In this post, I list the best day trips from Funchal that you can do with or without a car. Mostly without. If you’ve made Funchal your base, but still want to explore as much of Madeira as possible, you’ve come to the right place. I will list day trips from Funchal you can do by bus or car and give you my personal recommendations for the best organised tours.
What can I say, Madeira is an absolutely stunning destination and has so much to offer that not only will you fall in love very quickly, but you will not want to leave! Every time I look back at some of my Madeira photos and posts, I’m overcome with overwhelming nostalgia and a desperate need to return.
Take incredible nature, mountains, waterfalls, cliffs and rocky beaches and sprinkle them with near-perfect weather, a super relaxed atmosphere, great food and the best alcoholic drink out there – you’ve got European paradise on earth
If you’re reading this post, it means you’re either on your way or already there so I guess I dont need to explain any longer.
So let’s get to the matter that brought you here.
If you’re only staying in Madeira for a week or two and don’t plan to (or simply don’t want to) rent a car, I recommend you base yourself in Funchal. From here you can easily explore the rest of Madeira by taking awesome day trips. You can reach most of Madeira by bus and most of the best day tours also depart from here.
A Tip: If you would rather visit another part of Madeira for more than just one day, stay a few nights in Machico from where you can take 2 incredible hikes and spend some time on a sandy beach. This is exactly why I spend a whole week there! If you want to chill, enjoy the sunniest part of Madeira and spend some time on the beach head for a few days to Ponta dom Sol or Ribeira Brava. For a complete guide to all the best areas to stay in Madeira’s’s head to my post over here.
Below, you will find all the awesome day trips you can do from Funchal neatly categorised for you so you can hopefully make the best decision. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Best Day Trips from Funchal
Best day trips from Funchal without the car
Monte Palace Tropical Garden
This is the easiest day trip from Funchal, for which you can spare only half a day, as it’s the closest to the city.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal is said to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. This incredible garden is located on a beautiful hill with a breathtaking view of Funchal. Be prepared, because you’ll feel like you are stepping into a fairy tale.
The Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal is more than just a garden – it’s a whole experience!
The gardens are spread over several levels with many hidden alleys, bridges and paths that reveal different botanical and architectural themes. You can admire the famous ceramic tile collection, 2 different oriental gardens, sculptures, pagodas, arches, various ponds, lakes and waterfalls – this garden is a real feast for your senses
You can spend half a day or a whole day on this excursion. You’ll not get bored.
How to get there:
You can get there by bus or cable car. On the way back, you can slide down back to Funchal in the Toboggan wicket baskets. The station from where you can catch the bus (20 or 21) is located opposite the cable car station in Funchal’s old town, so you don’t even have to make this decision until the last moment.
Miradouro Eira do Serrado
The Miradouro Eira do Serrado sits above the spectacular Nuns Valley and is one of the best day trips from Funchal. I’ve combined it with a hike down to Curral das Freiras (see below in the hikes section), but you can also easily make it a short bus trip. Why? Because the ride there is the real experience and there’s an exhilarating view waiting for you at the end.
Get on the bus in Funchal and buckle up the seatbelts (not that there are any ). The drive up there is very windy, with sheer drops and there are sharp turns, but this will not face the driver, so be ready for the experience. The view is absolutely spectacular!
The Eira Do Serrado viewpoint is at 1095m and you will feel like you are at altitude. Take a jacket or jumper with you. From there you can admire the view of the mountains and the valley of the Nuns Valley at the foot of the mountain. You can’t miss this trip!
How to get there:
There is direct bus number 81 leaving from in front of the Palácio de São Lourenço – just opposite the FX Sports Bar on Avenida do Mar.
Camara de Lobos
Camara de Lobos alongside Cabo Girao is one of the most popular day trips from Funchal and for good reason
This charming, colourful fishing town is just 9km west of Funchal and is definitely worth a visit for its relaxed atmosphere, picturesque views and plenty of photo opportunities. Camara de Lobos is best known for its stunning bay surrounded by banana plantation hills with colourful fishing boats moored on the volcanic beach. This area is surrounded by some of the highest cliffs in Europe
Very interesting, often profound and thought-provoking murals are painted on the doors and walls of Camara de Lobos houses which comes as a surprise to many first-time visitors. Definitely worth exploring.
An afternoon spent walking the streets of Camara de Lobos, topped off with a good meal and a poncha in the harbour bay, is definitely a great idea for a successful pastime.
How to get there:
You can take the green line Horários do Funchal No. 1 bus from Funchal’s seafront or Rodoeste bus No. 7. You can also walk from Funchal Lido following the promenade. The walk is about 4.5 km long and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on your pace of course.
Not experiencing the views and a bit of vertigo from Cabo Girao while in Madeira is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Cabo Girao is a famous skywalk built on top of the highest cliff in Madeira and Europe (580 metres above sea level), offering spectacular views.
The glass viewing platform is extended above the sheer drop of the cliff and on a clear day offers views of the ocean and Madeira coastline. You can also take a cable car down to the beach or walk from the lookout all the way to Camara de Lobos. This will be a great trip from Funchal.
How to get there:
Bus number 7 (Rodoeste) from Funchal stops near Cabo Girao, but you can also take a Hop On Hop Off bus or a taxi.
I actually suggest spending more than one day in Santana, but many visitors see it on a day trip from Funchal, whether on an organised tour or on their own.
Santana is best known for being Madeira’s most traditional municipality where you’ll see traditional A-frame houses with thatched roofs. The entire area has also been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in recognition of its superbly preserved biodiversity and commitment to sustainability. It’s a wild part of Madeira that for a long has been quite isolated.
The reason I recommend spending more time in Santana isn’t because you need so much time to see the village itself. The village can easily be seen in 2 hours. There are actually some really cool places to visit around Santana (like Faial or Levada do Rei) that you’d otherwise only be able to reach by car.
But if you only want to spend a day, be sure to visit the Núcleo de Casas Típicas, where all the typical houses are on display, and Rocha do Navio. Rocha do Navio is my favourite part, where you will find stunning views of the rugged coastline and the islet of Viúva, as well as a tiny cable car that takes you down to the Sítio da Rocha do Navio Nature Reserve.
How to get there:
You can take a direct bus 103 or 56 from Funchal (Teleférico Cable car bus station) to Santana. The journey takes a little over an hour.
Just like Santana, and even more so, Machico is worth visiting for a few days, but if you’re short of time, you can also make it a day trip.
Nestled at the heart of a fertile valley, Machico is a lovely seaside town that’s popular with tourists. It offers a lovely sandy beach and is a good starting point for some of the best hikes on Madeira, such as Vereda do Larano or Ponta de São Lourenço.
Machico beach also features a promenade with small restaurants, beach bars and ice cream parlours. An ideal place for an evening stroll, a meal or a drink by the beach at the end of the day.
Although Machico isn’t as lively as Funchal, there are plenty of great things to do and if you want to take a day trip from Funchal and have a proper beach day, Machico should be your choice.
How to get there:
It is extremely easy to get to Machico from Funchal. Just take the 56 or 103, but from Funchal Teleferico
Porto da Cruz
I visited Porto da Cruz at the end of my Vereda do Larano hike but you can easily visit it on a day trip from Funchal by bus.
It’s a seaside village that not many tourists stop by, which makes it even more appealing.
It’s set dramatically between Penha d’Águia (which you can climb if you’re enthusiastic enough) and the cliffs of the Vereda do Larano hike, overlooking the rocky surfers’ beach. There’s not much to do, but it’s a great little seaside town to spend a relaxing day in the sun and sample local dishes, as the restaurants in Porto da Cruz are pretty good. You’ll also find a rocky swimming complex here! Just a great place to spend a day.
Ribeira Brava can be tricky to get to yet not impossible and I have actually visited it on a daytrip. I even considered staying a couple of nights and if I had another opportunity again, I’d do just that, as the area offers spectacular hiking and good access to the beach.
But if you’re just curious person and want to visit Ribeira Brava on a day trip from Funchal, you can definitely do that.
What can you do in Ribeira Brava on a day trip?
You can just come for the day, take a walk around the town and spend the afternoon at the beach. The beach at Ribeira Brava is a combination of volcanic sand and pebbles and offers a pretty great view. If you are not a fan of pebble beaches, there is also a bathing complex where you can use the pools, showers and sunbeds free of charge.
You can of course make it a hiking trip as from here you can access the Levada do Norte as well as Levada Nova trails and for real hiking fans you can even hike to Nuns Valley or take the Real Path of Encumeada PR2 trail. The area is stunning and the village is located in the bay. So if you’re looking for hiking opportunities, peace and nature on the coast, Ribeira Brava is the place for you.
In the town itself, you can visit the Forte Ribeira Brava and the Madeira Ethnographic Museum, or just walk along the promenade and visit all the little shops and cafés. You can also take a boat or walk to Calhau da Lapa, a small oasis in Campanário, or climb the São Sebastião viewpoint.
How to get there:
There are several Rodoeste buses from Funchal to Ribeira Brava that leave from Funchal bus station, such as lines 7, 115, 107 or 8o. However, please check the timetable, because I remember spending a bit of time waiting for the bus.
Porto Moniz is best known for its incredible volcanic natural pools formed by the coastal lava rocks.
These natural swimming pools are saltwater pools created in the lava formations by the ocean. Nowadays, of course, additional platforms, stairs and sunbathing areas have been added, but there are still some parts that are 100% untouched. It’s a great experience. The water is of perfect temperature and the area is stunning – don’t miss this trip.
At the same time, Porto Moniz is the furthest out of our day trips from Funchal and hardly ever done by public transport. Having said that it’s not impossible.
If you just want to spend a few hours by the pools and see the area, a day trip from Funchal is just fine. But if you really want to explore, hike the Levada de Ribeira da Janela or visit breathtaking viewpoints, – stay a little bit longer. However, it’s recommended that this part of Madeira is best explored by car. I didnt have the opportunity to debunk this opinion. so if you did, please let me know in the comments below.
How to get there:
Rodoeaste bus nb 80 leaves Funchal at 10 am every day and arrives in Port Moniz just after 12:30 pm. The return bus leaves Porto Moniz at 4 pm, so you can spend a solid 3.5 hours at the pools. In the end, you would spend more time on the bus than in Porto Moniz, but if you don’t mind, that’s the option and the bus ride is quite spectacular as well. I believe there is also an early morning bus nb 139 that leaves just after 7 am. Personally, I opted for an organised tour. It was more convenient for me in terms of time and money because it allowed me to see some less accessible areas. This is the tour I have taken and I loved it.
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Best Hiking trips from Funchal
The visit to the Valley of Nuns (Curral das Freitas) was one of the highlights of my stay in Madeira and although it’s not a big hiking trip it’s definitely an adventure in many ways.
First you need to take a bus from Funchal to Miraduro Eira Do Serrado, which is probably one of the craziest bus rides of my life. Once you arrive, you will be greeted by an incredible view of the cloud-covered mountains and the village down below
From there you can take a walk down into Nuns Valley. The walk down to the valley takes about 45 minutes, but is quite steep and wet at times. Make sure you take comfortable shoes with good grip for that walk. Also take a jumper as you start at high altitude and it might get a bit chilly
Nuns Valley (Curral das Freitas) is a village sitting at the bottom of a vast cauldron surrounded by almost vertical mountains in the heart of Madeira Island. The village is very remote, so the inhabitants live off what they grow. The local chestnuts are delicious and are used in daily cooking. There are not a tone of things to do in the village, but it’s a sleepy and mysterious place that’s worth a visit. Be sure to try the roasted chestnuts!
You can also take a walk to the hidden river beach of Poço dos Chefes. Recommended!
If you want to make it a real hardcore hike, you can continue from there and take the Vereda Do Urzal, which gives you the possibility to join PR 1.3 Vereda da Encumeada to Pico Ruivo.
How to get there:
The best way to experience Nuns Valley by bus, is to first take bus number 81 to Eira Do Serrado and walk down into the valley. From there you can take the same bus back to Funchal.
Levada do Furado + Balcoes
You can visit Levada dos Balcoes on its own, but it’s quite a short walk, so I highly recommend combining it with Levada do Furado. It’s easily accessible by bus, very picturesque and easy trail. It’s a great walk to do at the beginning of your stay in Madeira. You will get yourself accustomed to the concept of walking Levada and experience some fantastic scenery and breathtaking viewpoints.
The Vereda dos Balcoes is a short and easy walk that follows the Levada of Serra do Faial and leads to the Balcões viewpoint, from where you have a magnificent view over the valley of the Ribeira da Metade. It’s a ‘there and back’ trail so once you return you can join the Levada do Furado on the way back.
The Levada do Furado is 11 km long, a relatively easy hike and one of the oldest Levadas belonging to the state. I followed the advice of Hit the Road Madeira and followed their tutorial video. I recommend you do the same!
How to get there:
To get to Vereda dos Balcoes, take bus number 56 from Funchal, which goes to Santana. You can get off at the Ribeira Frio stop and walk about 1.5 km there and back, or you can get off at the next stop at Bar Faisca and reach Vereda dos Balcoes from there. You can then turn onto the path marked “Ribeira Frio’ and from there either take a bus back or continue walking to Levada do Furado.
Vereda Ponte do Sao Lourenco
Vereda Ponte do Sao Lourenco walk is one of the most breathtaking hikes in Madeira and one not to be missed. This trail is located at the easternmost point of Madeira, where you walk along a long, narrow peninsula of dry, sandy land characterised by dramatic cliffs.
The special thing about this hike is definitely the breathtaking and dramatic views of the ocean combined with unusual land formations. This is a hike you should definitely do in Madeira!
How to get there:
You can get to Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenco by bus either from Machico or Funchal. There are numerous direct busses from Machico bus station. From Funchal, there is a direct bus number 113, which departs several times a day, with the earliest one leaving from Funchal Edificio 2000 bus stop at 7:30 am. You can also take a bus to Machico and change there. The bus’s last stop is Baía d’Abra, where you will be getting off.
Levada do Norte
Levada do Norte starts above Camara de Lobos in the village of Estreito De Câmara De Lobos and is one of the largest and most important in Madeira. Given it’s located in the southern part of the island, it can be done all year round. It’s a lovely walk taking you all the way to Cabo Girao and offering spectacular views over the parishes of Câmara de Lobos and Campanário.
The opinions on the difficulty of this hike are divided, but there are a few parts where the path leads next to a sheer drop; therefore, I recommend you are aware, especially if you are suffering from vertigo or fear of heights.
You can end or start the hike at Cabo Girao Skywalk, which is incredible, so you can tick a couple of to-dos from your list.
How to get there:
To get to Levada do Norte take bus 96 from Funchal to Estreito De Câmara De Lobosand and get off near Continente supermarket at Estreito De Câmara De Lobos main square.
If you start your journey at Cabo Girao, take bus number 7, which goes to Ribeira Brava. Check before the journey as not all buses to Ribeira Brava will stop at Cabo Girao.
Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
Although not accessible by bus, the Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is the most famous hike in Madeira and I just couldn’t leave it out.
I did it 2 days before I left Madeira and until the last minute, I wasn’t sure if this would happen. Originally I only planned to take a taxi to the Arieiro, walk a bit and come back the same way, as I hadn’t had plans on how to get back to Funchal from Pico Ruivo. But once I got there and started walking, I just couldn’t stop myself and walked the whole way.
It’s a challenging, long and extremely rewarding hike. But I had some issues returning so plan your trip thoroughly
If you want to do the Pico to Pico, there are 3 ways of going about it.
- Take an organised tour that takes care of your transportation.
- Arrange taxis. Please note that both Uber and Bolt don’t work well if at all on the north, so be sure to take the driver’s phone number with you. If you decide to book a taxi, you can either start in Arieiro and end at Ruivo or the other way around.
- You can also do ‘there and back’ (start and finish at Pico Aireiro), but be aware that it is a strenuous and long hike so start early and be prepared physically.
- Arrange a private shuttle transfer, for example with Pico Transfers. However, they have specific pickup times, so you need to make sure you finish the hike on time. This is exactly why I opted for a taxi. I’m a slow hiker and take a lot of photos, so I didn’t want to stress about missing my pickup.
- You can also stay the night at Casa de Abrigo do Pico Ruivo on Pico Ruivo, which I think is a pretty spectacular idea
Neither option is very affordable and I spent more money than anticipated on this adventure, but it was very much worth it.
Off the beaten path day trips from Funchal only accessible by car
If you decide to rent a car – the world is your oyster and you can make day trips from Funchal to any part of Madeira. So I’ve decided to give you a few ideas for totally off the beaten track spots that most travellers don’t go to, so you can take advantage of the fact that you have a car. Here are just a few of them:
- Jardim Do Mar – some say it’s the prettiest village in Madeira. It’s also a well-known surf spot, offering some wild waves. It’s a very charming village where you can also take a little walk by the seafront.
- Achada Da Cruz – most guidebooks don’t mention Achada Da Cruz, although this place is spectacular. Make your way to the Achada Da Cruz cable car and take a ride down to the beach. You will be amazed at how beautiful yet secluded this place is.
- Miraduro Garganta Funda – one of Madeira’s highest waterfalls located in the middle of a huge hole in the ground. Spectacular! Visit it during the rainy season so that the waterfall isn’t dried out.
- Ponta do Pargo – if yo are anything like me and can’t live without a good sunset, Ponta do Pargo has to be on your list. Ponta do Pargo is the westernmost point of Madeira. Not only will you experience one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life, but you’ll also feel like you’ve arrived at the end of the world. There is also a really good hike in this area and you can combine the visit with Achadas da Cruz- make sure you reserve a day for this trip.
- Ribeira da Janela offers views that will take your breath away. A little staircase will take you to the pebble beach where the wild ocean crashes against the sea stacks like from a fantasy movie. Go and see it! Near the car park, There is also a great bar serving the best poncha I had in Madeira! From there you can go ahead and visit Porto Moniz.
Best Madeira tours from Funchal
You are probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned some of the iconic trips like the Levada Caldeirão Verde or the Fanal Forest. It’s because you wouldn’t be able to see these places without a car while staying in Funchal. But don’t worry, I have you covered. Below I have listed the best organised tours from Funchal that will take you to all the spots that cannot be missed.
Here is the list of the best tours from Funchal:
Old Forest Jeep Tour – For the east part of Madeira, you can take a tour combining Pico Airiero, Santana and Ponta de São Lourenço. It’s a fun safari-style tour in a 4×4 jeep especially recommended if you are short on time and dont want to waste it on bus journeys. You will have enough time for a small walk and a swim (weather permitting).
Porto Moniz Enchanted Terraces – Take this tour to spectacular Madeira’s northwest coast to see the incredible Fanal forest, Porto Moniz, São Vicente and more! My favourite tour! It’s a full-day tour of Madeira’s North West Coast in a 4×4 jeep from Funchal.
You can take a Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo tour which will take care of all the transportation and provide a certified mountain guide. It’s a serious hike and you will be in a group so be sure that you are fit enough to keep up.
This incredible Sunrise Trip to Pico Arieiro will take your breath away. Much easier than the previous option and with plenty of time for photos. After the Arieiro sunrise, you will have the opportunity to walk a short Levada of Balcoes de Ribeiro Frio.
You can also take a tour and walk some of the most popular and beautiful levadas in Madeira like Levada das 25 Fontes or Caldeirão Verde. Those are very popular and easy walks – great for beginners but also for those craving some spectacular waterfalls!
If you like a bit of adventure you should definitely try a Canyoning Experience Tour. You will receive a thorough safety briefing before strapping into the provided gear and diving into the 15-meter canyon. Perfect for all ages and beginner skill levels.
If you haven’t had enough adventure after canyoning, join a Scuba Diving Experience Tour. You’ll be instructed in the art of scuba diving by an experienced diving instructor, get comfortable with the practice during test dives in the swimming pool and finally discover the depths of the sea during a 45-minute dive.
One of the highest-rated and most popular tours in Madeira is a Dolphin and Whale Watching Boat Trip. You will observe whales in a Sustainable way causing minimal impact on animals. There will be a marine biologist on board and will have an unforgettable experience watching those beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
Finally, time to relax. You can take this Skywalk & Professional Wine Tasting tour and visit the Cabo Girao viewpoint and then enjoy the finest Madeira wine.
That’s it my friends! I hope this post about the best trips from Funchal inspired you to go out there and see the beautiful Madeira. Not having a car isn’t an excuse anymore!
Please let me know if you think I have missed some awesome trips and if you did any of them, I will be looking forward to hearing about your experience!
Until then happy travelling and stay free!
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For more travel tips and recourses, visit Pati’s Travel Tips page!