that will take you passed its rugged cliffs. My absolute favorite one is the Achadas da Cruz cable car near Porto Moniz.
Visit the North Coast – It might surprise you but a lot of tourists only visit the highlights on the South Coast of Madeira. But the North to me is that much more beautiful! This is truly where you’ll feel like you’re on Hawaï.
When it comes to choosing a rental car company things can get a little confusing cause there’s a lot of companies out there ready to rip you off.
Horror Story: In South Africa the rental car company that I booked with actually copied my credit card details and 1 day later my card was blocked. So there I was, in the middle of South Africa and without a credit card. Luckily we would switch to a different company the next day for the further duration of our trip but you really don’t want this to happen on your holiday.
You also don’t want any hidden costs added to your bill.
A good rental car company should include the following in your rental price: unlimited mileage and a fair fuel arrangement, third-party insurance of at least €7.5 million, damage insurance, theft insurance, towing cost if your car breaks down and cancel or change your reservation without any hassle.
For my road trips I always prefer booking with SunnyCars. Here you can already rent a car for as little as €27 per day and every single cost is included upon check out. Oh, and all of the things that I mentioned above that should be included are also included with them!
💡 TIP – Sometimes the local rental company will try to make you pay for additional insurance. This is in no way necessary cause SunnyCars offers you full coverage.
I highly recommend you to get a travel insurance before your trip cause the risks are never worth the costs. If you’re going on a more adventurous trip you can always get yourself injured! So far I have sprained my ankle in Jordan, got food poisoning in India, turned snow blind in the Dolomites and have fallen multiple times during many hikes. It’s always best to be safe than sorry in such cases and with a good travel insurance you don’t have to worry about medical bills piling up.
I personally love World Nomads, their prices are affordable, their coverage is great, and they also offer 24/7 on-call customer service! When I got super sick in India they even covered an extra night for me at the hotel that I was staying it and rearranged my flight home at no extra cost!
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