As a volcanic island, holidays to Madeira offer a different kind of beach from those you'll see in mainland Portugal. Rugged natural beauty of grand cliffs and scattered pebbles, are met by stunning black sands and warm seas that shimmer in the sunshine. There are good facilities for kids and grown-ups alike, and watersports opportunities for those looking to stay active. Package holidays to Madeira are often associated with pebbled beaches, but there is a natural black sand beach as well as a few man-made golden choices to lie back on.
The unique formation of Madeira means that Prainha is the only completely sandy beach on the island. Just east of Canical, it holds true to its volcanic roots with rich black sands. With a cafe close at hand, yet a lovely unspoilt feel, Prainha is framed by dramatic cliffs and rocks and gives access to some splendid countryside. That is, assuming you can bear to take yourself from the shore to explore it.
The surfer's haven of Jardim do Mar is where laid-back thrillseekers go to test their mettle against the waves. Although you don't feel like it's going to be all noise and watersports at this southwest coast beach. On the contrary, Jardim do Mar is regarded as a secluded place of tranquil days by the sea, where the water is warm and the sunshine's eternal.
The biggest stretch of sunny shoreline on the island, Praia Formosa boasts the kinds of modern comforts you'd expect of any good beach, including safety staff, shops and eateries. It's also the beginning of a lovely promenade that takes you to and from Funchal centre. The beach itself is comprised of pebbles and sand in equal measure, giving it a natural beauty that invites playing families as much as sunbathing couples.
This colourful coastline just west of Funchal first found fame through the artistic talents of the late great Sir Winston Churchill. He was inspired enough by its cosy beauty to paint a piece depicting its boats and sunshine in all their glory. A visit for yourself is enough to see how alluring the natural splendours of the beach truly are, so expect it to factor into your holiday photo album. Unless you're up for taking up the easel and painting it yourself.
Not a beach but a bathing complex, there's loads to do at Ponta Gorda, just along from Praia Formosa. The only sand is found in the sports area but the pair of pools, kids play area and swimming point in the sea make up for it. There are showers, drinks bars and snack kiosks to help stay energised during the fun. Ponta Gorda is a good spot to enjoy a family day out under the sun, with plenty to keep young minds occupied.
Ponta do Sol translates as 'Point of the Sun', so expect plenty of golden rays when you visit this tiny, secluded coastal stretch beside the southern village of the same name. Luckily the beach more than lives up to its name, because the cove it rests within captures sunlight beautifully. It's a quiet retreat where tranquillity reigns, although not without its modern comforts. Expect to find somewhere to cool down with a drink, a snack bar to keep your rumbling tummy from interrupting the sunbathing, and a games room for when you're ready to take the action to the tabletop.
If you need to tuck yourself away from the world in a spot rich in natural beauty, this is the spot for you. The main reason so many people choose Doca do Cavacas as their favoured retreat is because of the natural volcanic pools formed countless years ago, where soothing water coalesces today. With views over to Praia Formosa and Ponta Gorda lido, restaurants and bars are in easy access, yet the seclusion of this place is what makes it such a joy.