9 Best Sights in Porto Santo, Madeira

Pico do Castelo

Fodor's choice

The island's series of lofty peaks make for great exploring. The summit of Pico do Castelo, at 1,433 feet, has a small 16th-century fort that provided defense against the frequent attacks of French and Algerian pirates. It's a tough climb to the top, but one that's peppered with pretty flora, from cacti to berry bushes. From the summit, the views are rewarding: below you to the west is Porto Santo Beach, and to the east is the conical shape of Pico de Baixo and the Ilhéu de Cima. From here it's an easy walk to Pico do Facho (1,552 feet), the island's highest point.

Ponta da Calheta

Fodor's choice

Just below Pico das Flores lies Calheta Point, where the café-restaurant O Calhetas marks the western edge of the beach. There is probably no better way to enjoy the whole island than to stop for a drink or bite to eat, then walk back along the beach during the sunset as you admire the astonishing landscape.

Praia da Calheta

Fodor's choice

When you think of the perfect tropical beach, you're probably envisioning something like this quiet, pretty swath of white sand nestled around a series of coves carved out of black volcanic rock. This beach—not to be confused with the beach of the same name on Maderia's main island—is made for staring out at the impossibly blue sea and the interesting rock formations on the uninhabited islet of Ilhéu de Baixo. Though swimming is dangerous on the western end at Ponta da Calheta, a little farther east you'll find calmer waters perfect to wade in. There's no shade, so bring an umbrella. Amenities: food and drink; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: solitude; sunset; walking.

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Praia da Fontinha

Fodor's choice

The closest beach to the town of Vila Baleira is family-friendly Praia da Fontinha, which offers soft, clean white sand and calm, warm waters ideal for swimming. About half a mile in length, the beach seems quiet even when it's packed. You can eat lunch at Pizza N'Areia, right next to the beach, or grab a drink and a plate of barbecued meat at the beach bar, O Corsario. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for a small fee. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

Casa Colombo Museo do Porto Santo

In his former home, this small museum is dedicated to the life of explorer Christopher Columbus. You can visit his restored kitchen and bedroom, look at maps of his journeys, and gape at treasures from a Dutch boat that sank off Porto Santo in 1724.

Fonte da Areia

Near the village of Camacha, this spring once had the purest water on the island, which is why it was used for medical treatments. The water does not spring forth with such abundance today, but is still considered sacred by locals. To reach the spring, drive west out of the village along the coastal road.

Fonte da Areia, Portugal
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Miradouro da Portela no Porto Santo

One of your first stops on Porto Santo should be at the Portela viewpoint, which overlooks the harbor, the town, and the long ribbon of beach. Nearby is the hilltop Capela de Nossa Senhora da Graça, one of the oldest churches on the island, dating back to 1851.

Portela, Portugal
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Miradouro do Pico das Flores

This scenic overlook at the end of a bumpy ride off the far western end of the beach offers dramatic panoramic views of the uninhabited islet of Ilhéu de Ferro rising out of the turquoise water. Look to the west and you can also see the main island of Madeira on a clear day.

Pico das Flores, Portugal
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Vila Baleira

The island's main town is little more than an attractive village clustered round the palm-lined main square, Largo do Pelourinho. From here, it's a short walk to a fantastic swath of beach and the town's elongated jetty, a popular spot for evening walks and gazing out to sea.