Things to do in Madeira with Kids
Approximately 967 kilometers southwest of Lisbon, Portugal, in the Atlantic Ocean lies the volcanic archipelago of Madeira. Known for its natural beauty, animate city culture that pours out onto the streets, and sculpting terrains, you’ll never be short of things to do. There’s nothing like spending a family trip on a secluded set of islands off the coast of Africa, but the secret to Madeira is in the long list of activities that are sure to pack a fun-filled itinerary for the entire family.
Madeira's enchanting landscape comes straight out of a Jurassic Park movie; dramatic cliffs plunging straight into the sea, far-reaching peaks touching the clouds, vivid colored flowers flourishing the vast greenery. The legendary roaring waves are some of the best in the region, which drew surfers to inhabit small seaside villages in the 70s, and have gained international attention. You won’t find your white, sandy beaches here on this volcanic island, boulders and rocks dominate the shorelines.
When to visit?
One of the great things about Madeira is the moderate climate that lasts the whole year round. While the warmest months ranges from May to October, the Islands exhibit some of the best seasons for traveling.
The unique terrain and constant moderate weather of Madeira provides a ton of things to do for a family-friendly trip. To hold you over, here are some of the best things to do in Madeira.
Cable car to the top of Monte & Tobogganing
The capital city of Madeira, Funchal, is caught between the vast Atlantic Ocean on one side and a sloping hill into the mountain on the other. Hiking up the Monte would be nearly impossible without the cable car line which takes you up 550 meters above sea level. Take your children up the cable car, starting in the Old Town of Funchal, and scale up the mountain. From here, it is easy to take in the unparalleled aerial view of Funchal.
If you want to take your little ones on an alternative route down from Monte, consider one of the oldest modes of transportation on the island- tobogganing. Used in the 1900s to quickly chauffeur the wealthy into town, the basket cars are now a top attraction for travelers visiting Funchal. Driven by two personnel to accompany passengers safely back into town, the cars slide down two kilometers of road, giving an exhilarating ride for everyone.
Volcanic Lava Pools
The word ‘volcanic’ is guaranteed to get kids excited for Porto Moniz’s rock pools. The warm and inviting pools are just some of the natural phenomenon you can experience on Madeira. These natural pools are situated on the edge of the island, right next to the ocean. The temperature is perfect for a quick dip in the salt-filled pools, and your family trip to Madeira would not be complete without it. Getting around in the small island is seamless if you have a car, the rock pools are only a 50-minute drive from Funchal on the northwestern point of the island.
Whale and Dolphin watching
One of the obvious perks of Madeira is being situated in the Atlantic Ocean, where plenty of whales and dolphins migrate through the area. Getting out on the water is a thrilling expedition in itself, but going whale/dolphin watching is a whole different level. Only lagging second to the Azores for whale watching, more than 20 species of whales visit the waters off the coast of the islands. Take the family on a whale watching tour aboard a catamaran to view the mammals breach and swim in pods from a safe distance. Although it is not a guarantee that whales will be present, it’s another opportunity to spend family time out on the open ocean. The best months to see whales & dolphins are from April to October.
Volcanic caves and Volcanism Center
A new adventure for the whole family is a trip to see the volcanic caves at São Vicente. The main attraction is the 1,000m underground walking tour through the volcanic caves. The route consists of walking through the caves lined with growing vegetation, which in fact is quite spacious for people to move around in. At one point there is an exploration spot for children to walk through one of the small caves and protrude from the other end. Ending at the Volcanism Center, the exhibition shows the origins of the caves that were created by a volcanic eruption 890,000 years ago. Due to the exposure to lower temperatures, the outer layers of the lava solidified rapidly creating the lava tubes. It is worth a visit on your Madeira trip.
Canyoning is an exhilarating activity that truly immerses travelers in nature. The outdoor activity requires travelers, both children and adults, to climb through mountainous areas, swim in flowing rivers, jump into the refreshing water, and abseil through waterfalls. It might sound a little intimidating at first, but not to worry, the route is under the supervision of a professional guide. Children are welcomed to join the group if they are 1.40 meters tall (which is the size of the wetsuit) and are willing to explore the challenging nature of Madeira.
Spectacular Cliff of Cabo Girão
Towering over the ocean is one of Europe’s tallest cliff- Cabo Girão. This spectacular viewpoint is a popular destination for hikers looking to start on their trail and travelers who want to get a unique view of the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t worry; it only takes a few steps to get there! If you're a daredevil, the Cabo Girão Skywalk will you the goosebumps. The walkway is built with transparent glass, located on top of the cliff to show off the plunging rock and ocean below. Located on the southern coast of Madeira.
Check out Laura Weenink’s “Madeira with Kids” Guide for a family fun itinerary with the best restaurants, hotels, and things to do on the Madeira.
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