If you are just taking your first steps in surfing, Madeira is not the destination for you. But if you are looking for challenging waves in an out-of-this-world setting, then put the “pearl of the Atlantic” on your list of places to visit.
The rocky bottoms, complex in and outs, and strong swells characterize surfing on this island. But once you feel the energy of those waves, you will want to come back to Madeira again and again.
It’s no wonder that surfers who usually run the big wave world tour have already set up base there.
If you think you have the experience and courage it takes to face the Madeiran surf, take note of the following spots:
1. Jardim do Mar
If there’s one wave that puts the surf in Madeira on the world map, it is Jardim do Mar.
About 45 minutes by car from Funchal, you reach a beautiful coastal village that spreads along a hillside and where the waves break big and fast.
With the construction of a protective wall a few years ago, the entrances and exits are made by a small fishing port that is not gentle to those who venture in. In fact, the floor itself is quite slippery, and you have to get get in (or out) in the intervals between sets.
But once in the ocean, emotions run wild, and you may well catch the best (and biggest) waves of your life.
2. Ponta Pequena
This wave is not easy to reach since it’s between Jardim do Mar and the neighboring Paúl do Mar. To get to Ponta Pequena from Jardim do Mar, you have to walk over jagged rocks for a good half hour, under the danger of some rocks falling from the cliffs or the rising tide. You have to have timing. But the path is gorgeous, and if you have time and water, it’s a good warm-up (and exercise for your legs).
From Paúl do Mar, the arrival to Ponta Pequena wave is by sea. From the fishing harbor, you will have to row for about half an hour to reach it. But if you are lucky, there may be a fisherman out for the day who can give you a ride there.
It’s not easy to decipher the size of the waves at Ponta Pequena. Only when you get there will you realize if you have what it takes to face those roaring swells.
3. PaÚl do Mar
Speaking of Paúl do Mar, a tunnel was recently built that leads directly from Jardim do Mar to this fishing village, making it much easier to access.
The wave here is right by the shore, fast (very fast) and hollow, perfect for bodyboarders or very experienced surfers. The end of the wave is right in front of the wall that protects this part of the village from the sea.
4. Ponta do Pargo
The extremities of the island of Madeira are two must-visit places. Both Ponta de São Lourenço, in the east, and Ponta do Pargo, in the west, have extraordinary views and paths to discover.
But what you may not know is that in Ponta do Pargo, there’s one of the most challenging waves on the island.
To get there, you have to walk about 40 minutes down a cliff or get a boat to reach the place by sea.
There’s nothing to be fooled about: the waves here are intense, big, and you cannot count on any kind of support on land.
5. Achadas da Cruz
Continue towards Achadas da Cruz. To reach this place, you have to go down one of the many cable cars all over Madeira.
This ride requires some preparation. Find out about the cable car timetables (they vary according to the time of the year), know the tides, and analyze how the sea will be. The ideal tide for surfing will depend on the swell’s size on the day you want to go.
But, the truth is, even if you don’t get it right and the waves fail, this is a stunning place, so pack your camera.
My preferred place to surf in Madeira!!! 😅 This is because, by far, I have the experience and know-how to face others. Seixal presents a black sand beach protected by a jetty, where a high-speed wave breaks but more accessible than others on the island.
Because the swell has to go around the jetty to break here, you should only go when the sea is big.
From the black sand to the massive cliffs, and, in the distance, the Véu da Noiva waterfall makes phenomenal scenery for this surf spot.
If you get here and there are no waves, at least you can take some fantastic pictures!
7. Ribeira da Janela
Not only is Ribeira da Janela a super demanding wave, but so is the way to get there.
Before the old regional road was closed and replaced by a set of tunnels that cross the island, this was a wave that was more on the surfers’ radar.
However, this road’s closure means that the way now is through an old section, in deplorable conditions and quite dangerous, since the falling rocks are constant.
The wave is massive, fast, and with rocky in and outs, which becomes even more challenging if the swell is big.
Are you driving a rental car? Park under the old tunnel to avoid extra damaging costs!
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8. Fajã da Areia
Of all the surf in Madeira, except for Seixal, Fajã da Areia is the one that is “more friendly” since, despite breaking over rocks, they don’t look so aggressive.
The waves, although strong, are generally long and good for maneuvering.
But don’t be fooled by it. It’s not rare to see broken boards around here.
9. Lugar de Baixo
Lugar de Baixo is the closest wave to Funchal, and if on the one hand the way there is faster, on the other hand, it suffers from the fact that it’s one of the most crowded waves on the island.
Although the entrance is made through pebbles, access to the wave is easy, and you can even spend some time studying it from the beach bar right in front.
This is a surf spot that works from half tide to high tide, although with the latter, you have to deal with the so-called backwash (when the wave meets the shore, it turns back and goes against the wave that follows).
The wave is aesthetic — it breaks next to a boulder — and inviting, but it happens over a shallow and dangerous rock bottom.
Places to Surf in Madeira
If you have made it this far, you’re thinking that, with my descriptions, it’s best to stay home. I can’t blame you, but I couldn’t help but show you all the challenges you may face if you visit Madeira for surfing.
I have often crossed paths with other surfers preparing to enter the sea without knowing the dangers, with the wrong board, and without the slightest notion of the consequences.
With this, I don’t want to shatter your dream of surfing this beautiful Atlantic island and making the best of every moment. I want to prepare you for what you may encounter. So that, in the end, you will have a memorable surf trip for the best of reasons.
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If you have been to Madeira and have more tips to share or have never been and have questions, use the comment box below. Let’s talk!
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