Porto Santo

Porto Santo Beach

The island of Porto Santo lies about 40km north-east of Madeira and is popular for its long sandy beaches - in stark contrast to the volcanic beaches of Madeira. It's a much drier island than Madeira with less vegetation - so consequently less shade. It's also rather quieter - and indeed in some places the silence can be remarkable.

North side of Porto Santo

Its other claim to fame is that, before the extension of the runway at Madeira airport, departing planes were obliged to land almost immediately at Porto Santo for refuelling as they couldn't take off with sufficient fuel on board. These days the airport is less busy (though there are scheduled flights to Madeira and the Portuguese mainland as well as holiday flights destined for Porto Santo itself). When Madeira airport is affected by high winds, the airport at Porto Santo is often used for diverted flights. 

The Lobo Marinho
A ship also travels most days between Madeira and Porto Santo and carries passengers and vehicles.

South Side of Porto Santo

The island is not very large, but if you want to explore further than the beach there is a bus service (including a tour for visitors) or you can hire bicycles or book a taxi driver to show you the sights.  

You can also visit the house of Christopher Columbus - or where he is alleged to have lived during his visits to Porto Santo after his marriage to a local. The house is now part of a museum.

If you want to be more active, there are a number of recommended walking routes and opportunities for kayaking and snorkelling as well as a popular golf course.

Getting there

Porto Santo Line sails between Funchal and Porto Santo daily (except Tuesdays) for most of the year - there's usually a brief hiatus in February when the ship, Lobo Marinho, is overhauled. Departure times vary depending on the day and can be altered in the case of bad weather. The journey each way takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. It's possible to book a day trip (with the possibility of coach transfers to and from the landing stages) or include hotel accommodation with a longer stay. Foot passengers need to be at the boarding gate at least 30 minutes before departure and vehicles need to arrive with an hour in hand. 

On arrival, if you haven't booked the coach transfer, a public bus provides transport into the town of Vila Baleira and there are taxis, but they're usually very busy. Similar arrangements apply in the reverse direction.

There is also an air service from Funchal - presently twice a day.