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Best hotels in Madeira between the city, the sea and the mountains

From surf-friendly hostels to seafront luxury resorts and nature retreats, this Portuguese island has it all

Joana Taborda
Thursday 20 April 2023 14:55 BST
A sea of banana trees surrounds the bright pink building of 1905 Zino’s Palace in Ponta do Sol
A sea of banana trees surrounds the bright pink building of 1905 Zino’s Palace in Ponta do Sol (1905 Zinos Palace Vista)

For a long time, Madeira was a getaway for retirees and cruise takers, who would stay close to shore and barely venture out of the hotel’s pool. But a series of recent events, including its safe destination label during the pandemic and the birth of a digital nomad village in Ponta do Sol, has brought a new wave of young visitors keen to explore every inch of the Portuguese island.

The long-established resorts are still around, but the hospitality offerings are rising to meet Madeira’s present audience. Whether you’re looking for that seaside holiday or want to retreat to the mountains, there is a place for it here. You could dine at a Michelin-star restaurant in Funchal, the island’s capital, or perhaps head to Porto da Cruz to experience the surf scene on a budget. And if it’s sandy beaches that you’re after, you’re best heading to the smaller island of Porto Santo.

Best spa hotel: Savoy Palace

City: Funchal

This luxury resort hosts one of the biggest spas in Portugal (Savoy Palace)

Opened in 2020, the Savoy Palace is part of Madeira’s new wave of luxury resorts. And you can see they’ve gone all out. Inside is one of the biggest spas in Portugal, with 11 treatment rooms, a sauna, jacuzzi, steam room, sensory showers and an ice fountain all under one roof. Treat yourself to the Laurea Massage and feel the island’s volcanic stones working their magic.

Those staying in a suite have free access to the spa. Others can access it when booking a treatment. If you want to splurge a little, check in at the Rooftop Presidential Suite and enjoy a midnight swim in your private indoor pool. The hotel is only a few minutes from the Rua Imperatriz Dona Amélia, an up-and-coming nightlife stretch.

Best beach hotel: Pestana Porto Santo

City: Campo de Baixo (Porto Santo)

You get the best of both worlds with direct beach access and a stunning pool (Pestana Porto Santo)

If you’re dreaming of soft sandy beaches and warm water, you’re best off heading to Porto Santo. This neighbouring island is also part of the Madeira archipelago, and it can easily be reached by ferry from Funchal (or a 25-minute flight).

With direct access to the beach, the Pestana Porto Santo is the perfect place to unpack your swimsuit. You can choose to dive in the sea or chill out at the outdoor pool. The all-inclusive resort feels like a small village with its terracotta roof buildings and lush gardens. There’s plenty to keep you busy, including three restaurants and bars, sports facilities and a spa.

Best city hotel: Three House

City: Funchal

Choose between studios and two-bedroom apartments with a fully-equipped kitchen (Three House)

With its plant-filled rooftop, brunch deals and regular DJ sessions, Three House has become a favourite spot for Madeira’s younger crowd. It’s bang in the centre of Funchal, meaning you can walk anywhere from the old town to the marina.

Guests can choose between studios and two-bedroom apartments with minimalist decor and a fully-equipped kitchen (yes, that’s a Smeg fridge). Head up to the rooftop for a swim and take in the 360º views of the sea and the mountains. Then swing by the bar for a signature cocktail or a speciality coffee to psych you up for that hike.

Best boutique hotel: 1905 Zino’s Palace

City: Ponta do Sol

The building looks straight out of a fairytale (1905 Zino's Palace Vista)

A sea of banana trees surrounds the 1905 Zino’s Palace in Ponta do Sol on the island’s south coast. The century-old building looks straight out of a fairytale with its bright pink facade and ornate roof. There are only nine rooms here, making it ideal for a romantic getaway.

You’ll have breakfast overlooking the ocean and enjoy a dip in the pool away from it all. In just five minutes, you can drive down to the village, which has recently become a hub for digital nomads. There you’ll find a small beach and a couple of lively restaurants and bars, in case you’re missing a bit of the action.

Best family hotel: Enotel Lido

City: Funchal

Parents can take advantage of the kids club and family suite (Enotel Lido)

Whether you want to unwind by the spa or show off your dance moves, the all-inclusive Enotel Lido has got you covered. Parents can take advantage of the kids club, which offers daily entertainment, including live music, thematic shows and competitions.

With a maximum capacity of eight people per room, even the biggest family can come along. All rooms feature lateral or frontal sea view, so there’s no need to fight over them. The four restaurants and bars on-site cater to every taste, and the chefs can easily whip up a special meal for babies. If you get tired of the hotel pool, there’s a rocky beach and a lido just a short walk away.

Best luxury hotel: The Cliff Bay

City: Funchal

For a truly luxurious experience, dine at the two-Michelin star restaurant (The Cliff Bay)

If you’re looking for a slice of luxury, The Cliff Bay is the place to go. From waking up in extra large beds to dining at the two-Michelin star restaurant, Il Gallo d’Oro, you’ll get pampered from morning till dawn. There is direct access to the sea, so you don’t have to leave the grounds for your afternoon dip. From the three pools and the spa, you can spy the bay of Funchal. The hotel can also organise diving and snorkelling classes in the summer.

Best budget hotel: Jaca Hostel Porto da Cruz

City: Porto da Cruz

The cosy living room makes this hostel feel warm and welcoming (Jaca Hostel Porto da Cruz)

After years of travelling around the world, Joaquina and Tomé set up this hostel so they could keep crossing paths with new people. Stepping into Jaca Porto da Cruz feels like walking into a friend’s house, with their cosy living room, scattered books and art prints.

Located in Porto da Cruz, a hotspot for the surfing crew, these guys can book you in for a lesson or rent suits and boards if you’re already a seasoned surfer. When you get tired of chasing the waves, you can hunker down on their patio and sample their famous wood-fired pizzas. There’s a mix of dorms and private rooms, some looking out to the striking Penha d’Águia rock formation.

Best hotel for foodies: Belmond Reid’s Palace

City: Funchal

Even your pets can get a gourmet meal prepared by the hotel’s chef (Belmond Reid's Palace)

Since its opening in 1891, the Reid’s has become a bit of an institution welcoming famed guests such as Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw. The superior suites are named after them and feature old-style details like embroidered bedspreads, wicker chairs and hand-painted Chinese wallpaper.

In keeping with tradition, the hotel still hosts its afternoon tea, treating you with freshly-baked scones, finger sandwiches, champagne and a 20+ tea selection. It’s a dress-up affair, so get glammed up and embrace the front row ocean views. The other on-site restaurants include the Michelin-starred William and the Italian Villa Cipriani. Even your pets can tuck into gourmet meals prepared by the hotel’s executive chef. To complete the package, there is a spa, fitness centre, heated outdoor pools and tennis courts.

Best hotel for views: Quinta do Furão

City: Santana

Located on a cliff overlooking the mountains, this hotel offers some of the best views (Quinta do Furão)

Perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean and the mountains – Quinta do Furão offers some breathtaking views. The hotel is in Santana, one of the lushest parts of the island. From here, you can access many popular hiking trails, like Levada do Caldeirão Verde or the Vereda do Pico do Ruivo, which leads onto Madeira’s highest peak.

The rooms offer a calming decor with balconies facing the gardens or the surrounding vineyards. There’s also a two-bedroom villa, ideal for longer stays. Every week they host a series of activities, from botanical tours to wine tastings and even Portuguese lessons if you want to pick up the basics. After a hike in the woods, you can retreat to the jacuzzi or grab a drink at the pub and warm up by the fire in winter.

Best adults-only hotel: Hotel Porto Santa Maria

City: Funchal

All rooms have a private balcony and the hotel bars offer regular live music (Porto Santa Maria)

Between Funchal’s waterfront and the old town, you’ll find Porto Santa Maria. This adults-only hotel gets its name from the nearby Rua de Santa Maria, one of the oldest streets in Madeira. All rooms have a private balcony, most of which face the sea and the historical fort of São Tiago.

Whether you’re inside or hanging by the pool, the two hotel bars offer regular live music gigs and refreshing cocktails. While you can take advantage of the full-board rates at the hotel restaurant, there are also plenty of dining options around the corner if you feel like changing it up. And if you’re craving a swim in the ocean, the São Tiago beach and Barreirinha lido are only a stroll away.

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