Madeira’s biggest sand beach
If you travel east towards Ponta de Sao Lourenco nature reserve, you'll come across a black sand beach known as Prainha. The largest sand beach in Madeira, it's only accessible by foot down many steps but has good facilities, including sunloungers, parasols and a restaurant. Around the beach the landscape is very different to the rest of this green island, more arid and surrounded by the Piedade Dunes in hues of yellow, brown and orange.
The nearest golden sand beach is a 10-minute drive away in Machico. It's been manmade as sand is not commonly found in Madeira and has the benefit of lifeguards, a diving centre and beach volleyball facilities.
The pretty eastern part of Canical is where you're likely to end up when taking a package holiday to Madeira, as the majority of accommodation is based at the Quinta Do Lorde complex. It's built to look like a traditional Madeiran hamlet with views over the marina. As well as seeing fishermen going about their business down at the marina, you can hop on a boat to go diving or sailing around this stunning eastern peninsula.
Go for a dip
What many people come to this part of town for is the two seawater swimming pools just up from the pebble beach. There's one each for adults and kids, plus a snack bar and solarium. Central Canical offers a few shops plus lots of excellent fish restaurants, including Muralhas on the seafront which cooks delicious sardines.
If you're planning a holiday to Madeira in September, Canical hosts a unique festival dedicated to a group of fishermen who survived being shipwrecked near the coast and in return built the chapel to Our Lady of the Mercy. A procession of fishing boats carries a statue of Our Lady ashore followed by a colourful procession to the pier, then a vigil mass is held that evening at the chapel.
Walks in nature
Canical is a popular starting point for hiking to Ponta de Sao Lourenco, a natural reserve to the east, which is home to many bird and endemic plant species. The walk can be challenging and you'll need to take supplies with you but the views from the cliffs across the Atlantic are quite spectacular.
If you're just looking for a leisurely stroll along the coast, the Ponta das Gaivotas viewpoint is only half a kilometre away for other-worldly vistas across the flat rocks and deep blue ocean. You can also spot the Ilhas Desertas island in the distance.
For more things to do, Machico is a short drive away or you can walk the two kilometres along a tree-lined promenade. Machico was the landing point of the first discovery of Madeira and houses ancient forts plus the island's oldest church. As well as a good beach there are lots of restaurants there to try.
The capital Funchal is a 30-minute drive away and is a fascinating place full of pretty squares and gardens. It has a 15th-century old town, and a cable car will take you 600 metres up to the village Monte. If you dare, you can come back down on a wooden toboggan guided by a local – the traditional way of getting down from the summit.
If a trip to Canical is tempting you, be sure to check out our huge range of cheap holidays to Madeira.