In April, I was delighted to be invited by my travel partner, easyJet Holidays, to spend three nights discovering the beautiful island of Madeira. I had never had the opportunity to visit before, so I was excited at the prospect of experiencing a new holiday destination.
From the moment I landed, I felt this visit was going to be something special. Seeing the rolling hills and the glistening sea in the distance standing out against the deep blue sky was simply stunning.
The well organised passport control and luggage collection meant we were soon on our way for the short transfer to our first hotel, the Vidamar in Funchal.
This 5* property with its panoramic views of the ocean offers five different restaurants, three salt water infinity pools for adults plus an additional one for children, a dynamic fitness centre, a thalasso sea spa, a piano bar and a snooker lounge. It also offers superb food, service and accommodation... all this within easy reach of central Funchal with its shops, iconic market and historical buildings.
As part of my stay, I visited other hotels and attended excursions that allowed me to get a true feel for this exquisite island.
Our first trip was in an open top Jeep that not only takes you through stunning countryside but also visits the Barbusano vineyard for wine tasting. The group sampled six wines after a stroll around the vineyard. The vista as we sat together made the whole experience even more appealing.
As we left the wine tasting, we headed north to Arco De Calheta. I must admit, the restaurant did look like a roadside café but appearances can be misleading as the meal was excellent and I feasted on a hot stone steak.
Following the meal we stopped at various viewpoints, each one displaying the true beauty of Madeira.
As we journeyed back south we stopped at Henriques & Henriques to sample four Madeiran wines which I thoroughly enjoyed
The wine might have helped sooth any nerves for those who didn’t like heights because next we visited The Skywalk with its views down through the glass boardwalk from hillside to sea. It was really quite something.
Madeira prides itself on its food and wine, so it was no surprise our second tour was a gastronomic walking tour. We were shown around by a very knowledgeable local guide.
Funchal has a proud Portuguese heritage and this is evident in its architecture, arty influences with painted doors in the old town and art works adorning sides of buildings.
We called into Blandy’s wine lodge to sample the produce. I found the service they offered to be very helpful as you can purchase wines in store at a discounted price and collect it at the airport. This means you don’t have to pack them and worry about your luggage weight or breakages.
We continued to walk, taking in the sights of the city, before stopping at a local restaurant Da Do Doutor where we sampled diced pork and local bread which would traditionally be served at Christmas.
Following this meal, we needed to walk it off and fortunately there was still much to see.
We saw the custard apples at the fruit and veg shop; and we sampled Madeira cake and biscuits at Fabrica Sto Antonio, a gem of a shop that is still as traditional as it was when it opened in 1893.
Finally we hit the sea front promenade filled with open air cafes and bars all brought to life by street performers and market sellers. Watching over all of us was Cristiano Ronaldo, the star footballer, a native to the island, in the form of an impressive statue.
Our final stop OCalhau for canape and, yep, more wine.
Thank you easyJet Holidays for making me fall in love with Madeira.
Hotels I visited
With unspoilt Atlantic views, first-class facilities and superbly serene outdoor spaces, this award-winning five-star hotel stands out as one of the most luxurious in Madeira.
The plush, elegant rooms all boast magnificent ocean or garden views from their spacious balconies, plus thick robes and premium bath products for extra in-room comfort. Guests seeking even more relaxation can spend sun-soaked days by the outdoor seawater pools before indulging in signature body and massage treatments at the spa. The hotel also offers direct access to the ocean if you prefer your swimming a little more wild.
For those who like to explore, Funchal Old Town – with its charming lanes filled with authentic eateries and boutiques – is just a 15-minute walk away.
If you’re feeling thirsty, you can take a seat at their swim-up pool bar, where an expert mixologist awaits your order, or head to the piano bar for toe-tapping tunes and aperitifs.
Next At Savoy Signature
The NEXT at Savoy Signature is paving the way towards the future of hotels. This high-tech hotel offers you complete customisation of your holiday experience through their signature app. Access self check-in and out, arrange room service, access your virtual personal trainer, and discover must-see spots in Madeira – all from the palm of your hand. Staying at this high-tech holiday spot will allow you to connect with the island without disconnecting from the wider world.
The hotel’s rooftop terrace has a swimming pool and sun deck that’s ideal for relaxing. The area also has a poolside bar where you can grab light snacks and refreshing drinks. You’ll find another pool down at ground level, too. To make sure you feel like you’ve had some proper time for yourself during your stay, pay a visit to the hotel’s 24-hour gym and reward yourself by booking a spa treatment or two. You can also enjoy retro games in the lobby, which has arcade machines.
Dining experiences at NEXT are fully customisable. The hotel’s poolside à la carte restaurant has got you covered with a variety of Hawaiian and Madeiran delicacies, all made fresh with local produce. There are two further bars to pick from, too.
The Pestana Carlton was one of the first hotels built on the island of Madeira, and with its enviable location, lush gardens, landscaped pool terraces, and impressive selection of bars and restaurants, it’s easy to see why it has stood the test of time.
This luxurious landmark features several large pools, both indoor and outdoor, but if you prefer sea swimming, there’s direct access to the ocean from the hotel’s jetty. There’s also a dive centre where you can learn to scuba, go snorkelling or swim with dolphins (sure to be a hit with the kids).
The hotel’s spa has a 25-metre indoor pool with sunbeds facing the sea, as well as a sauna, jacuzzi and full menu of massages for everything from relaxation to pain relief. There’s even a hair and nail salon if you’re after a bit of a spruce.
The bright and spacious rooms open to large balconies or terraces with views over the gardens, mountains or Atlantic Ocean, and all include bathtubs to help you unwind after a hard day’s relaxing.
If you fancy exploring, it’s a 20-minute walk to the bustling centre of Funchal, with its dozens of restaurants and marina-front promenade. Or you can choose from a number of on-site buffet and à la carte restaurants offering a wide selection of cuisines, and several bars including a British-style pub.
Whatever you do at the Pestana Carlton Madeira, you can be sure of a splendid stay at one of the island’s most seasoned and distinguished hotels.
Pestana Casino Park
Pestana Casino Park is something of a Madeiran landmark. Not only was it designed by renowned Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, but it also boasts one of the most prestigious addresses on the island, adjacent to the cruise port and just a five-minute walk from the centre of Funchal. And, as the name suggests, it houses Madeira’s only casino, where you’ll also find a nightclub and glitzy evening stage shows.
The hotel’s swish modernist design is set amid almost four acres of verdant gardens and manicured lawns, so you won’t lack places for sunbathing. Afterwards, take a dip in the infinity pool, which offers jaw-dropping ocean views. Atlantic vistas can also be enjoyed from many of the rooms, which are sure to impress with their size and smart décor.
For dining and drinking, you have various choices spread across the complex. The outdoor buffet restaurant is a particularly wonderful place to while away an hour or two over a meal while watching the cruise ships come in to dock.
There’s also a serene spa with heated indoor pool, sauna, Turkish bath and steam room, plus a full menu of massages and beauty treatments to help you properly relax into holiday mode.
For those who appreciate innovative architecture, beautiful grounds and more than a little luxury, this plush resort is a standout
Positioned on a hillside in one of Funchal’s most prestigious neighbourhoods, this grand five-star hotel commands unparalleled views over the nearby bay – and nowhere more so than from its adult-only rooftop infinity pool, which offers what must be one of the finest panoramas of Madeira’s picturesque southern coast.
The hotel’s main pool is also a treat, spanned by an ornate bridge and surrounded by cushioned loungers. Children have their own pool, too, whilst adults can enjoy some pampering in the spa.
Rooms are especially spacious and elegantly designed, with plush furnishings and marble touches. All come with a balcony – some overlook the city or the lush gardens, while others have sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Suitably upscale in-room comforts include espresso machines, roomy showers and thick bathrobes.
The hotel’s restaurants – all cool, contemporary and beautifully designed – specialise in fine-dining takes on Portuguese food, while the smartly decorated bars are perfect for unwinding with a sea-view tipple. If you’d rather dine out, Funchal itself is a great place to explore the island’s gastronomy, with plenty of restaurants within easy strolling distance. Plus, if you've booked to stay at this hotel on a half board or full board basis, you'll can also receive credit to enjoy your dinner in any of the other Savoy hotels in Funchal or Calheta.
A first-class hotel with superb facilities in the heart of Madeira’s vibrant capital, the Savoy Place is an elegant addition to the island’s top-end tourism scene
I'm really looking forward to booking you your trip to the beautiful island of Madeira!