Home Destinations 20 TOP Things to do in Porto Santo Island // A Perfect Day Trip from Madeira

20 TOP Things to do in Porto Santo Island // A Perfect Day Trip from Madeira

From things to do in Porto Santo, to how to get to and around the island and where to stay, this guide shares everything you need to know

by Michele
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Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Ilheu Da Cal
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A trip to Madeira wouldn’t be the same if you ignore the alluring charms of Porto Santo. Ferries and planes head here from Funchal every day,  giving you the chance to experience this paradise island.

Porto Santo is the only other inhabited island in the Madeira archipelago. The tiny Porto Santo island lies 27 miles (43 km) northeast of Madeira island. Its star attraction is a 5.6-mile (9 km) strip of golden sands that stretch the length of Porto Santo. But it’s far more than a beach paradise. With a volcanic landscape and distinct heritage, there are plenty of wonderful things to do in Porto Santo.

Visitors to Madeira often squeeze Porto Santo into a day trip. But one day is not enough, and I think you might regret leaving this tropical idyll too soon. Aside from topping up your tan and swimming in the clear turquoise waters, there are plenty of things to do in Porto Santo.  

In this guide, I also share how to get to and around Porto Santo, the best time to visit the island and my top 3 accommodation picks if a day trip turns into an overnight stay or multi-day trip.

Porto Santo Island

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Ilheu da Cal Isola from the beachUnder 7 miles (11 km) long, Porto Santo island is a tiny glimmering jewel in the Atlantic. A true island paradise that rewards both energetic explorers and tourists seeking a laidback beach holiday.

Flatter and less rugged than Madeira Island, you can walk from one end to the other in just a few hours. Yet all the recognizable hallmarks of the remote archipelago are present: glorious, panoramic miradouros; volcanic landscapes of rocky peaks and hidden coves; intriguing cultural diversions; laidback bars and restaurants oozing Madeiran character.

The island was claimed by Portuguese navigators in 1418, and the first settlers arrived shortly after. Today, the island supports a tiny population of just over 5,000 permanent residents.

There is a single town of note, Vila Baleira, and a smattering of hamlets on the island. But with regular connections to Madeira, tourism has taken off and now dominates the island economy. Restaurants and hotels abound, and the island bursts with life during the vacation season.

Easy to explore, Porto Santo distills much of what makes the Madeiran Archipelago so magical. To truly enjoy the best of Porto Santo, I’d recommend spending a few nights on the island. That’s enough time to check off all the top attractions and soak up the mellow island vibes.

With that in mind, here are my pick of things to do in Porto Santo no matter how long you spend on the island.

Things to do in and around Vila Baleira

Vila Baleira is the only town in Porto Santo. As such, life for residents and tourists revolves around the small but thriving urban center. It’s a serene town of low-rise buildings, beachside gardens, and a commercial center at the heart of everything. Bars, restaurants, supermarkets, and rental shops are all found in the pocket-sized town.

Ferries arrive at the port just outside the town. And while it is possible to fly to Porto Santo and skip around Vila Baleira, the town inevitably draws visitors to its charming streets. Everywhere in Porto Santo is easy to reach from Vila Baleira, and there are things to do in every corner of the island.

For me, the Island’s magic lies in the surprising variety of things to do in such a small space. Hikers, nature lovers, beach lovers, and tranquillity seekers can find something of interest. Before looking at other things to do in Porto Santo, here’s what to visit in Vila Baleira.

1. Visit the Museu Casa Colombo (Christopher Columbus House Museum)

 The Museu Casa Colombo is housed in a home Christopher Columbus briefly lived in. The illustrious explorer spent time on the island after marrying the Governor’s daughter. It is widely believed his son, Diego, was born there. 

Columbus’s time in the Madeiran archipelago was well spent. He reputedly studied Atlantic currents, preparing for his world-changing Transatlantic voyage in 1492.

The tiny museum is not brimming with original artefacts, and the exhibition is pretty dry. But the shadow of history is tangible, and there are a few nuggets of historical interest, especially about Columbus’s time in Porto Santo.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in Columbus’s time on the island, aim to visit during the Christopher Columbus Festival. The animated event lights up Vila Baleira for several days every September. You can find out more about all the festivals in Porto Santo later in this guide.  

Where: Travessa Sacrestia 2, Via Vila Baleira.

How to get there:

  • By foot: Sits right in the heart of Vila Baleira, off R. João Gonçalves Zarco. Walkable from anywhere in the town, and about 40 minutes from the port.
  • By bike: readily accessible and just a few minutes ride from any point in Vila Baleira.
  • By car or scooter: Roadside parking near the museum.

Opening hours: 

  • Tuesday to Saturday: 10am – 12.30 pm and 2 pm to 5.30 pm (7 pm in summer)
  • Sunday: 10am to 1pm
  • Closed on Mondays and public holidays.


  •       Standard – €2.00
  •       Seniors – €1.00
  •       Youth Card – €1.00
  •       Groups (+ 6 people) – €1.50 (p/person)

2. Discover a darker side to paradise on the Porto Santo Pirates and Corsairs Tour

Porto Santo was an outlaw haven and target of pirates during The Golden Age of Piracy (the 1650s to 1730s.) The tiny island didn’t even appear on maps before the 15th century, and this tour peels away the layered history of the tumultuous early history of the island. 

Picked up from your hotel, Nuno and his friendly dog whisk you around the island’s historical highlights in three hours. Stops include the 15th-century fortress on Pico Castelo and a journey through sinister periods in the island’s history.  

Check availability and book your tour here

3. Lazy days on the spellbinding Praia do Porto Santo

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Praia do Porto SantoThere is just one beach in Porto Santo, and it is a beauty. At 5.6 miles (9 km) long, the golden sands lapped by clear waters are a tropical idyll. It is unlike any of the beaches on Madeira island and has a galactic pull for visitors to the archipelago.

The beach is easily accessible from Vila Baleira, where some of the best bathing spots are found. But as the beach stretches from tip to tip of the island, several sections are considered individual beaches.

There are parasols and loungers for hire in popular sections, but also long stretches without any facilities. It’s easy to find a quiet spot, even in the height of summer.

Dotted along the beach are bars and restaurants, and sunset walks along the sands are dreamy. It may not be the only thing to do in Porto Santo, but it’s unquestionably the headline attraction.

4. See the Windmills at Miradouro da Portela no Porto Santo (Moinhos de Vento de Porto Santo)

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - WindmillFor dramatic island views close to Vila Baleira, head to Miradouro da Portela no Porto Santo. The viewpoint affords stunning views over the town and along the coastline to Ilheu Da Cal. It’s also readily accessible from the main town, which probably explains why it is one of the busiest viewpoints.

Adding to the charm are several cute windmills near the viewpoint, the Moinhos de Vento de Porto Santo. The quaint windmills are still working. And judging by how windy it was, I’d guess they work well.  Made of wood and painted white with red roofs, they add color to the dramatic and beautiful landscape.

Where: Northeast of Vila Baleira. 1.6 (2.6 km) miles along the ER 233.

How to get there:

  • By foot: A 45-minute walk from the center of Vila Baleira.
  • By Bike: Uphill takes about 25 minutes cycling. Coming back is less than 20 minutes.
  • By car or scooter: A 5-minute drive from Vila Baleira. Free parking.

When to visit: A busy spot when coach tours are heading in and out of Vail Baleria. Sunrise views are outstanding.
Opening hours:  None.
Price: Free. 

5. Visit Quinta Das Palmeiras Mini-Zoo Botânico

Quinta Das Palmeiras is a green oasis in the dry expanse of central Porto Santo. A blooming botanical garden blooms and a thriving aviary awaits visitors.  The rustic space is home to several native birds and other tropical species. Most remarkable is a walk through the lush garden, which seems so out of place in the harsh landscape.

It’s a small and unsophisticated zoo, but the birds seem cheerful. Happily, there are toilets and a cafeteria on site. Overall, this little botanical marvel is a short but stimulating diversion.

Where: Est. das Pedras Vermelhas, 9400-235 Porto Santo.  2.7 miles (4.4 km) northwest of Vila Baleira center.

How to get there:

  • By foot: Allow an hour for an uphill walk from Vila Baleira. It’s downhill on the way back, so a lot quicker.
  • By Bike: 25-30-minute uphill ride from Vila Baleira (follow the route for cars.) 15-minutes downhill for the return journey.   
  • By car or scooter: 10-minute drive along the ER 111 and Est. das Pedras Vermelhas. Free parking on site. 

Opening hours:

  • Monday – Saturday: 10am to 5pm
  • Sundays: 10am to 1 pm / 3pm to 5pm 

Price: €3 for adults. Children go free.

6. Walk along Ponta do Passo

Ponta do Passo is a delightful walk along cliffs and through a windy tunnel carved through the soft cliff face to open up a peninsula. The route stretches south of Porto dos Frades beach to the port in Vila Baleira.

If your time on the island is limited, it’s a worthy introduction to Porto Santo, easily reached from the port. Crossing volcanic cliffs bordered by a golden coastline, the views stretch beyond the horizon. Head from Vila Baleira and you reach Porto dos Frades beach, a wonderful place to cool off with a swim (especially in the natural pools nearby.)  

Where: East of Porto do Porto Santo. South of Porto dos Frades beach.

How to get there: Start at Porto dos Frades beach.

  • By foot: Head south from Porto dos Frades beach in one direction, or north around the coastline if coming from Vila Baleira.  
  • By Bike: Reach Porto dos Frades beach in 45 minutes bike ride from Vila Baleira (3.3 miles, 5.3 km.)
  • By car or scooter: 10 minutes from Vila Baleira, along the ER 233.

When to visit: Anytime.
Opening hours:  None.
Price: Free.

Eastern Porto Santo

East of Vila Baleira is typical Madeiran archipelago terrain. It is where you’ll find the most distinctive peaks, best hikes, and some stunning viewpoints.

There are plenty of surprises littered around the volcanic landscape, which is far more rugged than the opposing side of the island. With some of the most exciting things to do in Porto Santo, it is worth setting time aside to discover them all.

7. Climb Miradouro do Pico Castelo, the island’s distinctive volcano-shaped peak

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Porto Santo coastlinePorto Santo lacks the towering contours of Madeira island, but it’s evidently shaped by the same elemental forces. There are several panoramic peaks, but none as singular as the short, volcano-shaped Pico Castelo.  

The viewpoint on Pico Castelo is worth every step up the 1,434 ft (437 m) to the top. The peak looms large in the skyline around Vila Baleira, and at the summit, you gain views over the town and across the island. Covered in cypress trees, the peak’s distinctively volcanic contours are a moderate but rewarding trek.

Pico Castelo means Castle Peak, and a ruined 16th-century fort, complete with canon, adds to the experience. There are also tables for a picnic with majestic views.

Where: Centrally located, 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Vila Baleira.

How to get there:

  • By foot: Reach the base of Pico Castelo in about 1 hr 15 mins.
  • By bike: Uphill all the way, so it takes about 40 minutes from Vila Baleira. It is far quicker coming back!
  • By car or scooter: 10-15 minutes from Vila Baleira. Free parking at the base, where the footpath begins.

When to visit: Anytime is a good time to enjoy the views. The designated path and picnic tables offer shade, so there’s rarely a wrong time to visit.

Opening hours:  None.
Price: Free.

8. Porto das Salemas

The natural pools that appear during low tides at Porto das Salemas are the main reason to visit this difficult-to-reach cove. They are sublime, but only if you time your visit around the tides. The pools that appear when the ocean recedes are seductively pretty. They are big enough to float in, and with the cliffs providing a dramatic backdrop, it’s an other-worldly feeling to dip in the pools.

You may even find yourself alone on the isolated beach, not least because the path down is steep. Be prepared for a lung-bursting hike back up the cliffs.

Where: Directly north of Vila Baleira (2.7 miles, 4.4 km) a, near Camacha.

How to get there:

  • By foot: About an hour walking from Vila Baleira.
  • By bike: A 20-25 min ride from Vila Baleira, with a slight incline.
  • By car or scooter: 10-minute drive from Vila Baleira. Parking at the clifftop.

When to visit: Whenever the tide is out for viewing the rockpools. Check tides times. 

Opening hours:  None.
Price: Free.

9. Visit the Fenda da Dona Beja cove

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Greta da D. Beja - Ribeiro dos Burros - Porto dos FradesTucked away between cliffs, this gorgeous cove is the closest thing to a hidden gem in Porto Santo. It’s well off the beaten path, with no signposts and just a few adventurous travelers who seem to know about it. The payoff for making the effort is one of the most gorgeous beaches on the island.

Nestled amongst sand-blasted white cliffs, this is another inlet that should be visited when the tide is low. Only then is it possible to see the rockpools and explore the crevices that make this beach so remarkable.  

Finding the route down can be tricky, but it is just a short trek north of Porto de Frades beach. A route that also takes you past the Piscinas Naturais do Porto dos Frades, our next destination.

Where: A short distance northeast of Porto dos Frades beach (southeast Porto Santo.) 3.3 miles (5.3 km) from Vila Baleira.

How to get there:

  • By foot: Head along the path north of the car park at Porto dos Frades beach. The route is off track and without signposts. Fenda da Dona Bejais reached via a slender pathway with eye-catching rockfall warnings.
  • By bike: 3.3 miles (5.3 km) from Vila Baleira to Porto dos Frades beach
  • By car or scooter: 10 minutes via the ER 233 eastbound. Free parking at Porto dos Frades beach.
  • When to visit: Low tides are essential to enjoy the beach safely.

Opening hours: None.
Price: Free.

10. Swim in the Piscinas Naturais do Porto dos Frades

Another persuasive reason to strike north from Porto dos Frades beach is to visit the breathtaking natural pools nearby. It’s a short walk from the pristine sands of Porto dos Frades, but the bathing is something else.  

The pool has a rugged beauty. But nothing beats floating around in the crystal clear and sheltered waters. The pools teem with marine life. Take a snorkel if you can, or join one of the guided tours of this marine sanctuary.  

This area of the island hides some of the most amazing oceanside destinations, yet the natural pools are the star. On an island gifted with natural beauty, they stand out as one of the most unforgettable things to do in Porto Santo.

Where: Near Porto dos Frades beach (southeast Porto Santo.) 3.3 miles (5.3 km) from Vila Baleira.

How to get there:

  • By foot: Just minutes northeast of Porto dos Frades beach.
  • By bike: 3.3 miles (5.3 km) from Vila Baleira to Porto dos Frades beach.
  • By car or scooter: 10 minutes via the ER 233 eastbound. Free parking at Porto dos Frades beach.

When to visit: Anytime, just don’t forget your swimming gear (and snorkel.)  
Opening hours:  None.
Price: Free.

11. Join this Porto Santo snorkelling tour

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Ilheu de Baixo

Few things to do in Porto Santo are as magical as snorkeling the crystal-clear waters of the natural rock pools at Porto dos Frades. If you don’t have the equipment or would appreciate the support of a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide, this tour is the answer. Led by one of the island’s favorite underwater tour guides, Matias, the calm waters are suited to all levels of snorkeling experience. 

All the necessary equipment is provided to just dive in. With some helpful pointers, you’ll search for (and usually find) octopi, starfish, and other colorful marine life that appear to welcome the attention.  This 3-hour tour includes transportation, snacks, and a chance to truly explore the natural wonders of the Piscinas Naturais do Porto dos Frades.

Check availability and book your tour here

 12. Go night snorkeling in the Piscinas Naturais do Porto dos Frades

Daytime snorkelling amongst the thriving marine life in the natural pools of Porto dos Frades is fantastic. But there’s another universe to discover at night.  Taking snorkelling to the next level, you can join the dependable Matias on a moonlight (and torchlit) dip under the waves. It’s yet another compelling reason to spend at least one night on the island.  

The tour is only available during nocturnal low tides. If you’re flexible with timing, you can discover a new world under the Atlantic waves. You’re supplied with all the equipment you need. Then, led by a guide who knows the waters better than anybody, you plunge into the shadows to seek out moray eels, octopus, colorful shrimps, and other marine creatures of the night. This is one of the top-rated tours in Porto Santo, and with good reason.

Check availability and book your tour here

13. See the Casa da Serra

This fascinating diversion sits just off the ER 111 highway and offers a rare glimpse into how islanders once lived. It’s a traditional Porto Santo house frozen in an agrarian age before tourism exploded on the island. And is now one of the essential stops for coach tours!

A collection of farming tools and elderly equipment are exhibited. Which may sound dry, but is surprisingly absorbing. A window on a bygone world, the museum is arranged like a still inhabited home, chock-full of intriguing nuggets that paint a romantic and revealing portrait of old Porto Santo.

It’s also a good place to load up on gifts and souvenirs, with local gourmet goodies sold in the small shop. Passionfruit liqueur and honey cake are both delicious. Friendly staff and a chance to try local wines and biscuits cap the experience.

Where: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northeast of Vila Baleira, just off the ER 111 highway.

How to get there:

  • By foot: About 1 hr 20 mins walk from Vila Baleira. No steep inclines to navigate.
  • By bike: 40 minutes from Vila Baleira.
  • By car or scooter: 10-minute drive from the main town. Free parking on site.

When to visit: Opening hours are limited. See below.

Opening hours: 

  • Monday – Friday: 10:15 – 13:15 / 15:15 – 18:15
  • Saturday: 10:15 – 13:15
  • Sunday: 11:00 – 13:00

Price: Free. But with a shop filled with tempting local products.   

14. PS PR1 Vereda Pico Branco and Terra Chã (Hike)

There are three fully signposted verada (hiking routes) on Porto Santo, and many more undesignated trails. The three leading trails are all in the rugged northeast, where they loop in the island’s peaks and panoramic coastline.

The first hike, PS PR1, begins directly off the island’s main artery, the ER111. Easily accessible, it’s an undemanding hike through a rocky landscape covered in cypress trees. There are some steep inclines but a short total distance.

The route meanders 1.7 miles (2.7 km) through rugged terrain. The focal point is Pico Branco (White Peak), where the views stretch across the island. The endpoint is Terra Chã, a spot with unbroken ocean views. You can also view a small cave, once used as a hideaway by outlaws and pirate-shy residents.

The trail takes about 1.5 hours to walk in one direction. Elevated to nearly 1,500 feet (450 m) at points, it is a balanced walk of volcanic formations and ocean views — dual landscapes that typify the Madeiran experience.   

Where: Northeast of Vila Baleira. Join the trail where ER 111 meets ER 120. 

How to get there:

  • By foot: 4.3 miles (7 km) from Vila Baleira, just to reach the start. Easier to take two or four wheels.  
  • By bike: A moderate 1-hour bike ride from Vila Baleira (to the start of the hike.)
  • By car or scooter: 15 minutes along the ER 111 northeast from Vila Baleira.

When to visit: The route is well shaded but often exposed to the sun. Mornings and evenings are best, especially mornings when the sun rises in the east.

Opening hours: None.
Price: Free.

15. PS PR2 Vereda do Pico Castelo (Hike)

A compelling alternative hike is the PS PR2, which starts just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from the PS PR1. This route stays inland, heading south towards the miradouro on Pico Castelo in the heights above Vila Baleira. It’s the longest trail on Porto Santo and ideal for exploring the natural features of the island’s interior. 

The route is a treat for nature lovers. Passing Pico do Facho, there are exotic plants and wooded spots along the trail. You can spot native birds, and there are numerous waypoints with sweeping views.

The 2.9 miles (4.6 km) extended trail ascends just 689 ft (210 m) and is a moderate 2-2.5 hour hike. A shorter route covers just 2 miles (3.2 km). Both paths end at Canhão Belvedere, with unbeatable views over Vila Baleira.

Where: North of Vila Baleira. You can join the start from the ER 111 or from Pico Castelo. The hike ends at Miradouro do Canhão above Vila Baleira.

How to get there:

  • By foot:  The official start of the hike is 3.2 miles (5.1 km) from Vila Baleira but involves following the busy ER 111 road. You can also head directly to Pico Castelo, a pleasant 1-hour walk (1.9 miles, 3.1 km) from Vila Baleira.
  • By bike: The uphill bike ride from Vila Baleria takes about 40 minutes. Downhill on the way back, and far quicker.
  • By car or scooter: There is free parking at both the start and Pico Castelo. The route starts just a 10-minute drive out of the island’s capital.

When to visit: Cooler mornings and evenings are ideal.
Opening hours:  None.
Price: Free.

Western Porto Santo

West of Vila Baleira, the landscape is less rugged. The gentler terrain is home to beautiful beaches and some of the most striking views on the island. Not to mention a handful of attractions that qualify as some of the top things to do in Porto Santo.

 16. Marvel at the unusual pentagonal rock columns at Pico de Ana Ferreira

The peaks of Porto Santo are dwarfed by those on Madeira. But with very little to break the views on Porto Santo, any elevated outlook offers commanding views.

Pico de Ana Ferreira sits 928ft (283m) above sea level and offers views over the golden southern coastline. But the big draw is the strange rock formations at the top. The rocks have formed into pentagonal columns of varying heights, often likened to organ pipes. They are geological wonders that easily justify the moderate walk to the summit.

Although not on a recognized hiking trail, the Pico de Ana Ferreira is a joy for hikers. There are easy-to-follow trails and a cave to explore. This is also a popular area for 4×4 jeep tours – probably the only reliable way to reach the summit on four wheels.

Where: Overlooking the beach southwest Porto Santo, 3.4 miles (5.4 km) along the ER 111 westbound from Vila Baleira.

How to get there:

By foot: Allow 1 hr 15 mins to walk from Vila Baleira. Follow the beach southwest of Vila Baleira.

  • By bike: An undemanding 20-minute ride.
  • By car or scooter: 11 minutes along the ER 111. Parking at the base.
  • When to go: The organ pipes and views can be appreciated anytime.

Price: Free.

 17. See breathtaking views at Miradouro das Flores – Porto Santo

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Ilheu de Baixo - Miradouro das FloresMiradouro das Flores offers the most breathtaking panoramas on the island. No view beats looking out over the islets around Porto Santo as waves crash below. There’s even a swing, a feature that seems to appear at random viewpoints and instantly elevates them to top-tier miradouro in my opinion.

Looking out from the western end of Porto Santo, views sweep over Calheta beach and the islets of Ferro, Cal, and Cima. Yet it’s the unbeatable perspective of Ilheu de Baixo that makes this viewpoint so special.

Separated by a short strait, the islet appears to have broken free from Porto Santo. Geologically interesting, but a dramatic view above all. It’s a satisfying endpoint to a bike ride or stroll along the golden sands of Porto Santo beach.

Hungry explorers should stop at the nearby Restaurante O Calhetas — a decent eatery in a beautiful beachside setting. 

Where: Southwest Porto Santo. 4 miles (6.5. km) from Vila Baleira, following the ER 111.

How to get there:

  • By foot: Around 1.5 hours from Vila Baleira. Allow time to visit Praia do Zimbralinho nearby.
  • By bike: A pleasant 30-40 minute ride.
  • By car or scooter: 13-15 minutes along the ER 111. Parking at the viewpoint.

When to go: Western views, so sunrises are always worth seeing. But the views are spectacular whenever you go.
Opening hours: None.
Price: Free.

18. Discover the hidden cove of Praia do Zimbralinho

Praia do Zimbralinho is a textbook example of a hidden gem. It’s a short distance from Miradouro das Flores, yet firmly off track.

The route is a little treacherous, but the tricky descent is worthwhile. At the bottom of the rockfall-scarred pathway is a heavenly volcanic cove, where crystal clear waters wash onto a secluded beach bounded by towering cliffs.

Even if you find the descent off-putting, the view from above is worth the short trek from Miradouro das Flores. But I’d recommend walking down, it is not as challenging as it looks. When the waters are calm, you can cool off in one of the prettiest bathing spots in Porto Santo and take some stunning photos.  

Where: South Porto Santo, near Miradouro das Flores. 4 miles (6.5 km) along the ER 111 from Vila Baleira.

How to get there:

  • By foot: Follow the coastline from Miradouro das Flores for about 15-20-minutes. Walk direct from Vila Baleira in 1 hr 30-40 minutes.
  • By bike: 35-40 minutes from Vila Baleira with some uphill sections. The return journey is quicker.
  • By car: 13-15 minutes from Vila Baleira, along the ER 111. Head down Est. Cmdt. José de Castro Vasconcelos to find public parking.

Opening hours: None – although it appears the pathway has been closed due to rockfalls on previous occasions.  
Price: Free.

19. Explore the coastline on the waves with a kayak tour from Ponta Calheta

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Ponta da Calheta beach

Porto Santo is a watersports haven, and sea kayaking is hugely popular. It’s inexpensive, and you can’t top the views of the distinctively volcanic outcrop.  This tour covers some of the most picturesque sights in Porto Santo and a kayak makes it easy to visit the hard-to-reach Zimbralinho Beach and view the inaccessible Cal Islet up close. The tour starts in Ponta Calheta and lasts about 1.5 hours. In that short time, you’ll see some of the most remarkable natural wonders in Porto Santo.

Check availability and book your tour here

20. Spectacular picnic views at Ponta Da Canaveira

Jutting out from the western tip of Porto Santo is a place of raw beauty. Overlooking the tiny lheu do Ferro, this windswept spot offers horizon-bound views over the Atlantic. On a clear day, you can see Madeira. The area is known for its striking volcanic landscape of geological significance.

Nearby is the Miradouro do Furado Norte, which is another unmissable viewpoint. Go prepared and take a picnic. The picnic tables there have magnificent views, accompanied by a soothing background noise of crashing waves. One of several outstanding picnic areas in Porto Santo.

Where: Southwestern tip of Porto Santo. 2.3 (3.8 km) miles north of Ponta.

How to get there:

  • By foot: It’s a meaty 2-hour hike from Vila Baleira, with occasional steady inclines.
  • By bike: 50 – 60 minutes there, about 10 minutes quicker heading back downhill.
  • By car or scooter: 20 minutes from Vila Baleira. Parking at Miradouro do Furado Norte and Morenos.

When to go: Ideal location for picnic lunches, but the sunsets are also a great time to visit. 
Opening hours:  None.
Price: Free.

When to visit Porto Santo

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - View of Ilheu da CalTemperate all year, Porto Santo is a paradise whenever you visit. It’s one of the island’s aces, marketed as a year-round destination. Still, it noticeably warms up in summer, when temperatures hover around 75°F (24°C). Whale watchers and nature lovers will find the seas bursting with life during summer. Of course, this is also peak season, when tiny Porto Santo fills up quickly.

During winter, average temperatures fall between 54°F (12°C) and 63°F (17°C.) Accordingly, the warmer seasons on either side of winter are a great time to visit, with fewer visitors and pleasant weather.

Events and festivals in Porto Santo

Because Porto Santo makes an idyllic escape throughout the year, the festival calendar offers an intriguing alternative to looking at temperature charts. Energetic and immersive, the festivals are among the most exciting things to do in Porto Santo. Each of them will add rich layers to any stay on the usually tranquil island.  

Here are all the ones worth timing a visit around.  

São João Festival

When is it? June 2023 (check program for precise timings) 

Welcoming the arrival of summer, the annual São João Festival is a big event celebrated with fireworks, concerts, and street markets serving all the local culinary favorites. It’s an extensive program of events and activities lasting around two weeks, making it the leading festival in Porto Santo.

The events culminate in a lively parade, the Marchas Populares (Popular Marches.) Lit up with bonfires, colorful floats, and marchers in traditional costumes, it’s a joyful time to be on the island. With plenty of one-off activities showcasing island culture, the festival period is the most engaging time to be on the island.

Our lady of Grace Festivity – Nossa Senhora da Graça

When is it? 14th/15th August 2022

Billed as Porto Santo’s answer to the prestigious Monte festival on Madeira, this spirited religious celebration takes place around the Capela de Nossa Senhora da Graça.

The Graça chapel nestles in a privileged position in the hills above Vila Baleira. The views are magnificent, made all the more enjoyable by a street party of live music and food stalls leading from the Graça chapel during the festival.

The next day, Eucharist is celebrated in the chapel, followed by a religious procession. The festival is over in a day but is one of the unmissable things to do in Porto Santo. If you’re on the island at the right time.

Our Lady of Piety (or Mercy) Festivities – Nossa Senhora da Piedade

When is it? Last weekend in August

Centered around the pretty whitewashed chapel, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Piedade in Vila Baleira, this religious festival is one to note. The festivities include a procession, live music, and food stalls stacked with bolo do caco and other Madeiran specialties. This annual festival is a long-standing tradition in Porto Santo that adds a colorful backdrop for visitors to the island.

The Columbus Festival

When is it? 21st – 25th September (2022)

A vibrant week-long festival revisiting the Age of Exploration and remembering Porto Santo’s most illustrious former resident, Christopher Columbus. The fabled navigator spent several years on the island after marrying a local captain’s daughter. He reportedly spent his time on the island studying Atlantic waves and currents in preparation for his journey to the New World in 1492.

Tourists are warmly welcomed and invited to participate in the festivities. The main event is a reenactment of the legendary navigator arriving on the island. A highlight of the Porto Santo calendar, the festival is an exciting time to visit.    

 Harvest Festival (aka wine festival)

When is it? 25th August (2022)

If you prefer pressed grapes to the zingy flavors of poncha, this festival might be your thing. The festival honors local wine production with winemaking demonstrations (old-style grape stomping) and plenty of vinho tastings.

Most grapes harvested on Porto Santo head to Madeira to be crushed into the island’s famous fortified wines. But some grapes stay on the island and are made into light rosé wines. No award-winners, the local wines are light and easy to drink.

After getting to know more about the local viticulture, there are evening activities around Largo das Palmeiras that include traditional folk music and more of the local wine. 

How to get around Porto Santo

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Path to the beach with Ilhéu de Baixo or Ilhéu da CalThe petite scale of Porto Santo means travelers are presented with a rare set of transport choices. Dedicated hikers could ditch transport entirely by walking to many of the best things to do in Porto Santo. But to get the most out of your time on the island, I suggest hiring an e-bike or scooter. 

Why two wheels are the best way to explore Porto Santo

With the extra zip of a bike, e-bike, or scooter, you can quickly reach all the sights and attractions in Porto Santo. Cars are surprisingly popular on the island, partly due to good roads (albeit not many of them.) But Porto Santo is flatter and more compact than Madeira. This means two wheels are far more fun, practical, and economical than hiring a car.

Nowhere on the island is more than an hour or two away by bike. Yet nothing beats the ease of traveling by scooter. The roads are easy to travel, making it quick and easy to bounce between miradouros, even at opposite ends of the island.

If you’re torn between the two, e-bikes are the solution. With numerous inclines, a little power boost can go a long way. You can easily hire bikes, e-bikes, scooters, and motorbikes from several rental shops around Vila Baleira. Most are on or near Estrada Monumental. If you arrive by ferry, you pass several rental shops on the route from the port to the town center. 

Look out for E-Bike Madeira (Estrada Monumental 182.) Prices start from:

  • Mountain bike – €20 (day) / €40 (48 hours)
  • E-bike – €30 (day) / €50 (48 hours)
  • BikNik (R. da Alfândega 92) offers some of the cheapest scooter hire on the island,  starting at: 
  • Scooter – €19 (day) / €95 (week)
  • E-bike – €17 (day) / €85 (week)
  • Bike (road or mountain) – €15 (day) / €75 (week.)

 A driving license is essential for scooter and motorcycle hire. Minimum age requirements range from 20 to 25 years.

By Car

Although Porto Santo is ideally suited to two wheels, there are some decent roads, and the island is easy to drive around. The main artery, the ER 111, takes you close to nearly all the notable destinations. As such, during summer, the number of cars on the road swells, with many arriving by ferry. If you opt for four wheels, there are several car-hire centers in Vila Baleira and at the airport. I always use either Rentalcars.com or Discover Cars who make it easy to compare deals and book the best car for me.

By taxi

When you want to reach destinations quickly and easily (hiking trails, for example), local taxis are a convenient option. They can be found outside hotels, locations around Vila Baleira, and at the central taxi rank. Porto Santo taxis will take you anywhere on the island. Fares start at €3 (day) and €3.60 (nights), plus mileage.

Taxis will happily take you on a half-day tour of the island. Expect to pay around €30. The main taxi rank is near the petrol station on Avenida Dr Manuel Gregório Pestana Júnior in the center of Vila Baleira. Taxis can also be picked up at the airport and around the town center. Call +351 291 982 334 for pickup.

By bus

There is a rudimentary bus service in Porto Santo with an opaque timetable, which can be viewed at the travel hub near the taxi rank in Vila Baleira. A bus is always available to pick up ferry passengers and transport them into the center of Vila Baleira for €1.

A daily tour bus leaves from the taxi rank (Avenida Dr. Manuel Gregório Pestana Júnior) at 2pm for a two-hour loop around the island. A handy option if you don’t want to book with a tour group. 

Porto Santo One-Day Cruise and Tour

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Coastline with palm treeHopefully, I’ve made the case that Porto Santo merits more than a day trip. There’s just too much to see and do around the island one day. But it is possible to squeeze in a handful of the top things to do in Porto Santo on a well-organized tour.

This tour makes it easy for vacationers in Madeira to get a flavor of Porto Santo. The ferry ticket is included, and a minibus picks you up directly from the port. No planning is required as the tour moves from highlight to highlight, offering a layered look at Porto Santo.

The tour takes in the views from Calheta and Miradouro da Portel, the volcanic landscape of Pico Castelo, and an intriguing cultural diversion at Casa da Serra. That’s several of the leading attractions in Porto Santo condensed into one memorable day trip.

Check availability and book your tour here

How to get to Porto Santo

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - Catch a ferry to the Port of Porto SantoTake the Porto Santo ferry

The most economical way to reach Porto Santo from Funchal is on the daily ferry. The crossing takes just 2.5 hours. On the voyage, you enjoy rare views over the Madeiran archipelago. Leaving Funchal in the morning, the return ferry is scheduled to give daytrippers over 8 hours on Porto Santo.  


  •   One morning departure from Funchal at 8 am (arrive at 10.30 am)
  •   One evening departure from Porto do Porto Santo at 7 pm (arrive at 9.30 pm)


  •   A single journey from €36 (invariably higher during summer)
  •   Same-day return from €60
  •   Children (5-11) travel for roughly half the price.
  •   Vehicles add a hefty premium.

Book your Porto Santo ferry here

Fly to Porto Santo

For the slickest crossing and even more remarkable views, I recommend arriving by plane. In less than 30 minutes, you can skim the clouds above the Madeiran archipelago before touching down hours before the ferry. Flight prices from Funchal are inexpensive, making them a compelling alternative to the sea crossing. 

 Essential info

Flight times may vary, but this is an example day trip schedule with Canarias Airlines:

  •   Outbound flight – 7.30am (arrive: 7.55am)
  •   Return flight – 9.30pm (arrive 9.55pm)

Prices: from €69.00 for a same-day return.

Book your flight to Porto Santo here. 

Where to stay in Porto Santo

Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal - - Where to stay in Porto Santo

Tourism is the island’s chief earner. Consequently, there is plenty of quality accommodation, with a variety that caters to most budgets and needs. Hotels and modern resorts are mostly found along the long stretch of Porto Santo beach, including plenty of self-catering apartments and villas. Guesthouses can also be found dotted around the island.

My picks include an upscale hotel that is a little bit special, plus more economical rooms and practical apartments suited to extended island breaks.  

Pestana Ilha Dourada – 4* – Luxury

Pestana Ilha Dourada is a classy hotel lies on the southern end of Porto Santo, a short walk from Combro beach and near some of the island’s finest viewpoints. The hotel enjoys excellent views of the Islet of Cal, despite all the accommodation sitting on the ground floor.

The modern structure is centered around a freshwater swimming pool. There are bigger pools on the island, but with the inviting Atlantic waters just moments away, it’s not all that important. Wellness seekers are still taken care of, with a spa and sauna on site. The 39 rooms include 16 deluxe superior rooms and a suite. All have ocean views, air-con, cable TV, and WiFi.

The remaining rooms are all spacious villas. The roomy villas will suit families and longer-term visitors. They are composed of a living room, bedroom, and kitchenette. Each villa overlooks the pool and has a porch for sunbathing or watching your family splash around. Children under 12 can stay free in their parent’s room, and there is a kids club to add a dash of fun to their day.

The Terrius Restaurant serves continental and buffet breakfast. From May to October, the restaurant hosts a lunchtime buffet of Portuguese dishes. The hotel bar is always open for poolside drinks.

The Pestana Ilha Dourada has stylish, comfortable rooms. And the location is exceptional, with miradouros, hikes, and golden sands all within walking distance. Which explains why it is consistently rated one of the top places to stay in Porto Santo.

Check availability and book your stay here

Hotel Porto Santo & Spa – 4*

Hotel Porto Santo & Spa is an inexpensive hotel with character and a faded touch of class. It is also minutes from the golden sands of Porto Santo and within easy walking distance of Vila Baleira.

The colonial-style hotel may be showing its age, but it’s still attractive and architecturally interesting. Rooms are clean and comfortable, and the staff is consistently praised for their friendliness.  The hotel’s crowning feature is a large outdoor pool nestled in the pristine hotel gardens. 94 rooms overlook the pool, each with a balcony, cable TV, and air-con. Décor is dated yet simple and with an air of aging style.

The designer spa lacks a sauna but includes massage rooms, a Turkish bath, cold and warm plunges, a Vichy bath, and a heated pool. It’s a small but grown-up haven, where lazy days on the beach can be extended into chilled evenings. There’s a decent hotel bar and restaurant, with a patio overlooking the picturesque gardens. International flavors mixed with Portuguese traditions are on the menu for lunch and dinner.

The enclosed hotel gardens roll directly down to the beach, creating a pocket of tranquillity. You don’t have to go far to find more animated scenes: a short stroll in either direction along the beach leads to bars and restaurants. A peaceful hotel, handily located to enjoy the beach and life around Vila Baleira.

Check availability and book your stay here

Paraiso Dourado – 3*

The Paraiso Dourado is my value pick in Porto Santo. It’s not flashy but offers plenty for the price. Spacious apartments, a small pool in a quiet (if unremarkable) garden area and close proximity to the beach are its lead attractions. A children’s play area and wellness space complete the offering.

The plainly furnished apartments are sizeable and fitted with all the facilities needed for an extended stay. They include an equipped kitchen, dishwasher, and washing machine. Larger apartments come with a barbecue.

The hotel has a small bar but no restaurant. However, the beach and road into Vila Baleira are just a few steps away, providing plenty of dining options on your doorstep. The mellow Bar do Henrique is just a 5-minute walk and serves wildly popular beachside food.

Head west from the apartments, and you reach one of the many alluring sections of Porto Santo’s long beach, Praia Cabeço da Ponta. If you want well-equipped accommodation with big rooms, the well-situated Paraiso Dourado is a solid option. Far from extravagant, but great value.

Check availability and book your stay here

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20 Awesome Things to do in Porto Santo, Portugal

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