The ‘Golden Island’ of Porto Santo is the perfect choice for a 2019 / 2020 paradise island getaway. Located 40 kilometres north of Madeira, this tiny, undisturbed island is serene yet bursting with culture, making a Porto Santo holiday the perfect choice whatever your mood. Unbroken golden sands stretch over 9 kilometres along the south coast, while to the north, the mountainous rock faces and cliffs are a sight to behold. The town of Vila Baleira, with its whitewashed houses, cobbled streets, and a quiet main square, is perfect for basking in classical Portuguese culture. For a more modern vibe, the complex of bars and clubs along the port attracts the younger crowd from Funchal with its vibrant nightlife. Vila Baleira is also home to local craft stalls, and a delightful array of Portuguese cuisines.
A short walk inland takes you to the Tanque pond, a popular destination with nature-lovers due to its spectacular bird population. Porto Santo’s unique geography also provides many opportunities for hikes and nature trails, as well as snorkelling and scuba diving off the coast. The Christopher Columbus Museum is a must-visit for those interested in the island’s history.
A holiday to Porto Santo is an opportunity to explore the island’s geographical wonders, discover classical Portuguese culture, laze on the beach, and get active. In Vila Baleira alone, there is a vibrant nightlife of clubs and bars by the port, a sleepy town square, boutique shopping, local crafts, and a selection of pavement cafes and restaurants. The cobbled Rua Joao Goncalves Zarco, just off the main square, is home to chic boutiques, and for artisanal crafts, you can’t beat the Centro de Artesanato near the pier, where you can find wickerwork, palm-weaved dolls, and handmade clay figurines. At the Christopher Columbus museum, located in the house where Columbus supposedly lived after marrying the daughter of the founder of Porto Santo, you can view historical paraphernalia associated with the famed explorer.
To the west, the Quinta das Palmeiras is home to a mini botanical garden and bird-park, complete with swans, doves and parrots. This area of the island is also home to Porto Santo’s own 18-hole golf course and club. To the east lie the island’s highest peaks, Pico do Facho and Pico do Castella, home to breath-taking views, a panorama terrace and picnic spot. A Porto Santo holiday also offers scuba-diving and water sports, horse-riding, and a variety of relaxing spa experiences.
The gastronomic culture of the island centres around Vila Baleira, where you can enjoy a range of pavement cafes, beachside restaurants and bars which serve anything from light snacks to traditional Portuguese fare, a wealth of seafood options, and piri-piri chicken. The Pé na Água is a popular choice for snacks, drinks and seafood, with tables right on the beach. For giant pots of homey seafood stew, there is the Mar e Sol, also located on the beach. A little further out, the Estrela do Norte, in the village of Camacha, serves a famous spicy chicken piri-piri. For the more adventurous eaters, the Quinta do Serrado offers curios like stewed goat and grilled octopus in a cosy setting with an open fire.
Just off the main square in Vila Baleira, Cine Café Porto Santo is an artsy café and bar, and Tia Maria’s palm umbrellas on the sand are perfect for a beachside drink. For a livelier drinking spot, the O Penedo do Sono complex houses a multitude of clubs and bars.
There is a wealth of activities and fun things for families to get stuck into with a Porto Santo holiday, and the size of the island means that you can pack a lot in to just a few days. Kids will love the dramatic scenery of an island hike, or a boat trip around the coast. The Centro Hipico do Porto Santo organises horse-treks, and families can take advantage of their beginner horse-riding lessons. For active families there are also a number of water sports, fishing opportunities, diving schools, and surfing opportunities. Of course, there is also the unparalleled stretch of beach for parents to relax and kids to play in the sand and temperate waters.
Action & Adventure
The unique geographical landscape of Porto Santo is perfect for more adventurous holidays. Just off the shore lies the famous Madeirense wreck. The perfect location for a spot of scuba-diving or snorkelling, this location allows you to swim with the vast array of marine life around the island. Above water, there are opportunities for water-skiing, jet-skiing, or wind-surfing.
The mountainous northern regions are the perfect place for a hike with stunning views, and a walk up Pico de Ana Ferreira rewards hikers with a captivating view of pentagonal rock columns, formed by volcanic activity a few million years ago. To the west there is also an 18-hole golf course, punctuated by lakes in the south and high cliff-tops in the north, for those hankering for a more demanding game of golf. With all of this, and more, a Porto Santo holiday is perfect for action and adventure.
The stunning 9 kilometres of unbroken golden sands are the top attraction for a Porto Santo holiday. Stretching from Vila Baleira to Ponta de Calheta, there is ample room for beachgoers and sunbathers, meaning there will always be a secluded spot of beach just for you. The beach is also what gives the island its edge over neighbouring Madeira, which lacks this sandy stretch. The nearby gulf-stream warms the waters, and the sands are said to have healing properties. This gorgeous coastal feature is left largely to its own devices, making it perfect for sunbathing, swimming, relaxing, or walking, without worrying about too much human activity.
In the summer months, the portside O Penedo do Sono complex is the ideal spot for those seeking a vibrant nightlife. The bars and clubs stand shoulder to shoulder along the waterfront, making it easy to hop from one to the other. Clubs like Challenger have resident DJs and great music, including Latin, techno and dance. Alternatively, join the crowd from Funchal at beach bars like Tia Maria, which make great venues to laze on the beach by day and party under the starlit night sky.
With over 9 kilometres of golden sand and warm waters, Porto Santo beach is the perfect place for a private, romantic sunset walk. Or for taking in the sights, there are at least three different island walks that couples can take advantage of. The town of Vila Baleria is awash with cobbled streets and sleepy whitewashed houses that provide the perfect romantic setting for a leisurely ramble or enjoying a cocktail at one of the many pavement bars and cafes. Couples can also treat themselves to seawater therapies at the Thalassotherapy Centre spa, and the Pestana Ilha Dourada Hotel & Villas is rated one of the best for couples Porto Santo holidays.
The island of Porto Santo has only recently become an attractive getaway for holidaymakers, and as such, has remained relatively untouched. The town of Vila Baleira in particular is a hub of classical Portuguese culture, with myriad museums, festivals, and galleries. The Christopher Columbus museum is a perfect introduction to the history of the island, and the Cardina Museum contains artefacts from the island’s past, and models of artisans’ implements. The annual São João festival is full of colour and life, with costumed parades, brass bands and balloons, and the procession ends on the beach in front of a huge bonfire. There is also a wine festival at the end of August, with grape-stomping and wine-tasting, and the Columbus festival in September, which includes a parade, fair, open market, and a variety of cultural events. On this island steeped in culture, there is always something to make a Porto Santo holiday an experience to treasure.