Balcões & Ribeiro Frio
The Balcões viewpoint is on a promontory a short (1.5km), mostly flat, walk from the village of Ribeiro Frio giving stunning views over the valley of Ribeira da Metade and of the island's central mount range including its highest peaks, Pico do Areeiro and Pico Ruivo. You reach it via the Vereda dos Balcoes (PR11) which starts on the main road in Ribeiro Frio and follows the Levada da Serra do Faial through a section of Laurissilva Forest.
The viewpoint is also the site of uneasy cohabitation between local birds and cats. There is a feeding table, but it's not clear which species benefits the most.
|A cat identifies its next meal
The village of Ribeiro Frio has a number of restaurants/cafés and a trout hatchery which is presently free to visit but may be subject to a charge in the future. It's also an access point to a number of walks including the Levada do Furado (PR10) to Portela or Santo da Serra.
There is limited parking in Ribeiro Frio (there's a small car park just before you reach the village from the south) and with increasing tourist numbers there has been some traffic obstruction with cars left inconsiderately on the sides of the road. If you can arrive in shared transport - public or private - please do so.
A small number of HF bus services 56, 103 or 138 (depending on the time and the day of the week) call in Ribeiro Frio on the route between Funchal (Teleférico-Término) and Santana: you need to check the timetable and confirm with the driver. In peak tourist periods, it's advisable to arrive early at the bus stop in Funchal - the bus can fill up at the terminal and may not stop subsequently to pick up passengers.
Recently, HF have been using a second bus if the departures from Teleférico-Término are full, but that's not guaranteed, and it's certainly not something you would wish to rely on for the return journey as Ribeiro Frio is not an ideal place to find yourself without transport. Expect the journey to take longer than timetabled - the growing congestion at "bus chaos corner" in Monte can lead to significant delays.