The flower-filled Portuguese island of Madeira is famous for its eponymous wine, cake and mild, subtropical climate. Banana trees and laurel forests cover its slopes, sliced by a network of levadas (aqueducts), granting hikers intrigue as they roam. The island varies enormously from side to side, encouraging exploration on two feet or two wheels, with pit stops for black scabbard fish, a local delicacy, washed down with poncha – a traditional sugar-cane spirit. Where does the road lead? A local quinta (farmhouse), surf retreat or wine hotel, if you follow our guide…
This stylish hostel, which mixes dormitories with private doubles, is located right on the beach. It has a restaurant and two beach bars, as well as offering communal kitchens with microwaves and fridges. Once a family home, it retains a cosy feel in the quiet coastal town of Porto Cruz, backed by a dramatic mountainous hinterland that begs to be explored. Cliffside yoga sessions are available, as are books and board games.
This beautifully restored farmhouse, with its cluster of neighbouring houses, offers a tranquil base from which to explore the island. It’s rural, sure – but also conveniently located for the airport and Santa Cruz beach. The houses, dotted around lush gardens, can sleep between two and eight people. The working farm produces flowers, vegetables and fruits, the latter of which you’ll find in your homemade jam at breakfast.
Acclaimed interior designer Nini Andrade Silva is behind the 12 jaunty blue-and-white bedrooms at this small, family-run guesthouse in the centre of Machico – an east-coast town, bordered by a small praia (beach). The restaurant, where the nautical theme continues, provides a taste of the island with dishes such as spit-roasted meat served in the famous Bolo do Caco flatbread.
Located in Porto da Cruz, just 100 metres (330ft) from Praia de Alagoa beach, this small hotel offers a mix of double and family rooms. The hotel owns a surf school nearby that’s perfect for eager learners and has access to a communal swimming pool adjacent to Porto da Cruz’s promenade. The restaurant serves typical local cuisine from scabbard fish to limpets, with tables poised to take in the dramatic mountain-arched coastal views.
Sleek and seductive in intense shades of deep purple and green, the Vine is a contemporary interpretation of the island’s fortified wine by local designer Nini Andrade Silva, layered onto an ultra-modern building in the streets of capital Funchal. Expect furniture shaped like twisted vine branches and leaves, reflected through the seasons. The rooftop swimming pool and bar is not to be missed for the views of the sea and hilltop São João do Pico fortress, nor is a dinner at the excellent Uva Restaurant. In keeping with the oenological theme, the spa offers treatments using vinotherapy products from DVine.
The grande dame of Funchal has stood the test of time, its pink walls a much loved landmark. Views from here out over the sea are worth the journey to Madeira alone, but so too is the old-world atmosphere, the lush botanical gardens and the lobster ravioli or scallop carpaccio at the Michelin-star William Restaurant. But don’t miss the Villa Cipriani either, named after Belmond’s world-famous Cipriani Hotel in Venice, and its Italian-accented taglioni verdi, accompanied by sea views.
Set in the little fishing village of Câmara de Lobos, overlooking the bay where Winston Churchill often came to paint, the Pestana Churchill Bay pays homage to the erstwhile British prime minister throughout its 57 rooms with reproductions of his paintings and a bar where memorabilia takes pride of place. The first hotel in this south-coast settlement, just outside Funchal, it offers clean-lined rooms with a rooftop pool and a restaurant serving local specialities.
Five historical buildings have been converted into 81 rooms in this charming hotel, in the old part of Funchal. Between them, they represent three centuries of local heritage, the earliest being an 18th-century listed house, which was once an atelier for Madeiran craftsmen. Period antique furniture weaves the buildings together. Bedrooms are light-filled and attractive, some come with kitchenettes. The rooftop pool has spectacular city views.
Amid beautiful botanical gardens (ask to have pink snowball, yellow trumpet and floss-silk trees pointed out to you), this manor house and its sleek, contemporary glass extension offer some of the most luxurious digs on the island. There’s a swimming pool, a health club and a restaurant within the manor house, where gastronomic dishes draw on the island’s rich bounty.
Much admired from afar due to its spectacular location perched on the edge of a cliff, far above the pounding waves of Ponta do Sol, access to the hotel is through an elevator cut into the rock from ground level. The 54 rooms are minimalist, in tones of black and white, pared back to allow the outside in through the vast windows. Food mixes local and international favourites with, yes, more views of the sea.